Trying to Kick the Car Habit

City Hall is committed to walkable streets, but on the Department of Public Works' terms.

By David Cohen
Published November 23, 2006

The purpose of transportation is to bring people or goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within a limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel. A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation...

-- Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City (1963)

The erosion [of cities] proceeds as a kind of nibbling, small nibbles at first, but eventually hefty bites. Because of vehicular congestion, a street is widened here, another is straightened there, a wide avenue is converted to one-way flow, staggered-signal systems are installed for greater movement...

-- Jane Jacobs, "Erosion of Cities or Attrition of Automobiles," Ch. 18 in The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

Hamilton is different. This city took a hefty bite right off the bat.

In October 1956, when it had a viable downtown core and walkable streets, Hamilton converted all of its major lower-city streets from two-way to one-way - in one night!

Then, over time, came the smaller bites - the staggered-signal systems, street widenings, off-street parking, and turning radii.

Main Street mainlines car traffic (RTH file photo)
Main Street mainlines car traffic (RTH file photo)

We became addicts. Small bites didn't satisfy us. In the '90s we needed another hefty bite - a real hit. We got the Linc. But that didn't really do it. We needed the Big One.

We were thwarted, but we persisted. Finally, we're getting it, the Red Hill Valley Expressway - sorry, Parkway.

Now, it seems - surprise! - we want to kick the habit! A heroin addict goes on methadone. What does a car-addicted city do? How about: organize a pedestrian workshop?

Pedestrian Workshop

Hamilton wants to kick its movement/speed habit. It wants a walkable city. You can't believe it? Well, talk to Mary Lou Tanner.

Tanner is Manager, Strategic and Environmental Planning in the Public Works Department. She and her staff organized the Hamilton Pedestrian Workshop last Monday. They invited Florida-based walking expert Dan Burden to preside.

Hamiltonians who want a walkable, cyclable, shmoozable, pro-small-business - in a word, livable - city are used to disappointment. But they are eternally optimistic nevertheless. About a hundred of them turned up for the workshop, which was held in the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Proceedings began with attendees being asked for their "shared pedestrian vision and values." (It is worth noting that not one of the attendees responded by punching one of the organizers in the nose.)

Instead, they enthusiastically and freely offered their vision (hi there, Vision 2020) and their values. They stuck coloured little circles of paper next to a list of pedestrian-enhancing strategies listed on large sheets of paper that in turn were stuck to a wall.

Heading the list, naturally enough, was wider sidewalks. It got 41 votes. "More two-way traffic" came second with 32 votes, tied with "structures" meant to calm traffic. Roundabouts were in fourth spot with 28.

Before and After

Then the attendees ate wraps for dinner and retuned to their seats watch a slide show presented by Burden. Using examples from the U.S. and Canada (he considers Victoria the most walkable city he has ever seen), Burden screened an array of before-and-afters.

He recommended: make one-ways two ways, except in cases where the street is exceptionally narrow; narrow car lanes (to as little as ten feet in width); install bike lanes wherever possible (which means in almost every case); and plant trees between sidewalks and roads - better on the other side of the sidewalk if possible to form a canopy.

He also recommended: listen to generalists. So-called experts generally get it wrong as they pursue their narrow, bureaucratic interests.

Sixteenth-century Spanish pirates did a better job of designing the old part of Sarasota, Fla. than their 20th century counterparts - especially traffic engineers.

Priority Projects

After Burden came the second segment: identifying "priority projects that would realize the identified vision and values."

Logical enough. Attendees sat down at tables equipped with maps of the city and coloured markers. Again, they responded enthusiastically, colouring their maps, busily listing their priorities.

Not surprisingly, the attendees want Hamilton to resemble the many "afters" in Burden's slides. They want bike lanes that don't peter out but are continous so that they become real commuting routes. They want roundabouts, narrower car lanes, more trees, streets - main streets, important streets - that are not traffic sewers but people places.

They want a walkable, livable city, not a dangerous, movement-crazed, thinned-out place that 50 years of car-first planning and traffic engineering has created.

No surprises here. What is surprising, in a way, is that this workshop was organized by the Works Department.

Public Works

This department has not been heretofore known for its love of pedestrians. They have, rather, regarded them as nuisances that must be tolerated but not encouraged. Above all, they must not be allowed to significantly impede traffic flow.

According to Tanner, a "philosophic change" occurred in her department two years ago - just after Hamilton got its biggest car/movement/speed hit, the RHC Expressway (no - Parkway!) under construction.

It does seem significant that this initiative is coming from the Public Works Department, and especially its Strategic and Environmental Planning section. Some observers think that this is Hamilton's de facto planning department.

If something is to get done to make Hamilton a walkable city, they argue, Public Works is going to do it. (Similarly, the president who extricated the U.S. from Vietnam was Richard Nixon, a hawk and militarist par excellance.)

But this will be a walkable city on Public Works' terms. Tanner said current plans are for King Street to be converted to one-way, but not Main.

Unbalanced Transportation

Why? Ed Switenky, Acting Manager, Traffic Engineering and Operations, speaking on behalf of one of the reporting tables, offered a hint: Main is not a good candidate for conversion because of its heavy traffic load - 40,000 cars a day.

Where will the cars go? Jane Jacobs, if she were still around, would say - don't worry, many will simply disappear. Their drivers will find other means of transportation.

But Switenky and Public Works, which has been the main proponent of the one-way system since October 28, 1956, are not ready to let go - yet.

Tanner touts a "balanced" transportation system for Hamilton, but it remains to be seen just how balanced she and - ultimately - the Council is prepared to go.

Hamilton currently has one of the most unbalanced, pro-car systems in Canada. Any re-balancing will be an improvement. But are we going to accept half-measures when it is beyond dispute that two-way streets, wider sidewalks, trees, etc., will make Hamilton the city we want it to be?

David Cohen is a freelance writer and a part-time teacher. He has worked as a journalist and a communications officer (promoting workplace health and safety). He served on the Dundas Town Council from 1991 to 1994.


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By Martin Z (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2006 at 10:30:26

As I posted on a similar article, I have to disagree. People who talk about how wonderful Toronto's two-way downtown is neglect to remember the existence of the Gardiner, and the subways. Hamilton has neither... begging the question: now that we have this wonderful two-way, liveable downtown, how do I get into and out of it? Remember that the city buses rely on the same roads as the reviled cars. Two way traffic is much slower than one way traffic, especially if you'd like to be able to turn left.

I agree we need better cycle access to downtown - going up Main or Aberdeen is terrifying as it stands, and other routes involve navigating a maze of residential roads. But perhaps the answer is, rather than slowing down every car on the street, to simply add a one-way bike lane on the right-hand-side of king and main?

If you think bus service is bad now, imagine it trapped in stop-and-go traffic.

Plus, remember that there are people who do _need_ to get through downtown, to go up and down the mountain. The 403 mountain access is full at rush hour, and so the accesses at Queen and James need to be accessible to pick up the slack.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 11:38:18

Great article David. Forgive me for being incredibly skeptical, but perhaps a shift in philosophy has occured at Public Works. Time and actions (or lack thereof) will tell.

Jane Jacobs was right. Many cars will disappear. Why would someone jump off the slow moving rush-hour 403 if they knew that Queen, King and Main were proper city streets, not highway extensions. Highway traffic problems are the result of sprawl and 8 out of every 10 drivers being 'Single Occupancy Drivers'. The 403 needs to have a new lane added in each direction on the shoulders for transit and vehicles with 2 people or more in them. Queen and James DON'T need to be able to pick up the slack. Queen needs to function as a proper residential city street and James needs to function as a possibly-vibrant retail/commercial street.

To me the worst part about planning meetings like this one is that we get an expert to come in with snazzy pics from Victoria (why would Hamilton want to be like Victoria? Surely we have a better reputation than they...) and it gets us locals excited to see how easy we could have streets and sidewalks that "look like that" in Hamilton. More trees, bike lanes, street parking etc.... Then we are forced to cover our ears while walking along Main St for the next 10 years while nothing changes. I hope this pedestrian-focus is for real, and that it doesn't take decades to make simple, proper changes.

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By (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 17:42:55

Oh, I'm sorry - my comment was about 2-way King and Main. Queen and James being 2-way is a trade-off that I can appreciate (Queen especially). On the one hand, they're crucial to getting at their corresponding mountain accesses, but they're also important to the community. Plus, the traffic on those two streets is generally light enough (even at rush hour) that they seem to be viable as 2-way streets.

I just disagree with two-way-traffic on King and Main, since they're the primary artery for _all_ transportation into and out of downtown, since as I said, we don't have the luxury of Toronto's subways, trains, and elevated highway all leading directly into (and through) the heart of the city.

Otherwise, the only expedient way into/out of downtown is the Linc, then by James... which is a horrible solution for those of us not on the mountain.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2006 at 18:02:14

I think some traffic pattern analysis is warranted. For myself I often drove from east Hamilton right through the downtown in order to get onto the 403 and Toronto. This despite the fact that I had a pretty good route down Ottawa and along Burlington to the QEW. Sometimes the downtown route was quicker. I wonder how many folks make that trip?
For anyone between Ottawa and the core, getting to Toronto or the other side of Hamilton requires a trip through the downtown right now.

But clearly we have to change something. How much of the downtown traffic is Toronto commuters? How much of it is people with reasonable alternative routes (like me). How much of it is people who would like to take transit if they had a reasonable option to do so? I agree that a moderately quick east-west Hamilton route is needed but there are certainly ways to reduce the current traffic flows (more local jobs anyone?, better transit?) and letting people rip through the heart of the city is not working for anyone.

Nobody's advocating a lack of planning or foresight on this issue, we just need to recognise that making the downtown streets two-way is essential to Hamilton's success, and find a way to make it work.


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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 18:25:18

you raise a great point Ben. People wonder "where will the cars go?"
Here's my take - folks who live in Central Hamilton/East Hamilton where you used to live would take the logical route along Burlington Street and over the Skyway to get to Burlington-Toronto corridor. We keep getting references to Toronto traffic - despite the massive size difference in these cities and TO being the headquarters for corporate Canada, it's still worth thinking about. After all, folks who live in central Toronto - north of Bloor or along College/Yonge area don't simply have a highway to jump on when they want to go somewhere...they go to the nearest highway - 427,401 or DVP/Gardiner.
The next segment of downtown traffic to be diverted should be the trucks. Imagine being in the Byward Market in Ottawa and having a steel-laden transport go screaming by?? Again, trucks use our downtown as a shortcut because of the huge streets and timed lights. I have a friend who's a trucker - he told me they don't cut through downtown Toronto, London or any other city. Only here. Why? Because we make it easy for them. I live near York Blvd and regularly have trucks from Stelco/Dofasco etc....come by our place. The next segment is folks who will leave the car at home (as I've begun to do the past year and a half) to discover the wonderful world of walking/cycling and transit. Once those 3 options are viable, safe and convenient, we'll see more people take that route. Now think of this - if we can see a 15% increase in pedestrians/cyclists/transit-users, a 20% shift of central/east city dwellers using Burlington St/QEW to head to the GTA and limit all downtown trucks to only 'local delivery' in the core imagine how much less traffic there will be. And i'm being cautious. I think we could see transit/cycling increase by 20 or 30% given our built environment and close proximity of transit routes. Over time I think we'd see more than 20% of people living in Ben's old area using Burlington St/Red Hill/QEW instead of cutting through downtown. Maybe even 50% or more once Red Hill opens.

Getting some hard numbers would be good, but as you can see, my ideas here would eliminate tens of thousands of car trips in our downtown.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2006 at 20:16:04

I just disagree with two-way-traffic on King and Main, since they're the primary artery for _all_ transportation into and out of downtown

That's precisely the problem: the traffic is not going into and out of downtown. It's going through downtown, and preventing proper revitalization along the way.

It's quite simply not the responsibility of downtown neighbourhoods to make room for vehicles passing through on their way elsewhere.

In any case, your fears are unfounded. Here's a passage from Jane Jacobs' last book, _Dark Age Ahead_, in which she quotes a study reported in the _New Scientist_ that actually subjected the assumptions of traffic engineers to empirical research:

Planners' models assume that closing a road causes the traffic using it to move elsewhere ... The study team ... found that computer models used by urban transportation planners yield incorrect answers ... [W]hen a road is closed, an average of 20% of the traffic it carries seems to vanish. In some cases they studied, as much as 60% of the traffic vanished. ... The report at hand is a logical extension to a 1994 finding that building new roads generates traffic. If that's the case, "then the closure of roads is bound to cause less traffic," according to London-based transport consultant Keith Buchan. ... [T]raffic vanishes because commuting habits are so variable ... Flexibility helps people cope with road closures ... Experts ... suggest that government should stop worrying about causing vehicular congestion by pedestrianizing sites.

(Jane Jacobs, _Dark Age Ahead_, 2004, p. 75)

Jacobs goes on to draw a distinction between helping large numbers of drivers reach a macro-destination - served by limited-access highways, urban expressways like Main-King, and one-way streets with a single path from A to B - and helping large numbers of drivers reach a multiplicity of micro-destinations - served by a grid of two-way streets with free ability to turn left or right and multiple paths from anywhere to anywhere else. (pp. 7-78)

Jacobs writes, "In effect, somebody told traffic engineers and road designers that the journey matters more than the destination - an inappropriate analogy about a philosophical approach to life - and they believed it. [emphasis in original]. (p. 78)

In other words, converting all the streets to straightforward two-way (i.e. a yellow line down the middle and damn all the other over-engineered gimmicks) would 'magically' reduce total traffic, provide more routes from anywhere to anywhere else at a slower, safer pace, and improve street life immeasurably for pedestrians and cyclists.

This is a canonical case of common sense being that which tells you the world is flat.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-01-25 10:09:04

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By citizen (registered) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 22:48:45

I hear and I agree. Except for the fact that the 403 through Hamilton is often impossibly clogged at rush hour. So I don't see how we can divert more cars to the 403 off city streets at this moment.

I live in the West end and currently work near Grimsby (where I work changes all the time). So yes I'm one of those bastards that goes through the downtown to work.

I must note that this route HALVES my Km traveled and probably reduces the amount of polution my commute makes.

Maybe, once that evil terrible why would we ever want that in such a pristine cesspool of a creek highway opens, I will have a viable option.

Otherwise if Burlington street somehow made it to the 403, then you could really de-highway the downtown streets. Although there is construction on B Street right now, normally I've never seen it run at capacity.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 23:10:11

how will Red Hill help you if you live in the west end and work in Grimsby?? I'd suggest using the 403/Skyway route to get to Grimsby. I live in the west end too and NEVER cut through downtown....I either head up Locke to Barton and over to Burlington Street or use the 403/QEW (usually this way) to get to the far side of Stoney Creek. I suspect many other people would do the same if the downtown streets were proper.

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By citizen (registered) | Posted November 23, 2006 at 23:50:26


As I said. I live in Westdale (so we can be specific). I go to main and then down victoria to burlington. This route is exactly HALF the km than 403 to QEW. I imagine going up the 403 to the link and down the red hill would be less Km than 403 to the QEW.

I have a hard time believing that doubling the kilometers traveled results in less polution.

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By steeltown (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 08:38:44

I know a lot of people including myself who avoid taking the QEW because of the Skyway Bridge. Personally I get on the 403 and then link up to the QEW.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 09:07:52

Citizen wrote, "Except for the fact that the 403 through Hamilton is often impossibly clogged at rush hour. So I don't see how we can divert more cars to the 403 off city streets at this moment."

I'm not suggesting a two-way conversion to divert traffic to the 403 - far from it. The problem with the 403 model (like the Main-King model) is that it's a hierarchial system designed to move huge volumes of traffic to a macro-destination (the other side of town).

If the city completely did away with one-ways and converted them all to straight two-way with a yellow line down the middle and no other over-engineered limitations (like the grating no-left-turns throughout Toronto), then traffic would have a chance to organically find its way through the city by a variety of different routes from any micro-destination to any other micro-destination.

You would no longer have the bottleneck effect of hierarchial corridors like the 403 (although that's a special case because the geography of the escarpment limits the available routes), since each driver can independently follow the path of least resistance.

This was the big failure of the James/John South conversions. They tried to keep the best of both worlds by nominally converting to two way but maintaining a cumbersome design to preserve the traffic patterns that years of one-way design had fostered - i.e. south on James and north on John.

Again, if they had simply painted a yellow line down the middle of each road (and done the same for Herkimer and Charlton, which are still one-way and hence still distort traffic into and out of the James/John zone), drivers would simply have chosen whichever route made the most sense for any given origin/destination.

If Hamilton proceeds with the half-measures proposed by Public Works, the conversion will not be successful, because the network will be torn between conflicting goals and will end up with the worst of both worlds.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 09:17:08

part of it is people's habits too. I'm amazed at how often I see multitudes of cars turning from York or Rebecca onto James to head up to the Jolley Cut. I always go over to John and straight up. no probs. if people choose to sit on James South that's their problem. let's not forget about Wilson/Cannon/York too. If they were converted to 2-way operation it would allow people to, again, choose whichever route makes the most sense for them to get to the 403. I don't mind the highway ramps being there, but the city streets should be proper streets once you get off the highway, not just extensions of the highway. Imagine getting off the Gardiner Expressway or DVP and screaming along a 4-lane Yonge Street with timed lights or 4-lane Danforth with timed lights....those streets would not be the destinations they are if that were the case. Citizen, I hadn't even thought of your idea regarding taking the LINC/Red Hill combo from Westdale. It's probably less KM than going around the harbour over the Skyway. I know folks in TO who do that all the time to get east/west through their city - they don't just cut through downtown.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 10:49:45

A letter in today's Spec:

City needs a 'road diet'

By Thom Oommen, Hamilton The Hamilton Spectator (Nov 24, 2006) Re: 'Your shoes are made for walkin'; Advocate says communities benefit when people get out of their cars' (Streetbeat, Nov. 20)

This week I attended Hamilton's first pedestrian workshop. It was an inspiring evening with lots of brilliant ideas coming from the public on how to make our streets safer and more attractive, especially downtown.

The overwhelming majority of those in attendance supported the idea of two-way streets and lane reductions on some of our downtown highways including Main Street and King Street.

The keynote speaker referred to these improvements as a "road diet."

The truth is that our roads need such a diet. People complain about the decay and neglect in our downtown but don't realize that this decay is largely caused by the highways that we have running through downtown.

Who wants to window shop next to a highway or sit on a patio next to a main street? Would you like some smog with your coffee?

Canadians like small roads with bike lanes, lots of trees and greenspace and big sidewalks for people watching.

With a new council and a new mayor, Hamiltonians are excited by the opportunity to get our city's one-sided transportation system in order. Hamilton's roads could do with shedding a few pounds and, with more walkable streets, so would we.

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By Martin Z (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 11:45:06

My main cause for concern is the busses, which need fast access. I commuted to a place on east Eglington (near the Science Centre) by bus for a semester, and it was horrifically slow at rush hour. I don't want to see King and Main turn into that. Consider how many students come from downtown apartments to study at Mac.

Bike lanes, on King & Main I totally agree with. Make every other street in the residential/commercial vicinity of downtown 2-way. But King and Main are how we get downtown. They function as both our Gardiner and our subway-tunnels. How do you expect to revitalize the core if no-one reach it?

/lives and works in Westdale, bikes to work everyday

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 12:12:30

I could live with one-way Main and King if done properly. Although I really believe that King from Dundurn or Queen to Wellington/Victoria needs to go 2-way in order to allow us to close it down for events such as Mustard Festival and other events that we could enhance and enlarge downtown instead of always sticking them on side streets or the south leg of Gore. I've seen a fabulous drawing somewhere around town of Main St near the courthouse with 2 car lanes, 1 BRT lane and wider sidewalks, trees, benches and shops facing the street in renovated and new builidngs. It was fabulous. Even Portland has many one-way streets but the lanes are narrow, there are shops at street level, tree canopies, street parking, bus/rail lanes and bike lanes on many of them. Not to mention stop lights at most intersections. Their blocks are roughly 50-80 feet in length meaning you rarely go more than a couple hundred feet without encountering another stop light...and they are timed - properly - to ensure that every 2nd or maybe 3rd light is red. Perhaps even keeping Main as one-way but having a contra-flow BRT lane in order to make transit more efficient and convenient would be a good idea. Then King could be made 2-way downtown or even further east. Keep in mind, King and Main have different dynamics. The city banned truck traffic on King through downtown years ago, which is why you see lighter traffic on King than on Main. Some folks think that traffic is idential on these 2 streets, but Main is 3,4 and even 5 lanes through most of the city. King is generally 2 with parking on both curbs. I suspect that folks use Cannon as an alternative to King. Again, 2 way Cannon and Wilson would give that many more options to us all, even if main were left one-way for cars.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 13:05:38

I just posted a blog on two-way conversion:

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 13:20:20

Hey Jason,

I have to disagree with some of the points made here. The argument seems to be, 'I need to get downtown (or through downtown) in a hurry so don't go slowing down the traffic too much' One post mentioned the risk of slowing down transit.

While I understand the need to manage traffic properly and get people around quickly, we have to acknowledge that one way streets have no place in a downtown neighbourhood - or any neighbourhood. They facilitate high speeds (whatever else you do to slow things down) and confuse motorists (how many times have I got stuck in downtown Hamilton? I have a friend who swears he'll never come back because he keeps getting lost...). Evidence shows us this again and again.

There are other ways to move people around quickly - dedicated bus lanes, rapid transit and so on. And traffic through downtown can be reduced and spread out as Ryan has suggested in his posts. Yes, Toronto has a Gardiner to get through town but there is no east west expressway between the Gardiner and the 401, and north south there is nothing between the 427 and DVP. The downtown is 'clear'.

Hamilton's east west expressways are the QEW at the bottom and Linc at the top. North south we have Red Hill and 403. Isn't that enough? It has to be.

I remember seeing a documentary about New York - La Guardia's era of massive highway development ripping apart the downtown neighbourhhods. It featured residents lamenting how they could no longer visit friends on the 'other side' (of the freeways) and explaining what an impact the roads had had on their community. There is no place for highways splitting apart our neighbourhoods.

The issue is traffic management. When we advocate 2-ways streets and traffic calming of course we are saying slow down through traffic. But we are also saying IMPROVE transit effiency, REDUCE car usage and use alternative routes. This benefits everybody and creates a REAL climate for economic development.

Don't forget that Cannon and York are also residential neighbourhoods, and Main could be a wonderful downtown shopping district (this takes some vision... it's a bit like University Ave in Toronto...). So come on - don't be so quick to advocate selective one way streets. They don't work!



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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 13:39:01

Ben, I agree wholeheartedly. The kinds of half measures Public Works advocate are exactly what's wrong with today's 'revitalization' plans - it leads to worst-of-both-worlds situations like the crappy two way conversion of James/John south.

We need to quit all this over-engineered piecemeal nonsense and simply cut the entire downtown core over to a straightforward two-way grid with multiple paths to and from multiple micro-destinations. Traffic will find its way through the city in an organic, slow, and orderly way.

The funny thing about Toronto is that the worst traffic is coming off the Gardiner into a street grid that's clogged with no-left-turns everywhere.

Again, Jacobs is instructive here. In _Dark Age Ahead_, she writes specifically about her observations riding around downtown in taxis. When they installed the Gardiner, it was once again to provide a macro-route to a macro-destination ("the downtown", as if it were some homogeneous entity). The bottleneck occurs when all those macro-drivers get off the highway and have to deal with the fact that downtown is not a single place but a dense multiplicity of destinations.

The Gardiner is the problem, not the solution. Similarly, in Hamilton the Main-King expressway is the problem, not the solution.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 13:41:41

Hear hear, rusty! We need to stop capitulating to drivers who only care about getting through the city as fast as possible. It's not the city's job to move out of their way. It's the city's job to be the city and be a place where people can live and not have to put up with highways cutting neighborhoods to pieces.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 15:00:36

you know what? You're bang on.

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By steeltown (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 15:28:26

Who's going to pay for the millions that are going to be required to demolish and rebuild a new entrance and exit ramp on King and Main to the 403 because of the two way streets? Doing that will also require changing a portion of the 403, 403 reduces down from 3 lanes to 2 lanes under the ramps and back onto 3 lanes after the Aberdeen exit.

Also King St East from Wellington to James is already tight and if you change that to two way that means you’re getting rid of the curbside parking unless you just want one lane each way.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 15:39:42


I don't have an answer for your about the 403. It may have to remain one way for now. However, the rest of the city doesn't have this problem.

Again, I propose converting every street in the downtown to two-way along their full length (notwithstanding Main-King at the 403): East-West - Herkimer, Charlton, Robinson, Duke, Bold, Hunter, Main, King, King Wiliam, Rebecca, York/Wilson, and Cannon; and North-South - Locke, Queen, Hess, Caroline, Bay, Park, Macnab, Hughson, Catharine, Mary, Wellington, Victoria, Wentworth, and Sanford.

Without the forced routing of today's one way system, drivers will have plenty of choices in how to get into, out of, or through the city. They will just have to do it a little more slowly.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 24, 2006 at 17:02:45

good suggestions Ry. I agree. The whole city shouldn't be held up because of the 403 ramps. It might be as easy as redoing only the ramps so they come straight on/off Main and King to stoplights where you can turn either left or right. I don't think they need full cloverleaf style ramps....but I digress....even if the block from Dundurn to the 403 remains 1-way (2 or 3 lanes, not 5) the rest of the city could go 2 no probs.

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By vote4me (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2006 at 23:48:57

Traffic congestion is a symptom of decade’s developers and city planning gearing development for cars only. The only way to alleviate congestion in to long term is to invest in pedestrian friendly infrastructure and mass transit friendly facilities. This has been proven in Europe, Asia and California. .

One only has to walk from a traffic light to a department store in any outdoor malls to realize what we are talking about here. If store fronts are close to the road and the parking lots at the back they would be pedestrian friendly in the first place.

What is required is for our new mayor Fred Eisenberger and his team of councilors to change development zoning laws to encourage and enforce this. Doing this has a permanent effect that adds synergy to pedestrian friendly development. Vote4me encourages this type of policy change because they are effective and gain popularity over time by the public.

Here are some before and after photos for pedestrian friendly round about designs

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By (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2006 at 01:26:57

How about keeping Main 1-way but with on-street parking, a dedicated bus/MOV lane along with a bicycle lane? Also widen the sidewalk and line it with trees. Do the same with King st. Converting King to two way is going to be too tough. All other street should be reclaimed as two-way

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By bigbri54 (registered) | Posted November 25, 2006 at 20:24:35

Facts on the ground: My hypocricy

For the longest time, one-way streets have been part of the coming-of-age experience in Hamilton. In the late sixties, we might head up Parkdale Avenue in my big, black '65 Pontiac, hang a right at Queenston and after the Delta we'd be in one-way cruise control all the way downtown. You'd often seen chicks (hey, that's what we said back then) hitchhiking, and you might treat them to some Jethro Tull on your 8-track, as you all headed into that red ball sun, which could dance on the trolley wires, and drop them off somewhere along the way. Just beyond James Street, before "urban renewal," beyond the Grange and Torch taverns, we'd turn left at MacNab or Park, another left on Main and head back east, sometimes all the way past Nash Road, perhaps to stop at the Millionaire for a burger. And then do it all over again - on a Saturday night, we might do it half a dozen times. I vividly recall one sweet summer eve in 1971 leaving a house party on Main West near Longwood, finding a comfortable groove, and hitting every light green almost all the way to Highway 20. It was efficient and predictable – comforting. There was something magical about joining those rivers of life on a Saturday night - or even a Thursday morning - honing your driving skills, flirting with the passing parade of life in Hamilton.

Happentance, 30 years later: the '90 Voyager's transmission gave out, no money to throw good after bad, I vividly recall the minivan looking downcast as it was towed into oblivion on Charlton Avenue West. There was a bank loan still to be paid, so the only alternative was not owning a car. For almost 10 years, I did not own a car, yet lived in downtown Hamilton and worked in downtown Toronto. It can be done. I soon realized that GO Transit, the HSR (arguably), taxis, cycling and walking took care of 95 per cent of any one's transportation needs (you could always rent a couple times a year for special occasions and errands). Becoming a full-time pedestrian in Hamilton was eye-opening, you can't help but feel that the concept – pedestrianism – is surely as foreign as the Mountain incline railway to most Hamiltonians today. One of the first things you notice is the river of cars and trucks washing down Main Street in one- or two-minute bursts, some of them thumping that hip-hop song from $10,000 digital sound systems. If you're waiting to cross James, the cars, they all hurtle by, most everyone well above 50 km/h, some slicing for a better lane. It creates a bit of a wind that can heave grit and paper cups at you at the corner. You're inclined to huddle behind the bank building for protection. I defy any one to stand at Main and James any afternoon – any time – and conclude that that is a healthy environment for coming of age. Bigbri

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2006 at 13:51:14


I love your storytelling. Fabulous imagery. Kind of gives Hamilton a southern California type of feel. You're so right - it has been quite an experiment in the height of the age of oil. Times have changed and cities have come full circle. It's back to basics which means, bye-bye to this once-fabulous experiment in Hamilton's history.

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By " (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2006 at 06:36:43

Hi, May I ask you have a look at Obadiah Shoher's book and blog, Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict? Google banned our website from its advertising program for “unacceptable content," and Amazon deleted all reviews. The book, however, is only honest, and the measures suggested are only rational. Shoher is a pen name for veteran politician. He dealt with antiterrorism issues for most of his career. The Samson Blinded dissects honestly the problems accumulated since the Jews returned to Palestine. Advocating political rationalism, it deplores both Jewish and Muslim myths, and argues for efficiency and separating politics from moralism. Please download the book from Being banned by Google, we depend on links to bring Shoher’s message. May I ask you to link to us? Sure, we’ll be glad to link back. Thank you in advance, Anne White.

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By Father (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2006 at 23:08:53

I'm sorry, but all these ideal scenarios where everyone will give up there cars because the hassle of traffic is too much, is ridiculous! Anyone that knows Hamilton, knows we've been through some outrageously unpredictable and sometimes painfully cold winters. I have a 2 & a half year old son and he loves to go outside no matter what. Now that's fine when it's not - 30 C with the wind chill. Getting around downtown used to be very stress free. Anyone that got lost was high or stupid. Now myself and many others I've spoken to, deliberatley avoid the core(more than ever for some). For the 1st time in the 20 years I've been driving(a lot) in this city, I've turned down a street the wrong way because it was a 'section' that wasn't one way. COME ON! You want a pollution free city with more community spirit? Ban all drive thru's! How is fast food, fast when you and 600 other cars all over the city are waiting(IDLING), on sometimes beautifull days, for their double double? Gone is the go to the local ma & pa diner and chat with your beat cop. There needs to be massive things simultaneously done to the downtown core to turn it around completely, too many to post in this already HUGE post. To summerize, 2 way streets make for a very unhappy and frustrated citizen, looking for at least one thing in his life to be simple.

Frustrated dad

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By zanis_vald (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2006 at 16:04:57

Back to the one-way vs. two-way debate again. It is interesting that Ryan is quoting Jacobs to back up an argument for an all-out conversion of one-way streets to two-ways. Two points - although in the long run conversion to two ways is (I believe) a great idea, in the short-run it is politically impossible (again, I believe - see the justifiably worried comments by drivers). To advance the attrition of cars by the city, Jacobs gave some advice that contrasts what Ryan proposes - that we have to focus on the positive (that conversion is good for the economy/jobs, and helps travellers rather than punishes them). The above discussion does point out the positives, but focuses on the negatives of commuting and driving etc. She also recommended allowing the attrition to proceed piece-meal rather than all at once. It is much more politically (and practically) feasible to just start by slowing down the one-way traffic. Add more traffic lights ('speeding up traffic on cross streets'), add on-street parking (a plus for drivers and businesses!), widen sidewalks, add bike-lanes and bus lanes, add new side streets, plant street trees and make room for them, create pedestrian priority zones where pedestrians are allowed to j-walk. Most of these are suggested by the participants in this discussion, so obviously they are not shocking or new concepts to most of us (and all are positives, not negatives).I believe that if these things are implemented over time, commuting patterns, businesses, pedestrians etc. will naturally adjust and reinforce the changes, making other changes possible. After time, converting to two-way will be a non-issue. -Zanis

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