Light Rail

Two-Way LRT on King Could Accommodate Some Curbside Parking

By Jason Leach
Published May 14, 2009

Recently, Ryan McGreal posted a blog entry outlining a consultant report that recommends converting Main St. and King St. to two-way and putting LRT down the middle of King St. through the downtown. The report is available from the city's rapid transit office [PDF link] but has not been endorsed by either staff or the public works commitee.

According to the rapid transit office, staff will not make a recommendation until after Metrolinx staff present the Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) on the B-Line to the Metrolinx Board. That is due to take place in July.

In past blog entries, I have spoken in favour of a one-way LRT system, not because I love one-way streets, but because I was concerned about the overall affects a two-way system may have on street calming, street parking and livability issues on both King and Main.

However, like an NFL referee, I have stepped underneath the black hood and reviewed the plan in an attempt to devise some solutions to my problems and am now stepping back onto the field to reverse my call.

As we all know, two-way streets downtown is a dream of mine. Properly done, like on James North, they can aid the businesses community in creating vibrant districts that are welcoming to people.

My biggest concern with the proposed two-way LRT plan is the complete removal of street parking from Dundurn to Eastgate along Main and King. I realize Hamilton is completely geared around the automobile, and that needs to change, but I also recognize the value of some curbside parking as both a convenience for businesses and a buffer for sidewalk pedestrians.

In reviewing the functional planning analysis, I have concluded that street parking could be included on the south curb of Main Street from just west of Dundurn all the way to Sherman Avenue, for the most part.

Furthermore, street parking can be accommodated on King Street from John to Bay and again from Queen to Dundurn on the north curb lane.

This is a tremendous number of parking spaces, and along with adding more street parking on intersecting streets such as Bay, Queen, Catharine, Wellington and so on, we can see the best of both worlds accomplished with a convenient, stimulating two-way LRT on King Street.

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 jason (registered) | Posted May 14, 2009 at 13:27:31

I should clarify that the reason I see the potential for the above noted street parking is due to the maps shown in the report that show a removal of one lane of Main St from Dundurn to Sherman. I'm suggesting they slightly narrow that lane if desired, and design street parking along it's length. The consultant report shows street parking on King from John to Bay, but I'm also suggesting more parking on King from roughly Queen to Dundurn due to the extra width available as that portion of King gradually widens to 5 lanes.

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By Hmmm (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 08:06:43

Though a huge supporter of LRT in Hamilton, I'm still skeptical about which route to choose. Each has their pros & cons.

I think after all is said and done, I would prefer to see 2-way LRT along Main, with King St (and Cannon/Wilson) being converted to 2-way. But again, I'll keep an open mind until the Metrolinx BCA.

You're right-on about major intersecting streets needing parking, too. Wentworth, for whatever reason, lost ALL of it's street parking when they re-did the street a couple years ago. All those Cathedral kids (who lost their p-lots to portable classrooms) are now forced to park in residential areas.

One thing I've thought about recently is little parking 'nooks' (don't know the actual term). They're pretty much small -usually free- lots every couple hundred meters beside a row of commercial buildings. They're everywhere along the Bloor West village of Villages (esp The Kingsway), and can even be found in Hamilton around Main/Ottawa-Kenilworth area).

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 08:49:37

I've come to realize lately that even if a net reduction in street parking is necessary for two-way and LRT it's more than worth the trade off. We have TONS of street parking right now, especially along King through central Hamilton. And look at it. Street parking is nice, but clearly isn't a huge part of the solution. Pedestrian friendly streets and great rapid transit will do wonders for King.

I agree with the consultants that King should house the LRT instead of Main. It's got the built environment similar to James North with tons of street shops and a good streetwall. The potential for revitalization is huge along King and would benefit greatly from LRT.

Some folks I've spoken to have wondered how LRT will help areas along King with long stretches between stations, similar to our current B-Line routing alignment. It's important to remember that the current B-Line shares a lane, stops at red lights, gets stuck in traffic and has the front door ticket/boarding procedure that leads to the inevitable scenario where someone starts asking the driver "where this bus goes" etc..... LRT will have it's own lanes, own traffic signals and no driver to hand tickets to. We can and should add more stops in the central city at spots like the International Village, Locke St, Victoria and Gage Ave. Even with a few new stops, this transit line will get from Mac to Eastgate much quicker than the current B-Line.

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By Hmmm (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:02:09

There's no doubt LRT will be much more Rapid than the B-Line faux-BRT. Just by ridding the current system of the Front Door/Driver/Fare situation, the B-Line would be 5-mins quicker. So a trip from Downtown to Eastgate would take 15mins, rather than the current 20mins. Also add dedicated LRT lanes & LRT singal priority, could cut the trip in half to 10mins! 10mins to get from Downtown to Eastgate or vice-versa!? Imagine!

Here's my main concern (and that of almost everyone I've spoken to re: LRT) is the stretch between The Delta & Queenston Traffic Circle.
It WILL be mixed traffic (as it stands now), and even Now that stretch is a bottleneck (and a half). Of course this is one of (if not the only) strip of Main where small businesses flourish. They also have a municipal parking lot for almost each block, limited street parking.

What's going to happen to the B-Line once it goes from ultraspeed to streetcar speed? Riders are going to get frustrated (I see it every day), traffic jams will frustrate drivers. Not to mention Main @ Kenilworth currently has ZERO room to even add an LRT station?!

The only option I see for this stretch is underground. Goes under at the Delta Park, resurfaces at the Traffic Circle. Only 2 sub-grade stations (Ottawa & Kenilworth) to keep costs down.

Any other suggestions?

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:10:20

I worry two-way streets AND dedicated transit lanes would be too much of a change all at once, provoking unintended political consequences. People might feel like they're being socially engineered. (Even though we all know one-way streets were social engineering to begin with.)

I'm still leaning toward one-way King/Main with an LRT lane each and significant traffic calming. This would move all forms of traffic really well.

Hamilton is a working city. Our instinct for utilitarianism is not unfounded. It'll be a long time before anything here resembles Bloor West, etc. I don't think we should be aiming for that.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:15:21

Hmmm wrote:

It WILL be mixed traffic

I'm confused. The entire stretch of Main from Gage Park through the traffic circle (and for that matter Queenston on to Centennial) is four lanes wide, with left turning lanes at some major intersections and centreline medians in parts. Why wouldn't there be room for dedicated LRT lanes?

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:32:46

this is incorrect. The current plans as outlined in the functional planning analysis call for dedicated LRT lanes along the entire route length, including the area east of the Delta.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2009 at 00:34:26

ha ha...i feel your pain, jason. like so many others obsessed with this topic, i'm still not sure what configuration would be best. in the end, i'm not sure i care whether it runs on main or king or both, just so long as our main thoroughfares are converted to two-way traffic.

by the way, there's no shame in changing your mind or even flip-flopping a little. it just shows you're open to new ideas.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2009 at 15:32:41

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2009 at 15:57:34

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2009 at 22:30:44

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 19, 2009 at 13:40:30

The stretch of King you suggest could accomodate some curbside parking (presumably along one side of the street) is miniscule when compared the vast swath of curbside parking that would be lost under this proposal. While I agree, some net loss could be accepted by retailers along King Street, this is hardly the case in this report. Effectively all curbside parking on King between the Delta and John Street would be lost. I am quite confident that businesses along King will find that completely unacceptable. Also, lets not forget the lost source of income in the form of meter fares that the city will lose.

Rather than lose so much curbside parking along both of these main roads, why not locate the LRT on Main, thereby limiting the lost curbside parking to just this street rather than both?

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 19, 2009 at 18:35:12

it appears to me as though two-way LRT won't work on Main for a few reasons:

  1. Main is more suited to become a 4-lane road with turning lanes at intersections. King isn't wide enough to be designed in this manner.
  2. If Main were to house the LRT, there would be zero opportunity for street parking along both King and Main due to the narrower design of King and the loss of 2 lanes for LRT on Main.
  3. During the day, street parking on King from Sherman to Wentworth is mostly empty. Plus, it hasn't done much for business up until now. LRT bringing in shoppers and people who want to be there will help businesses much more than cars speeding through to the suburbs.
  4. King is more suited to LRT and it's spinoff effects due to the existing streetwall along it's length.

Some other points: 1. Side streets can see street parking increased and make up for the loss along King. 2. King can still see parking from John to Bay and Queen to Dundurn. That's a lot of street parking. 3 Main can see parking from Dundurn to Sherman, and possibly east of Sherman with a simple parking cut-out into the southern sidewalk which is quite wide east of Sherman.

Undoubtedly some parking will be lost with an LRT plan, but having the LRT on King will allow for quite a bit of parking to be added back in and will give drivers a normal 4-lane road option on Main, and pedestrians a strip of wonderful old buildings just waiting to be brought back to life along King, filled with shops, cafes, hotels, restaurants and residences.

The more I look at it, the more I like the current recommendation.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 19, 2009 at 21:45:43

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 19, 2009 at 22:51:59

^Not to inadvertently feed the troll, but it's actually embarassing to see someone jump the shark so epically...

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted May 19, 2009 at 22:54:57

Don't engage the troll. Just downvote and move along.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 20, 2009 at 13:56:05

nobrainer >> it's actually embarassing to see someone jump the shark so epically..

What's embarrassing is to rely on handouts from government to fund your investment projects. A good business idea will attract all the private investment capital it needs, so only those ideas which don't make economic sense need handouts from government. I guess if you don't have the brains, you need all the help you can get. So sad.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 12:45:12

If I could comment on the points Jason made i his May 19th posting (his comments are enclosed in ">>" and "> Main is more suited to become a 4-lane road with turning lanes at intersections. King isn't wide enough to be designed in this manner.>If Main were (sic) to house the LRT, there would be zero opportunity for street parking along both King and Main due to the narrower design of King and the loss of 2 lanes for LRT on Main.>During the day, street parking on King from Sherman to Wentworth is mostly empty. Plus, it hasn't done much for business up until now. LRT bringing in shoppers and people who want to be there will help businesses much more than cars speeding through to the suburbs. > King is more suited to LRT and it's spinoff effects due to the existing streetwall along it's length. >Side streets can see street parking increased and make up for the loss along King.>King can still see parking from John to Bay and Queen to Dundurn. That's a lot of street parking.

Main can see parking from Dundurn to Sherman, and possibly east of Sherman with a simple parking cut-out into the southern sidewalk which is quite wide east of Sherman. <<

Again, it may be a lot of parking in your view, but it is a heck of a lot less than is currently available. LRT on Main Street will result in a net loss of curbside parking, but certainly not as deep a loss as if it should be placed on King.

I also want to point out the impact LRT on King would have on other forms of traffic that currently use King street, beyond the personal automobile. LRT on King would leaves room for just one lane of traffic in either direction for most of the affected stretch of road, rendering it virtually impossible for any kind of local bus service along this road. Local service will be needed to supplement and feed the LRT, and losing local bus service would be a great disservice to current HSR ridership. Furthermore, taxis would have great difficulty picking up and dropping off fares along a road without any clearance to pull out of the way of moving traffic, especially during rush hour. And what about service vehicles delivering goods to the businesses located along King? They would no longer be able to pull over for deliveries anywhere along King.




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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 13:07:28

Sorry the typeset I used didn't translate properly in my previous post, and much of the text disappeared. I am re-posting with hopes that it will be more readable, this time using "" to indicate comments that Jason made that I'd like to addrress.

Jason wrote "Main is more suited to become a 4-lane road with turning lanes at intersections. King isn't wide enough to be designed in this manner."

I have concerns with suggesting a 'two+two+turning lane' format along Main street. This could end up nearly as pedestrian unfriendly as its current incarnation.

Jason wrote "If Main were (sic) to house the LRT, there would be zero opportunity for street parking along both King and Main due to the narrower design of King and the loss of 2 lanes for LRT on Main."

I disagree. If LRT was placed as a central median along Main, there woud still be room for three lanes of traffic. Main could be configured with two lanes of traffic approaching the city core and one lane flowing away from the core. During off-peak periods, curbside parking can happen on one side of Main. King Street could be converted two-way with two lanes of traffic in either direction, alloowing for curbside parking on both sides of the street during non-peak periods.

Jason wrote "During the day, street parking on King from Sherman to Wentworth is mostly empty. Plus, it hasn't done much for business up until now. LRT bringing in shoppers and people who want to be there will help businesses much more than cars speeding through to the suburbs."

Perhaps there is less demand for daytime parking on King, or perhaps it just seems that way to you because you are making your observations during your workday commute when curbside parking is prohibited in most stretches of King. However, being a resident in close proximity to the area you describe, I can attest to the need for curbside parking, especially during the evening hours, particularly by such businesses as Rebel's Rock and The Pearl Company.

Jason wrote "King is more suited to LRT and it's spinoff effects due to the existing streetwall along it's length."

I have a completely different take on this than you. From my point of view, King has the advantage of a solid streetwall already in existence, whereas Main suffers more from the prevalance of vacant lots. Consequently, Main has more to gain from having LRT as it will spur development and fill many of the existing gaps in the streetwall. We would end up with two pedestrian friendly streets with solid streetwalls. It's all about maximizing the impact of this infrastructure investment. Main has more potential for immediate construction projects due to the availability of shovel-ready land. Furthermore, immediate intensification along Main will have less impact on the city's inventory of heritage buildings.

Jason wrote "Side streets can see street parking increased and make up for the loss along King."

Again, as a resident of one of these side streets in close proximity to main and King, I can assure you there is absolutely no room to absorb additional curbside parking needs for the city.

Jason wrote "King can still see parking from John to Bay and Queen to Dundurn. That's a lot of street parking.", and "Main can see parking from Dundurn to Sherman, and possibly east of Sherman with a simple parking cut-out into the southern sidewalk which is quite wide east of Sherman."

Again, it may be a lot of parking in your view, but it is a heck of a lot less than is currently available. LRT on Main Street will result in a net loss of curbside parking, but certainly not as deep a loss as if it should be placed on King.

I also want to point out the impact LRT on King would have on other forms of traffic that currently use King street, beyond the personal automobile. LRT on King would leaves room for just one lane of traffic in either direction for most of the affected stretch of road, rendering it virtually impossible for any kind of local bus service along this road. Local service will be needed to supplement and feed the LRT, and losing local bus service would be a great disservice to current HSR ridership. Furthermore, taxis would have great difficulty picking up and dropping off fares along a road without any clearance to pull out of the way of moving traffic, especially during rush hour. And what about service vehicles delivering goods to the businesses located along King? They would no longer be able to pull over for deliveries anywhere along King.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 13:46:25

great thoughts reality check. I too, was initially concerned about the 2+2+turning lane option for Main, but I think it's safe to say that the city won't turn both King and Main into 1+1+2parking lanes so I'm kind of going with the lesser of two evils.

I don't see how you are squeezing street parking onto Main St with a median transitway and 3 car lanes. That's 5 lanes, plus stations, right there.

When I say 'side street parking' I'm more referring to main roads such as Wentworth, Sherman, Wellington, Victoria etc.... sorry about the confusion. I should have said 'intersecting main roads'.

I find Main less desirable for LRT and more desirable as the main auto road through the city due to it's already car-centric nature. There are a ton of parking ramps along Main St. King has far less vehicle access across the sidewalk making it more pedestrian friendly and, in my view, more suited to pedestrian-oriented developments with patios, benches and LRT etc.....

Service vehicles, I presume would have to use alleyways, sidestreets and parking areas. I don't think we should design our future LRT around service vehicles being able to stop wherever they want.

Cheers

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 16:03:23

Jason, when I talk about parking on Main in the config I propose, I am talking about using the curbside lane as streetside parking during non-rushhour times, certainly not another lane above and beyond what I am suggesting.

Why give up on Main and relegate it as a car-centric route? I thought the idea was to make the city more pedestrian friendly, not just King Street. Besides, King is already pedestrian friendly (at least in the downtown area), and LRT on it will only marginally improve upon this. However, Main can improve much more dramatically by the infrastructure stimulus, and would have a trickle-down effect on development along King.

I can understand how you may think my concern about service vehicle access is trivial, but try to appreciate the business owner's perspective. A less convenient delivery access point by suppliers will translate to an added expense to the business owner. Design considerations around the LRT should be how it can best impact the entire city in a positive manner, which includes minimizing the negative impacts on those immediately affected by its construction and operation. Having LRT on Main delivers rapid transit that meets the city's needs, while having less negative impact on all other existing infrastructure needs compared to its introduction along King.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 16:29:18

here's a new update from the rapid transit office.

http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/55...

They are now considering having the LRT function in a contra-flow style on the south 2 curb lanes of King, while leaving the north 2 lanes one-way westbound and leaving Main St one-way eastbound.

Either way, there will be limited parking on King, and only 2 lanes of traffic. I'd prefer the first option and have both streets go two-way while we're at it.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2009 at 16:32:08

Another thing to consider is how direct the route along Main is compared to along King. A route along King is much more winding than a potential Main route. The slightly longer route has minimal impact on overall costing, but one needs to consider the noise and level operational impact at any point in a rail line where a curve in the track is negotiated. Turns on rail are extremely noisy and negatively impact the area surrounding the bend. King has several significant stretches of turns in its potential route between Paradise and the Delta: a 90-degree turn at Main and Paradise, another at Paradise and King, a more gradual bend on King as it approaches Dundurn, then again at King and Wellington, another on King east of Sherman, and finally a sixth significant bend at the Delta. Besides the obvious noise level impact at turns, a risk of potential derailment and/or power interruption is inherent with every turn on an LRT line. Meanwhile, a routing along Main would have no turns along this same section of the city, and therefore significantly less impact on noise levels and potential operational interruptions.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2009 at 12:49:29

Why is Two-Way LRT & Traffic on Main not an option?

Besides the Consultant's Report, I can't really see Main Street being a negative option for two-way LRT AND general purpose Traffic.

I'm afraid that the city's driving community may either delay the planning/building with their objections, or worse, have the whole project scrapped (much like our 1980's Monorail plan).

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