Special Report: Bus Lane

Some Good News in Business on King Street

While some long-time business owners are fingering the bus lane for lost sales, new businesses are opening along the route and developers are investing in renovations.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 16, 2015

One of the issues swirling around the contentious transit-only lane running on King Street between Mary and Dundurn has been the impact on local retail businesses.

A few business owners have moved off King Street, complaining that customers can no longer park on the north curbside of King and don't want to park on the south side and cross the street.

Here on RTH, we have made the argument that when customers aren't willing to cross the street, that indicates something wrong with the street itself rather than the bus lane.

City staff recommend restoring the north curbside parking west of Bay, a change that can be funded from money remaining in the Metrolinx capital fund that paid for the bus lane.

Nevertheless, it's clear that business owners along King are divided, with some supporting it but more in opposition.

Yet while some long-time business owners are fingering the bus lane for lost sales, new businesses are opening along the route. During this week's General Issues Committee meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr mentioned that the picture has been a mix of both bad and good news.

New Business Licences

Between October 2013 and January 2015, the City issued licences for 30 new businesses along the bus lane route:

New Business Licences Along Bus Lane Route, Oct 2013 to Jan 2015
Address Issue Date Type of Business
1 King Street East 2013-10-04 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
1 King Street East 2013-10-04 Food Shop
100 King Street West 2013-10-11 Eating Establishment
158 King Street West 2013-10-22 Eating Establishment
120 King Street West 2013-11-05 Eating Establishment
120 King Street West 2013-11-06 Eating Establishment
1 King Street East 2013-11-07 Places of Amusement
116 King Street West 2013-11-28 Eating Establishment
3 King Street East 2013-12-12 Eating Establishment
194 King Street West 2013-12-23 Eating Establishment
228 King Street West 2014-02-07 Eating Establishment
152 King Street West 2014-02-10 Eating Establishment
463 King Street West 2014-02-14 Personal Service Facility
393 King Street West 2014-02-19 Personal Service Facility
13 King Street East 2014-02-20 Eating Establishment
230 King Street West 2014-02-20 Personal Service Facility
160 King Street West 2014-03-19 Personal Service Facility
19 King Street East 2014-04-25 Eating Establishment
174 King Street West 2014-05-01 Eating Establishment
213 King Street West 2014-05-30 Public Garage
7 King Street East 2014-06-16 Eating Establishment
294 King Street West 2014-06-17 Personal Service Facility
246 King Street West 2014-06-26 Eating Establishment
7 King Street East 2014-07-16 Public Halls
467 King Street West 2014-08-15 Food Shop
17 King Street East 2014-10-21 Eating Establishment
17 King Street East 2014-10-21 Public Halls
19 King Street East 2014-11-26 Places of Amusement
13 King Street East 2014-12-18 Personal Service Facility
1 King Street East 2015-01-02 Eating Establishment

That is not including new business licences inside Jackson Square, which would also presumably be negatively affected by traffic congestion on the bus lane. Another 14 new business licences were issued inside Jackson Square:

New Business Licences in Jackson Square, Oct 2013 to Jan 2015
Address Issue Date Type of Business
2 King Street West 2013-10-25 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2013-11-08 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2014-02-10 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2014-02-10 Food Shop
2 King Street West 2014-03-21 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2014-03-21 Food Shop
2 King Street West 2014-05-21 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2014-05-21 Food Shop
2 King Street West 2014-06-13 Eating Establishment
2 King Street West 2014-09-18 Food Shop
2 King Street West 2014-10-20 Cigarette/Tobacco Sales
2 King Street West 2014-10-20 Food Shop
2 King Street West 2014-11-21 Eating Establishment
2 King Street West 2015-01-07 Eating Establishment

This is still only a partial list. As City staff note, "not all business require businesses licenses (e.g. retail stores)."

Closures

The City's Licencing group is also looking into whether it can determine the number of businesses that have closed during the same period.

According to the King West BIA, four businesses closed, and two of them moved into Jackson Square.

The Downtown BIA notes that the last businesses operating in 18-28 King Street East closed, but that was due to the property owner clearing out the buildings in anticipation of demolishing them, not because of the bus lane.

Similarly, the bingo hall operating at 45 King Street East closed, but that was not due to the bus lane either.

According to the International Village BIA, 8 businessed closed and four businesses opened. One potential "game changer" along King East is the recent purchase of the old Sandbar by a developer who plans to "basically gut and rebuild from the top down".

Facade Improvement

Another indicator of business confidence in the bus lane corridor is the number of property owners who opted to apply for facade improvement grants.

Between Wellington and Dundurn, a total of 37 properties were approved for $492,000 in grants toward a total of $1.3 million in facade renovations.

As much as there has been some high-profile grumbling about the bus lane, at least some of the businesses that closed were going to close anyway. Not every business is viable, and incremental business turnover is a normal part of a neighbourhood's economy.

It is clear from the number of new business openings, property purchases and investments in building renovations that while some people see the bus lane as a burden, others are not fazed by it and still others recognize that better transit improves the city and transit riders are also customers.

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.

30 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2015 at 22:25:11

baloney. Terry Whitehead spoke to the Hillbilly Heaven guy himself. The bus lane is a total disaster......

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By will move (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2015 at 22:56:56

I moved to Hamilton a few months ago because of the potential. But I work in Toronto. If LRT and the changes it bring don't happen, I will leave Hamilton and move to Toronto. Thank you Council.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 09:40:41 in reply to Comment 107875

If not having LRT would make you leave Hamilton, why did you come in the first place? It would be a devastating blow but many of the things that already make Hamilton an amazing place to live would still exist. I can't think of a reason to ever move back to Toronto myself because all of the reasons I left probably won't change in the next 20 years.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 07:32:26 in reply to Comment 107875

I have literally considered selling my house (I haven't even owned it for a year) and moving back to Toronto after the bus lane "debate" I saw on Wednesday. I wonder if downtown property owners have a leg to stand on to sue people like Terry Whitehead for damaging our property values with their stupidity.

Comment edited by Cultosaurus on 2015-01-16 07:33:29

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 08:57:17 in reply to Comment 107885

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 09:47:20 in reply to Comment 107890

I can't believe you're so naive as to believe this is just about the bus lane. Hello!

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 10:47:59 in reply to Comment 107894

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:27:56 in reply to Comment 107900

Every urbanist issue we've been fighting over in the past year has been penny-ante stuff. The bus lane, and the Cannon bike-track altogether cost under a million dollars in capital costs. Yes, that's a lot of money, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the taxpayer's big line-items. $100 million on upgrades for highway 5. Hundreds of millions in road maintenance. $150 million on that stadium.

Bikes are cheap.

Now, when it comes time to argue over buying more buses and hiring more bus drivers? The LRT? That's where we'll get into some hard conversations about cash.

But when it comes to bus-lanes and bike lanes?

Just admit you don't want to slow down for Those People.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:22:01 in reply to Comment 107900

bq. If this city continues to make their decisions based on 'special interest group' pressures and desperation we might as well all move because no one will be able to afford the taxes

That is literally what we are saying. If hamilton continues to make decisions based on the 'special interest group' of 'driver', I don't want to live there.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 11:49:51 in reply to Comment 107900

Hamilton has high taxes because it keeps building sprawl to placate the developer and car-culture special interest groups, so I guess I agree with you. We can't afford (and the suburbs are very far from paying their fair share of) the taxes this continued course of action will engender.

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 07:30:05 in reply to Comment 107875

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted January 15, 2015 at 23:33:08 in reply to Comment 107875

This is an intriguing line of thinking. And I understand what you're saying completely.

But there' a problem: Even if Hamilton got everything it needed for LRT, even if it got the cheque cut tomorrow and work began on the initial work next week, it will still be years before it's in place. Conservatively five years. Maybe longer. (This amount of time does not include delays caused by potential lawsuits filed by businesses along the route.)

Are you willing to wait that long?

And the 'changes' you refer to, assuming you're talking about economic development with all its ancillaries, they'd happen much after this five, eight, ten years.

Again: Are you willing to wait that long?

Comment edited by ItJustIs on 2015-01-15 23:34:22

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By will move (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 09:33:57 in reply to Comment 107880

Yes, I'd be willing to wait. For me it's just about the movement towards realizing potential. The drive towards change and improvement. If I see it's not happening in my lifetime due to the dithering idiot council that seems bent on blowing a once in a generation opportunity, I feel it's better to move out. Might as well move to a place where my taxes come back to me in some form, like Waterloo even.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 08:51:08 in reply to Comment 107880

It's not about waiting. Hamilton is attractive because of its potential. Building LRT would be symbolic of that potential beginning to come to fruition, but there are many many small changes that the city can start working on ---such as two-way conversions, cycling routes and greenways, this bus lane, and more like it, reducing urban sprawl, changing zoning bylaws to encourage density and mixed use, defending heritage --- which would actually result in the most tangible changes in Hamilton. Council has shown itself unable and unwilling to consider these changes, challenging them with stupid and insensitive, unsupportable positions. They have shown themselves unable to imagine the case for building a better city in even the smallest incremental stages, let alone the kind of large organizational re-orientation that is necessary to make better city-building the natural outcome of their work.

LRT is very much symbolic of the issue, because most experts think it's a no brained (including metrolinx) and the province has even offered to pay for it, but the leadership of this city has responded negatively to even the idea of it. They say that they don't support it because it's not a sure thing, even though they are the ones who have to make it happen; however, but they have responded similarly to many other ideas, small and large. When you look at the silliness of the debate over this TOL, or the cannon cycle track, its hard to have any faith at all in Hamilton council. Hamilton is a great city, but it needs to change. The status quo is not acceptable in the long term.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2015-01-16 09:02:51

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 07:24:47 in reply to Comment 107880

Are you willing to wait that long?

People are willing to wait if they see progress happening - if they see the city taking real, meaningful steps toward a more prosperous future.

Five or ten years of development is an exciting time full of opportunity. Five or ten years of stagnation leaves us exactly where we are today, which is not where we need to be.

This Council can choose to continue drifting accidentally toward revitalization and hope for the best, or it can choose to steer the city deliberately toward revitalization. As David Dixon said on Wednesday, "it really depends on where you as a city want to be. You can lead people to become a more progressive, transit-oriented city, or you can choose to let that evolve naturally. And so really it becomes your decision."

What this council needs to understand is that choosing to continue drifting and stagnating means we will continue to lose hard-working, ambitious people - not only from the ranks of city staff but also from residents and business owners.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 10:32:25 in reply to Comment 107883

Just to clarify...

"I moved to Hamilton a few months ago because of the potential. But I work in Toronto. If LRT and the changes it bring don't happen, I will leave Hamilton and move to Toronto. Thank you Council."

This is what the poster said. And in response, I asked my question. To them. It wasn't a baiting query, to get people to defend the benefits of LRT or the (forecast) development changes. Which is what has ensued.

I was, in truth, trying to gauge their attachment to a notion five or ten years off. I don't care what city you're talking about, what neighbourhood you're talking about, in the main people do not plunk down a few hundred thousand dollars as a bet that the area will substantially be transformed. (Please note that I'm not talking about investors who flip properties after 'gentrification' has jacked up property values. Different kettle of fish entirely.)

In fact, it's reasonable to look at what I said this way: "If you don't think that Hamilton is a sufficiently great place to live right now and will only think so when substantive changes take place, then I'm not sure that Hamilton is your kind of city, period."

I think it's of value to remember that whether or not we get LRT, Hamiltonians will still be here. Life will go on. Resurrection of the downtown will unfold, albeit not in the way many here would prefer. In the end, this should be the fundamental focus. Once again, we're at risk of placing all our bets on something, when in reality, we need to continue to contribute to the city's transformation, regardless of the eventual outcome of The Battle of LRT.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:26:52 in reply to Comment 107896

"If you don't think that Hamilton is a sufficiently great place to live right now and will only think so when substantive changes take place, then I'm not sure that Hamilton is your kind of city, period."

Good luck with that approach.

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By will move (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 10:52:36 in reply to Comment 107896

Hamilton is not great 'as is'. It's people with that kind of attitude (i.e. Status quo is good enough) that hold the city back from exploding with greatness. Hamilton has great potential to go from being one of the worst cities to one of the best cities. It's not there yet, and lack of transit investment will ensure it never gets there. I'd rather live in a city where positive changes are taking place. Even Brampton-Mississauga are ready to get LRT.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 11:51:20 in reply to Comment 107901

Right now I am giving serious thought to K-W simply because their LRT is being built and they have managed to control the status-quo-trolls from holding them back.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 12:31:55 in reply to Comment 107909

if not for my job, I would have left a long time ago. TO, Montreal, Van, Portland, Seattle etc......

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By myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 16:03:19 in reply to Comment 107914

Interesting... my job is in Seattle and I'm still an intentional Hamiltonian.

This city has made great strides in the years that we've lived here. We can make more strides, but we need more than anything right now is to make sure that the weak minded trollish members of council aren't permitted to wreck the progress we have made. It's going to be a long 4 years with some of these childish, selfish, self-absorbed... I don't even know what to call them... councillors.

I'm very impressed with the behaviour of the two new lower-city councillors, perhaps they'll be able to outwit the unarmed and continue cycling out the incumbents who prefer the 'glory days' of their youth rather than the progressive future that we owe our children.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 10:46:39 in reply to Comment 107896

You still seem to be missing the OP's point. Part of what makes a city a better or worse place to live is the sense that it is dynamic: that its leaders are making good choices, that things are trending in the right direction.

We have several councillors who have flatly stated that they don't support doing anything to improve transit in the city until we're in crisis. That mentality, if it is allowed to guide Council's final decision on something as modest as the bus lane, is absolutely toxic to the kind of renaissance we have been experiencing over the past several years. If Council can't even muster the leadership to approve a tiny, inexpensive commitment to improved transit, how will they ever be able to handle medium-sized issues, let alone big ones?

Council's failure to make even tiny progress on small issues actively discourages Hamiltonians who are starting to believe in their city's potential again. It scares off people who might otherwise decide to move and invest here.

Resurrection of the downtown will unfold, albeit not in the way many here would prefer.

No, that is not a given. It is not inevitable. The revival of downtown is a function of the city's policy. If our policy is driven by fear and retrenchment around the status quo, the revival will falter.

We are at a very vulnerable state right now. The city has momentum but it needs continued leadership to achieve a self-sustaining liftoff.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 12:30:34 in reply to Comment 107899

And the bus lane is just the current issue before Council.

What about the conversion of one-way streets that have already been approved? What about future conversions. These are non starters with most of the Counsellors since their constituents benefit directly from the status quo.

How many cars come down the mountain in either the east or west end to traverse the lower city or exit the 403 on York, Main or Aberdeen to do the reverse? Why not cross the city using mountain streets? Because it's quicker in the lower city because of the one ways and synced lights.

This convenience comes with expense.........quality of life, lack of neighbourhood vitality, lost taxes etc. etc. but the "majority" don't care. The overnight conversions of the 1950's should either be undone or rolled out to the entire city. To do otherwise is simply unfair. Why should only part of the city have to tolerate what others don't?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:28:33 in reply to Comment 107912

What if the same process happens after the Cannon Cycle Track pilot? it could disappear so easily by the misguided votes of a few ininformed councillors.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 08:36:57 in reply to Comment 107883

It took 40 years to build the Linc and the Red Hill Creek highways. By the time they were done, the world had changed dramatically. Who knows what the City would look like if they had been built on time. We may have had a far more vigorous industrial base etc.

Ryan is correct. Sitting around and doing nothing, not even fixing the roads we have is very discouraging.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 07:36:15 in reply to Comment 107883

Precisely. The minute they start building that LRT people are going to take notice and the value of property near it will go up.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 08:49:58 in reply to Comment 107886

In K-W, investment and building started ahead of the LRT. Once the announcement was made, everything changed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 09:04:03

Modify Your Closet at 203 King St E just tweeted:

we support the bus lane! And we're opening 2 more businesses on King St.

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By dangeroos (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 10:45:52

While it's easy to point the blame at City Hall, it's my belief that amalgamation has really staggered the progress of this city. You have a city with areas that have very different needs. I am generalizing here but, the majority of the mountain, or Stoney Creek don't care about that because that's not how their communities are set up. It's designed for cars. I think we have some forward thinkers on council but there is just to many different needs for different wards. We've watched it play out with the stadium and the velodrome. It's a real shame we can't find any middle ground on anything.

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By Agrred (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 11:14:16 in reply to Comment 107898

I agree with this and believe it's why a roadshow on the pros of lower City urban intensification needs to be taken east, west and up the mountain to explain things. A revitalized core will benefit those others areas in ways (like increasing the tax base with minimal infrastructure costs) in ways that I don't think have entered the conversations, for the most part, there.

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