Media

York Revitalization About Revitalization, Not 'Commuter Headaches'

By Jason Leach
Published May 28, 2010

Here at RTH, we care about the overall health of our great city more than the rocket speed of your commute - although we do spend a lot of time discussing how important it is that everyone in all modes of transportation has the opportunity for a quick, safe commute.

So, allow me to give this article in today's Spectator a proper headline and deck:

Barren downtown streets start revival

Stretches of York, Wilson with highway style alignment will be replaced with a new streetscape that will be welcoming for pedestrians and business.

I guess the revitalization of downtown Hamilton is a nuisance, depending on your civic priorities.

Bravo to the city for undertaking this project and helping to add one more piece to the livability puzzle in our urban neighbourhoods.

Wilson Two-Way Conversion

I am also thrilled to hear that Wilson will be converted to two-way use from James to Victoria.

Yesterday, while on Wilson in this stretch, I saw some young girls playing out in front of their home. They looked to be in the 6-8 years age range and their parents were sitting on the front porch watching them.

While colouring with chalk on the sidewalk - something all kids enjoy doing - a transport truck traveling 60 km/hr drove past the children in the curb lane.

The children were safely on the sidewalk and truck driver was driving according to the rules of the road, but here is where the actual road system is extremely dangerous.

The truck came within two feet of one of the girls heads as she bent over towards the street side of the sidewalk. The truck was solidly in its lane and the child was firmly on the sidewalk, yet the margin of error was around two feet from a horrendous accident.

And yet we're only supposed to be concerned about 'commuter headaches'?

I had previously heard that the Wilson/Cannon two-way conversions would include bike lanes in both directions on both streets. Let's hope that is still the case and we can take some steps to enhancing the safety and quality of life for the residents in these neighbourhoods.

Surely the upper management at City Hall, the Spec and Chamber of Commerce wouldn't allow such danger to exist in their neighbourhoods.

Let's celebrate this upcoming change that will drastically improve the safety and quality of life in downtown Hamilton.

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 frank (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:03:16

The "headaches" they're talking about come because instead of doing something full hog our city does stuff half heartedly. Sure it's a start, but why not change the entire street to two way at once? They you can tell people "Cannon and Wilson are two way streets" instead of "Cannon from here to here and Wilson from here to here are 2 way streets, everywhere else it's one way". Give me a break!

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:33:02

I facepalmed as soon as I saw the title. I live right by this stretch of York and cannot wait for this conversion. As for the traffic "headaches" just take King to Locke, Strathcona, or Dundurn to get onto York, I highly doubt that this will cause anything close to a "nightmare".

Kudos to the city for making this happen, and shame on the Spec for its sensationalist headline that makes something so positive seem so negative.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:40:24

Jason says:

I am also thrilled to hear that Wilson will be converted to two-way use from James to Victoria.

Frank says:

Sure it's a start, but why not change the entire street to two way at once?

I'm with Frank. I'd be "thrilled" to hear they're converting the city to two-way streets. I'm "happy" they're converting a bit of it over, but in typical Hammmertown fashion they're doing it as slowly and cumbersomely and half assedly as possible.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:53:37

Headline's compact enough, but the deck is at three times as long… and ends in a period. Tsk tsk.

Kidding.

This is clearly phrased in language that will resonate with the paper's predominantly suburban demographic. They're also trying to monetize eyeballs. If the paper were a blog run and funded by the website's designers, I imagine that they could be more exquisitely egalitarian in their treatment. (Because of course RTH would never stoop to sensationalism.)

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:11:30

LOL. Fred Street, great comments.

As for everyone else, I agree - changing all the streets, all at once would be ideal. In fact, back in the 1950's that's exactly what we did. The city went to sleep one night and woke up the next day to our vast array of one-way streets. Apparently in today's society, the public can't handle such changes and so we're going to slowly convert our streets back to two way over a period of about 7 decades. And we call ourselves an 'advancing society'. HA I'd prefer the whole thing, but I'm very happy with the next tiny bit that is going to be done.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:22:51

I'm happy to see this coming along as well, although the commuter inconvenience is a curious concern in light of the negligible concentration of commuter jobs downtown. The phrasing might just be one of those muscle memory thing, a reptilian reflex.

I suspect that the financial reasons for a cascading roll-out of two-way streets are a more compelling factor than the psychological distress it might cause. After all, downtown isn't as bustling with business or social life as it was in the 1950s, the city's coffers are certainly less flush, and (just a guess) the roadwork contractors are considerably more expensive than they were back in the day.

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By Jarod (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:30:35

Should have heard some of the comments from people calling in on the Bill Kelly show this morning...wow.

It always amazes me how people can fail to see the obvious good in things. Among the callers this morning were two company drivers who were infuriated and thought, "we need to remove the people who are doing this."

How much longer is it going to take to drive the city? THAT much longer? Not likely. Right now we can pass trough Hamilton in a relatively short period of time. Besides, not a SINGLE CALLER from what I heard gave an economic perspective of what two-way conversion would do.

And Bill, in all his splendor, gives us the truth of what a lot of pig-headed people are thinking.

"Wanting to make an area more pedestrian friendly and safer is all good, but at what cost? It seems like people are thinking of any mode of transportation except for drivers. People forget, Canada loves their cars." ---- Frig. Really? Let's take a small trip to the states and attempt a car culture comparison. Canada shouldn't want to become that. (though I love the states, I say chew the meat, spit out the bones)

At what point do we lose our politeness to defend the good things that are happening? Is it the right thing to do? Sit back and wait for the other people to finish talking? Shouldn't these (radio) programs be overwhelmed with callers from this lovely site, showing and telling people who are listening that a one sided argument will not be tolerated? ...and of course I'm a huge hypocrite because I didn't call in in time...ugh...wish I wasn't such a meek person (hahaha)

I know I'm preaching to the choir...or showing the building designs to the architect if you prefer that phrase, but how do we get people to step back and realize that these ARE GOOD THINGS?

Besides, human nature is adaptive. We can adapt. We have the technology.

Rant over. Enjoy the sun, it's gorgeous!

Comment edited by Jarod on 2010-05-28 10:32:35

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:46:00

Maybe it's just me, but if I had the stomach to listen/watch Bill Kelly's anything, I would not be healthy. My feeling is he has his audience, and they mutually support each other. It's a spoiled sample, is what I'm thinking.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:51:52

I suspect that the financial reasons for a cascading roll-out of two-way streets are a more compelling factor than the psychological distress it might cause.

Yeah, the cost of yellow paint is through the roof!! :P

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:01:04

Jason says:

I am also thrilled to hear that Wilson will be converted to two-way use from James to Victoria.

Frank says:

Sure it's a start, but why not change the entire street to two way at once?

Why??

It seems any improvements to the city stop at Mr Morelli's front door!

Poor old Ward 3.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:08:25

I am a suburbanite and I actually agree with Jason on this one.

As many of you who have followed my comments on this site I have advocated for more two-way streets in the dt (although not all streets should be converted). Too many one-way streets dt (especially King and Main) make the core look dark and dead. So I agree with this conversion.

As for the spec artice? Fearmongering nothing more. This is why I stay clear of all TorStar products and prefer the National Post and WSJ!

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:09:27

I am a suburbanite and I actually agree with Jason on this one.

The devil is putting out road salt as we speak.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:31:15

Hey nobrainer, I LOL at that!
You could also say The next time those two agree, It'll cold day in Minsk. (if you were a fan of the show Cheers!)

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:32:09

I am a suburbanite and I actually agree with Jason on this one.

Holy smokes! LOL. The reality is, there are plenty of people like you who live in the suburbs, yet want the best for downtown Hamilton. I applaud you for recognizing what's good for the city.

Should have heard some of the comments from people calling in on the Bill Kelly show this morning...wow.

Maybe I'll tune in tomorrow....not. Talk radio is what it is....clinging to life like much of the old media. If trucking companies are mad about changes to downtown Hamilton then that means we're finally doing something right!

Yeah, the cost of yellow paint is through the roof!!

Too funny.

It seems any improvements to the city stop at Mr Morelli's front door! Poor old Ward 3

Obviously residents there don't mind. They keep voting the same way decade after decade. And I'm not aware of many of them coming to the defense of the Pearl Company, which is trying to make what some of us would call improvements, in that area. I guess they like abandoned buildings over there.

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By Jarod (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:47:58

I listen to talk radio (today I was at home so I got to watch it) because I think Hamilton is in need of some vast improvements in terms of its media. (not just the spec).

It's sad to say that there are so many advertising and information avenues that could be used, and yet, are not. I listen to these programs because other people are. And, were I to have access to a phone at work...and it wouldn't be delaying my work...I would love to call in to these programs.

At the end of the day you are right. These shows have their audience and it seems to be a good match for them. That said, it does not mean there is no opportunity to show the greater audience (of which nearly all will disagree with you...the caller...provided you are pro-whatever-is-going-on) that there are different ways of thinking. A lot of these people think they way they do simply because they haven't been given other options, or haven't been told that their way of thinking is not current or not city-focused. They tend to lean toward a selfish perspective because they only hear information regarding the topic from one source.

We are a privileged group who get to talk about these things on this site and discuss the ins and outs of what the information as a whole means. It would be awesome if more media were like this, don't you think? I know....rose colored glasses.

It was apparent that all the callers loved the fact that driving through Hamilton in less than 15 minutes was a good thing. They don't yet understand that this fact is not a good thing. Maybe because there aren't many people speaking up and telling them why.

That's all I was driving at.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 13:06:50

I have to drive this stretch everyday to work. Cannon out of town on my way to Guelph and York/Wilson back in. It won't help my commute this summer but whatever, it is a step in the right direction. I can always cut up to the Main St. expressway.

I think Hamilton is in need of some vast improvements in terms of its media. - Jarod

HELL YES!!!

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-05-28 12:08:59

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 13:50:36

Cant say I like Bill Kelly, I have watched his show on TV some years ago, all it did was get me upset. I do not like how he cuts off views that are not in agreeance with the message he is trying to get out.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 14:11:00

Obviously residents there don't mind. They keep voting the same way decade after decade. - jason

I moved to ward 3 last year and have been getting to know the neighbourhood. To your point above there seems to be two groups of people keeping Bernie in power.

1) The people who don't vote and just don't care. 2) Older people. I'm not sure about the actual age demographics of the area… it seems old(er) but changing???

Until more people are more involved or the age demographics change I think it will be tough to unseat Bernie. The old biddies and curmudgeons seem to love them some Bernie.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 14:21:48

A lot of these people think they way they do simply because they haven't been given other options, or haven't been told that their way of thinking is not current or not city-focused.

And they still won't even if you bother to pick up the phone and call. You'll just get cut off and interrupted and yelled over if you dare call up and disagree, no matter how respectfully. Believe me, I hear where you're coming from. I've called on occasion in the past hoping to help inform the listeners as well. That's the whole schtick of talk radio though - they don't want to, in fact they CAN'T -have their listeners become informed. Who will call in and yell about the nightmarish traffic on York if everyone learns how beneficial the project is for downtown and therefore, the entire city? It's a lost cause.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 14:28:10

I'm not aware of many of them coming to the defense of the Pearl Company - Jason

Can you provide more info on this point Jason?

I wasn't aware they needed defending.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:19:54

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

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:26:09

nobrainer: “Yeah, the cost of yellow paint is through the roof!! :P”

LOL. Was referring to the presumed need to resurface Wilson Street (along with numerous other ragged downtown streets, such as Cannon, which takes more than an overnight paint job unless the resurfacing is like having your driveway re-blacked). But with Harper choking off infrastructure stimulus, maybe some of the crap streets will stay potholed.

Jarod: “I listen to talk radio (today I was at home so I got to watch it) because I think Hamilton is in need of some vast improvements in terms of its media.”

That’s a hell of a protest... wanting steak so so badly that you gorge on pepperettes.

Talk radio is, for the most part, low-brow political theatre. Cross-Country Checkup is more mild-mannered than Bill Kelly’s show in part because it’s paid for by taxpayers. In a free market drive time slot, dimes to doughnuts Rex Murphy would be way more googly-eyed.

Hamilton media is also a monopoly culture mostly owned by Toronto-based corporations. Every market segment is served by one player, so everyone is very comfortable. But the Spec is probably quite happy to get the bump in traffic from RTH’s regular link love. And a city where more media were like RTH would be difficult if not impossible… it’s arguably the oppositional forces that give sites like RTH and The Hamiltonian the dramatic tension that makes them readable. Otherwise it’d be nerdy in-jokes about which patch of pesticide-free grass was greenest. The closer we get to Pleasantville, the more tepid that rose-coloured dialogue will become.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:42:00

Another motorist-friendly memo: http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/777532

Notice they didn't frame it as a celebration of scouting or youthful self-esteem building. Cynics.

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:43:01

Great discussion folks! Let's make sure we don't let the one troll drag us off track.

@Kiely I guess Jason's refering to the Pearl Company's fight with the city over zoning, they found out if they go the official route and get all the paper work done to run their art facility with proper zoning etc. it would cost tens of thousands of $ in cash-in-lieu-of-parklands and other fees which would just shut them down. So they decided to go rogue, go public with their fight and hope the city gets shamed into not shutting them down.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:43:49

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 Dead head (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:44:47

@Fred Street

"Motorists should ‘be prepared’ tomorrow when bla bla bla..."

Well they certainly know their readership.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 15:48:45

...free education (actually day care) produces generations of imbeciles. - A smith

I can't believe I just read that.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 16:11:48

"Well they certainly know their readership."

Refer you to the can't-help-myself addiction to lame puns? ;)

It's also possible that automatic writing contributes to the editorial angle on stories like this. And that's more likely when you're short-handed, as during warmer who-gives-a-toss months and, um, when your company has been eating its children for the last few years.

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By Hammerhead (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 16:13:45

In case anyone hasn't come across this video on two-way conversions - it's a must see for all Hamiltonians...

http://www.streetfilms.org/park-slope-on...

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 16:15:31

@Kiely I guess Jason's refering to the Pearl Company's fight with the city over zoning - zookeeper

Thanks for the info. I will try to get more informed on this subject... it is a great facility.

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By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 20:13:45

Survey and comment thread on this subject now on The Spec website:

http://thespec.typepad.com/specthread/2010/05/turning-oneday-into-twoway.html

Survey link on main page.

Some of the comments are a good example of a backwards mindset.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 21:33:55

Here's a thought. What if the article had simply read:

York Blvd. Commuter Double-take Starts Monday
Stretches of York, then Wilson, going two-way

"Hamilton motorists, cyclists and bus-bound commuters will notice some major changes downtown this summer."

Problem solved, and you avoid selling a golden future that has yet to materialize. Think of how the Connaught Group would have been welcomed if you applied the same ebullient copywriting standards:

Core Revival Connaught Be Stopped
Downtown dream team raises all boats, reverses decades of commercial decline

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 22:12:21

Kiely,

re: Pearl Company

http://www.thespec.com/article/510501

http://www.thespec.com/article/513542

Plenty more where these came from.

There used to be a bunch of links on the Pearl Company's website regarding the zoning issue.

We may be a little off topic with talk of the Pearl, but I guess it does relate to revitalisation.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2010 at 23:23:17

Imagine if this city had the intestinal fortitude to make the sweeping changes necessary in one fell swoop... like actually convert a WHOLE street two-way at once!

The last time I was at a placement in Toronto, I remember talking to a co-worker from the Ancaster area about LRT.. the ONLY information that stuck in her mind about it was "Yeah, I heard something about closing King street off donwtown and making it all LRT and no traffic if we get LRT, so I don't think it's a good idea."

That's all that stuck in her head from hearing bits and pieces - probably coming from a Spec headline as retold.

But as we talked, I was able to provide more information and change her perspective. We were riding the GO train at the time, so that also helped to point out some of the differences between LRT and GO trains... at the end of it, one more person had a totally different perspective about the benefits of transit and what that might mean for Hamilton.

Sometimes all it takes is one conversation to start changing people's perspectives... and on this topic, I think a lot of information has to be said just in conversation... "how wonderful is _________ that's happening because of the two-way conversion" as opposed to all the grumbling about the commuting time.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 00:00:32

"Imagine if this city had the intestinal fortitude to make the sweeping changes necessary in one fell swoop... like actually convert a WHOLE street two-way at once!"

Again, awesome idea, although I'm guessing that the city plans these things out years in advance, allowing citizens to comment occasionally throughout the process. Had forum posters been involved in the planning committees that developed the city's downtown master plans, the argument might have been made. As it stands, infrastructure timelines are what they are, and budgets are finite, even for two-way roadwork, which costs more money than just yellow paint. You're probably doubling your stoplights at every one-way intersection, which is a whole production, and then if you get into watermains and resurfacing roads for the big reveal, these things take more time and money. Hamilton has never been known for its speedy roadwork. Mountain dwellers can attest to summers spent with countless miles of gravel roads, and downtown folk might remember the dustbowl summer when the decorative sidewalks were first laid down... and the old sidewalks were torn up in one fell swoop, leaving pedestrians with earth and gravel sidewalks and the occasional plank walkway.

"Sometimes all it takes is one conversation to start changing people's perspectives... "how wonderful is _________ that's happening because of the two-way conversion" as opposed to all the grumbling about the commuting time."

And I agree. Although rereading the article, there's actually very little if any grumbling about the commuting time, but a considerable amount of emphasis on the material improvements being made to the strip. More unambiguous positive spin may be forthcoming. As with the Scout Parade, this seems more like a case of the Spec taking the easy way out rather than trying to advance an anti-urban agenda. And as in the case of the Scout Parade, the Spec may also be mindful of the fact that during the initial roll-out of roadwork, there will also be more than just habitual users in the picture. The first two weeks of June features seven active dates at Copps: Walking with Dinosaurs' eight family-friendly shows and the Canadian International Military Tattoo. Even with all lanes functional, Copps dates can create stop-and-go traffic along feeder streets for several blocks in each direction. Hard though it may be to believe, on a few occasions I've seen gridlock on York as far west as Locke or Strathcona, usually around 6-7pm, which may or may not be considered relevant to commuters. As far as I can see, most of this article is just 5Ws stuff, with little to no colour commentary.

Is this major roadwork? Yes, it's more than just yellow paint. Will major roadwork cause delays? Probably. Are the delays earth-shattering? No, you'll still get there. Will it impact your schedule? Possibly; if you've ever driven in traffic before, you may want to build a buffer into your travel schedule.

Nobody who commutes to Oshawa/Toronto/Mississauga/Oakville/Burlington is going to blow a gasket over these delays. The highways throw far worse at commuters on a regular basis.

Headlines are headlines. Even the best are reductive. Reading a headline should never be confused with having read a news story, let alone with having a grasp of the issues.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 08:23:49

Well someone posted on the spec and their view of the world is that anyone who does not have a license, is a loser, first off, that the people who live in the suburbs pay the most taxes, thus they should be making the decisions, not they they or their children live in the neighbourhoods downtown.

The thought of taking the bus is beneath this person. Where do these people come from.

MaIn street is a highway, one day two of us were crossing Main Stret, the traffice was stop at the light when we started to cross, then the light turned green, even thoguh the dirvers could see us crossing the street, they did not slow down at all, they were barrelling down us like it was a race track. How dare we even think of trying to cross the road.

All I can say to this dude, is TALK TO THE HAND OR IS THAT THE FINGER.

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-05-29 07:24:26

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 08:49:57

I think some cities have benefitted from two way conversion, but I wonder if Hamilton is one of them. We already have an example in Hamilton of decorated, two way street with residential and commercial. Barton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 10:43:45

Barton suffered a whole host of other problems. In short, the decline of the massive industrial empire and the exodus of that empire's workforce who lived, shopped and dined along Barton before, during and after their shifts. You end up with a shrinking neighbourhood, much like what happened previously in Strathcona, Durand, Kirkendall etc.... the difference being - those neighbourhoods are now on the comeback and the Barton St area isn't - largely due to the pollution and massive industrial neighbours next door. Try convincing a home buyer in Strathcona or Kirkendall that they could get twice the house for the same price north of Barton, east of Wentworth. 99% will say 'no thanks'.

Better local examples of the impact of two-way streets can be seen on James and John...previously highways with less retail/commercial than they currently possess. Now property values are going up as buildings are renovated for apartments, studios, stores, cafes and condos. For some strange reason all of this started after the two-way conversion.

And of course, Hamilton's successful shopping districts are also more proof - Locke, Ottawa, Westdale, Concession etc..... why is Locke booming while King and Main at their intersections with Locke seem desolate?

Hamilton is too small to need multi lane highways downtown with timed lights and skinny sidewalks. We need to take our cue from the Beaches, Danforth, College etc....in Toronto and just get these streets back to their basic design and most beneficial function.

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By JM (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 10:46:11

just think how this might change things at York/Wilson and James! Maybe the northwest corner will have a wider sidewalk to stand on, and you don't have to worry about trucks flying by, or cutting you off on a left turn! there really is no room - go stand there

next stop (james and) cannon street? (wishful thinking)

btw - i can't believe NYC is actually STILL considering changing TO one-way. Thanks for posting that video!

JM

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 10:47:58

Survey and comment thread on this subject now on The Spec website: http://thespec.typepad.com/specthread/20...
Survey link on main page. Some of the comments are a good example of a backwards mindset.

'some of the comments'?? Well, that's an improvement over the usual discussions that go on over there.

Why doesn't the spec do a poll question like this:

"Do you support the city's desire to see downtown buildings filled with businesses and stores along with an increasing population and attractiveness to business investors and hotel/condo developers instead of long stretches of boarded up streets with no shoppers in sight?"

That's the goal of two-way conversions, streetscapes and major investments into the market/library along with Lister etc.....

Here's a scary thought - if downtown were to boom back to life, the Spec would lose their ability to run sensational polls like this and headlines like yesterday's. I'm just sayin.......

Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-29 09:49:17

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 10:50:42

FYI, for those new to the discussion. This is what all those intellects are voting down over at the Spec:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/1224/...

Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-29 09:52:06

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 11:52:26

jason: "Hamilton's successful shopping districts are also more proof - Locke, Ottawa, Westdale, Concession etc..... why is Locke booming while King and Main at their intersections with Locke seem desolate?"

Just as you point to the complexity of Barton Street's plight, I wouldn't presume to pin the business fortunes of those areas exclusively on two way streets.

Relative proximity to high-income earners helps considerably in the case of Westdale and Locke South; niche marketing, well-rounded community assets and geographical isolation/captive population helps considerably in the case of Ottawa and Concession, but both see that prosperity clustered. Almost all have undergone peaks and valleys in prosperity.

Locke South of Main has ben two-way for ages and the renaissance is finite -- when people refer to Locke they're typically using shorthand for the five blocks from Herkimer to Hunter. Ottawa North has also been two-way for ages but was largely dormant until Locke rents inspired an exodus and Centre Mall underwent reconstruction. There are often a multitude of factors contributing to the success or failure of a given area. Proof? Kenilworth North doesn't seem to benefit in the same ways as Ottawa North, for example, despite being relatively similar in many superficial ways. Ditto for Dundurn vs. Locke.

One snag that King and Main and Barton face is that they're longer than four or five blocks, so the successes and investments are spread out over a longer distance. Two way streets are helpful and old-timey streetscaping is nice and all, but those are only two components in a complex socioeconomic puzzle.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 14:27:24

"I think some cities have benefitted from two way conversion, but I wonder if Hamilton is one of them. We already have an example in Hamilton of decorated, two way street with residential and commercial. Barton."

The only place we can make a judgement is comparing where streets were converted from one way to two way and places where they stayed the same. (In other words, we can compare how Main/King did with how James/John did with how Barton did over the same period.) While not perfectly controlled, this provides us the best information on what effect the conversion had.

When you look at things comparatively. The conversion seems to be worth it.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2010 at 14:58:58

Rebecca street is one way (west) to James, but I swear, every night I was in the lobby of the downtown arts centre waiting for my daughter who was in a play there, I would see people drive the wrong way down the street. It was weird. I guess some people can't wait for the city to convert the streets!

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By Pub Grub (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 17:00:42

What about James/John? The John South/North conversion has done relatively little to spur investment from what I can see. London Tap House is about the extent of the major investments on John South in the last 10 years. My-Thai debuted in that period as well, taking over a dormant retail space. But the excellent optician next to it vanished. Places like Affinity, Galaghers and Incognito have arrived in that time, replacing bars and restaurants that went before. Banko Media moved into the former Reggie’s music store and the former clubs next to the firehall have remained vacant save for a ballsy attempt at a grow-op. Liaison College high-tailed it for Jackson Square. Treble Hall sits vacant and crumbling, the neighbouring block essentially mothballed save for a methadone clinic and an internet cafe.

Compare that to the story on James from Augusta to Barton and you'll catch my drift. I mean, James North was doing decently okay before two-way... they had a beer store, a theatre, a huge record store, a couple of department stores, a semi-legendary Indian restaurant and a half-dozen wicked Portuguese eateries. James South of Augusta has gone through a peppermill of tenants but its vacancies are low. James Street's single biggest private investment would be Gowlings, and I suspect that (as with London Tap House) they were wooed more by the architecture than the traffic directionals. Some has been lost, some has been gained, but on balance James Seems to do better than John. Any theories as to why that is?

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 23:47:02

In my opinion I have noticed that John South benefitted a lot from the conversion. While I'm having trouble thinking of specific names, but one example I can think of is the Street Eats restaurant. John Street has other problems, however, holding its potential back. As everyone on this site acknowledges, success is multifactorial. However, pedestrian friendly streets are part of the solution, and roads that are for all intents and purposes freeways, are not.

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By Pub Grub (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 04:43:37

As someone who has frequented the area for 10 years or more, I'd say that the pedestrian experience is the most noticeable difference on the strip. In terms of commercial and retail, not so much. I'm not blaming two-way for anything, I'm just making an observation. You could argue that the bigger impact on the viability of John Street was made by the closure of the Connaught, which almost pulled the plug on an entire city block.

You're right... Street Meat BBQ is another business that has opened along that strip since 2002. Mata Mata tattoo has set up shop as well, as did Affinity. But they generally replace legendary businesses that existed just prior to the two-way conversion period (RIP Budapest, RIP Raven). The Corktown Plaza has held onto a Hasty Market (downtown's largest 24-hour grocery store?) and a laundromat and flipped pretty much everything else; the Young-end restaurant is usually good for about 18 months before its tenant loses their shirt. Business success south of Augusta is spotty at best.

South of Main, the district won a nice restaurant that always seems quiet (Incognito) where I believe a restaurant went before, a party-posh pub, a sausage vendor, a shawarma vendor, a grim payday loan bureau, a talented tattoo hut. But it's also branded itself as the city's downtown party street (its six notable blocks connecting 77, London Tap, Tailgates, Lionshead and the Augusta cluster, with Slainte and Corktown a short stagger away) which might be a significant inbuilt limitation (enthusiastic new business is great but Gallaghers and Street Meat BBQ don't do much to alter the monoculture of the area). Drinking hours being what they are, the street only really comes alive after dark. But in light of the challenges facing us as a city, sometimes a stiff drink and a good time is just what the doctor ordered.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 09:39:01

As someone who has frequented [John St. South] for 10 years or more, I'd say that the pedestrian experience is the most noticeable difference on the strip. In terms of commercial and retail, not so much. I'm not blaming two-way for anything, I'm just making an observation.

I totally agree. I walk along John South to get to work. It's not the world's most beautiful street, but I don't fear for my life walking along it. That alone makes the two-way conversion effective in my books.

James St. has a much nicer built environment than John St., which is probably why it's been fixed up so much more. There's a lot of surface parking on John St. which breaks up any potential development. By contrast, the sections of James from Charlton to the TH&B underpass and from York/Wilson to Liuna Station have very few parking lots, empty properties, or monolithic buildings, and a lot of old two-to-three story commercial buildings that are ideal for adaptive reuse.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 10:34:39

"You could argue that the bigger impact on the viability of John Street was made by the closure of the Connaught, which almost pulled the plug on an entire city block."

Bingo. Between the loss of a potentially dynamic customer base at the halfway mark, the very different built environment ("streetwall" doesn't translate as neatly) and the arid expanses north of King William ("streetwall? what streetwall?") you don't have as much to work with.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 20:29:03

I guess the issue of two way conversion is really not about commercial success, because it doesn't have that much power. It is more about health and safety issues. Which is valid. However, in the case of Barton Street and other two way streets with beautiful storefronts and streetscapes in the city that are failing it must come down to attitude and stigma against them.

The following comment by Jason summed up a rather south end elitist attitude that exists:

"Try convincing a home buyer in Strathcona or Kirkendall that they could get twice the house for the same price north of Barton, east of Wentworth. 99% will say 'no thanks'"

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 20:59:29

The following comment by Jason summed up a rather south end elitist attitude that exists:

"Try convincing a home buyer in Strathcona or Kirkendall that they could get twice the house for the same price north of Barton, east of Wentworth. 99% will say 'no thanks'"

I wouldn't call it elitist, but yes it does sum up what many folks in other parts of the city think about the prospects of living in that area. My point is, that area has a whole lot more to overcome than a nice streetwall or two-way traffic. Heck, I'd LOVE to have Barton's streetwall downtown or on York. The potential is staggering. My only real guess on the subject is that once downtown streets are booming away like Locke, the cheaper rents of Barton will lure more shops and businesses there.
Just on King St in the Wentworth-Sherman area alone I've noticed some new businesses in the past year - Heart of the Hammer cafe, some Music Therapy place (not sure what they do, but the storefront is beautiful), Guiseppies Italian Cuisine and Pizza and Asil Taste. A two-way King with LRT would sure go a long way to adding more business, but my point is, things will gradually migrate east. I know many young couples now living in Ward 3 who wouldn't have dreamt of moving there 10 years ago. If many of them can stay and see themselves as part of the solution (the way folks in Strathcona, the North End and Kirkendall did) that neighbourhood very well could rebound in our lifetime.

By the way, it's Sunday around 9pm and I'm very excited to see construction start tomorrow on York! Spec be darned. This is a great news story for the city and hopefully a springboard to many more conversions just like it downtown.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-30 20:00:07

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 22:43:36

Tnt: I read Jason's comment as being descriptive, not normative. So if you're trying to pin the "south end elitist attitude" on him, I think it's misplaced. If you're just saying that he described it well, fair enough. BTW, he lives north of King.

I guess the issue of two way conversion is really not about commercial success, because it doesn't have that much power.

I don't think the case for two-way conversion relies entirely on commercial success. Safety and comfort for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and local motorists are equally if not more important. However, while Barton Street disproves the "convert Cannon to two-way and within six months it will be Rodeo Drive!" strawman, it is nevertheless true that two-way streets in Hamilton tend to be more vibrant than one-way streets, and there are good examples of commercial revival following two-way conversion. By contrast, I can't think of a single busy one-way street in our city that has any decent kind of street life.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 08:32:54

Exactly! I certainly wasn't accusing Jason of eltism, because i've followed his tireless posts to the benefit of urban renewal. My point was that maybe the bigger issue is stigma. There has been a certain ethnic purging on James North and I guess those "victems of gentrification" will end up on Barton.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 09:16:54

There has been a certain ethnic purging on James North and I guess those "victems of gentrification" will end up on Barton.

Do you have any evidence for this assertion? I don't live or work on James, but I do frequent it, and I can't say I've noticed any exodus of ethnic businesses or organizations.

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By A Gent (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 09:21:14

The Anti Gentrification crowd doesn't need evidence. People With Money Are Bad.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 10:37:09

Letter to the Spectator

Re: "York Blvd. commuter headaches start Monday", May 28

Hamilton takes one step towards a liveable, walkable downtown and the Spectator frames it as bad news for all those poor drivers. If it speeds, it leads.

The article could have mentioned that the York Boulevard 2-way conversion will compliment the new street-level facade of the Farmer's Market with wider sidewalks and a temporary pedestrian zone. This road space is being reclaimed from through traffic for those who live, shop, and enjoy downtown.

The new York Boulevard will also allow the return of outdoor market stalls for the first time since the vendors lost that century-old tradtion in the City traffic department's war on the pedestrian in the 1950's. I'd say it's about time.

Though some overprivelaged motorists will cry foul, these changes are simply tightening the belt on a bloated road system - Hamilton has over twice as many lanes of highway per capita as other Canadian cities. Though vehicles will move slower, and lives will be saved in the process, there will be no 'traffic chaos' as suggested in recent talk radio hyperbole.

Converting our deadly expressways to normal downtown streets is essential to repairing the damage caused by anti-urban policies of the last 50 years. Impatient downtown drivers - deal with it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 13:06:41

Jon Dalton. Rock on. Great letter.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 13:28:34

The Spec didn't publish it yet, I just posted it here anyways. Still got my fingers crossed.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 08:15:24

As to the ethnic exodus: tell me how many portugese and Italian shops existed 5 years ago and how many now?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 09:01:01

There were Portuguese and Italian shops 5 years ago and there are Portuguese and Italian shops there now. Only now there are also a bunch of other shops as well. Gosh, what a Gentrification Disaster to start filling up all the storefronts and apartments that used to be empty. :P

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By Needa Transfer (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 14:30:15

Ottawa St. N. stagnated for a few years after the city seemingly took forever to repave. There were a number of strange fires and explosions along the strip as well, and a battle over a local "hot spot" patio. There was probably dwindling traffic from the declining industrial sector along Burlington St. too, but Ottawa Street's commercial reputation as a regional fabric centre was recently revitalized and upgraded into a "fashion centre" when a number of antique shops fled the rising rents of an increasingly gentrified Locke St. to nestle among the fabric shop. Some new cafes and restaurants opened too, and a parkette built by a local service group.

Oh, nearby Barton St. got a new big box megaplex which, thankfully, moved the farmer's market from the mall to the city parking lot behind the Ottawa St. shops, so the city can take credit for the community's revitalization now.

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By Which Way? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 14:36:26

Two way, one way, it's time for some creative, made-in-The Hammer thinking. To maximize the benefits of the new Pan Am stadium for instance, Barton Street should be one way west before the game, one way east after the game.

That way nobody will get lost and end up on James St. N.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 15:04:22

^Trying to decide if Which Way? is a comedian or a troll.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 17:36:32

My spider sense says comedian.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 17:27:30

I'm still a dissenter and think that King and Main should remain 1-way (albeit with the green-wave adjusted such that it doesn't actually encourage speeding facepalm) but there is no good reason why all these residential roads away from the major arteries of King and Main should be 1-way. I don't understand how people can look at these streets lined with homes and say that these should be 1-way streets.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 20:52:20

Significant stretches of Main Street are lined with homes.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 03, 2010 at 10:55:31

Hey Jon, congrats for getting your letter published!

Time to reclaim our downtown

June 02, 2010
Jonathan Dalton
The Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton
(Jun 2, 2010)

Re: 'York Blvd. work starts Monday' (May 29)

Hamilton takes one step towards a livable, walkable downtown and The Spectator frames it as bad news for all those poor drivers. If it speeds, it leads.

The article could have mentioned that the York Boulevard two-way conversion will complement the new street-level facade of the Farmer's Market with wider sidewalks and a temporary pedestrian zone. This road space is being reclaimed from through traffic for those who live, shop, and enjoy downtown.

The new York Boulevard will also allow the return of outdoor market stalls for the first time since the vendors lost that century-old tradition in the city traffic department's war on the pedestrian in the 1950s. I'd say it's about time.

Though some overprivileged motorists will cry foul, these changes are simply tightening the belt on a bloated road system. Hamilton has over twice as many lanes of highway per capita as other Canadian cities. Though vehicles will move slower, and lives will be saved in the process, there will be no 'traffic chaos' as suggested in recent talk-radio hyperbole.

Converting our deadly expressways to normal downtown streets is essential to repairing the damage caused by anti-urban policies of the last 50 years. Impatient downtown drivers -- deal with it.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2010 at 19:26:25

Another example of "Well they certainly know their readership."

East-end commuter misery starts Monday
http://www.thespec.com/article/537310

... beat out Corey Rogers murder testimony and a Fortinos anthrax scare!
http://www.thespec.com/article/537496

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2010 at 19:28:24

Just realized that it's another John Burman gem. Ha!

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