Special Report: Light Rail

LRT Report Charts Course for City to Implement Light Rail Successfully

A new report calls on Council to approve a multi-disciplinary LRT Office that will work with Metrolinx and engage with Hamiltonians to ensure LRT success.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 06, 2015

This article has been updated.

On Monday, August 10, the General Issues Committee will receive report CM15014, "Fostering the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project". Because the City's website for meeting agendas is deranged by design, we can't link directly to the report, but here's a page of links to the report and its appendices.

Hamilton LRT/GO expansion map
Hamilton LRT/GO expansion map

The report calls on Councillors to approve the establishment of a new Rapid Transit office to coordinate with Metrolinx, align the various City departments that will be affected by the LRT investment and engage with the public. It recommends bringing back transportation consultant Steer Davies Gleave, which worked with the City on its original LRT planning, to complete the new design and environmental assessment work on the modified LRT plan.

That new plan, announced with full capital funding on May 26, includes a B-Line LRT running from McMaster University to the Queenston Traffic Circle, an A-Line LRT connecting the B-Line with the West Harbour, and a pedestrian connection to the Hunter Street GO Station.

The contract with Steer Davies Gleave is expected to cost around $2 million, with the work starting in August 2015 and completing on an aggressive timeline in March 2017. That will give Metrolinx time to tender construction contracts before the end of 2017, with the actual construction beginning in 2019.

That required planning also includes finding an LRT maintenance and storage facility. The City currently owns a bus storage facility at 330 Wentworth Street North and the staff report recommends buying an adjacent property to house the LRT facility.

LRT Office, Sub-Committee

The report recommends establishing a new multi-disciplinary LRT office under the Planning and Economic Development Department. The members would include a project lead, a transit lead, a land use planning lead, and representatives for transportation and complete streets, communications and community engagement, public health alignment, traffic signals/systems integration, capital works project engineering, real estate law, and property development.

This cross-organizational approach is reflected in the authorship of the report, which includes HSR Director David Dixon, Transportation Director John Mater, Construction Director Gary Moore, Planning Director Steve Robichaud, and Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ninh Tran among the list of contributors.

The Public Health implications of LRT are significant:

Community design is the domain of land use and transportation planners; however, public health has a responsibility to collaborate with city and other stakeholders to ensure the built environment supports health. Active transportation and public transit reduces traffic related deaths and injuries, improves air quality, increases physical activity, improves mental health, and encourages more social interaction. Moreover, it provides access for all citizens to programs, services, education, and employment.

Sot it's encouraging to see Public Health at the table in a high-level capacity.

The LRT office would be overseen by a new Sub-Committee of Council including the Mayor, the Councillors for wards 1 through 4, two additional councillors from the mountain/suburbs and "key stakeholders", including representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Association, BIAs and institutional and business partners.

I hope there will also be a space for a representative from Hamilton Light Rail, the community organization that began the process of advocating for LRT in Hamilton back in 2007, before the City had even established a Rapid Transit Office.

Urgent Land Use Planning

The old Rapid Transit Office was located under the Public Works Department, with a parallel Nodes and Corridors Study group under the Planning and Economic Development Department. The Nodes and Corridors Study identified the changes that need to happen in a Secondary Plan for the transit corridor to support and encourage new transit-oriented development.

Now the City needs to hurry to ensure that the zoning along that corridor supports urban, transit-oriented growth. The corridor is currently zoned under Zoning By-Law 6593, which was established in the early 1950s to allow low density residential (D), medium density (DE) or commercial (H) use.

The by-law reflects the time it was written and includes minimum building setbacks, maximum heights and minimum parking and landscaping requirements. It makes no differentiation between an urban and suburban context or the unique character of the area where the regulations apply.

There is no requirement for transit-supportive land use (i.e. discouraging auto-oriented use like auto dealerships, service stations and drive-thru restaurants), no requirement for ground-floor commercial use and no specific built form requirement.

The LRT corridor is currently subject to "Site Plan Control", which regulates the physical development of a site but cannot regulate the use of land. As a result, planning staff cannot negotiate changes to a proposed site plan if it complies with zoning provisions, even if the land use is incompatible with LRT.

The transit corridor is predominately designed as H Commercial. This permits a wide range of uses including retail, automobile-related uses, restaurants including drive-thrus and residential including single detached houses.

Planning staff are working on developing a new "City-wide Commercial and Mixed Use Zoning" by-law that will update the Urban Hamilton Official Plan (UHOP), which designates Main, King and James as prime corridors and encoruages transit-supportive development.

However, it won't be complete until late 2016 or early 2017, and it may meet OMB appeals that will delay it further. Therefore, the City has to expedite its zoning update for the transit corridor outside the context of the City-wide Commercial and Mixed Use Zoning process.

One option the Planning Act allows is an Interim Control By-Law (ICBL), which places a hold on development for up to two years while the planning study proceeds. As the report notes:

To fully capitalize on the growth related opportunities associated with the implementation of the LRT, new development and/or redevelopment should align with the vision established in the Urban Hamilton Official Plan for complete streets and transit supportive development. The existing zoning provides for development to occur that may not align with this vision. As such, there is merit in proceeding with an ICBL while staff complete the zoning review for the lands along the LRT corridor.

Otherwise, there is nothing stopping property owners from rushing to build low-density, automobile-dependent developments that will undermine the potential for LRT to transform how people choose to live and get around.

Far-Reaching Implications

The report notes that the LRT investment will have "far-reaching implications beyond transportation", including elevating the role of public transit, spurring new economic growth and development, accelerating the revitalization of the downtown core, supporting the redevelopment of the waterfront, and further integrating McMaster with the rest of the city and especially the downtown core.

LRT will also have significant financial implications for the City. In addition to generating new economic activity through new developments and increased employment, it will also lead to new property tax assessments and increased property tax revenues, new development charges, new operating costs for the LRT office, changes to the operating costs and revenues for conventional transit service, and necessary capital costs for projects not deemed eligible for Provincial funding.

The City will have to retool the bus network so that it is "integrated seamlessly" with LRT. In particular, the B-Line corridor is currently served with 18 buses that can be redeployed to increase service levels across the city once LRT is in operation.

The City is also looking to engage with neighourhood groups and NGOs to leverage the maximum community benefits for mixed-income neighbourhoods that will be affected by LRT. The line will cross several neighbourhoods that are part of the City's Neighbourhood Action Strategy - Jamesville, Beasley, Gibson and Landsdale Association (GALA), Sherman and Crown Point - and LRT will provide opportunities for jobs and social enterprises.

Financing and Procurement

Metrolinx is recommending a Public Private Partnership (P3) financing and procurement model, specifically a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (BDFOM) contract that will span 25-30 years.

So it is not yet clear who will operate and maintain the LRT system, but there is a possibility to contract the operation and/or maintenance to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents the HSR employees.

There is also a possiblity to change the Development Charges Act so the Province can use Development Charges to help fund the LRT project costs. Under this scenario, the City would administer DC collections and remit the money to the Province to pay for LRT project costs.

Main Street

For years, the City has insisted that it can't make any changes to Main or King Street because of the possibility that LRT is coming. With confirmation that LRT on King Street is on the way, we now have an urgent opportunity to redesign Main Street so that it supports the same urban redevelopment goals as LRT, while at the same time providing some westbound automobile traffic capacity during LRT construction on King.

During the City's short dalliance with a bus-only lane on King Street, we noted that Main Street sat nearly empty while traffic was backed up on King. This makes no sense: Main Street needs to be converted to a two-way street so that people can travel both east- and westbound on it.

Main Street almost empty while traffic was backed up on King Street (RTH file photo)
Main Street almost empty while traffic was backed up on King Street (RTH file photo)

This was recommended in the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis, which concluded that two-way conversion supports LRT success and "is more supportive of the City's objective to create a healthy, more pedestrian-friendly downtown."

It was also recommended by Steer Davies Gleave, the transit planner the City used to do the functional and detailed design for the B-Line, but the former Rapid Transit Office opposed the conversion on the grounds that "There is still a need for some traffic to move easterly across the City, and Main Street fulfills this role."

If Council approves the LRT report currently before it, the window to do something good with Main Street will close rapidly. It states:

Given the anticipated extent of construction impacts along the LRT route it will be undesirable to have construction impacts on alternate or parallel routes during this time. It is necessary to consider the condition of these adjacent routes far enough in advance to be able to address any road condition, capacity or safety related deficiencies as well as any upgrades to underground assets (water, sewer, etc.). As previously noted any construction on these roads would compound any traffic congestion caused by the LRT construction. Therefore any upgrades to parallel routes, as well as an analysis of complete streets in the vicinity, need to be completed prior to the commencement of the LRT program projects. Any further improvements/rehab/replacement would then have to wait until completion of the LRT project.

In other words, if we don't fix Main Street before LRT construction starts in 2019, it will be locked in until the LRT construction is completed five years later.

Main Street East between Erie and Ontario (Image Credit: Adrian Duyzer)
Main Street East between Erie and Ontario (Image Credit: Adrian Duyzer)

The City absolutely can't afford another decade of stagnation on Main Street - especially when it will be well within the half-kilometre transit-oriented development corridor around the LRT on King Street. Quite simply, Main Street as a five-lane one-way thoroughfare repels pedestrians, businesses and investments.

Even the large 150 Main condo/hotel development at Main and Caroline opens onto George Street, a narrow lane between Main and King, rather than onto Main Street itself. No one wants to live, work or play next to a five-lane expressway. Council has to get this right, and they have to do it quickly.


Update: this article originally stated that the LRT office would report to the City Manager, but that is incorrect. The LRT office will be part of the Planning and Economic Development department, reporting to the senior management team through P&ED General Manager Jason Thorne. RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

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 mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:05:28

Good write-up.

For those who aren't familiar yet, see my Opinion piece in The Spectator:

A case for running two LRT lanes on King

A construction detour during LRT construction is required, which provides a perfect opportunity to do a 2-way trial, if we fail to convince the City population that doing this permanently is worthwhile.

The relevant section:


"One solution is to make Main a two-way street as the detour. Overhead electronic arrows permit three lanes towards the 403 during peak traffic. This is better than the two-lane International Village bottleneck. Instead, the village can becomes a pedestrian mall, with drivers perhaps satisfied by the free car parking deal Denninger's offers with any village receipt."

"A temporary widening of Dundurn at the plaza (leasing parking lot land for an extra traffic lane) efficiently funnels westward cars to the King 403 on-ramp. All of this will demonstrate the long-term viability of a two-way Main."

"Even if Main remains one-way initially, we keep the door open if LRT is built on King. The new generation of kids is using cars less often. Once the LRT is more popular, we can convert Main back to two-way."


Now, the more optimistic viewpoint is that we get a permanent 2-way conversion before LRT construction. We should strive for that and work towards that. But Hamilton need to make sure there is a Plan B too, if this fails to happen.

There are alternate solutions. One can actually technically live with two LRT lanes on Main street (as long as LRT lanes stay together), and tolerate automobile 1-way Main/King if we do it properly (widened sidewalks that are also brick-accented in the downtown section, barrier-separated cycle lanes, trees in middle of road, many SoBi stations). Certainly that would be palatable to me as a driver, LRT user, and a cyclist. But Hamilton may not be that visionary, and the prime focus should be on Main 2-way -- that pill is easier to swallow. However if the mountain votes for a Queens Quay treatment of the downtown section of Main Street, I won't stand in the way -- but it would be far more expensive than simply making Main a 2-way street, with less-expensive incremental upgrades. I suspect the 2-way Main is a more economically palatable route, and we need a construction detour, anyway.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 15:23:11

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:30:05 in reply to Comment 113304

"A temporary widening of Dundurn at the plaza (leasing parking lot land for an extra traffic lane) efficiently funnels westward cars to the King 403 on-ramp. All of this will demonstrate the long-term viability of a two-way Main."

With all due respect, this is the last thing that the Kirkendall and Strathcona neighbourhoods need. I honestly hadn't given much thought to the possibility that Main and Dundurn and King and Dundurn could become even less walkable, but you’ve thought of a way, and that’s “efficiently funneling” cars from a two-way Main Street down a widened Dundurn to the King on-ramp. I know what “efficiently funneling cars” looks like in Hamilton…

You can find several articles about how terrible these intersections are for people on bike or foot. Adding an extra lane to Dundurn is insanity.

I’ve heard lots of different opinions about how much it would cost to reconfigure the 403 ramps at Main and King. If it’s prohibitive, there’s still no reason not to convert Main to two-way from Dundurn east. That does not suggest we should turn the entirety of Dundurn near Main and King into even more of a glorified highway ramp system than it already is.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 22:13:40 in reply to Comment 113307

it's not cost-prohibitive AT ALL to adjust the Main St 403 ramps so that they meet Main St perpendicular, at a stop-light. Drivers can then go east or west on a new two-way Main. The land is already there beside both ramps. Just a slight re-curving of the ramps to meet Main as a proper intersection instead of veering onto Main like a freeway. It could be done next month.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 09:11:19 in reply to Comment 113327

"it's not cost-prohibitive AT ALL to adjust the Main St 403 ramps so that they meet Main St perpendicular, at a stop-light."

Thanks, Jason. mdrejhon's argument for a super-wide Dundurn northbound to quickly "funnel" cars from Main to the King Street ramps seems to be predicated on the difficulty of converting the ramps to be normal. If it's an easy project, then there would never be any reason to make Dundurn even worse than it is.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 08:05:30 in reply to Comment 113327

adjust the Main St 403 ramps so that they meet Main St perpendicular, at a stop-light.

I feel the need to remind myself that this seemingly drastic change would simply make those ramps the same as just about every other single QEW or 403 ramp I ever encounter. This change would make them normal.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 10:44:22 in reply to Comment 113333

exactly. the Linc as well in our own backyard.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:34:28 in reply to Comment 113307

I agree, but we still have to pick-our-poison at least for Phase 1. It's a widening for only ONE block of Dundurn for ONE partial extra lane, possibly only temporary until ramp modification. And we could install Cannon-style separated bike lanes on Dundurn as part of that package, if we needed to mitigate. So be it. We save the LRT from being cancelled.

Alternatively, there's a more minor-than-expected 403 ramp modification available, which Ryan of RTH likes, too.

Also see my comment below for a couple of options to solve the 403 onramp problem.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 15:44:45

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:45:56 in reply to Comment 113308

That modification you linked to seems more straightforward than I’d have expected, actually, but I’m sure it would still be costly (so would appropriating land enough for a lane and paving it, even if it is “temporary”). If it is prohibitive, we can convert Main east from Dundurn. There would still be no need for an extra northbound lane on Dundurn. North of King, a lane was removed a few years back, and contrary to popular prediction, it has not resulted in traffic chaos. Somehow, people adapted, and still manage to get to the 403 quick enough.

Your Scenario A below sounds pretty bad. There are dual left-turning lanes on Dundurn to King currently, and to accommodate them crossing by people on the west side of the intersection (to the south of which is a major grocery store and retail plaza and to the north of which is a residential neighbourhood) is prohibited. On the east side of Main and Dundurn, crossing is de facto prohibited. I suppose we would need to prohibit people crossing on the north side of your new vision for the Main and Dundurn intersection, to allow for that “easy right turn” for motorists wanting to get to the 403.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:53:34 in reply to Comment 113309

Again, I agree. I prefer ramp modification. But hypothetically speaking, do you rather the LRT being cancelled? I do not. My vision of just ONE block of ONE extra traffic lane for Dundurn, possibly temporary, is the lesser of evil. It's a very, very surgical compromise affecting only a narrow area, only temporarily, and additional friendliness mitigations are possible.

Dundurn Mall is getting an LRT stop. With really good traffic markings to improve safety and reasonably-rapid-responding pedestrian priority buttons. AND other enhancements that don't exist today.

Some additional reasonable quid pro quos such as bike lanes on the west edge of Dundurn (all the way to Dundurn Stairs). Better-than-cannon-style bike lane protection would be installed in the busy parts near Main/King.

We've got city councillors such as Terry Whitehead (Ward 8) totally against 2-way Main/King (most recently, in my private correspondences -- replied back and fourth 3 cycles in full-screenful emails -- he took the time to write long replies -- before the LRT announcement). We need to find compromises somehow, if no approved funding is found for ramp modification (goodbye LRT). See our problem?

Can you come up with an alternate pot-sweetening temporary solution that (1) doesn't cancel the LRT, and (2) doesn't require ramp modification?

I'm struggling to figure out alternate solutions that the city could swallow, because the city council is swallowing multiple bitter pills simultaneously and tradeoffs may need to occur.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 16:06:21

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 20:31:28 in reply to Comment 113310

I think we should all wait to see the design that Steer Davies Gleave comes up with before getting too excited about what needs to be done. Personally I'm very interested to hear what the pros have to say about all this - especially the International Village.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 09:52:37 in reply to Comment 113322

Most of the alignment (apart from the James N spur) was completed to 30% (tendering) level by SDG about three years ago, including the section through International Village. I very much doubt there will be significant changes to the alignment that was already designed.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:33:45 in reply to Comment 113337

Ok, I found it. IV will be closed to all car traffic between Catherine and Wellington. That is pretty interesting. I'm still not going to read too much into the current proposal until they've had their second kick at the can.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:48:01 in reply to Comment 113344

I like the pedestrianized IV (especially if it also has a protected cycle path too, linked to Gore Park, and to other cycle paths such as towards the GO station and an expanded Hunter cycle path)

Incidentially, this is also why I am quite concerned about trusting the city to properly solve the upcoming Dundurn funnel problem, since most cars going westwards towards 403 will be taking the 2-way Main in the LRT era. See my paragraph in other post.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 16:36:17 in reply to Comment 113310

If dundurn gets an extra car lane and a bike lane, that will be a net loss for cyclists. Any road that needs 3 lanes of traffic in one direction is by definition too busy for anything less than protected cycling infrastructure. It is sub-standard now with mixed car/bike traffic and it will be sub-standard with 3 lanes and a paint bike lane.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:49:12 in reply to Comment 113312

I'm not talking about a bike lane, but protected better-than-Cannon path, complete with green markings and real curb (not bolt-ons like Cannon). It can be a lower-grade bike path closer to Aberdeen, but we definitely need Dundurn bike connectors between the upcoming Herkimer bike lanes and the existing York bike lanes.

On this topic -- About Locke bike paths vs Dundurn bike paths -- Dundurn is a politically easier access to lovely Locke (and bypasses the expensive-to-solve narrow Locke Street problem from Main-King-railway bridge) without pissing off Locke businesses by taking away their streetside parking. We love to have cycle lanes on directly Locke but look at how narrow Locke becomes at the railroad bridge, and all the way to Main, so obviously, it seems a north-south bike lane probably needs to use Dundurn instead, connecting York all the way to Dundurn Stairs (or end at Aberdeen, as few will bring a bike up/down the stairs -- even with a bike guiderail installed at the edge of the stairs -- which I recommend there be). There is more room on Dundurn for bike lanes from York thru Aberdeen and bike lane protection, so we could put a Cannon-style bike path (with major upgrade to better-than-Cannon during the Main-King section), though the Dundurn bridge is somewhat narrow and might need a compromise solution for a few meters there until the bridge is widened -- but far easier than Locke.

Hopefully (temporary) Dundurn widening ends up not being necessary. But it IS an upcoming automobile-flow problem that will need to be engineered with traffic flow modelling.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 15:00:26

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By Bryce (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:20:01

The cost of re-designing and constructing new highway on and off ramps where Main cross the 403 would probably be astronomical... But there's no reason not to convert Main from Dundurn to the Delta.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 15:30:03 in reply to Comment 113305

The ramps don't necessarily need to be redone. There are two solutions I see:

(A) Scenario A (no changes to ramps)

  • Keep 403 ramps unchanged.
  • For now, keep Main/King one-way east of Dundurn.
  • Force westward-driving Main Street traffic to turn right onto Dundurn. It's an easy right-turn. The main problem is the left turn onto King to reach the King on-ramp.
  • Purchase/lease about 5 meters of land from the Dundurn Mall to widen the 1-block of Dundurn between Main King, for the extra road capacity needed to route westward Main traffic towards the King on-ramp.
  • Install dual left-turning lanes on Dundurn northwards turning left onto King.
  • For increased traffic safety, install overhead sign at Dundurn-King intersection to tell 403 on-ramp people to wait in the rightmost left-turning lane.
  • This is just ONE block of ONE extra traffic lane for Dundurn, possibly temporary.

(B) Scenario B (minor changes to ramps)

I prefer Scenario B, but I can tolerate Scenario A for now as a very cheap temporary interim solution.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 15:48:05

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 17:17:06 in reply to Comment 113306

I don't understand why dundurn has to be widened here, it is already over-built if you consider that the rest of it is one lane in each direction. If there is a need for lanes to access the 403 via King St, wouldn't it be easiest to move the median over and make it one lane south-bound / three lanes northbound?

As I mentioned elsewhere, this would make it absolutely essential to also incorporate protected cycling infrastructure north-bound, since any road that requires three lanes in a single direction is by definition too busy for anything less. Adding car lanes on Dundurn would destroy even what little connectivity it provides for cyclists.

Also, if Queen Street were two way, that would allow people to jog north on Queen to King West, where there is a lot of road space to accomodate west-ward traffic in addition to LRT. This could potentially ameliorate the need to increase capacity on Dundurn.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2015-08-06 17:18:33

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 23:30:50 in reply to Comment 113315

Really, really good point about Queen. If we can herd a portion of the cars onto King, we might be able to make do with managing the massive morning-commute Main-to-403, without needing to widen Dundurn except for the purpose of addition of protected bike lanes.

This is the kind of brainstorming we need!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 23:32:08

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By Stephen Barath (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 17:35:27 in reply to Comment 113315

There would be no need to increase capacity on Dundurn: as you note, it's over-built as it is. Adding an extra lane would make it six lanes wide at King...utterly unnecessary.

You make a really good point about Queen, too. Converting it to two ways would mean two lanes of northbound traffic.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 16:30:48

One other point is that although Jill Stephen publicly justified abandoning the two-way conversion of Main on the grounds that traffic still has to travel east (which was always a strange justification), in the RTCAC group meetings she said that the decision was primarily a political tactic. She said that LRT was controversial enough, and she didn't want the divisive two-way conversion debate mixed up with it (despite the recommendation of Metrolinx that it would help LRT be successful). I don't think she really thought there were good traffic engineering reasons to keep Main one way.

As Jason Leach has pointed out, two way conversion will really be essential during the construction phase when King will have "difficult" traffic (as they described it in Grenoble during the recent LRT construction).

Why would they not want to add additional westbound lanes during this period?

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-08-06 16:32:47

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By Stephen Barath (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 16:45:10

"We need to find compromises somehow, if no approved funding is found for ramp modification (goodbye LRT). See our problem?"

The problem I see here (and you also sound condescending here, by the way) is that you're presenting a false choice. Is LRT contingent on converting Main Street to two-way? No. I agree that it would be better. Is converting Main Street to two-way contingent on turning Dundurn into a "funnel" for cars? I doubt it.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 19:16:44 in reply to Comment 113313

No intent on being condescending in my above post (you may have observed my very clear distaste for the uninformed anti-Cannon-Bike-Lane people in the other article, with a fully facts-based defense) -- just facilitating productive discussion. That's what we're here for! :-)

There are nice pedestrian-friendly 1-way "bouelvard"/"Queens Quay" style solutions but requires removal of traffic lanes and larger outlays in cost. To make that reasonably workable, requires both LRT lanes to be on Main instead of King, due to the International Village funnel. Then as a result, I'd be afraid of is seeing King 1-way status quo continuing. There are sections where I can touch a storefront and a parking meter with only partially outstretched arms (got a pic on that). We'd be potentially preventing full revitalization of the Main-King corridors, and we'd also potentially be tempoting putting the LRT lanes separately (one on King, one on Main) -- 600 meters apart in some sections. If I see a really good 1-way compromise that the city council doesn't fight over, we can go with it.

All the solutions all have compromises. Funding opportunities, revitalization opportunities, city council agreement, how easy it is to mess up the plan (e.g. separating the LRT lanes one each to Main/King and mostly keeping 1-way status quo), etc. I feel converting to 2-way will make it much harder for the city to permanently mess up the LRT revitalization opportunities and we both agree on 2-way conversion already. Messups caused by plan tweaks such as putting LRT lanes separate on Main and on King, is harder to undo/fix, than a temporary situation (perhaps only during construction) at Dundurn, for example.

Assuming no funding is available for a 403 interchange modification, and the city leans towards Main/King remaining 1-way, I'm not sure I'm comfortable that the city would not be tempted to keep King completely unmodified (ugly expressway status quo), or even worse, be tempted to separate the LRT lanes (1 on King, 1 on Main) as some city councillors advocated for already.

Simultaneously, for 1-way Main-King (regardless of how they're revitalized), the city would be easily tempted by future voters to keep the traffic lights synchronized to the cars instead of the LRT (massively slowing down the LRT), given their investment in expanding the synchronized traffic lights system by recently adding centralized control this year. This is much harder to do with 2-way Main/King, and much easier to politically let the stoplights automatically prioritize to LRT, making it really subway-fast like an European LRT rather than Toronto TTC King streetcar. Makes it far less popular, given how efficient our 1-way expressways are by car. There are more ways for Hamilton to hamstring (pun) the LRT if Main/King remain 1-way. Decisions like this can mean the difference between 20,000 ridership and 100,000+ ridership by 2044 (20 years after LRT starts up). Traffic calmed by 2-way and LRT-priority stoplights means more people will take the LRT than car.

So considering these factors, I'm more comfortable with going ahead with 2-way conversion, which I feel is the right tool for the right job for Hamilton, given we likely won't have a wide-sidewalk-boulevard treatment to a 1-way street. Better revitalization opportunities, including incremental with fewer shoot-in-foot issues.

I concede I don't like the Dundurn solution, but most of us would probably agree it'd be better than the typical Hamilton halfhearted solution of 1-way status quo Main/King, traffic lights still synced to cars instead of the LRT, and 1 separate LRT lane on each Main and King (all the above simultaneously -- horrors!) I should point out Dundurn would only become a funnel for westwards cars on Main. Eastwards cars on Main coming from 403 are unaffected, as are cars flowing to/from Dundas. And this is only a funnel only during morning peak. Other than that, onramp traffic is reasonably light. And consider the Dundurn situation can be revitalized only 5 years after LRT completes, into a really nice place, with future later funding for an interchange that's also combined with a massive upgrade to Dundurn Mall, and all sorts of ultra-pedestrian-friendly enhancements... This could be a rider/condition attached to Centre Mall permitting a temporary lease.

We should certainly lobby for interchange tweaks, but we'll have to be delicate about it given the fragility of the city's support for LRT. Creative ideas are needed.

Now, hypothetically assuming we successfully go 2-way (yay!), And in this situation, what if no funding is available for the 403 interchange? I'm running through several common-sense thought experiments as we speak, based on current council risk for disastrous tweaks, and known Hamilton's tight budget.

I found the ramp modification ideas brilliant, and prefer that. (Yes, I pray we have money for the currently-unfunded 403 ramp modifications, then we don't need this Dundurn Funnel discussion...)

That said, ideas are genuinely totally welcome. Really.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 19:59:12

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 08:39:53 in reply to Comment 113319

"I concede I don't like the Dundurn solution..."

I have never heard anyone besides you propose it...

I appreciate this "art of the possible" track you're trying to take. Yes, the King ramp to the 403 is very busy (you say "astronomical" volume below- do you know what the volume might actually be?). Does it warrant four north-bound Dundurn lanes? A traffic engineer might be able to tell us that. I've never heard anyone suggest it needs to be, besides you.

Below you say '"Dundurn Funnel" problem of the westwards morning commute to the 403.' Is this a problem? You say so. I've never heard of anyone else make claims about this. To me, the problem seems to continue to be the mentality that car traffic should be prioritized over all other modes, and over a liveable neighbourhood. Why should we overbuild and overdesign Dundurn around Main and King (adding lanes, or using dynamic lanes), when there's plenty of capacity and we know that traffic patterns adapt when there are constraints? Is that going to lead to a liveable neighbourhood around a thriving transit hub (this area already has a lot of transit by multiple providers)?

Comment edited by StephenBarath on 2015-08-07 08:43:54

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:06:41 in reply to Comment 113334

There is no Dundurn funnel problem yet, but there will be once both Main/King becomes two ways.

As I posted in the later article, "It's an astronomical number of cars using that one 403 onramp. Easily four figures of cars every morning 6am-9am -- right-hand lanes on King congests really very badly as we approach Dundurn (especially if a bus is in the way in the right-hand lane), that I now see cars driving on the two faster left-hand lanes only to cut across 3-4 lanes (near Dundurn, and occasionally AFTER Dundurn!) to reach the 403 onramp. And once, during a moment when the 403 itself wasn't congested and at a moment there wasn't a bus on the right-lane of King anywhere near Dundurn, I saw nearly 50 cars flows into the onramp in a mere single minute (1 second tailgating, car after car after car) -- 3 lanes merging in a hurry high speed to one minute without slowing down. It is REALLY crazy during the peakiest moments of the morning peak of that King 403 onramp."

Once this happens, all that 3 lanes of cars cramming into one onramp, will now have to come on Main 2-way, squeeze through Dundurn (including enough space in multiple left-turning lanes waiting for stoplight).

But if we can come up with multiple solutions, including 2 westwards automobile lanes on King between Queen and Dundurn, we can spread the load around. I trust that traffic modelling people will figure out how to solve the upcoming Dundurn funnel problem.

So we need to come up with load-spreading solutions, considering that introduction of LRT may only allow room for 2 car traffic lanes on King (1 for each direction, or 2 towards 403), as the 5th lane is on a very tight right-of-way not leaving room for the slightly wider LRT vehicles and a small curb to separate the LRT lanes from the car lanes, considering there will also need to be station islands in the middle of the street (at Dundurn too).

Hopefully we get away with not needing to widen Dundurn (for more waiting space for the massive number of cars in both left turning lanes, given we're forcing an existing 3-lane funnel to make two turns).

I am currently a SoBi+GO user in the summer (I prefer leaving my car at home since SoBi+GO is equally as fast, I wish there were more late-departing GO trains), but most of my commutes, especially in winter, is a car commute to Aldershot, and I am very familiar with all the Main Street funnel effects at almost every minute of the morning peak, having very variable departure times throughout the whole morning. That funnel effect will be transferred to Dundurn when International Village possibly becomes pedestrian-only, and most westward morning Lower City commuters take Main to get to the 403.

So I behoove it to city planners to come up with a solution that both you and I like. (And can we trust them to do so?)

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 14:43:09

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 15:40:46 in reply to Comment 113343

"...most of my commutes, especially in winter, is a car commute to Aldershot."

I should probably have surmised that. I suppose, if adding an extra lane to Dundurn (or wherever else) shaves two minutes off your commute, you're for it.

Okay, here's something: you say below you live near King and Sherman. That's gotta be well over five kilometres from the King on-ramp. Why are you driving five kilometres through downtown instead of up Sherman to Burlington, where there is a nearer expressway access?*

Answer: because you can. Because the streets between you and that on-ramp are all designed to carry more cars than necessary through downtown to get to the highway with the least minimal inconvenience (and forget the inconvenience to anyone else). If that fact changes, people's traffic patterns will change. Maybe you and a few other people will get up earlier to catch the Go, and then that ridership will drive more Go service.

Or we can just widen the streets to accommodate all the traffic we can imagine, and more.

*I understand that travelling all the way through the core on King is likely faster with the current configuration, but it doesn't mean that's a good thing to perpetuate.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 16:27:18 in reply to Comment 113350

Hey, I agree...I have been a carshare user most of my car usage life, and would sooner rather leave my car at home, or cease car ownership (except for a ZipCar during roadtrips and camping) and instead depend on the LRT/bike/bikeshare/walk instead. I'm NOT one of the automobile zealots, but I understand both sides of the escarpment.

Whether it be frustrated car commuters, or the beautiful renovated old-cars, and understand the need for a gradually surgical phased-adjustment compromise (Amsterdam cold-turkey isn't yet feasible in the current structurally low-density auto-grid) to prevent derailing a master plan...

Also..more like a +5 to +10 minute commute delay (thankfully -- this will massively increase LRT ridership when this forces me to take the more-pleasant LRT, which I of course, DO support, as a Lower City property taxpayer). Currently it takes me only 6 minutes to drive from near Gage Park to the 403 onramp, when following all but one synchronized traffic light (5 minutes if I successfully pass through James Street stoplight before it becomes red).

Even though I prefer not to own a car -- I can fully understand the upcoming frustration of Mountain drivers and eastern Lower City drivers. Historically, in similar cities with a successfully pedestrianized grid with improved LRT and bike infrastructure, and no more car-synchronized lights, cars average closer to 20-25kph instead of the 50-55kph I average keeping up with platoon flow. And that's excluding the delays from turns created by not adding a new Main on-ramp to 403. Talk about salt in a wound (auto POV speaking, of course). Doing average 20kph over 6 kilometers can create an almost 20-minute commute instead of 6-minutes, when you throw in the extra minutes of the Dundurn funnel.

This is a Good Thing for getting people onto LRT, but a Bad Thing to do Too Quickly (And get city to vote in a Rob Ford style Mayor). That's the rationale of the necessity of rejigging Dundurn properly (whether we widen it or not -- hopefully no widening is needed). Automobile owners in Hamilton have to swallow multiple bitter pills in rapid succession (Main 2-way AND the LRT) and this can erode support if we don't temporarily resolve the "salt in wound" surgical inefficiencies.

That said, perhaps I won't own a car by then (don't want if I can get by with carshare at less than $700/month including weekday drives and weekend roadtrips -- just before I decided to buy the car. Once I can get by with carshare at only under $200/month I'm going to let my owned car wear out instead and switch to carshare.).

With all-day 2-way GO, Aldershot becomes unnecessary for me.

But the LRT may start running before this happens. We'll have to see how Metrolinx solves the freight-GO sharing problem. Current plan for GO RER is hourly 2-way by 2025-ish.

Once I can catch a 4:00pm or 8:00pm or 11:00pm GO train directly to Hamilton, I can transfer to the now-nearly-24/7 Hamilton LRT to either GO station, and be done with it. Goodbye car.

Today's B-Line doesn't run evenings or weekends, so my HSR options whenever I'm back in Hamilton are rather inconvenient and unpredictable (can't trust a bus to appear when I'm standing at a bus stop after my 6:30 arriving in Hamilton 7:35...I sometimes have to strategically decide which bus stop to stand at depending on time of day and day of week...Delaware vs Main vs King, etc...so I often don't bother with HSR...sigh).

And of course, I may be working locally by 10 years -- hopefully!

Lots can change in 10 years -- betcha you agree with that, eh (Even if we debate the details)...

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 16:57:03

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 17:05:03 in reply to Comment 113354

Remember some population are swallowing multiple pills simulataneously (construction and LRT and 2-way and cycle infrastructure and traffic light de-synchronization and etc), it is essentially critical to prevent our city from becoming angry enough to vote a Rob Ford in the next election. Threfore, we must be open-minded to surgical temporary compromises that eases a gradual transition to 21st century Hamilton. I feel I understand the realities of metro, even if I want to give up my car as quickly as possible.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 17:05:50

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 23:18:42 in reply to Comment 113319

Freudian Slip Error.

Change: "This could be a rider/condition attached to Centre Mall permitting a temporary lease."

Into: "This could be a rider/condition attached to Dundurn Mall permitting a temporary lease."

We need to brainstorm out of the box, creative ideas. Maybe we can come up with a way of not needing the widening. We might instead use this for protected bike lanes, and use dynamic lanes instead (overhead arrow signs) that is only activated during the mornings, to handle the "Dundurn Funnel" problem of the westwards morning commute to the 403. Then we'd not need an extra traffic lane for a super-long (near-block-long) waiting area for double turning lanes onto King.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 23:25:52

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 20:34:21 in reply to Comment 113319

Oh, and consider that Main would also be 2-way too, if King is 2-way. So that reduces the morning-commute Dundurn funnel effect risk quite significantly. But, true, other ideas are really preferred.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 20:36:27

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 16:55:06

One thing that really hasn't been at all clarified is the higher-order pedestrian access to Hunter St. GO Station. I'd be very interested to know what this is supposed to look like and what options are being considered. From the map shown in this article, it looks like pedestrian traffic is supposed to be shunted along MacNab (through the transit hub and accross Main at that spot where busses will be turning in) and then up Hunter. To me Hughson is a much better option for walking --- its a straight 300m from Gore park, it would not require pedestrians to interact with busses turning into MacNab, and it is bookened at one end by Gore Park Trees and at the other end by the admirable facade of the TH&B. facade of the TH&B from Hughson at Gore Park I think it could be a very nice space as a pedestrian promenade or limited-access shared space. And assuming that the LRT doesn't enter MacNab terminal, it would not be any longer of a walk, since transit riders would be getting off at King/MacNab anyways. This would also reduce the amount of foot traffic passing through the transit terminal but not connecting with busses.

It seems like it would make even more sense to have the LRT stop at Gore park (from a pedestrian pov as well as from the pov of connecting to GO service), because it makes the walk 300m to the GO station as opposed to 600m, which would make a big difference in how many people will actually do that transfer regularly.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2015-08-06 17:01:57

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 19:49:05 in reply to Comment 113314

When the LRT is built, I have an idea -- Let's remove the north fence from Gore Park! Make it more people-accessible!

The Gore fence on King is not needed if we've got LRT and bike lanes, especially with a station between Hughson and James.

It greatly improves access to Gore Park, helps revitalize the area, especially if we have a dedicated protected cycle lane on King by then (a good shoo-in for a pedestrian-only International Village if that happened to keep LRT traffic-separated during an era where we convert Main to 2-way -- and the protected bike lanes should continue all the way to Gore Park).

With both cycle access and LRT access to Gore Park, the park will be far more vibrant (in addition to 10 years of condo booming, of course).

This could be part of the people-friendliness-improvements plan of the general area that includes improved Hughson pedestrian access to GO on Hunter.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 20:02:01

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 09, 2015 at 10:19:45 in reply to Comment 113321

...all of this, of course, is contingent on a good traffic plan, including a 2-way plan for other streets, like Main, and that the LRT happens. :-) (two big obstacles to fully cement, first.)

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2015 at 22:16:57

One thing we'll need to push city hall on ASAP is converting Bay, Main, Sherman and Wilson to two-way. Doing so will allow ease of traffic flow that other cities could only dream of being able to offer while constructing a major project like LRT. Those 4 streets remove virtually any concern about congestion or traffic flow during this process.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2015 at 23:33:18 in reply to Comment 113328

Queen too!

Anjo Man made a brilliant point -- it would reduce the morning-commute chaos by allowing westwards cars on Main the flexibility to choose Queen instead of Dundurn to reach King for the 403 onramp.

It's an astronomical number of cars using that one 403 onramp. Easily four figures of cars every morning 6am-9am -- right-hand lanes on King congests really very badly as we approach Dundurn (especially if a bus is in the way in the right-hand lane), that I now see cars driving on the two faster left-hand lanes only to cut across 3-4 lanes (near Dundurn, and occasionally AFTER Dundurn!) to reach the 403 onramp. And once, during a moment when the 403 itself wasn't congested and at a moment there wasn't a bus on the right-lane of King anywhere near Dundurn, I saw nearly 50 cars flows into the onramp in a mere single minute (1 second tailgating, car after car after car) -- 3 lanes merging in a hurry high speed to one minute without slowing down. It is REALLY crazy during the peakiest moments of the morning peak of that King 403 onramp.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-06 23:57:00

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 10:04:30

The top priority, as strongly recommended in the Metrolinx BCA and the McMaster report, is for the City to commit to re-designing the 800 m wide corridor in a way that will ensure the new LRT is as successful as possible.

And that meets not trying to hang onto the current auto-centric high speed cut way multi-lane one-way design that is so antagonistic to residents, pedestrians and businesses along the street. Recall that when the bus lane was put in shop owners claimed that King was so unpleasant that customers wouldn't even cross the street to visit their shops!

And this means:

  1. Two-way conversions to make it easier for motorists to navigate downtown and calm traffic. This will be essential during construction and very important afterwards.

  2. Wider sidewalks with more street trees and buffers (e.g. extra parking, bike lanes). The streets have to be pleasant to walk on and 1.5-1.8m sidewalks right next to traffic are just unacceptable in a downtown core!

  3. High quality urban design standards. No more street-killing surface parking, no more one storey strip malls and blank walled Shoppers Drug Marts with their entrances on surface parking lots.

In other words, we need to plan for and build the sort of city we want and that LRT is suited for. Not stick with the auto-centric design and standards of 60 years ago.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 21:02:39 in reply to Comment 113338

I agree!

Even though I wanted to keep the bus lane just to protect LRT approval I secretly hated the way Hamilton implemented that bus lane in a very people-unfriendly business-unfriendly car-unfriendly bus-unfriendly manner. It almost seemed like the lane was installed intentionally half-heartedly to sabotage Hamilton's desire for the LRT.

It was literally placed nearly in the middle of King in downtown (4th lane out of 5), and the bus had to leave its bus lane to reach some bus stops. It impeded bus traffic behind, and put chaos in the car traffic at the James intersection. Right turning traffic had to cross two lanes to turn right; Left turning buses turning onto James from King could have also been handled so much better. And the bus lane benefitted me squat, as whenever I ever took the HSR bus, I got off just before Macnab or James -- right where the bus lane barely began. And at the end of the day, the bus lane didn't speed up HSR very much at all.

Glad we got the LRT funded anyway -- and now we need to do it properly.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 21:04:05

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 17:58:24 in reply to Comment 113338

I totally agree. One of the key advantages of LRT is that it is quiet, which facilitates running it through public spaces that are pleasurable to spend time/money visiting in a way that bus-based transit is not. One of the major examples given in favor of brt was the success of south american systems like the Transmilenio in Bogata, but those buses often run down the center of a busy throughfare, transmelieno stop on a boulevard cancelling out the vibrancy that might otherwise be brought by high-order transit. Electric rail, on the other hand, can run down a narrow street and not diminish the experience of eating at a restaurant patio since it is quiet.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 12:11:31

I have a business on King by Sherman and I heard there getting rid of all the parking meters,theres 8 on my block alone, but they said there will be alternative parking, but could not answer my question what that will be, I even wrote a letter to them and got no reply, I really relly on the street parking as I have customers from out of town and also while the construction going on will there be any compensation for lack of business during that time that are on King st.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:01:38 in reply to Comment 113341

King and Sherman? I probably visit your business because we live only 2 blocks away. I suggest talking to Matthew Green, who now follows me on Twitter and has successfully pulled answers.

If you need help linking to Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green, let me know (you can tweet @MDRejhon -- or email me at the email address found on my website linked from my twitter profile). Matthew Green is @MGreenWard3 and has helped local businesses cut a little red tape, open faster, etc.

In other news, I am starting an LRT-related website (I own www.hamlrt.ca) by 2016 and my aim is also to help out businesses like you too.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 14:01:50

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 14:58:16 in reply to Comment 113342

the last time I looked at the detailed LRT drawings for King it showed 2 lanes for LRT, and 2 lanes for car travel during PEAK HOURS (7-9, 4-6). During non-peak hours the north curb was to retain street parking for businesses.

If they revert Main and Wilson to two-way, there is no need to remove parking from King.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2015 at 15:06:37 in reply to Comment 113348

This is another big reason why everyone need to lobby really hard for Main 2-way operation; It will really help businesses like you.

People going in both directions will see your business, and the tamer car traffic means people stare at storefronts more often than focussing on racing the beautifully synchronized green traffic lights (I like them; but I admit does make me pay far less attention to storefronts, as I focus on keeping up with the car platoon I'm currently in). We may want to consider that the bidirectional-ness and the traffic taming actually brings more business than losing half of curbside parking spots (e.g. parking on one side instead of both sides). The exception is if you're one of the automobile-based businesses (e.g. Car Wash), rather than a restaurant (e.g. Good Life Deli).

More than once I've driven past a business I half wanted to stop at, but I don't bother turning back on a 1-way street because I've driven past and can't easily backtrack. With 2-way streets (including 2-way side streets) I can more easily stomach the thought of turning onto a side street and then coming back -- like I often do in other cities if I realize I missed a business I half-wanted to visit. But we have 1-way street AND 1-way side streets. Ouch. And I can go back to an earlier side street that I saw parking at (I do this in Toronto's Danforth -- I used to live in Riverdale area for 2 years, both as a transit user and as a car-owner). Even during morning peak where there's no curbside parking and I have to park on a side street. 2-way main street with 2-way side streets means people will be more happy to turn into a side street for parking for businesses during construction when there's temporarily no curbside. And afterwards.

First, everyone of us all need to try to focus on the big-time business-saving ability of 2-way #1 and #1 priority before LRT construction begins, because businesses could become doomed if we keep too many adjacent streets 1-way during construction.

For you (And other LRT-affected Main/King business owners), may I have your contact information as I'm gradually collecting information from businesses who want 2-way Main (and Wilson). It may not be for a year that my site fully ramps up, but I want to be ready with a good base, and a crew of us will canvass. www.hamlrt.ca beginning in 2016 will be all about advocating concurrent LRT-related revitaliation efforts, including SoBi expansions, 2-way Main, demanding introduction of proper north-south HSR connecting bus routes to connect quickly to LRT, making sure LRT synchronizes to the traffic lights to make it Euro-LRT-subway-fast instead of TTC-King-streetcar-slow, etc.

And....ESPECIALLY....helping businesses survive LRT construction, etc. You can privately send this to me by googling my name (Mark Rejhon), I'm in the #1 hit.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-07 15:34:38

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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2015 at 16:49:00

The James spur line is interesting in that no one yet know what shape it will take. Will it go north down James and loop southward down John or Hughson? That was the most interesting part of the announcement - just how of left field the timing was. Looking forward to more info!

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted August 12, 2015 at 08:25:14

Metrolinx expects taxable assessment to increase $62,000,000/year for the city and McMaster believes this could reach as high as $261M because of increased economic activity around the stations.

That's a pretty dang impressive increase in revenues without the city having to build any major new infrastructure like new roads, sewers, schools, rec centres, hydro lines/substations, or watermains!

Really, the economic reasoning from this point alone (and forgetting the myriad other economic reasons alongside the city-building reasons) should be enough to win people over.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2015 at 10:01:53 in reply to Comment 113393

This is great news -- with some caveats that we need to work with (i.e. solutions for poor, solutions for evictions due to higher rents)

As a percentage of property value, property taxes aren't going up. But house values are, thanks to the LRT. It's simply by the sheer value increase of property alone, creating this. One possibility is that if assessments increase so much, we may one day afford to trim property taxes. Not to kill the golden goose, but use a little bit of the windfall to readjust Hamilton to be more in line with the average Canadian standard, tax as a percentage of property value. The golden goose would remain. This might not be doable for a quite a while (e.g. till next generation) but this would affect mountain taxpayers, especially if an A-Line LRT enables more tax-sustainable developments along the Upper James corridor.

The word that needs to also be communicated -- property tax assessment increases are totally different from a property tax rate increase. Many Hamiltonians are somewhat misinformed as to how this works in the LRT era.

Residents who are not served by LRT, and think their area is underserved tax-wise, this need to be a marketed as a benefit for them too, and to make future LRT extensions more palatable that serves them too including further elements of the BLAST network proposal.

The LRT needs to start somewhere, and there will always be opposition by far-away residents for any starter stub, no matter where it goes -- simply because a stub cannot be able to serve the entire city at once.

There are people who are very fearful that this will be similar to the stadium circus (West Harbour vs nearer Gage) and create an LRT that doesn't have as many concurrent revitalization opportunities (e.g. separate LRT lane for Main and for King, committing them to stay 1-way streets that are harder to revitalize given the adversion against removing lanes) and rather not have the LRT built because of the fear of a screwup.

It is important that both the City and Metrolinx sets up the LRT office quickly and works to allay fears with real facts and data, from other cities too, as part of its mandate.

People complain about high property taxes. Good point. As a homeowner, the assessment increases are going to hit me fairly hard as I am right smack on the LRT route, a mere 2.5 block walk to the Sherman LRT station. But a matter of perspective -- my house increased in value in a mere 1 year, equal to 20 years of my own property tax assessment. Okay... I still come out ahead -- I can stomach that, considering I still have 19 years of property market left, which is probably in my favour anyway.

And I can understand the desperation of house hunters who feel permanently priced out of the property market (I was one of them too -- I just eventually gave up on Toronto and committed to Hamilton). Units need to be made available to these people too, even if it's a more sustainable densified low-rise-townhouse-condo hybrid with a great parkette and amenities and easy transit access -- rather than a detached house with large yard. Or condos that are made almost attractive as a house. More good paying work now needs to be available locally as well, too, as part of the whole solution.

Retirees who are property-tax-priced out of their homes -- are going to be an issue too. I've read in the comment boards of a news site, that one already complained being property-tax-priced out of their fully-paid home (Dundurn/Locke area). They could sell their house and move a 30 minute walk eastwards for a big windfall of a retirement egg massively bigger than the future massively increased property tax assessments for the rest of their lifetimes. And they'd still live walking distance to the upcoming LRT. (Tip to those retired readers living in expensive areas such as Locke and considering moving out of Hamilton because of this...consider a crosstown move instead)

There is also the concern for the poor and the need for a corresponding increase in subsidized housing. The assessment increases are going to hit them hard indirectly, via increased rents, if we do not take action on corresponding increases in availability of units (e.g. densification) and subsidized housing.

My friends who have little income, hairstylists and others, as well as also the poor, now I have to think of them: How can we help them? Just a mere 5% of this assessment windfall would kick off an awful lot of subsidized mixed-income housing (that may actually be profitable to developers, while still also providing low-rent units). So such people on tight budgets do not have to move to a rentroom in a very remote corner of Stoney Creek or Mountain, even though their work is downtown.

We have seen what can happen to certain parts of Vancouver where the transit-oriented developments has evicted the poor renters for condo developments, favouring foreign landlords buying multiple condos as an investment and renting them out at high rents (or simply leaving them empty as an investment).

We simply cannot let this Vancouver situation happen here in Hamilton, but we shouldn't be anti-developer in this City. Where possible, bylaws need amendment to discourage the desirability to foreign investors intending to do high rents or unoccupied real estate investments -- this prevents interfering with our poor people via reduction of units (and artificially raising the rent market, too).

A more properly done transit-oriented development is the mostly-successful Toronto Regent Park revitalization, which I wrote about earlier, turning a community-only housing district into a mixed-income district (with a large increase in number of community housing units at the same time).

All in all, this is good news -- but requires wise action in parallel to this.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-13 10:27:58

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By stagnation (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 02:37:05

So you project stagnation on Main if it's not converted to 2 way. Are you referring to the kind of stagnation as we see on John Street? After it's conversion to 2 way?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 06:40:54 in reply to Comment 113402

Okay, I'll bite. Two-way conversion is a necessary but not itself sufficient condition for urban vitality. John Street has undergone less of a transformation than James Street for a couple of reasons:

  1. The urban streetwall of existing old buildings on John is not as integral as the streetwall on James.

  2. John is still configured to cater more to high-volume through traffic than James.

These two factors undermine the street's capacity to bounce back from the traumas inflicted on it over the past 60 years.

John Street four lanes

Even so, there are sections of John Street that have calmer traffic and more or less intact traditional urban streetwalls, and we should not be surprised to notice that those sections are coming back nicely since the two-way conversion.

Specifically, the stretch of John between King William and Young has seen considerable investment in new businesses over the past decade or so since two-way conversion, including: My-Thai (which has expanded to a chain of restaurants after the first one opened at John and King William), Downtown Bike Hounds, the restoration of Treble Hall and the Moulin Rouge Cafe, the Coffee Culture at King and John, the nightclub at Main and John (formerly London Tap House), U Shao BBQ, Chez Benito, Incognito, Gallagher's, Two Black Sheep, Pinecone Coffee and Rapscallion, in addition to the longstanding businesses that continue to survive there.

Pinecone Coffee

No one is claiming two-way conversion is a magic cure-all. A city is a system and the various policies, designs and processes in place need to support one another. But calming traffic and making streets better for local traffic (as opposed to through traffic) is an essential component for success.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 07:38:58 in reply to Comment 113403

well said. There's a reason we see nothing like Pinecone or Two Black Sheep along the Main St expressway.

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By Bingo (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 08:31:24 in reply to Comment 113405

Exactly. You couldn't fit a table or chair on any sidewalk on Main West from Dundurn right through the core. It is after all a major commercial district. Why set it up for businesses to flourish?

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 09:14:12 in reply to Comment 113406

The throughfare could, potentially be 4 lanes + 2 cycle lanes, with removed parking meters (use payment terminals instead) and possibly relocated poles, for far more space on the sidewalk. Later, if Hamilton stomaches it, the throughfare can be narrowed (as it has been in other cities) to widen sidewalks, etc. But doing that right away would be a difficult pill to swallow, so let's start with the simpler step of turning it 2-way. We need a detour anyway during LRT construction, and there's also the International Village bottleneck -- both really good excuses to do a Main 2-way, at least as a trial.

It all contributes to a chain of events that permits massive improvement in taxpayer base for Hamilton.

Given the huge number of downtown parking lots that can be underground parking garages under skyscrapers or other businesses, there's enough room for Hamilton downtown to double or triple in density even without residential expropriation. To permit this to happen, we need to make the downtown far more people friendly, including LRT, condos, office towers, pedestrians, bikes, businesses, etc. This is soemthing already happening in the 10-20 years.

We haven't even mentioned the waterfront potential, given the city now owns several piers plus possibly more land coming -- a portion of the unused U.S. steel lands are being sold off (even if the mill reactivates by a buyer). Massive amount of new land big enough for a brand new CBD. I haven't even included this in the calculus -- just downtown factors only.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-14 09:19:52

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By DBC (registered) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 09:44:56 in reply to Comment 113407

Not disagreeing with anything you are saying, but don't hold your breath for any change anytime soon. Change is highly unlikely under our current governance model.

The majority of Hamiltonians living outside Wards 1-3 value the ability to drive unimpeded through the core over everything else. They will not be swayed by economic or pedestrian friendly/transit oriented arguments. In their world the only reason you walk or take transit is because you can't afford a car and likely can't afford to "live where they live".

Their councillors would never go for the changes you suggest. After all, THESE roads belong to everyone in the city. Of course the roads in their wards are their own and designed as such.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:22:46 in reply to Comment 113408

Take a look at my opinion piece published in The Spectator.

We need a construction detour during LRT. What better construction detour, than to do Main 2-way? We finally force a first step. Perhaps it'll be a 5-lane 2-way street, with overhead electronic arrows so we can have 3 lanes towards 403 (faster driving than through International Village).

As you can see, this sort of works to everyone's advantage as this is a trojan horse that my Mountain friends can accept for now for further moves towards people-friendliness. The lanes are very narrow for 5 lanes, and a needed wider center yellow painted line may eventually force to 4 lanes due to safety reasons. This frees up a little space for either wider sidewalks or cycle lanes. Incrementally, gradually, over time, even if it's 5-10 years after LRT (15-20 years from now).

Practically, that's really nearly one generation from now, and the kids don't have as much total interest in cars as our generation does. It's not like the 50s-70s of rollerskate waitresses, Chevy '57 romance, and teens receiving a car as a gift at age 16 as often anymore. The LRT will already be running, and people will be more used to it by then. The mountain got RHVP/LINC, maybe expanded to 6 lanes by then, and Lower City gets their LRT. Cars would no longer be king on King Street (or Main for that matter) in this era.

See where I'm getting at?

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-14 11:37:03

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 10:49:37 in reply to Comment 113408

I agree with your statement "In their world the only reason you walk or take transit is because you can't afford a car and likely can't afford to live where they live".

I often get these withering looks from drivers when I'm on my bike and these expressions seem to be communicating that they think I'm on a bike because I've been dinged for a DUI or I'm a transient or something. I do have a 'fancy' bike but I mostly ride a cheapo little unit (that I LOVE - it's a fold up bike very comfy :)) and I'm never wearing 'gear'.

Cyclists need a publicist. We need a 'My name is X and I'm a cyclist' campaign. Everyone needs to understand who the people that are riding bikes are. That they can come from all walks of life, have kids, make six figures, hold professional positions etc. This might defuse a lot of the irrational animosity that is directed towards cyclists.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 09:55:38

Is it too late for LRT on Main? Why was that id a dismissed?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:10:19 in reply to Comment 113409

LRT will definitely be on King. There's no way to redo all the functional and detailed design and class environmental assessment for a brand-new east-west route before mid-2017, which is when this project is set to go out to tender.

Staff decided to put LRT on King arguing that it has more potential for economic uplift and the line would be less disruptive to automobile traffic. I'm not sure about the first and the second seems to be an unfortunate compromise that somewhat undercuts the potential for LRT to transform how Hamiltonians get around their city.

Still, overall I don't think the difference in performance/convenience/uplift between the two routes is going to be that big. Whatever modest potential advantage would come from putting it on Main rather than King does not justify blowing the 2017 design deadline and risking having the entire project get killed after the 2018 provincial election. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the city, and we can't let the very-slighty-better be the enemy of the very-good.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:04:45 in reply to Comment 113409

I could live with LRT on Main. The important thing is we keep both LRT lanes together.

But I believe running LRT on King actually helps force the Main 2-way debate.

Relevant links:

  • Using Main 2-way trial as a detour for King LRT construction (Needing construction detour as a grand excuse for actually doing Main 2-way)

  • A more-popular pedestrian International Village merging with the Gore pedestrian road (Complete the aborted/incomplete Gore revitalization, completely eliminate the "island-in-middle-of-expressway-feel", new dedicated cycle path from Wentworth to James, condo boom in the area (current and future), removal of Gore Park fence for disembarking LRT passengers, Area getting several times more people within 20 years due to B-Line and A-Line having 3-10x more passengers than today's B-Line. Gore Park Station, an LRT interchange point, becomes popular instead of dead. All of this combined, a literal stick of dynamite for massive improvements in popularity of a pedestrian-friendly downtown Hamilton "district" finally competitive to those found in other cities, and also related, helps/supports further major downtown revitalizations)

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-08-14 11:16:02

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 10:54:04 in reply to Comment 113409

Effectively, yes, it is too late. The city has spent millions on the current plan, they've said the timeline for the remaining planning is insanely tight, and opening the debate now risks another stadium debacle.

I'd like a Main LRT, but I'd rather avoid going through the stadium mess all over again and losing more years in the process.

It bothers me that I missed the initial consultation. It bothers me that after millions in planning they still don't know what to do in the international village (that doesn't sound like "30% complete" to me). It bothers me that staff are complaining about a tight deadline of 4 years to plan when European cities go from vote to completed implementation in that time.

But all things considered, ill happily make do with King.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:13:13 in reply to Comment 113411

+1

(also see my above post)

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By Tnt (registered) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 09:04:19

The argument against Main seems mighty weak. However, it is too late to close the barn door after all the animals have run away. Looks like it is moving forward, just seems it needed to be flawless and it wasn't and I sense an angry breakdown at council over this.

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