Transportation

Trucks, One-Way Streets 'Killing the City': Urbanists

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 14, 2009

Who knew? It turns out that one-way streets and through truck traffic create "patches of despair" that discourage pedestrian life and hurt business, according to an article in today's Spectator.

Yesterday, an international team of professional urbanists studying how to make cities more livable toured around Hamilton and plan to present their conclusions to the city.

Reinforcing what we amateur urbanists have been saying for years, the team pointed out that the city has pockets of vitality that are torn by the discontinuities of pedestrian-hostile urban expressways.

A team of urban experts argues that our one-way expressways are harming street life (RTH file photo)
A team of urban experts argues that our one-way expressways are harming street life (RTH file photo)

They minced no words in their assessments of where we have gone wrong. "Truck traffic can't be the sacred goose," warns Walk21 development director Bronwen Thornton - in direct contradition to Chamber of Commerce spokesperson John Dolbec, who maintains that our "just-in-time" economy trumps livability.

Paul Young, an urban designer from Toronto, was even more blunt: "Trucks are killing the city."

James North impresario Dave Kuruc, who operates Mixed Media and publishes H Magazine, is quoted in the article inviting city planners to have tea with him outside his shop on the southeast corner of James St. North and Cannon St.

He hopes it will help them to make the conceptual shift from seeing streets as means of moving people across distances rapidly to seeing them as a means of letting people interact locally.

It can't be repeated enough: people on the street spend money downtown; encased motorists passing through at high speed do not. Likewise, would-be pedestrians recoil from the greedy tug of a truck's slipstream or the interminable roar of high-speed traffic.

Folks, this is not rocket science. All you have to do is walk around and pay attention, and it becomes impossible not to notice where we went wrong. We can no longer afford the luxury of our city leaders and planners making abstract, top-down policy decisions without confronting the street-level consequences of those decisions.

It's far past the point where we can still rationalize allowing persistent one-way expressways and through truck traffic to go on "killing the city".

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 jason (registered) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 08:51:34

big news.

sadly, we've been bringing in teams of experts for several years now to our downtown core and they ALL say the same thing - convert one ways to two ways, get rid of trucks and enhance the livability of the city and appeal of sidewalk life.

And sadly, we continue to listen to the so called chamber of commerce as our 'just in time economy' turns into a 'left behind economy'.

We can learn from world renowned experts and cities all over the planet, or we can listen to the old boys club in Hamilton. This isn't rocket science.

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By Who speaks for the people (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 09:26:56

Just in time economy, a mathematical model, to lower balance sheet accounts of inventory. Well maybe that is where they went wrong in the first place. I was walking along Main Street yesterday and I agree that for someone that is walking, it is very noising and intimidating. It is just not the trucks, it is the cars as well.

While poverty is a big white elephant hanging over this community, I just do not see where the chamber itself is actually doing anything about this. Where are the jobs, just because someone pays a fee to the chamber, does not necessarily mean that they are good employers or care about the workers and community at large.

Maybe that is part of the problem when the chamber itself has the loudest voice and the people, only have a whisper.














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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2009 at 10:14:37

The Star's Royston James denounced Hamilton's one-way streets in an article a few days ago:

http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnist...

Everyone except Hamilton City Council seems to get this - so what can be done? Perhaps it's time to start a Make Hamilton Two Way Today advocacy group.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2009 at 10:22:09

My husband and I saw how ridiculous the one-way urban highways were from the moment we visited the city to look for a new home. I maintain that while it moves cars faster through the downtown, it makes it more difficult for them to stop and patronize local businesses-- good luck to you if you are in the far right lane, and you see a store you'd like to stop in on the left side of the street, at which point you need to decide if it's worth driving around the block for, or if you'll just give up and go home after all. I wrote about this in the Spec last fall:

http://thespec.com/News/Discover/article...

We've been living here for 9 years now-- and we keep hearing the same arguments, over and over...

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 10:45:27

The 2-waying of Hamilton is necessary. It won't happen overnight but it will happen. 2-waying King and Main with the LRT will be the tippng point. Raise the hammer.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:01:41

Rusty wrote:

Perhaps it's time to start a Make Hamilton Two Way Today advocacy group.

Excellent idea! There's already a manifesto:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/371

It's a good idea to bolster the argument with current research demonstrating that one-way streets are more dangerous for children:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1082/

Michelle wrote:

I maintain that while it moves cars faster through the downtown, it makes it more difficult for them to stop and patronize local businesses

Amazingly, people could already see this over fifty years ago when the city first switched its streets to one-way:

"King and Main streets had become 'speedways'"; "Pedestrians were on the run"; cars "don't have time to even see the stores, let alone shop here".

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/361/

In 1997, a downtown revitalization charette organized by Architecture Hamilton came out with a single consensus recommendation: convert the streets back to two-way.

Yet here we are, twelve years later, still having the same debate, still asking experts what we should do and then ignoring their recommendations.

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By JM (registered) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:12:19

It's always about the suburban residents up on the mountain... it would be devastating to create "traffic nightmares" for them downtown...... I remember reading about Councillor Whitehead being upset about hearing complaints from West Mtn residents that the two-way conversion on James has made things really difficult for them... he and they obviously dont care about the neighbourhood they want to speed through and ignore

Of course people like Mr. Whitehead want to keep their cushy jobs, so it would be political suicide for any of the councillors to vote for it.

ugh...

heres another thought... ever wonder why no soul is ever found in the city hall forcourt? can't wait for the new redesign... i hope its a simple idea, so the racers on main street can get a quick glimpse!

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2009 at 12:53:27

Hah-- The two-way conversion of James has made it so much easier for me to navigate the area by car, if I need to be at St' Joe's for some reason and then maybe run another errand or pick up/drop off one of my kids in the area. Not everyone who is in a car wants to use James St. to just get the hell out of the lower city. Some of us actually live down here and need to navigate it often. It`s tiresome having to drive around blocks to find a street that moves in the direction in which you need to travel.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 13:04:32

not only do 'some of us actually live down here' but downtown Hamilton has seen a growth rate of 12-14% in the past 10 years. Even with huge obstacles like one-way freeways, many people are realizing that Hamilton's urban core has much to offer and a great quality of life. the only other districts in Hamilton that see growth rates over 10% at census time are the ones where homes have been built on greenfields since the previous census. In the urbanized city, downtown has the fastest growth rate. That would increase exponentially with some basic changes to our street patterns, LRT and vibrant safe sidewalk life that would draw businesses back to our main streets instead of just runaway trucks.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 14:50:39

Rusty, that Star article is HARSH. "One-way streets doomed Hamilton. Richmond and Adelaide prove that when streets are turned over entirely to automobiles, life is sucked out of the streetscape." Hard to argue with it, though. What has to happen before we un-doom our downtown?

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By Whoosh (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 17:17:52

Hey, I live on the mountain, between James & Wellington. In today's city, stretching from Grimsby to Guelph, that IS downtown. And my logic is that communities should be designed for the people who live in them. But then I wasn't aware that just-in-time economics depended upon Hamilton's one-way streets.

I know it's a major sacrifice, bikers and pedestrians run over, air pollution, dust, noise and the loss of local shops but suck it up, guys. Are we Hammerheads or lily-livered Big TOe urban dilletants? We're talking about just-in-time economics for the whole entire world here! Shouldn't we build a memorial, a cenotaph, something, to the local "soldiers" sacrificed saving the just-in-time economy for the free world? How about re-naming the Red Hill Expressway the Just-In-Time Memorial Raceway and sprinkling the ashes of...oh maybe that's been done already.

BUT, Montreal's St. Laurent, the fabled "Main", is one-way north, and it's one pedestrian-heavy street, man. No better spot for a knees-up in Canada. Everyone seems to get to The Main just in time for a smoked meat and/or a beer. Guess that explains it.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 13:06:52

When I drive onto Main street off the 403 in the evening hours I am struck by how dark downtown Hamilton is. Having a 5-lane expressway going in one direction contributes to this and makes the core look plain dead.

Downtown Hamilton streets (Main and King in particular) need to go two-way. Not all streets - but some.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 14:24:38

There is a poll on one-way streets on thespec.com currently.

Right now the poll is leaning towards keeping one-ways.

Make your voice heard. Raise the hammer.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2009 at 14:30:35

The poll is half way down the main page:

http://thespec.com/

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 17:08:26

it's a Spec poll. With all due respect, the demographic is a little different on CHML and the Spec than on RTH. LOL.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 17:36:22

i guess we're much cooler at RTH than the slobs who read the spectator. what does 90% of the population have to do with anything? maybe you should vote, even if the demographics are so hilariously different.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 22:39:37

call yourself 'cooler' if you want, but that has nothing to do with it. Fact is, the demographics of the Spec and CHML are much different than folks blogging online and starting new urban-focused magazines. It has nothing to do with 'slobs' or social status. In fact, both the Spec and CHML seem to enjoy their highest popularity in areas further from the downtown core and in more affluent suburbs.

Much of those folks are older. Most folks online are younger. Hence, the difference of opinions with an issue like one-way. No need to try to take a simple comment and try to turn it into a name-calling episode. I've seen market research of media outlets in Hamilton. The Spec has had meetings with folks involved with new media in the city trying to figure out how they can crack the online, web-savy, young market.

Not to derail this thread, but they need to look to the website of the Globe and Mail. By far the best newspaper website I've ever seen.

At any rate, I'm glad the Spec printed this piece interviewing the urban experts who decried our one-way killing machines. It's up to city hall to do what's right, not follow results in some online poll.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 23:48:26

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 16:45:01

I guess my ill-advised sarcasm was not appreciated. My apologies. It was in reaction to what I negatively perceive as an elitist attiude in some quarters of RTH.

I've said before I believe RTH has the right idea. But laughing at, or looking down upon other people is not the best way to make the ideas real.

Raise the hammer.

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By truckhater (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 17:57:49

the city has decided instead to encourage truck traffic on cannon street and elsewhere with a bunch of new signs signalling 'truck routes'. has anyone else noticed them? downtown workers and residents should be outraged. what a sham!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 18:21:51

I noticed when an 18 wheeler nearly removed my elbow when I was attempting to bike on Cannon. I thought Cannon would be a safe alternative. Next time, I think I'll try King.

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