Light Rail

Possible Configurations of LRT on Main and King

By Jason Leach
Published April 17, 2009

As a follow up to my suggestion last week that perhaps we should look at using both King and Main for our LRT route through the downtown core, I came across an informative document published by the city's Rapid Transit office.

This report looks at the possibility of putting LRT on both King and Main [PDF link], as well as possibly putting both lines on a two-way King and converting Main to two-way vehicle operation.

On the surface, my initial response was to side with the idea of converting both of these streets to two-way operation, but upon reading the document a few points jump out that might further sway me in the direction of retaining one-way operation:

Putting both LRT lines on King will eliminate every singe street parking space on that road. As a major retail/pedestrian oriented street through the downtown and lower city, it would seem to me that we will want at least one curb with street parking.

This not only helps provide local businesses with a quick turnover of customers arriving by car, but it also provides a buffer between the sidewalk and the road, and it helps to slow down the overall traffic on the street by having cars parking and leaving parking spaces, especially in the future as these street retail districts become more popular.

The proposed conversion of Main Street still retains the four or five lanes of auto traffic. Personally, I want to see Main Street calmed down. Tiny sidewalks next to five lanes of traffic is simply unappealing and is more suited to major roads in the suburbs, not the downtown core.

While I'm not thrilled with the proposed cross-section for both King and Main with a one-way LRT system in that it still doesn't provide room for street parking on the opposite curb of the LRT, at least there is an LRT lane on both streets with a maximum of three vehicle lanes remaining.

As we draw closer to design/construction work on this project, I would surely hope that local residents, businesses and BIAs along both King and Main would call on the city to turn one curb lane into 24-hour street parking. This will still leave an LRT lane and two full traffic lanes on both streets.

This would provide the opportunity for a more pleasant street experience on Main West and King West, and at the same time will hardly impact the operations of Main East and King East, east of Wellington where currently street parking leaves three lanes of vehicular traffic.

My proposal simply reduces that to two, yet also provides a dedicated LRT lane, which will offset any potential congestion issues by drawing many people out of their cars and onto the train.

Lastly, using the one-way alignment provides the opportunity for wider sidewalks and more street trees, especially on the horrendous stretches of King West and Main West that desperately need them.

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

18 Comments

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 11:15:34

I'd like to see not only 24 hour parking but those traffic calming bull noses to prevent people from using the parking lane as a driving lane.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 11:16:14

What this does is allow an additional buffer between vehicular traffic and the sidewalk.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 11:31:46

absolutely. Curb bumpouts are essential. I realize they might want the odd right turn lane off of Main, but for the most part, permanent parking would be great with bumpouts.

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By LRTSupporter (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 21:45:11

It would make best sense to have both lanes of LRT on Main the entire stretch. This would allow for two-way conversion on King with two lanes in either direction, allowing for streetside off-peak metered parking on both sides of the street. Seeing as King is much more retail-focussed than Main, it makes perfect sense to allow proper two-way reconfiguration here. Retailers on King complain about the lack of streetside parking as it is. Imagine if the city proposes removing it, or even reducing it to just one side of the street.

With two lanes of LRT on Main, it will still allow for three lanes of automobile traffic for two-way conversion. Why not configure two eastbound lanes and one westbound on Main between Dundurn and James, then one lane eastbound and two westbound between James and the Delta. This would allow for off-peak streetside parking on one side of the street, and two lanes of traffic into the core from the east and from the west. This would automatically reconfigure Main to be a street that feeds the downtown core rather than an express route through the downtown.

Demographically this would be the best of both worlds. It allows King to strengthen its curbside retail elements, and allows for Main to focus on a complementary role, focussing on mixed-use commercial office space and residential condominium developments.

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 22:59:20

I just read the entire report and I have to say that I found myself nodding my head in agreement all the way through. The loss of street parking on 5 or six blocks isn't enough to get me to say no to two-way conversion. LRT and two-way streets just work hand in hand so well, as they keep pointing out throughout the report. Note in the detailed drawings in the appendices that Main St. from Queen to Sherman would lose a full lane of traffic (down to two in each direction from five in one direction). Lots of room for expanded sidewalks with added trees.

Regarding the stretch of King in question, a very interesting note in the report was the third paragraph of section 4.3.2:

"An alternate concept would be to employ a 'shared use' design philosophy which is common practice in a number of European cities. The space between the reserved transit lane and the property line (the building face in many of the older areas) would be available to all users with limited signing and pavement markings and without a curb between vehicles and pedestrians. Extreme care would be required in the design details of features and materials."

Picture the LRT rolling down that stretch of King with cobblestone all the way from one storefront to the opposite side! Cars would be permitted, but as it works in European cities, cars would negotiate slowly through what would be a pedestrian dominated environment.

And the proposed solutions for the 403 interchanges are brilliant. Particularly encouraging was the reference to the Kirkendall Neighbourhood and McMaster Innovation Park studies at the end of sections 4.3.4. All in all a great report, almost identical to the vision I personally have had of how traffic and transit could work in Hamilton. Now all we need is for council to accept the recommendations!

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 23:11:18

LRTSupporter, those are excellent points too. I think LRT along Main could work equally well, if not better. I wonder why in the two-way option examined in the report only King was considered to carry the LRT?

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By reader (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 08:01:21

Okay, this was the 2nd time I read through the rapid transit report. All in all, the document could have been better written. Notably, there are a couple errors in the Executive Summary which lead the reader astray:

i) Options A and B stated in the Executive Summary are the REVERSE to what they are in the body of the report. For example, Option A stated in the Executive Summary is "retain one-way operation along Main and King" but in the body of the report Option A refers to the "two-way median reserved option". Similarly, Option B in the Executive Summary is described as "median two-way operation along King" but in the body of the report Option B refers to the "one-way reserved option." Confusing!

ii) No where in the Executive Summary is the preferred (recommended) option mentioned! The reader has to make his/her way all the way to page 10 to find the preferred option. Page 10 then says the preferred option is Option A (the two-way median reserved option). The preferred option should be clearly described in the Executive Summary.

I think the report needs to better clarify what is Option A and what is Option B, or better yet don't use those labels at all. Why not just call the options something more representative to what they stand for (e.g., Option "two-way along King" and Option "one-way along King & Main")

Also, the general readability of the report should be improved. I think most people will struggle in understanding it.

best!

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 09:15:48

These are great insights and comments. Keep em' coming!

I too wonder why two-way LRT on Main St isn't being looked at? My only guess would be that, as a previous poster mentioned, King is the true retail/commercial street and perhaps the LRT folks are recognizing the massive effect that LRT would have on that street. Main is more suited to taller buildings, hotels and projects like the Hamilton Grand. I'm not saying there shouldn't be an attempt to create street life on Main, but clearly, our shopping/dining/retail future downtown is along King and James.

It appears as though the one-way LRT option ends up being cheaper than 2-way due to the needed work at the 403 interchanges.

I must say that I'm impressed with the work and research being done by the Rapid Transit office. They seem to be leaving no stone unturned and I have more confidence now than ever that we'll end up doing LRT properly.

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By reader (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 10:47:37

Hopefully when the re-design the 403 interchanges, they'll make improvements to pedestrian crossings too. Currently, it is quite dangerous crossing over the 403 by foot along King St. West since pedestrians have to walk across the on-ramp to the 403 from King. Cars are barrelling down there and pedestrians have to dart across. I think it's an accident waiting to happen.

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By LRTSupporter (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 10:58:03

The Metrolinx study is the real study to watch. They will be reviewing all LRT options for the B-Line and they are not within the sphere of local political influence, so their study should not be any bias towards one route or another.

Jason, it is important to remember that the track route is not what generates the street traffic and subsequent develpment intensification, but the proximity to LRT stations itself. Since King and Main are so close together between Dundurn and the Delta, the impact LRT will have on street life will be similar regardless of which street hosts the track.

403 ramp reconstruction is a bit of a red herring. The overpasses are due for reconstruction regardless of the LRT route. To me this sounds more like making the costing numbers fit the favoured approach.

I am a little less impressed by the work done by the transit office to date. The report has a cobbled-together feel with rambling bullet points and obvious typographical errors. Their route options are too limited, and they outright dismiss the contra-flow layout despite the fact that this arguably the most widely used LRT layout concept.

I think I'll wait for the real meat-and-potato assessment from Metrolinx's Benefits Case Analysis.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted April 20, 2009 at 02:04:04

Jason: bumpouts are murder for cyclists. Why not a bike lane as a transition between moving traffic and parking? I'm pretty sure I've seen pictures of such a setup.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 20, 2009 at 08:50:47

LL - I'm with you. I was thinking of bumpouts that are only as wide as a parking space along the curb. Room between the bumpout and next lane should certainly be made into a bike lane, although I've found that with parked cars, you don't even need a marked bike lane. The leftover lane space between the parked cars and the first live lane is just as wide as a good bike lane.

My only reason for suggesting bumpouts is because it's permanent (so to speak) and would prevent the city from turning the parking lane into a live lane when a few people complain about being 8th in line at a red light instead of 1st.

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By Door Prize (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2009 at 09:06:22

"Why not a bike lane as a transition between moving traffic and parking?" Door prize in 3... 2... 1........

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By shocked (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2009 at 21:05:14

Am I reading this right? A RTHer approving of one-way streets? Is it backwards day?

Seriously now, one way with a train wouldn't be much different than it is today. Motorists would simply ride the train as it greened every light for them.

Make the two-way conversions now before we get locked into one-ways forever. Years down the road that two-way Main would be prime for another LRT line of its own.

The 403 ramp changes proposed have got to be the simplest and most elegant I've seen. I'm surprised how easy they make it look.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2009 at 01:56:04

Jason: I hear you on bumpouts that only bump out so far. However it's done, it's pretty imperative to put the priority on making Main/King bike friendly. Other east/west alternatives are too fragmented...

I'm torn on the one-way, two-way debate. I think it could work either way.

shocked said:

...one way with a train wouldn't be much different than it is today. Motorists would simply ride the train as it greened every light for them.

If cars, transit, bikes and pedestrians are all moving safely and efficiently, what's the problem? It's not about punitive action against motors, it's about freedom of choice for all.

Make the two-way conversions now before we get locked into one-ways forever. Years down the road that two-way Main would be prime for another LRT line of its own.

It would be much more efficient to just add more trains to the two existing tracks.

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By Anon B (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 20:43:29

I'm disappointed with some of the proposed station locations, and the layouts, especially the fact that some of the layouts seem to result in better station locations. For example: You lose the stop at the entrance to Westdale (Paradise/King) in the one way example. You also lose a stop in front of Jackson square if you move to the 2 way example (you either get off on the corner of King/Bay, or you have to get off before the Connaught).

If this is eventually supposed to tie into the A line LRT system, shouldn't there be a station within 1 block of King/James? Shouldn't there be a station within one block of there anyways seeing as how it's kind of the centre of Hamilton?

Call me crazy, but I just want more equivalent station locations. If I were the one deciding it's hard to compare two system where perhaps I don't like the station layout, even if I prefer the actual route itself.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 22:31:31

I agree with you. I too, noticed the way they added and removed certain stations with each option. I'm guessing it wasn't done intentionally but more conceptually. There would certainly be room for good public input when it comes time to design the route. One of the problems of the current B-Line is the huge gap between stops in the central part of the city. I realize the rationale for the HSR to do this - to keep the bus moving.
LRT removes this obstacle by having it's own lane, signal priority and no tickets being handed in when boarding. None of this current crap where one person takes 5 minutes to make up their mind whether they want to board or can't find their fare and slows the whole bus down.

LRT will enable stops at logical spots like Dundurn, Locke, Queen, Bay, James, Ferguson etc....

As well as Sherman, Gage, Ottawa etc.... in the central city.

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By Got It! (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 12:39:48

This is all very sweet, and I won't nit-pick except to say that it confirms to me that the ideal place for a new Hamilton stadium is on top of the city waste-storage tank and CP rail line behind the Dundurn Fortinos, building an enclosed GO station beneath the seating. Seating might also extend over the Dundurn Fortinos plaza. On the other side, seating might extend over the proposed new 403 ramp.

Bit of a pipe-dream of course, but then Hamilton is also touting itself as a transportation hub engaging major rail, air, road, water routes in South Ont. Wouldn't a public, crowd-gathering facility at this location showcase civic smarts in this capacity, bridging road, rail and public transit routes? Potential parking space by Frid St., with a walkway under Main could only enhance the development of the industrial parklands there, and minimize interference with nearby residential communities.

And nice views up and down the Chedoke Valley.

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