Special Report: Bus Lane

Both King and Main Had High Collision Totals in 2014

The fact that both Main and King had higher collision totals in 2014 than in previous years strongly suggests that the bump had more to do with our long, hard winter than with the bus lane.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 19, 2015

On January 8, I posted an article on the motion by Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins to remove the transit-only lane on King Street between Mary and Dundurn. One of the arguments Collins made in support of his motion was a claim that "the number of vehicular accidents has significantly increased along the Bus Lane Pilot route".

Looking at the data provided by the City in Appendix F of the bus lane report, it was not at all clear that the number of collisions has gone up as a result of the bus lane.

Collision Data by Year and Segment
Segment 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Average
Victoria-Wellington 9 7 5 6 5 2 7 6
Wellington-Mary 7 12 6 17 7 10 13 10
Mary-James 14 18 21 23 17 21 23 20
James-Bay 10 10 8 17 17 6 7 11
Bay-Queen 12 16 14 13 18 12 20 15
Queen-Locke 5 4 4 4 11 5 8 6
Locke-Dundurn 11 14 22 16 18 17 18 17
Total 68 81 80 96 93 73 96 84

The total number of collisions at major intersections between Victoria and Dundurn in 2014 was higher than the average over the past seven years, but was the same as the total from 2011 and only slightly higher than the total from 2012. It was certainly not an outlier.

It occurred to me that one way to put the 2014 collision totals in more context would be to compare the totals not only with previous years on the same street, but also with the same seven-year stretch on a different street. So I contacted the City to ask if they could provide comparative totals on another downtown street.

At first, staff were reluctant to provide the data until after this Wednesday's Council meeting, where the fate of the bus lane will probably be decided one way or another. I had a sense that staff were afraid Council would accuse them of pushing an agenda on the bus lane.

Given the way certain councillors treated Transit Director David Dixon at last Wednesday's General Issues Committee meeting, I'm not surprised they're gun-shy.

When Councillors bully City staff - for example, by accusing them of not being objective - they help to perpetuate a culture of fear where people are encouraged to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. It becomes a lot harder to make good decisions when the people who have the expertise to provide good data are cowed and intimidated into silence.

King and Main Both High in 2014

Fortunately, staff agreed that providing more data allows for both Council and the public to make more informed decisions on this important policy issue. They provided a summary data set with collision totals along King between Victoria and Dundurn, and along Main between Victoria and Dundurn, for the seven years between 2008 and 2014.

Note that this data set includes all collisions along the corridor, not just collisions at selected intersections, so the totals are higher than they were in Appendix F of the bus lane staff report.

Total Collisions from Victoria to Dundurn by Year, King and Main
Street 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Average
King 102 104 105 124 118 115 132 114
Main 99 108 119 117 100 115 125 112

When you look at the total number of collisions between Victoria and Dundurn, both King and Main are higher in 2014 than in any of the previous years.

Since Main is one-way eastbound and King is one-way westbound, it is unlikely that traffic on Main would be impacted by the bus lane on King - it's not as if drivers on King can divert to Main to continue their trip.

As we all remember, the winter of 2014 was exceptionally long, cold, snowy and icy. The fact that both Main and King had higher collision totals in 2014 than in previous years strongly suggests that the bump had more to do with the winter than with the bus lane.

Winter 2014 (RTH file photo)
Winter 2014 (RTH file photo)


Please add your voice to the Support Hamilton Transit campaign to keep the bus lane.

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 Goodwork (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 16:28:17

Great investigative work! Let's see what the Councillor Collins has to say to that.

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By Sandy head (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 16:31:00 in reply to Comment 108039

Will someone deliver this new report deep into the sand so Collins can choose to read and ignore it??

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By Colon (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 20:15:44 in reply to Comment 108041

Will someone please tell Chad Collins to get his head out of his own ass?!

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 16:30:28

Oh look, actual data!

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By IanReynolds (registered) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 16:56:00

In addition to your point that last winter was so long that there's a natural uptick in collisions, the fact that the year-over-year average of the two streets, one with a bus lane and one without, is almost identical tells me that the collisions have nothing to do with the bus lane.

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By Wondering (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2015 at 23:33:56

Thanks for this Ryan, I've been wondering about com parables myself. Now, I just have to wonder why nobody on Council asked about them last week when they had the chance. Finger crossed for Wednesday.

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