Petty Politics Rules Supreme on Transportation Plan

By Jason Leach
Published July 11, 2008

I am a downtown resident and would like to voice my absolute displeasure at the stunning vote (is anything really stunning in this city anymore?) yesterday regarding the Downtown Transportation Plan.

I live, shop, play and entertain downtown seven days a week. I know how ruthless the constant flow of trucks and cars is on Main and York. I know small businesses owners present and mostly past, who have tried to brave the one-way canyons to no avail.

I have a nice route that I walk to get downtown without having to use York, King or Main. It's a shame that I should avoid our main streets like the plague.

But hey, there's nothing there anyhow other than speeding cars and trucks.

Apparently, some of you like it that way. Well, I don't. I would like to see downtown Hamilton have bustling streets like Queen or Yonge in Toronto.

I realize that feedback from citizens means nothing in modern-day politics, but I am disgusted to live in this city on days like today. While other cities all over the continent are moving forward and have been for decades, we continue to act like it's 1950.

Tonight I am bringing my family from the Mountain downtown to celebrate my birthday at the London Tap House and then the James North Art Crawl.

Both of these entertainment options did not exist a mere few years ago. Since James and John converted to two-way, there has been a tremendous amount of new business, mainly in the form of entertainment, dining and arts open up on both streets.

As you all know, both streets were near-dead a decade ago, much like York, Main, King, Bay, Cannon and so many others in our city are today.

I thought we had finally learned our lesson and started to play catch-up with the Portlands and Vancouvers of the world with the fresh evidence on James and John staring us in the face everyday.

Sadly, I was wrong. Petty politics continues to reign supreme at City Hall and the biggest loser is the city itself.

To those who voted against something so positive and good for our city, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

For those who voted to support business, investment and an enhanced quality of life in our city, thank you and please continue to support our fine city, despite those around you content to watch the future fly past on the back of a semi.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By hear hear! (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2008 at 15:55:10

Great commentary Jason! I couldn't agree more.

It's amazing how much common sense members of council who voted down the conversion of one way streets in this city lack, and the absence of strong leadership on council to do what is right for this city in making our downtown liveable and vibrant (i.e., getting rid of our downtown network of one way streets).

The current system of one-way streets in our downtown core is one of the major forces preventing its revitalization. These streets are simply highways to get from one end of the city to the other. They are not streets that encourage the development of business or local traffic. The downtown should be a destination, not a thoroughfare.

I too live downtown and avoid these major one-way streets like the plague when walking. I encourage anyone to walk down Main St with four lanes of high-speed traffic coming at you. It's not for the faint of heart!

I remain cautiously optimistic. Certainly the success of the conversion of James and John streets will provide ample evidence to sway the nay-sayers.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 11, 2008 at 16:30:07

Happy birthday, Jason. I'm heading out to the crawl too. Maybe it'll cheer me up after this depressing decision.

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2008 at 17:24:54

Here is a response from councillor Whitehead. I see his logic, but don't agree with his decision:

"...To suggest that two way traffic is more pedestrian friendly than a one way is not a position I subscribe too.

One way can be designed to slow traffic with road calming measures and certainly be safer for pedestrians than a two way street. We can also reduce lanes on one ways and bump out the pedestrian sidewalk which would be a great approach.

If we are concerned about the environment, certainly congestion of traffic that may be created by the two way concept with more idling cars is a step backwards.

Some of the conversions have very little commercial zoned land and there fore the growth in assessment is very limited if it is to happen at all.


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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2008 at 17:26:41

Note that according to his point of view, we should begin to quickly convert all the streets on the mountain to 1 way. Lets start by making Upper James run North only and West 5th Ave run south only. I wonder why there is a double standard applied to things on the Mountain vs those downtown?

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By tw(h)ithead (anonymous) | Posted July 12, 2008 at 12:54:09

Terry - never ceases to amaze me...

He doesn't get it and probably never will. If you've ever talked to the man in person - truly one of the most frustrating experiences I've had.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 12, 2008 at 13:15:48

I emailed all of council the above letter and received some pretty good reading from Whitehead and Bratina. I won't reprint their responses, other than this great info from Bratina which is public knowledge, but well articulated here by Bob as he responded to Terry's argument about these projects being a waste of money. My own two cents: how can we have a politician on council who believes turning around downtown, and thereby the entire city's image and ability to attract more investment, be considered a waste of money. Let's please can these guys in a hurry. Now onto Bob's great financial response:

The numbers say values have increased, and several renovation projects such as 14 Forest Avenue, 74 Hughson (at James..shown as vacant, but soon to become a renovated, expanded professional office), 155 John South (vacant building renovated into upscale restaurant/bar) 61 Young St. at John (vacant premises just purchased for restaurant) 180 James South (taxes increased $10 thousand dollars from 2006 to 2007), the adjacent neighbourhoods all showing significant property value increases of 25 to 60 per cent, and very large projects now in the planning stage for vacant or under-utilized properties. I could go on, but you didn't listen the first time so what's the point. We got $180 million dollar return on $1.3 million invested in the loans program. 31-35 John South just went from vacant to new $3.5 million restaurant/bar, likely a $70 thousand dollar increase in annual assessment. Staybridge Suites moved from $40 thousand to $340 thousand in taxes. We're pushing 2,000 new jobs over the past 2 years downtown. How are you doing up there?
You finish with "respectfully" but I don't sense true respect for the hard work and tangible results of our staff in cleaning up the mess that was downtown and bringing it back to respectability. I believe you were the one who asked why we should support the market if there are private supermarket operators providing the same service.

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By Dwayne Brown (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2008 at 11:46:47

All of these comments are relevant. The lack of COMMON SENSE in city council is glaring - we all see it and we all know! We have the power to change it. Please - everyone get out and vote for those changes in the next election. Some of these jokers have been in city council for ever. If we simply allow them to feel confident that they are not being held accountable why would they ever think of doing the most common sensical things - like actually working together (putting their petty political aspirations to the side) and not making goofy statements based on extremely weak arguments that are more often than not based on "research" (I use that word very loosly)that they've gleened from the Internet, magazines, news articles etc - that is relevant to OTHER cities in the world. They simply refuse to look at Hamilton's situation as unique and in need of desperate measures that work for THIS CITY - not New York, Portland, and any number of other places that are referenced. They live in little bubbles and appear to have little interest in solving real problems. AND I ask - do these problems always need 2-3 studies financed at the tax-payers expense? Why aren't more citizens being asked for some practical input? ideas? opinions? whatever? To quote one of them - where some of the goofiest ideas have come from - It ain't rocket science. And as much as I hate that phrase - it's true!
We need some political changes before this city can even have a fighting chance. 2010 - get out and VOTE one and all!!!

Dwayne Brown - Ward 4

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By Dwayne Brown (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2008 at 11:49:40

My spelling errors - sorry GLEANED not GLEENED

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2008 at 14:59:59


I admire your spirit, but would respectfully disagree with your assertion that Hamilton is unique among cities and that its problems need different solutions than other places.

In my experience, most of Hamilton's problems stem not from the notion that we can learn from other cities but rather from a pervailing sense that ideas which work in other cities would not work in Hamilton because we're somehow 'different'.

This exceptionalism shows up particularly in the apologetics for our one-way street system. Several comments on this site have claimed that we "need" one-way streets because Hamilton is longer east-west than north-south and/or because there's a bottleneck crossing Hwy 403.

Both arguments are spurious, for the simple reason that a city full of two-way streets has the same number of lanes as a city full of one-way streets. (There's a practical problem of how to rearrange the on- and off-ramps on the 403 if you made Main and King two-way, but that's certainly no argument for opposing conversion elsewhere.)

The fact is that basic principles of exchange, urban development, land use, people and goods movement, etc. apply just as much in Hamilton as they do in other cities. People here still respond to incentives in general, and to price signals in particular.

If it's cheaper and easier to drive, more people will drive longer distances more frequently; if it's cheaper and easier to take transit, more people will take transit more frequently; and so on.

Similarly, if it's more pleasant to walk on the sidewalk of a street, more people will walk longer distances more frequently - and the inverse is also true.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2008 at 15:37:05

Don't mean to derail this, but the mention of the 403 ramps spurred me on...

No matter what we do with the streets - one-way, two-way, no-way, ten-way - we desperately need to reconfigure ALL of the highway exits in our town.

We must be the only city in which every highway exit (in the lower city at least) meets the local street as a ramp instead of an intersection.

Think about the absurdity of this - why do we need a ramp ONTO main street? York? These result in the highway mentality carrying over from the 403 to the local streets.

We need a demarcation point at each highway ramp. A proper intersection with a light that signals to motorists subconsciously: "OK Mr Heavyfoot, you are exiting a highway and entering a city - slow down a bit!"

Think about any other city along the QEW - you exit the highway, and come to a light where you then choose your direction. None of this dedicated ramp business.

So if we go two-way across the 403, there's a simple solution to the highway interchange problem - change the ramps into proper intersections!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2008 at 16:17:19

Damn. I was going to reply that the offramp is too short to put a stop at the end and that it would back up traffic right onto the highway itself.

Then I decided to take a look at Google Maps before posting. Here's the ramp onto Main S. E:

Here's the ramp onto Waterdown Rd, which has an intersection at the end:

The Main East ramp is considerably longer!

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