Special Report: Bus Lane

Fix Problems With Bus Lane: Mayor

Mayor Fred Eisenberger plans to bring forward a motion at the December 17 Council meeting that would ask staff to look at options to address problems with the King Street bus lane.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 12, 2014

Mayor Fred Eisenberger plans to bring forward a motion at the December 17 Council meeting that would ask staff to look at options to address problems with the King Street bus lane.

King Street West with bus lane (RTH file photo)
King Street West with bus lane (RTH file photo)

Mayor Eisenberger proposes three possible changes for consideration:

In a news release issued today, Eisenberger is quoted saying, "We need to ensure we make evidence-based decisions and that council have all necessary options before them in advance of making a decision on the future of transit in the downtown."

It's great that Eisenberger seeks to address the problems with the bus lane rather than killing it, as Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins and Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead want to do.

I strongly agree with changing the designation from a reserved vehicle lane to a high-occupancy lane and with restoring curb parking on the north curb lane. We have been advocating this on RTH since before the lane was even installed.

I would also like to see adjustment to signal timing to ease traffic flow, plus the addition of advanced left turn signals for buses turning onto James and MacNab.

The only proposal that doesn't make sense is making the bus lane rush-hour only.

That will make it more complicated for road users to understand how to interact with the lane, and it won't do anything to speed traffic flow since slowdowns are only an issue during rush hour.

Outside of rush hour, an extra lane certainly isn't needed to carry the traffic volumes on King.

In a response on Twitter, Eisenberger clarified that he is simply putting the ideas forward for consideration. "These are ideas that I have heard in the community and transit staff will/should assess the viability."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Fresh Air (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:05:41

Fred's been mayor less than 2 weeks and he's already showing more leadership than Bob did in 4 years.

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By stale air (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2014 at 11:49:51 in reply to Comment 106991

thx Mr. McGreal

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:22:19 in reply to Comment 106991

when will he complain about the cycling bridge over the QEW or that nobody except him has actually read the Rapid Ready report???

Seriously tho, great to hear even keel common sense from our mayor.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:20:31 in reply to Comment 106991

I'll bet Fred hasn't called and asked about All-Day-GO service though.

Seriously though, my cat shows more leadership than Mayor Bratina does. And he just sleeps all day.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:12:52

Agree with everything Ryan just said. No to wonky scheduling, yes to an advanced-green-for-buses, and ecstatic to hear the Mayor showing some leadership.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:17:13

restoring curbside parking and changing it to HOV are great ideas. Add a left turn signal into the macnab terminal and the bus lane will be almost perfect.

Which buses turn left from king onto james? can their routes be tweaked to avoid that turn altogether?

Or could an advance transit signal be executed at james to allow both left turning buses AND to allow macnab bound buses to go straight and then scoot across to the terminal all under one signal? It would suck to have to have two transit signals so close to each other.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 15, 2014 at 13:49:30 in reply to Comment 106993

I'd like to see the 2nd transit signal on James at Hunter. And the west curb lane of James be a bus-only lane from James to Hunter.

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By mkuplens (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2014 at 11:22:19 in reply to Comment 106993

1 King makes that the turn to King (along with one or two mountain-bound buses). Should consider just sending them down through the McNab terminal's bypass lane…

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:24:28 in reply to Comment 106993

Was just going to post that the left turn signal for buses should be at James, not MacNab. That kills two birds with one stone.

Agree with everything else - HOV, which includes cyclists, and moving the lane out from the north curb to allow parking back there.

Too bad nobody had suggested this sooner....

https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1...

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 19:52:37

<> Mon - Fri 8am - 6pm Holidays Excepted

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 20:16:24 in reply to Comment 107011

All that does is make the bus lane more complicated and harder for drivers to understand. Outside of rush hour, there's not enough traffic for the bus lane to cause congestion so there's no traffic benefit to making it only in effect at certain times.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted December 15, 2014 at 11:29:04 in reply to Comment 107014

In total agreement that we need to keep the bus lanes simple. IMHO the simplest solution is to make the lanes a transit lane that allows taxi or bus use only. HOV might make it too hard to enforce and could fill the lane so full as to remove the benefit of a transit lane... On the other hand, moving taxis into the current bus lane encourages an important transit use and would remove a fair number of vehicles from the other traffic lanes, allowing them to move more freely.

Very happy our new mayor is showing leadership on this issue!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 23:56:15 in reply to Comment 107014

more importantly, the guaranteed reliability of service for transit users is one of the big draws of the bus lane. Ask transit riders on King how much they enjoyed the bus lane during the 403 mudslide a couple weeks ago. From Gore to Dundurn they kept right on schedule. You want transit ridership to surge? Offer this reliability on the busiest routes city-wide.

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By Bus Rider (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2014 at 03:40:01 in reply to Comment 107025

What are you talking about? I got stuck near Stoney Creek in the cold for over an hour. Why/ Because the buses were NOT running on schedule they too got caught in the mudslide traffic jams and took forever to get to the other side of town.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 12:48:07 in reply to Comment 107025

"Ask transit riders on King how much they enjoyed the bus lane during the 403 mudslide a couple weeks ago. From Gore to Dundurn they kept right on schedule."

I wish. Waited 20 minutes to catch a 6pm bus from King & James while none materialized, then an additional 30 minutes in a sardine can to get from Bay to Longwood, including a memorable spell at Dundurn when people had panic attacks and tried to pry open the rear doors.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 17:52:06 in reply to Comment 107044

Thank-you!

While public transit should be part of an overall transportation plan, it shouldn't be based on one-off occurrence. And ridership won't increase because of a one off occurrence.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 23:25:30 in reply to Comment 107014

If there's not enough traffic to cause congestion ouside of rush hour, then limit the Bus Lane to rush hour only.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2014 at 01:30:21 in reply to Comment 107023

Why? All it does is make the bus lane more complicated for everyone to understand. Having an extra lane won't benefit drivers when there isn't much traffic to begin with. Meanwhile, too much excess lane capacity just encourages dangerous speeding.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 18:21:26 in reply to Comment 107030

I get it police, car and bus drivers are too dumb to understand simple rules and the meaning of a traffic sign...

I think at this point it's not about benefit, it's all about the perception. I also think that the bus lane pilot will end prior to the report. But that's just my gut feeling.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 21:25:48 in reply to Comment 107014

I honestly don't know how you'd read that sign at high speed - I have enough trouble figuring out parking signs when I'm practically stopped (wait, what day of the month is it?)

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By No (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 21:15:18 in reply to Comment 107017

High speed? 50 km/h and you can't see a sign? That's deeply concerning.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 23:18:05 in reply to Comment 107017

Really? Then really you shouldn't be driving. I'm serious.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 20:43:53

If cyclists were permitted to use the lane, wouldn't they get in the way of the other vehicles, especially if it becomes an HOV lane?

Comment edited by NortheastWind on 2014-12-12 20:44:23

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 21:32:37 in reply to Comment 107016

I'm a cyclists and I tend to agree. While I think the super-wide regions of Main and King could easily accommodate a bike-lane, but I'd rather it be a pure bike-lane than making an HOV lane do double-duty for bikes - after all, the point is that the HOV give priority to the vehicles carrying the most passengers, it seems unfair to get the buses get stuck behind my slow-ass bike.

Of course, contingent on that I want to see a serious investment in making sure the side-roads surrounding King street are bike-friendly - Bay north of King, Hess North, Napier, King William, etc - make sure that bikes can comfortably travel in both directions on those roads without constant stops or danger.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 23:58:18 in reply to Comment 107018

Good point.
IF we re-paint the street we could accommodate a bike lane on the south curb.

7 foot parking lane on the north curb 10 foot bus lane Two 10 foot car lanes 5-7 foot bike lane on south curb

Complete Street done. Accommodating ALL users (which in Hamilton is considered anti-car communism)

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2014 at 00:09:56 in reply to Comment 107026

Oooh, South-side bike-lane... I hadn't even thought of that. Would definitely keep the bikes out of the door zone of the parking lane. I like it. Although without the super-wide buffers of the York Boulevard bike lanes and without protection (we both know that's a non-starter) it definitely wouldn't be for the timid. Unfortunately it would probably end at Queen since the city would not accept less than 3 lanes east of Queen (truck route starts there), so you're basically driving past the mess o' driveways. I do wonder if the city would allow the bus-stop-lane to be only 7 feet wide... not technically a driving lane, but not really a full parking lane with bump-outs either since it's also the left-turning lane. But yes, a left-hand-bike-lane from Mary to Queen would be neat. West-of-Queen is probably a non-starter though because that's where the truck route begins and the city protects that like it's holy.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 00:56:41 in reply to Comment 107028

West of Queen would be no problem. Currently it's 2 lanes plus a bus lane, plus parking. We'd simply be moving parking back to north side and painting it a normal parking bay width instead of wasting a full 10 feet for parking. Cannon east of Victoria has proper painted parking areas.

Approaching Locke and from Locke to Dundurn we could either add parking onto the south curb as well, since an extra lane magically appears, or we could buffer the bike lanes through that stretch.

From James to Bay we could add bike symbols on the ground next to the street parking on the south side (so, yes door zone) Then from Bay to Dundurn have it in the south curb. A bike box at Dundurn gets riders to the north side.

Without the buffer we could still have knockdown sticks http://1p40p3gwj70rhpc423s8rzjaz.wpengin...

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By Sad (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 03:25:05

I think it's time for someone to start organizing HSR riders benefiting from the bus lane. Maybe a "Hey, I pay taxes too (and deserve convenient services)!!!" campaign would resonate.
Sadly, some of the most economically challenged (and maybe least likely to vote) riders may be paying a higher percent of their income in municipal fees than the drivers beside them. That doesn't seem to matter though. Chad seems to think no one without their own steering wheel does. Sad.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted December 15, 2014 at 10:37:57 in reply to Comment 107031

"I think it's time for someone to start organizing HSR riders benefiting from the bus lane."

Yup. It's time for those people who actually spend time daily on the HSR to be consulted. Right now, the only people in the discussion are a) the City, b) a paucity of merchants, c) lobbying entities such as the Chamber of Commerce, RTH urbanicity and d) those whose general anger has them tossing lit s&$t bombs in Comments sections.

At the risk of being shouted down because of my comparison, the general plight of regular HSR riders is akin to our poverty reality. The first has those with grand LRT schemes (regardless of their labels), the second, the 'poverty industry'.

The service resources being applied to the basic premise of a transit entity...moving people from Point A to Point B in a timely, humane and cost-effective way...are abysmal.

A great example: 7:45 on a weekday evening. A King bus departing the GO terminal is packed to the rafters before it even gets out of the downtown. (To be precise, two stops into its route.)

Why aren't these voices heard? Because they're too busy grinding out an existence to be able to advocate for themselves.

This is something that all LRT proponents need to grasp: the HSR reflects a particular range of demographics...and they're not the people who really care about what LRT is suggested to be capable of delivering...ten years down the line. (As a side point, take a look at the organizations pushing for their approach to transit: mostly educated, middle-class white guys. And no, I'm not going to apologize for this generalization. I'm using simple observational tools. You know, 'evidence-based thinking'.)

HSR riders need better service. (And here, I'm not even talking about 'expanded service'.) They need far more than they're getting presently...which has them being treated like cattle. They need more articulated buses. They need better frequency of buses.

Once again, as my father used to say, 'How can I trust you with the big things when you can't handle the little ones...?'

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 10:44:51 in reply to Comment 107031

So true. Every decision we make in this city is based around the almighty car driver.

Great piece in the Spec today with excellent comments, common sense and proper concept of 21st century cities from the mayor, Sam Merulla, city staff and the new transportation boss.

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By soveryimpressed (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2014 at 11:53:10 in reply to Comment 107035

Sam should step outside of Hamilton once in a while.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 10:36:24

Has anyone actually asked the bus drivers for their opinion? I haven't read or heard any comments from them.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 18:48:09 in reply to Comment 107034

A good friend who is a bus driver loves it. Without the lane he says we'll be back to the good old days when he was late with the Delaware on a regular basis.

Apparently both St. Catharines and Brantford are lining up to get LRT too.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 23:10:39 in reply to Comment 107049

as is Burlington. Burlington is actually waiting for us to screw up our part in the Big Move (which we will of course because the big move is about transit, not more single occupant car highways) and they will propose to the ON government that they are part of the Hamilton area and deserve our portion of LRT funding so they can build the first LRT line in this area connecting their downtown with one of their GO Stations through many residential neighbourhoods.

And unlike Hamilton, they won't pay any attention to the 1970's club with their plethora of reasons why LRT can't work there. They'll build it and thrive. And we'll keep re-electing the 1970's club and having the most dangerous streets and biggest Code Red neighbourhoods in the province.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 23:18:04 in reply to Comment 107052

Whoa you're not kidding. I know Burlington is intensifying, has chosen to respect the Green Belt, and is therefore transitioning to building up instead of out. I also know that its Mayor and all Councilors were re-elected with a landslide 80-90%, a start contrast to most neighboring elections :)

Hamilton needs it far more. Don't screw up. But if it is ruined for you and we get it instead, sweet, I moved to the right city regardless. But seriously. Take it.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-13 23:29:13

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted December 15, 2014 at 08:37:21 in reply to Comment 107053

Wow. If this goes through...I'm moving to Burlington.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 21:17:19 in reply to Comment 107049

Being late is a fault of whoever is designing the route, not the driver.

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By Bus Rider (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2014 at 03:43:26

His alternatives are based on a premise that seems to have been missed here too. The report on the lanes will not be out until January. Cancelling or adjusting the lanes before the data is in is premature and it is less leadership then jockeying for dominance on the issue. Collins took it by publicly announcing he wanted to cancel them and Eisenberger pushed back with his alternatives. The right way would be to actually stick to the course they were on and not waste the time and money used on the study by making decisions before it is in. Discuss yes, decide? no. Hamilton does that too often and usually makes the wrong decision.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 14, 2014 at 15:21:53 in reply to Comment 107055

Collins wouldn't have made it public if he didn't have the votes to win.

Collins is going to win and set the tone with the old mayor and new councillors, as to how things really work and who wields the power at council. Eisenberger has made a political mistake for being on the wrong side of the first contentious issue to be introduced.

Everything old, is new again...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 14, 2014 at 08:53:25 in reply to Comment 107055

always makes the wrong decision.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 15, 2014 at 17:21:57 in reply to Comment 107057

Jason, is it tiring being so negative all the time?

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By Jayson (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 08:30:18

@No It isn't tiring being negative. I am used to always being on the losing side.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 22:16:54

Love how some councillors are already saying they'll vote to scrap the bus lane in January once the final report comes out.

The report could go on and on about how much more efficient it made transit along our busiest corridor, but these dinosaurs don't even care to hear what it says.

Also rich to hear from councillors way out in rural Flamborough near Cambridge how their residents are complaining about it. Get over yourselves. We're trying to build a city here. You don't mind everyone getting stuck behind your tractor on a country road. Surely you're fine with 1 lane of 5 being used to move the same number of people as the other lanes combined.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-16 22:17:39

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By citybooster (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2014 at 12:01:00 in reply to Comment 107172

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 29, 2014 at 09:01:56 in reply to Comment 107435

Hamilton is a bedroom community

Ugh, stop repeating this falsehood. Hamilton is not a "bedroom community" by any even remotely reasonable definition of the term. 70 percent of Hamiltonians work in Hamilton and 38,000 people a day commute into Hamilton to work. The Conference Board of Canada recently ranked Hamilton as Canada's most diversified economy.

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By Noble cycles (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 06:09:26

It would be amazing if they restored north side parking and bumped the bus lane over.

However, it would also be pretty nice to make it an HOV lane and add a bike lane on the south side.

I think both are good ideas, it would be a shame to limit bikes on King though... Not just because I am a bike repair shop. Mainly because limiting bikes on our major down town streets just seems ridiculous.

I'm happy Fred is taking charge and I hope we can come up with a good compromise in time for spring. It would be so nice to see if everyone can use the lanes.

King could be more walkable if there was traffic calming and everyone shared the lanes. There is plenty of ways to get east and west in this city..... Just sayin.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 08:59:46 in reply to Comment 107174

PLEASE send in your thoughts to all of city council. They need to hear from folks like you who own a business along here. All they've heard from so far are the few businesses who relocated to Jackson Square.

There's a link here to send an email to 'all of city council at once.'

http://raisethehammer.org/council

We basically have one month to let them hear from the vast majority of citizens and businesses around here who do support transit and bike lanes, but have been too busy to send in their thoughts.

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