Special Report: Light Rail

On the Beams of Light Rail

Main Street was made for light rail transit. What other city can just slip in an LRT through the city from end to end along a straight, wide corridor already waiting?

By Elizabeth Parker
Published October 09, 2009

I heard a strange and frightening tale (or was it comedy?) last evening - that King Street is being considered for the LRT.

There is no other logical choice, and the alternative is illogical: Hamilton's proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) must travel along Main Street.

It has always appeared as though Main Street was cut as a huge mega road for a reason, some distant reason - and this is it: a Boulevard that would awaken all the businesses and storefronts along the way.

Wide, cavernous Main Street was made for LRT (RTH file photo)
Wide, cavernous Main Street was made for LRT (RTH file photo)

Slow the traffic down, add parking and safe walking, like Les Champs Elises as opposed to University Avenue - with pedestrians along the sides, not in the middle.

Stand at the top of the Queen Street hill - stand, not drive - and see what a cavern it is, coming from the west and heading to the east. Five lanes cut some 40 feet wide across the city.

Now look at the evolution of King Street. Within the core, traffic calmed with bump-out parking from the Wellington Gate and parking spots most of the way aside from the Gore.

The parking and traffic calming have done wonders for the businesses in the Downtown core over the past ten or so years - task accomplished and completing its cycle of growth.

Currently the city is taking the idling buses away from the heart, Gore Park, by moving them a few blocks to the North. This fulfills the vision of taking the core from the vehicle and giving it back to the pedestrian. Check, check, and...

Next step: Light Rail along Main. Tie in the Main Street and use this huge cavernous road to our advantage - finally.

It will run down the centre like the streetcars run in Toronto along the Queensway near High Park or up and down Spadina in the core. Main Street could perhaps move both ways with ease, one and two lanes in either direction. Or maybe we can just leave it as one-way. We don't have to be radical.

Imagine getting off the LRT and walking a block to King and beyond, or Hunter up toward the mountain; a few short blocks to James South, North, Delaware, right past the University, Gage Park - what a lovely view from the train of Gage Park.

Main Street was made for this.

What other city can just slip in a Light Rail Transit through the city from end to end along a corridor that is there waiting - straight and wide enough?

Elizabeth Parker moved to Hamilton permanently in 2000. She grew up in Toronto's west end, then went to McMaster University and studied English, Religious Studies and Psychology. She worked for over ten years in the film industry as a locations scout before moving to Hamilton fulltime. She is currently a real estate agent living a short walk from Downtown with her husband and two boys.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 09:39:58

From a practical point of view, Main is the best choice.

Some people seem to think the optics of running LRT past Gore Park is worth the calamitous disruption of construction and operation along King.

I've been flipping back and forth on this issue, like some others. Yes, there's a lot of retail that could benefit from LRT on King. But I think converting the street two-way would give almost the same value. A lot of people walking from Main to King could also create a vibrancy between the two.

Main is just so damn straight and wide and central! Simple. How could you not put it there?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 09:51:25

The final choice has still not been made, but King St is the preferred choice in the core because this solution maximizes traffic flow (i.e. motor vehicles).

Because this solution involves two-way conversion of both Main and King, it would still dramatically improve the streetscape of Main St by slowing traffic and making it less of a freeway through downtown.

In many European cities LRT travels through highly pedestrians narrow streets and squares in the core of the city. The King St route would follow the same pattern. The argument is that LRT meshes well with high pedestrian levels, and takes people directly to the pedestrian-friendly quarter.

Since the LRT would run only a block or two from Main St, it would still be convenient for riders to shop there.

Of course, in most other cities LRT is accompanied by a whole collection of pedestrian and cycle friendly initiatives: widened sidewalks, cycle lanes, more crosswalks. If we could see widened sidwalks on Main St as well as two-way conversion it would go a long way to reviving this barren stretch of downtown.

It's not clear to me that one choice is superior, but King St is a reasonable compromise given the competing demands of motorists and LRT. Even the fact we are considering LRT is a huge victory, and either choice would bring transmformative change to the City.

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By reuben (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 10:10:52

either way, i dont care as long as it's built. there are definite pro's and con's to both placements.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 10:15:17

I second reuben's comment, as long as it gets built I'm happy. It's also encouraging to see that the debate has switched from "Will we get an LRT?" to "Where should the LRT go?"

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 10:16:50

I'm not sure I share this vision for Main Street. Comparing it to the Queensway and even Spadina doesn't do the vision too many favours. The Queensway is a nothing street and tip toeing your way to the center of Spandina is a nightmare!

I prefer the European model of streetcar route design - closer to the sidewalks (why do Toronto's streetcars spill you out into the road?!) and a bit less speed. Hamilton can learn from what works and what doesn't.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 10:32:19

I'm still conflicted on this one, but am leaning towards King Street. Like Kevlehan mentioned above, King is the pedestrian-oriented street with a ton of storefronts as well as Gore Park, the centre of the city. With LRT on King, Main is scheduled to become a normal 2-way street with street parking in some spots and none in others. Even sections of King will have street parking under this plan, and I've written previously on RTH that King can handle more street parking than what is being suggested by the rapid transit study.

Long term, I'd like to see the possible pedestrianization of King on both sides of the Gore with LRT and service vehicles only. Or perhaps a 'naked streets' concept from James to Wellington along King. If LRT moves to Main, none of these ideas will be possible due to the need for King to handle the vehicle travel. Main will improve by becoming two-way and slower. Think Yonge St in Toronto.

Also, there is potential for a LOT of street parking to be added to the north/south streets that intersect King and Main. Areas that come to mind are Bay St from King to Main, Wellington and Victoria on both sides, Wentworth on both sides etc.....

At the end of the day, I agree with previous posters that the real issue is landing LRT. I'll be happy regardless of where it goes, but I think King St gives us potential for more pedestrian improvements down the road and will breathe life back into a rather downtrodden streetscape, especially east of Wellington and in Gore Park.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 10:49:28

Main Street having LRT would equalize Main and King into two fairly similar streets - both two way, both narrower, both moving a similar amount of traffic in the end.

However, if LRT goes on King, then most of the traffic will still go on Main and a much smaller amount on King.

This may not be perfect, but it improves both streets while it also allows the two streets to develop a bit of a different character and allow for some more exciting prospects (pedestrianisation? scramble intersections? street festivals extending from the Gore and cutting off traffic? why not?!) in the future.

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By madmatt (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:22:03

I agree completely that The LRT should be built on Main St., both directions. The whole point of the project is to give drivers a fast and efficient alternative to driving. King St. might give us a more visually appealing route, but most users are just trying to get to work, school or wherever quickly. The walk from Main to King is only 1 block downtown. Make King St. more pedestrian friendly and keep Main St. for moving people.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:23:19

I've been told I was 'dreaming' for suggesting this, but is it possible that LRT could use more than one street? That, for example, it could run on King through the CBD and Gore Park, then jog back to Main via Catharine St?

LRT vehicles can turn corners - I've seen it with my very own eyes.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:25:55

I've always seen LRT as principally an anchor for new private investment and economic development. From that perspective, Main seems to be the better choice because there is more opportunity to insert new developments, in locations like this:

http://raisethehammer.org/images/main_jo...

Ultimately, I'm also in the "Better King than Nowhere" camp, but I'm concerned that the King St option is being driven by concerns over traffic flow rather than what ought to be the main concern, economic development potential.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:34:52

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:37:03

Jason wrote: "[...]King is the pedestrian-oriented street with a ton of storefronts as well as Gore Park, the centre of the city. "

Ryan wrote: "I've always seen LRT as principally an anchor for new private investment and economic development."

These two quotes illustrate what in my eyes is the core of the debate between choosing Main or King.

The Main St. camp whats to use the LRT to spur new development along a somewhat neglected street by introducing increased foot traffic even though there wouldn't be too much on Main at first. Whereas the King St camp wants to leverage the existing streetwall/pedestrian friendly image of King to start off with higher ridership so the city can start making money of the LRT sooner.

To me both are valid choices and it's difficult to say which approach is better from an economic standpoint. My fear is that Ryan is correct and that the city is concerning itself more with the disruption to the existing Main/King freeways than the potential economic benefits of the two routes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:37:04

Let's use your logic then, ASmith. If roads were valued, they wouldn't need subsidies to survive. So, how do we get around? Horse and buggy??

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 11:58:08

Jason >> If roads were valued, they wouldn't need subsidies to survive.

All the more reason for the city to start charging tolls. If drivers had to pay to drive, mass transit would be a much better value proposition. The government could be the monopoly provider of roads and it could set rates just high enough to keep them in good working order. The current road budget would be taken off the tax bill and that would allow people to spend the extra money on things they value, rather than on the sprawl that you speak so highly of.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 12:03:27

I tend to favour the King St route as well. It puts the trains right where the action is, which is where they should be. The density should be celebrated, not avoided. In many European cities streetcars weave through dense pedestrian areas similar to what happens at James and King. But it all depends on how well it is designed and integrated. Like with anything, the devil is in the details.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 12:07:28

ASmith, you're suggestion for roads is exactly what we currently do for transit. Yet when it comes to transit you think it should make money or be abolished. Enough double-speak. Have a decent point or don't say anything.

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By reuben (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2009 at 12:23:41

seriously. can we stay on topic?

this post is about LRT options. not whether or not LRT should be built at all.

if you want to have that argument, there are other articles asking that question where you can move your discussion.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 13:18:23

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 13:37:10

I wonder if there is any merit to the idea floated above of having the LRT run on both streets. For example, on Main St east of Catharine, then over to King and then back down to Main at Dundurn or Longwood??

I guess the only problem that arises is the interruption to vehicle traffic, not that I'm overly concerned about that considering we have over 30 lanes of east/west traffic through the lower city that can pick up the slack.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 13:44:49

Why not convert King entirely to pedestrian/LRT/cycling, with only delivery vehicles allowed?

Convert Main to two lanes in either direction with a cycling lane on both sides.

To A Smith, toll roads for all will only develop a huge bureaucratic nightmare as we strive to charge people per km used. Do we also charge by weight of the vehicle? Should I pay for the maintenance of Upper James if I never drive on it?

The roads are a common good that benefit all, as is public transit.

The more people that use transit means less driving, which means less traffic for drivers to deal with and less pollution for all.

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 13:45:39

I'd like to see it on Main Street because it may be the catalyst needed for change on that street.

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By The Godfather (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 14:20:35

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 16:33:38

Brandon >> toll roads for all will only develop a huge bureaucratic nightmare as we strive to charge people per km used.

If you want to subsidize drivers that's your choice. I don't agree.

>> The roads are a common good that benefit all, as is public transit.

Wasting money on things that people don't value, such as public transit, is not a common good, it's a common bad. If people actually considered public transit "good", why aren't they willing to pay fares that support the true cost of it's operation?

>> The more people that use transit means less driving, which means less traffic for drivers to deal with and less pollution for all.

If roads were not subsidized, all traffic would decrease, including mass transit. In contrast, subsidizing mass transit increases pollution, because it makes taking the bus/LRT cheaper.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 20:11:18

Describe for me a system that can accurately charge for road use.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 09, 2009 at 21:25:00

Cheap transit is a public good because it means that more people will use it.

Benefits? Less cars on the road means less traffic for drivers to negotiate with. It means less pollution. It means less wear on the roads which reduces construction.

It's also been demonstrated in Portland that LRT with its fixed rails and terminals (as opposed to bus stops that are easily moved) encourage significant private investment as the investors know that there will be a steady stream of people past their stores. In fact, after 9 years of existence there was 2.28 billion dollars of investment within two blocks of the streetcars.

A guaranteed government investment provides a good incentive for private investors to sink their capital in as well.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2009 at 11:05:31

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2009 at 13:13:06

I got a lot out of reading the comments until ASmith's comments. He successfully took the train off the track (again) - pun intended. Just ignore the troll people! His idea to do away with roads (publicly funded transportation infrastructure) altogether is an interesting one, but we don't have to even engage him. Continue the wonderful discussion you were having beforehand...

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By Lyle Lanley (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2009 at 15:15:46

I think Main is the preferable option, but I think that revitalization is a double-edged sword. Assuming that a King route took the day, considering how hand-to-mouth many businesses along King from the CBD to the Delta seem to be, it's a fair question whether many would survive long enough to see the benefits of LRT. I would further wager that that the disruption of line construction would substantially thin out the ranks of those businesses that make it that long. And I imagine, given plans to pedestrianize Gore and street widths from Mary to Wellington, that a King line would make James to Wellington largely pedestrian-only. A bold experiment, no doubt, but hopefully one that would be undertaken after sober consideration and public dialogue.

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By lukev (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2009 at 03:06:55

An LRT on King would mean removing all auto traffic from at least some parts of King. I don't think that will be too well received by businesses. Also, an LRT lane will be very dangerous to bike on, the tracks are a bike accident waiting to happen.

And at the same time, a King LRT will be more pleasant to use, as it won't involve walking through so many lanes of traffic.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 12, 2009 at 00:36:48

An LRT on King would still allow one lane of traffic in each direction - it would require removing some of the bump-outs for parking and redirecting it to side lots or side streets. However, in the sections it would most affect (the IV) there's several lots already, and lots of side streets for parking as well.

I'm pretty sure the idea would be to incorporate bike lanes on Main as a part of two-way conversion. The tracks won't be able to be biked on, because cars can't go on them either -- there will be a physical separation between the tracks and road (unlike streetcar tracks).

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 10:47:53

A Smith,

That seems like a pretty comprehensive means of charging for traffic.

The next question is do you really think it could be cost effective? Singapore has a population of well over 4 million, which dwarfs Hamilton's approximately half million. Economies of scale and all that rot, eh?

The other alternative is to build the LRT which has been proven to generate billions of dollars in private investment.

Seems like a pretty safe bet to me.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 12:11:31

Don't bother. ASmith is a troll. Talks about the virtues of private investment, yet staunchly opposes basic infrastructure development such as LRT that is a private investment magnet. It's called trolling. No argument makes sense and thoughts contradict each other with regularity. Zookeeper has the best advice.
Let's all follow it.

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 14:38:04

Both Main street and King street from the East end (Centennial) to the West end (Cootes/Univ Plaza) --across its entire length-- varies dramatically in size, volume of traffic, density and its urban feel viz. architecture/landscape and retail character - not to mention the existing/proposed diversity in zoning (building heights) across their entire lengths.

By not factoring this spatial variability in our discussion and planning initiatives, we dramatically constrain our abilities to develop innovative solutions to many economic development and environmental challenges in the core.

In the case of current LRT alternatives - we have restricted many viable design ideas by: not factoring in mobility issues of seniors who are a key user group of city services and streets; and loosing an opportunity to link critical community nodal points in the lower city - which if connected through LRT, would dramatically enhance the quality of life and the urban look-and-feel of the downtown core, and provide the rational for LRT expansion along the east-west and the north-south axes of our city.

The existing LRT alternatives are primarily about connecting East Gate Mall to McMaster and subsequently the waterfront to the airport. All public consultations and discussions on this are essentially driven by this design criterion.

The micro-routing issues in the core being debated here -- also are based on this criteria which assumes that once these two nodes are connected, automatically a few things will happen: sustained ridership for this system will show up; larger property development will commence on the few vacant lots in the core; stronger street-front retail would develop in the core; and automobile usage in the core would drop.

Taking a closer look at the various alternatives in play, one thing that stands out is that the reason for suggesting the LRT lines on King and/or Main is primarily because of the prevailing abundance of available real-estate – the wide inner-city highways!

However our many dispersed but highly critical community nodal points, in the lower city and the core, which in fact generates all the local traffic (both foot and vehicular) – are visibly missed from the advantages of proximity to this new transit network.

As a result the rider base, especially seniors, and most in inclement weather would continue to depend on either cars or buses to get to many high traffic generating community nodal points. This is the LRT rider base that we already have in our community which if captured would immediately lend the entire network the financial viability that some are questioning.

A pattern in the shape of a loose ‘8’ if drawn on the city map: between Dundurn & Gage and King & Main and crisscrossing over on James and Victoria – is a good starting point in really discovering what the LRT can do for our downtown and city.

Now if an overlapping loose ‘U’ pattern is drawn on top of this ‘8’: from James North (Pier 8- recreational) running south to St. Joes, turning east on Charlton and north on John and then turning east on Main and North again on Victoria, going back to the waterfront (Industrial).

What we have is a single direction loop pattern that connects a large percentage of our critical assets – the community nodal points that generates the bulk of inner city traffic, by allowing critical east-west/north-south transfer points in the system – and reducing walkable distance from the LRT line routes to the many frequently visited destinations. This pattern if implemented on the right side of streets as against the center of the street would facilitate vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic to co-exist without stress.

This pattern in contrast to the bold linear east-west pattern, (which only replaces fast moving cars with gently-fast moving LRT on the same ‘quick get-away routes) – allows for spatial and cultural variability to survive and thrive in our urban context. The end goal of reducing auto ridership in the lower city is also much better served by enhancing variability.

The resulting net effect from this urban insertion is a more appropriately scaled, equitable and aesthetically refined urban texture that we all want so much. And more importantly, we will not have to wait for an increase in the city population to sustain the LRT, as we would be seeing the many existing home & car bodies spilling out into the streets from the LRT going about their daily lives around the city core.

This approach allows for many more innovative developments and transit solutions to arise in and around the network – by connecting our waterfront, city core, Gage park, two hospitals, regional court, three major grocery outlets, the mall, and numerous community centers – into a seamless urban experience. Besides, it also allows for system expansion on Barton/Wilson (BRT/HSR) and Main Street (LRT) between Centennial & McMaster, and James & Mohawk/Airport – as the system evolves.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 18:02:06

Brandon >> The next question is do you really think it could be cost effective?

I find it interesting that you are concerned about whether toll roads would be cost effective. If you are being sincere, then I guess you are equally concerned that the HSR requires $42 million in subsidies, is that correct?

>> The other alternative is to build the LRT which has been proven to generate billions of dollars in private investment.

If that's the case, then it shouldn't require taxpayer money? If people are going to make money from having the LRT in Hamilton, let them raise private funds to build it.

Jason >> Talks about the virtues of private investment, yet staunchly opposes basic infrastructure development such as LRT that is a private investment magnet.

If the government doesn't invest in LRT, will private investors take their place? If not, why not?

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 22:17:56

The first and second picture on this link below more appropriately defines the kind of outcomes desired for Hamilton - in the above post:

www.metrohamilton.ning.com/profiles/blogs/light-rail-systems-from-across

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 22:42:20

The subsidies don't bother me, in fact I think we should pay more to bring the price down further. People tend not to use the system due to infrequent buses and lousy coverage.

What my taxes go towards for HSR subsidies is the ability for people to get to and from work more easily, to use transit instead of personal vehicles and reduce pollution overall because of it.

Overall it's money well spent.

A toll road situation would require a huge investment from the city (or do you think that it would be donated?) that would likely cost far more than the HSR subsidy and I fail to see how it would generate any new investments, which LRT would. What do you have against encouraging private investment?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 13, 2009 at 09:48:14

Mahesh, I find your comments about how we've restricted our thinking quite interesting. It is true that from the start, we have approached this as a solution to the "mac to eastgate; water to airport" transportation challenge.

I think you may be on to something with the idea of a more concentrated looping system.

If we built a pair of intersecting loops that concentrated within the core, radiating feeder lines could be planned as future expansions once the benefits of the smaller core system are realized. A short loop on james->water->john st-> st joes and back down james, and a larger loop on main street->wellington->barton->york->dundurn->back down main.

then a future feeder can be built to mac, another to eastgate, and another to the airport.

Regarding the "East west corridor" mentioned in the article, what about barton? it has stretches of good building stock and is a corridor in dire need of a boost.

THe advantage of Barton over Main is that the intensification can happen with significantly less new construction... especially closer to the core.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 13, 2009 at 12:54:03

My Vote goes to Main Street, both directions.

*Main Reason: RAPID Transit; Main St is more straight, therefor the trains can travel much quicker (and at the same time, would end up being cheaper as less rail kms are needed). Also, the point raised about having it swicth between Main & King in different parts of the City will not only slow the system down, but will add confusion as to where Stations may be located ("Is the Stn at Main or King in this area?")

LRT on Main, while converting both Main & King to two-way would also equalize General Purpose Lanes as Meredith pointed out. This is a Win-Win for Drivers & Tranit Riders/Pedestrians. A Two-Way King St = A Slower King St, which would attract development as well. Not to mention the obvious spillover from Main St, which really isn't that far from King at all *ESPECIALLY @ Gore Park. A City-wide King St designed like how it is in the Int'l Village would help spur development. "A 5min walk to LRT Stations!"

*Main Street is oozing with empty lots, City-wide, that would benefit from LRT. King St already has a great streetwall, so rather than tearing down the current streetwall to build Condos, Offices, etc; leave the King St Retail-oriented Stock of Buildings intact, and allow the LRT Benefits to migrate to King (people closer to King than Main are still going to have to cross or walk along King to get to Main, which means there is still a heavy-enough Pedestrian presence to fill King St stores.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 13, 2009 at 12:59:37

Here's how I envision Hamilton Light Rail network: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&...

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By lukev (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2009 at 13:27:57

Nice map, Really.

I'm imagining the Mohawk line going to McMaster in it's west end (via Scenic Rd's corridor?), perhaps interlining with Main St LRT. Rather than terminating in Big Box country.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 13, 2009 at 16:37:57

Thanks, Lukev!

Well it's VERY important that suburbs, no matter how 'Big Box Country' they are, be included into Hamilton's Light Rail Network. They need a fast, reliable alternate to a Personal Vehicle or there's no point at all.

I imagine the future Meadowlands as a Don Mills Ctr-type development with office & residential mixed with a good Public Transit Node, which Meadowlands is already (Connections to the 5, 16, 41 & 43, and SHOULD also incl. the 44 Rymal).

I see the future Network similar to the TTC's, whereas Bus Routes are fed into a Terminal Node such as an LRT Stn with several Bus Routes. ie: Islington Stn (aka Islington Centre) in Etobicoke. Personally I enjoy open-air terminals over the enclosed TTC-style terminals, but that's still years and years away from even being thought about!

The Current HSR Bus Network isn't too bad at all; infact I think it works very well! Just increase service frequency, and ensure each route connects to an LRT Station along it's route!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2009 at 17:25:49

King St. makes the most sense in terms of areas which could make use of the pedestrian traffic, it has several times as many street-level retail outlets (The International Villiage, Westdale Villiage, or virtually any part east to at least Sherman). Main Street could really use the densification, I agree, but much of it would be very prohibitive because very little of it exists, and development in this city tends to be slow, hair-brained and always a gamble. Additionally, since so many of the buildings along King are independantly owned, the benefits would spread out and the potential for experimentation and creativity would be much greater - think Queen St. in Toronto or St.Laurent in Montreal. Along Main many of the developments would require substantial capital investments, which would price a lot of the more creative members of our community out of the market (think "Effort Square", and then ask yourself how successful the street-frontages they've built for businesses are). Read some Jane Jacobs if you need more info on that last part - private or public, large-scale urban planning is too often based on self-interest and flawed ideologies to create vibrant urban spaces. On the last note, Barton, also, due to it's cross-town straight-line nature, enormous ridership (as much, at least, as Main or King), ample unused sidewalk-fronting retail space (blocks after blocks at a time being used for nothing but apartments), would be an excellent choice.

And while I detest giving an inch to automobile traffic in terms of planning, we're going to have to pick our battles - two way streets, bike lanes, rapid transit lanes, pedestrian malls etc.. .this would all be a very major adjustment for a very large amount of traffic. While they're all great ideas in principle, city bureaucrats as a rule never implement things as well as they should. Those traffic-calming bump-outs on Barton, King and elsewhere are a deathrap for cyclists, and the International Villiage along King is one of the best examples of this - sure, traffic's slowed down, but it's also pissed off, and I've had about as many death threats along here as the rest of downtown combined. Traffic planning is a very complicated science, and we should be very careful what we do with the major east-west arteries for the south side of the lower city, or we'll risk dumping a lot of traffic onto Aberdeen, Deleware, Stinson and other largely family-based residential, arteries.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2009 at 13:19:08

Undustrial, you put into words what I found difficult to. The loss of the bumpouts won't be that big of a deal, and the smaller-scale along King is definitely much more usable in the next decade.

Some of the "different route" ideas are fine, but eventual lines along Barton, etc. will be fast-tracked based on the success of this one, and making it the best it can be needs to be the focus now, not putting in fewer lines with a longer/less efficient route.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 15, 2009 at 16:54:38

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 17, 2009 at 09:59:15

Barton is in desperate need of a Rapid Transit Line, and should be implemented asap (B-Line-type rapid transit is ok for now, but Higher Order Transit must be in the mid-term goals for the City)

Undustrial is correct, development in this City is a joke. So if LRT is placed along King, I fear that City Planners will 'plan'/allow these great stocks of ped-friendly blocks to be torn down for 'NEW'/'transformative' developments (think Jackson Square, First Place Tower-type developments), while losing King Street's current character (think York Blvd).

Again, if LRT is along Main, people who live North of King are still going to have to cross and/or walk along King to get to/from their Main Street LRT Stn. So that could mean a coffee and croissant bought before work at that new Cafe, or a stop into that new Shoe Store after a stressful day... all within your walk to/from work!

But my true concern is still, and will always be, the 'RAPID aspect'. I still feel that LRT along Main Street would move faster, which would make it more attractive than it's main competitor in Hamilton; The Personald Vehicle.

It may look nicer for a sleek, low-riding, modern train to move down a winding road, conencted to a gorgeous Urban Square; but it's not the best, most efficient way of getting from one end of the City to the Other, which is The Main Reason for Light Rail RAPID Transit

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2009 at 15:15:58

Seancb:

Appreciate your feedback and thank you for coining the term "Concentrated Looping System" :-)

That really has the making of a buzz word - which if spun the right way, could lead to many interesting outcomes in our downtown not only for the LRT, but also for our many local interpersonal networks that are trapped in linear think!

Deploying linear thinking in transit and urban planning can be a very dangerous approach – most often resulting in rapid-fire / point-to-point solutions with little substance and lesser sustainability.

We simple do not have the end point densities and commuting patterns to affordable sustain a monolithic point-to-point transit linkage – A kind of linkage that connects two ends but yet continue to keep large swaths of the community isolated.

The rational behind my initial post here was primarily to suggest a ‘distributed’ approach to removing constrictions in our thinking. And using 'pattern discovery' through the LRT example, to frame more relevant questions, way before 'design solutions' are dived into with premature and seductive drawings and plans - which end up freezing discourse and derailing logical approaches to development.

Speed has indeed affected our thinking more than we realize! We are simply in love with speed, and that is why we drive, talk, eat and think fast – and not because 5000 people are late every hour, every day, every year - driving down Main or King.

The primary goals of transit linkages in our times - should be to facilitate the organic growth of many dispersed micro-destinations across the city - and replicate or better the ease of accessibility and variability that automobiles currently offer.

Point-to-Point ‘RAPID’ thinking kills all that. It brings about a senseless, mind-numbing pursuit of receding goal posts – presumably leading to park & ride hyper growth that many cities across the world are desperately fighting to stop. We are a 700K +/- grid city with an intimate geography. We are lucky! Our solutions should celebrate this and build on it with 'smart' systems and networks that leverage these conditions and not supplant it with heavy linear systems that are designed for much intense conditions.

My descriptive "8 & U" loops for the LRT resulted from a very quick search for some logical patterns that already exist in our core & lower city. My need to indulge in pattern discovery was the outcome of a quick and dirty two location poll (at Walnut – King & Main) that I had conducted last year. Around 30 car drivers were polled during morning peak hour – the results were:

Around 75% of car drivers on both King and Main were in fact –not-- on these two roads just to get from the west end to the east end or vice versa.

Almost all cars on King going west originated in the lower city mostly before Gage.
70% were heading directly to the 403 East & West Exits.
10% were going towards Westdale, Mac, Dundas and beyond.
20% were going to various points in the core and the lower city.

Around 60% of all cars on Main going east originated off the Main-East exits off 403 E/W, with 10% coming from West End and beyond and 30% originating from around the lower city.
45% were going to various points between the Core and Parkdale / Centennial area.
25% were going to various points between the Core and Gage
30% were going to various points in the core.

If this poll was conducted at Dundurn or other locations on Main & King the results would definitely have varied. Besides, this does not factor in the HSR transit rider numbers during this period.

The loops suggested earlier are only to trigger ideas – It is the approach behind that could give us: the incremental growth which prevents fatal top-down planning errors from being permanently etched out on our landscape; help us tackle the issues of slowing down speeds in our core by consciously removing the thruway metaphor from our city and breaking up the linearity of the east west corridor by inserting LRT/HSR/BRT loop/s in its middle which connects the many dispersed critical high-traffic community nodes, with options to grow as incremental demands emerge.

Our search for solutions should be a response to questions such as: How does one help the community live a better life? Rather than how does one develop a speculative tool for land development or how do we rapidly win this board-game of Monopoly.

Our past has had many such speculative tools deployed - resulting in an inner city mall and high speed boulevards on York and Main. It would be extremely unfortunate if the inner city automobile expressway is replaced with an LRT expressway.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 17, 2009 at 15:35:50

Great post, Mahesh! I totally appreciate where you're coming from, but I don't think concentrating on the 'Rapid' aspect of Rapid Transit is that bad of an idea.

Clearly Main & King will slow down with two-way conversion (hopefully followed by other converts, both East-West & North-South), so cars wouldn't be speeding down at all, but rather Light Rail would pass the cars at a reasonable speed (far from the 70km/h vehicles regularly speed along Main through the Core).

Today, time is always a factor, regardless of anything. It's North American Culture; it's how we live today. So to attract those 'busy' ppl that feel Public Transit is too slow, we must promote LRT as RAPID Transit. They may not care about spin-off effects, or environmental benefits, they may simply want a faster, cheaper way of getting to Work/GO/School/Wherever! So why not promote it as the RAPID Alternative to Your Car, while at the same time you and I can enjoy the benefits of Light Rail?!

LRT along Barton wouldn't be able to go very fast, as Barton is a narrow road (inner-city) and would have to likely share the road with personal vehicles, but would certaily fit well into Barton's Urban Fabric and may only happen if the B-Line LRT is a success --by getting as MANY people to ride it as possible!

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2009 at 16:05:56

>>> Really?: “Main Reason: RAPID Transit; Main St is more straight, therefor the trains can travel much quicker…”

>>> Undustrial: “But my true concern is still, and will always be, the 'RAPID aspect” - "It may look nicer for a sleek, low-riding, modern train... ...but it's not the best, most efficient way of getting from one end of the City to the Other, which is *The Main Reason for Light Rail RAPID Transit*”


I really do think our city indeed cries out for a - sleek, low-riding, (gently moving) modern train (trams) to move down winding(straight) roads, connected to gorgeous urban squares (and tree-lined boulevards) –-- and definitely not for thundering light-locomotives, hurtling down reclaimed inner-city highways to get to the other end, only to speed back to the other side with a bigger and richer payload!!


Here is a plausible scenario from the future if the 'RAPID aspect' indeed plays out :-))

>>>> Memo from ABC MetroConsultant to City - January 01, 2015:
The LRT on Main and King is RAPID-ly thriving now.
As you are aware, we are constantly looking at ways to cut costs and increase our efficiencies. The many stops on the route are now seriously cramping our network performance – In this regards, we are asking you to kindly shut down four major roads intersecting our rail lines in the core – as these crossings are hampering our network from reaching optimal speeds. Also, as our attached ‘time-speed ROI analyst’ report clearly shows, we will be accruing a 40 percent revenue increase if we are able to increase our speed by a mere 20 kms/hour. The synchronized traffic lights just does not seem to solve our problems, and so we are informing you that the LRT stops at Gage and Gore will be removed shortly before Christmas - as it is seriously slowing down our growth. It was after all meant to be a RAPID system. Our consultant also suggests that in case we experience a drop in rider traffic on account of this, we can easily switch to moving goods instead of passengers on the east-west corridor, which will in fact increase our revenues - as by then the system will be completely independent of any reality, and we could at will push the speed limits to almost 120kms/hour and make it the Rapidest of all Rapid inner-city system in the world. We hope you share our vision and enthusiasm in continuing to serve our loyal riders better through our innovations every year. <<<<

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2009 at 17:31:28

>>> Really?: Thanks!

BTW - I saw your post after I posted the last one which just highlights the predictability of most systems ;-)

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By dumb_dumb_dumb (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 00:39:35

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By deleted (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 02:31:28

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 07:57:50

Wow the spammers aren't even trying to blend in anymore.

Time for an editor to delete yet another post and ban yet another ip...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 20, 2009 at 08:10:11

UrbanRenaissance wrote:

Time for an editor to delete yet another post and ban yet another ip...

Thanks for pointing this out. I don't ban IP addresses because many people are on dynamic IP, but I've deleted the comment and disabled the account.

There have been about three or four spam comments that have gotten past the filters in the past few months (all for variations on the "personalmoneystore"), and all were posted from confirmed accounts.

All the accounts were random-string usernames on Hotmail accounts, which suggests that spammers have figured out how to create dummy accounts on Hotmail (nice work, Microsoft) that will confirm blog registrations.

Alternately, I suppose it's possible that some poor spammer is actually registering accounts manually.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 09:50:04

Ryan wrote: "Alternately, I suppose it's possible that some poor spammer is actually registering accounts manually."

Yeesh, I'd hate to be the guy who's farming registered blog/message board accounts, at least with gold farming you're playing a game.

Thanks for getting rid of that trash, also you're probably correct about the IP, stuff like this just pisses me off.

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By Kerr Osborne (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 13:42:44

I'm certainly sympathetic to "quality of life" arguments around LRT, but given that the province and the city are both carrying unholy deficits (combined, about $20 billion) and that these lines can cost many millions per kilometer, I can see how straight lines win political approval. It's also a route planned and owned by Metrolinx, if I'm not mistaken. Our negotiating muscle is proportionate to our financial commitment. If we ante up $300 million for a cross-town line, I would expect that the province would be open to creative options.

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By By Kerr Osborn (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 13:53:15

Kevlahan: "The final choice has still not been made, but King St is the preferred choice in the core because this solution maximizes traffic flow (i.e. motor vehicles). Because this solution involves two-way conversion of both Main and King, it would still dramatically improve the streetscape of Main St by slowing traffic and making it less of a freeway through downtown."

As someone else has pointed out, however, the downtown stretch of King is already more congested than Main. A two-way LRT line plus two single lanes of W-E/E-W traffic is all that would be possible from James to Wellington, and you mightn't even have automobile traffic from Wellington to Catharine as it would surely compromise the sidewalks along that stretch. The traffic flow may be reduced on Main and King, but it may well see a lateral distribution, as collector roads like Hunter, Wilson and Cannon will be have as just as many lanes.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 15:26:01

"As someone else has pointed out, however, the downtown stretch of King is already more congested than Main."

Remember folks, congestion is GOOD. I know that flies in the face of all the stuff we hear about "fixing" our phony congestion problems, but every great city in the world has a "congestion problem".

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 20, 2009 at 15:34:25

Kerr Osborn, it was the traffic engineers hired by the city found that the "LRT on King and two-way conversion of King and Main" was the solution that would maximize traffic flow on the basis of traffic simulations and a measurement of road capacities (you can see the full report on the city's website).

The other thing to remember is that we are expecting LRT to be successful in attracting new riders (those who might otherwise have driven) ... that's one of the main goals of the project, and it would not be wise to plan for failure. In addition, it has been shown over and over that traffic volume is not a conserved quantity since many drivers have choices of when and where to drive (as well as whether to drive at all). For example, drivers (especially truck drivers) use Main St as a shortcut from the 403 to the QEW, instead of taking the Linc/RHVP. If traffic were slower, they would use the freeways as they should.

I agree that the province will be looking for some financial buy-in from the city, especially since the city will reap the benefits in terms of increased tax revenue from new development along the line (and a more efficient transport network).

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By Kerr Osborne (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2009 at 09:04:45

Neither suggesting that congestion is bad nor that the plan is doomed to fail, simply pointing out that
in terms of traffic flow, the comparatively tighter lane capacity on King (especially if you make concessions to pedestrians) seems like it will simply divert traffic to other westbound corridors (Hunter or Cannon) rather than reducing it. But that's "seems" -- I may well be wrong.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 26, 2009 at 15:43:04

What are the chances of McGuinty & Co. scrapping the whole of Metrolinx (including Hamilton's B-Line) in-lieu of this $25 Billion deficit!?

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