Special Report: Bus Lane

Bus Lane Decisions Need Supporting Context

The citizens of Hamilton need to see from city council how their decisions on our transportation system support their overall vision for the city.

By Jason Morse
Published December 11, 2014

It appears as though decisions to remove the city's controversial bus lane are being made in the absence of supporting context. To single out the transit lane for removal only, with no other proposals to improve the transportation network, would be irresponsible.

Bus lane on King Street (RTH file photo)
Bus lane on King Street (RTH file photo)

A change, whether it be back to how it was or a new approach, demands a well reasoned argument be debated publicly. This includes an overall objective for our transportation system moving forward, within which the needs of travelers in automobiles, in buses, on foot, or on bicycles must be prioritized and balanced.

Additional factors are parking, noise, pollution, safety, accessibility for seniors and families with children, the needs of local business owners and residents, emergency services, etc. Complex challenges such as these cannot be simplified into an isolated decision.

A pilot project, as any test or experiment, leads to analysis on which to draw conclusions. This should be seen as helpful as it greater informs us on the issue at hand. We expect those making decisions on our behalf to make a thorough and reasoned case for their position.

I operate a business in downtown Hamilton just off King Street East that includes delivery service. I'm responsible for providing timely service to customers all over Hamilton and beyond. My delivery staff has managed to perform as required with some minor adjustments to routes taken, etc.

I also live just off King Street West in Strathcona. I drive, take the bus, bike, and walk throughout my days both visiting clients and on personal time. It has not taken long to adjust my travel patterns to account for transit priority on one lane of a busy downtown street.

In fact, it has seen me choose to use the bus more often over driving. To suggest a few more minutes in traffic or having to modify a chosen route is disastrous is simply careless.

The citizens of Hamilton need to see from city council how their decisions on our transportation system support their overall vision for the city.

Are we working toward a city that is inclusive and attractive to all citizens and visitors? Are we trying to attract new residents? Are certain areas better flooded with automobile traffic while others better multi-modal? Are we open to solutions proven successful elsewhere?

Whatever comes of the transit lane, if not publicly discussed in the greater context outlined above, it will be seen as arbitrary, ill-informed, reactionary governance.

Jason Morse is a graphics industry professional brimming with good will for his adopted home city of Hamilton. He lives in Strathcona with his family.


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By AP (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:44:40

Indeed. Thanks, Jason. I am not pro- or anti-bus lane. But I am definitely for informed and well-considered decision-making. Not waiting for the staff report, not exercising due diligence - knee-jerk, reactionary governance - might get our councillors elected again in 4 years, but it will not move us forward and build the foundation for a prosperous future.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:04:29 in reply to Comment 106912

bingo. That's exactly the priority for too many of them. Re-election. Not Hamilton. Term limits would be so nice.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 19:26:55 in reply to Comment 106917

Term limits would be so nice.

No, they would not be. Extremely undemocratic.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:54:54

FYI, here's the map helpfully posted on a restaurant just around the corner from Jason's business (on King, just east of Catharine).


Jason's delivery staff and customers approaching from the east are compelled to needlessly circle seven-eighths of the King-John-King William - Catharine block in order to reach his shop. And when they leave, they're compelled to continue south on Catharine and circle back along King to get to John if they are heading north.

The one-way design of Catharine Street is completely unnecessary: the street is three lanes wide and the traffic on it could easily be accommodated in a single southbound lane. This one-way design needlessly increases traffic on King Street in precisely the area of greatest congestion.

Why is Chad Collins not agitating for two-way reversion of Catharine in order to improve traffic flow along King?

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:31:48

Exactly when did Munipical Councillor become a career anyway?

Historically this work was done out of civic duty by professionals on a part time basis hence the need for evening meetings etc.

What would the Resumes of Chad Collins, Tom Jackson or Terry Whitehead, to name three, list beyond their careers in politics. They have to ward heel. Screw Hamilton as a whole. They NEED to get re-elected. This is their job. Their career.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 19:30:08 in reply to Comment 106920

And your point being?

The issue is more of voter apathy, not lifer councillors. If the electorate continues to vote in the incumbent, and this is upsetting, you should work towards voter education and try to help boost turnout, understanding the issues, understanding the candidates, and so forth.

It's an easy target to blame the councillor. If the councillor is good, they should continue to get voted in, right? I know, I'm being a bit naive here but you get the point, I hope.

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By G (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 10:43:20

Get rid of the bus lane! Let's face the facts, it didn't work. The data supporting it in the first place was terrible. The "bus lane project" is actually giving the downtown core a bad name. We are trying to force people to take a bus by increasing congestion. It's not the right approach. Even with these dedicated lanes how much time do you really save on the bus?

I travel on the GO bus into Toronto all the time from downtown. This new bus lane has only saved me 2 minutes off my total trip into Toronto.

Its not worth the bad press. We need people form the outskirts to want to visit the Downtown on a regular basis.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:06:25 in reply to Comment 106965

Nobody thinks the bus-lane was well done. The only spot RTH readers disagree with council is that the Bus Lane could be *fixed*.

King Street can run fine on 2 lanes - there were parts that were 2 lanes *before* the bus lane.

The problem isn't the design of the bus lane, the problem is that city staff thought they could slap down some white paint and call it a day instead of doing the work of figuring out light timings and special signals to get traffic through the smaller space.

And ultimately, I think the MacNab Transit Terminal is a big part of the problem. The re-build should have never been in-place, it's always been a bad place for buses. The city could have bought any number of conveniently-located block-sized parking lots and kept the Mountain buses off of King.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:22:40 in reply to Comment 106970

I agree with the McNab thing. They could have left the buses on the south side of King. The buses turning on McNab appear to me to be the sole cause of the bottleneck between Catherine and James. I do not understand why they changed it except the discussions at the time about making Gore into a pedestrian Mall. But since the development of the south side of King is turtled, in hindsight that seems to have been a bad decision.

I drive down King west of Bay every day and there has been no appreciable deterioration of traffic between Bay and Dundurn when I drive there.

To me the problem isn't a bus lane, it's overall vision and piecemeal planning.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-12-12 11:23:08

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 10:59:12 in reply to Comment 106965

Sure, it's nice when people from the outskirts visit downtown but what we truly need is more people LIVING downtown. And that means building streets that are comfortable to walk on and live beside. Which means fewer active vehicular lanes. Which means we need to provide alternatives to car travel. Which means transit lanes and bike infrastructure.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 18, 2014 at 22:32:52 in reply to Comment 106969

You're right. It's the fault of those who choose to live outside the core why the bus lanes are so bad.

When houses in the core have basements taller than 6 feet, have quiet, safe streets, polite and friendly neighbours, have all the amenities, maybe more people will come back. Expecting everyone to just move there because you want them to is a nice dream.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 10:46:35 in reply to Comment 106965

Let's face the facts, it didn't work.

We don't have the facts, and we won't have them until staff present their report to the General Issues Committee. Every transit user I've spoken with reports that the bus lane has significantly improved the speed and reliability of their commute.

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By JMorse (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:32:47

Since I sent this letter to council I have received 2 responses. A brief positive acknowledgement for the new Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson, and this:

The city had embarked on a citywide transportation study. I believe the experiences of the bus lane is data that would be useful feeding into the study. It is my opinion that a comprehensive approach to meeting our public and private transportation needs, should be completed before broader community consensus is established. LRT, Rapid Ready and bus lanes > are all components that should be incorporated into the study. An informed decision is a good > decision and that is why the scope of the study needs to be city wide.

Respectfully, Terry Whitehead

A bit disappointing because the last time I a wrote a transit themed letter I got a fantastic rambling response from Mayor Bratina that even mentioned the Big Dig, of all things, as something that could work for us. I regret not sharing this at the time.

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By hillbillies (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 12:33:33 in reply to Comment 106974

yaaay, more studies.
In Hamilton, that's code for "an excuse to do jack-all for another 40 years".

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