Downtown Bureau

Downtown Transportation Master Plan Review: Promising, But Needs Improvement

Contact the city Department of Public Works and add your comments to the plan.

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 08, 2007

The City of Hamilton is conducting its five year Environmental Assessment (EA) review of its Downtown Transportation Master Plan, and you've got a chance to add your comments and push for improvements.

Project Overveview

Projects already completed include: the conversion of James and John Streets to two way; renovations to Bay Street (though it was left as one-way), and improvements to Hughson and King William Streets.

Still pending are: two-way conversion for King, York, Wilson, Park, MacNab, Hughson, and Hess Streets; bike lanes on Hunter St, York Blvd and Ferguson Ave. with a pedestrian bridge to connect Ferguson; and other pedestrian improvements.

The EA looks at the impacts of two-way conversions on James and John, and concludes that: traffic volumes haven't changed; reported collisions have remained the same or fallen (with the exception of James St. S); afternoon rush hour travel times on James St. have increased slightly; morning rush hour travel times on John St. have improved; and business opinions have been mainly positive, though moreso on the north sections of James and John.

What the EA doesn't make clear is the difference between the two stages of two-way conversions: the North legs of James and John were converted to straightforward two way, whereas the South legs included a lot of cumbersome, non-intuitive traffic engineering that attempted to preserve one-way traffic flows and undermined the success of those conversions.

Transportation Issues Review

The issues identified in 2001 included:

Since then, additional considerations include:

Next Steps

Unfortunately, the city seems to be going mostly in the wrong direction regarding the next set of projects. The conversions of King/York/Wilson and Bay Stret apparently need "more detailed review", while the Hunter Street conversion is considered "no longer feasible", though a potential conversion of Caroline Street between Main and King may be added.

The planned pedestrian improvements to Main Street also warrant more detailed review, though this may be a wash, since the Department of Public Works categorically rejects converting Main to two-way. Pedestrian improvements to Main without two-way conversion would be a pointless waste of money, much as they were on Bay St.

The possibility of a new transit terminal on MacNab Street to move the buses out of Gore Park is under a separate study.

Summaries of options for York Blvd and King St. reveal the pernicious mindset at Public Works, as they kvetch over traffic flow, lane widths and "traffic diversion required" instead of simply cutting the downtown over to straightforward two-way and letting traffic find its own flow.

Rapid Transit: Light Rail MIA

The 2001 Downtown Transportation Master Plan didn't include anything about rapid transit. The Higher Order Transit Concept of May 2007, produced before the provincial announcement of capital funding, just assumed two proposed lines would be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The EA notes that "further studies are required to confirm preferred routing and design concepts for Rapid Transit and related terminal facilities" - but includes nothing about light rail transit.

It boggles the mind that Public Works could acknowledge the announcement of provincial capital funding, as it did early in the EA, and not at least introduce the idea of light rail as a possibility.

Add Your Comments

Be sure to send your feedback to Natasha D'Souza (eplanning@hamilton.ca), the Project Manager at Public Works, and to Brian Hollingworth (bhollingworth@ibigroup.com), the consultant from IBI Group who is facilitating the EA.

Let them know that Hamilton's Downtown Transportation Master Plan must include a new light rail line, serious consideration of a two-way conversion on Main Street, and clear lessons learned from the North and South conversions of James and John.

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 Clarification (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2007 at 22:01:31

I believe you are talking about the Downtown Transportation Master Plan, not the City Transportation Master Plan as it is only a year old may be less than a year.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2007 at 07:46:48

Thanks; you are quite correct. I've fixed the title to clarify.

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