Even an all-wards citizens' panel to consider the two-way conversions that Council already approved over a decade ago is too radical for some councillors.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 03, 2014
What does it take to get anything done in Hamilton?
The City began studying the two-way conversion of its lower city one-way multi-lane thoroughfares back in the 1990s. Since then, Council has approved several major plans, including Putting People First, the Downtown Transportation Master Plan and the Transportation Plan Five Year Review, which identified a modest set of streets for conversion.
Yet the city has made very little progress in actually budgeting and going ahead with the conversions.
James and John Street were converted to two-way in two phases: the North segments were converted in 2002 and the south segments in 2005, both amid apocalyptic outpourings of predictions that chaos and doom would prevail, none of which actually happened.
But even today, years after those very successful conversions (plus a few others), Council is still petrified of acting on its schedule of conversions, let alone expanding the list to include other badly-needed streets like Queen, which just had two serious vehicle collisions with pedestrians in a single month.
There are even some opponents of two-way conversion who are still predicting disaster, though it's hard to understand why anyone takes them seriously at this point.
So this year, with yet another review of the Transportation Plan getting underway, Councillor Brian McHattie is trying to break the conversion logjam with an all-wards citizens panel on two-way conversion to "pull back on the rhetoric" and, as seconder Councillor Terry Whitehead put it, "bring the temperature down".
The proposal barely passed at GIC in a 7-5 vote and still needs to be approved by Council. It's an open question whether a majority of councillors can even bear to support consulting about the two-way conversions that Council already approved and re-approved multiple times. From the Spectator article, here's an example of what we're dealing with:
[Councillor] Tom Jackson said the city has recently introduced too many major transportation changes, too fast.
Jackson said he and his constituents are "exhausted" with the changes, adding the Cannon Street bidirectional bike lanes "pretty well tapped me out."
Jackson says he opposes the two-way conversion of lower-city streets because his residents, who all live on two-way streets on the east Mountain, want streets in other parts of the city left one-way. (Yet somehow it's "divisive" for the people who have to suffer these one-way streets to call out the councillors who oppose changing them but don't have to live near them.)
Perhaps we should be more charitable. Perhaps Jackson, clearly overwhelmed by the blistering pace of change to Hamilton's transportation network, just needs a breather.
After all, he recently voted with a unanimous Council to add one significant addition to the city's cycling network on a street that nearly everyone agrees desperately needs transformation, in a different part of the city than he represents, using the special projects budgets for the affected wards rather than the city's general transportation budget.
In other words, the vote cost him no political capital whatsoever. Yet he is now using it as an excuse to rate-limit his willingness to support the changes to Hamilton's transportation network that it desperately needs to achieve its potential as a safe, inclusive and prosperous city.
Normally, calling for more consultation and study is a dodge, a stalling tactic to shift attention elsewhere and avoid making a decision. In this case, Council might even vote down the dodge, lest it eventually prod them to act on the policy they already approved more than a decade ago!
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