Transportation

Chaos Predicted for James, John Conversions

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 15, 2012

On September 30, 2002, in the middle of a storm of controversy, the City of Hamilton converted James Street North and John Street North back to two-way traffic. The plan had been on the books since 1999, but skittish councillors and skeptical residents had held it up until then.

Here are a smattering of opinion pieces and letters to the editor published in the Hamilton Spectator from 1999 through 2002 that predicted chaos and failure when James and John were converted.

It doesn't matter that the roads aren't wide enough. The idea is to bring traffic to a standstill and then shopping will flourish. Dream on.

-- Letter, January 2, 1999

Reverting to two-way traffic on John and James streets will result in drivers using Bay Street, Victoria Avenue and Wellington Street for north or south travel, thereby avoiding downtown altogether.

I'm unsure how this will benefit businesses in the area.

-- Letter, November 9, 2000

The theory, of course, is that two-way streets will calm traffic and improve access to stores - as if it's traffic flow and not the scarcity of shopping destinations that's challenging retail activity in parts of the core.

Although at some point there may be an argument to be made that converting James North to two-way will help the evolution of the harbour, it's bogus to suggest that it will boost business activity in the area.

-- Andrew Dreschel, "City should say no way to two-way street switch", March 6, 2000

I asked a city planner how making pedestrians cross two-way traffic, increasing the number of left turns, slowing traffic and increasing in exhaust gases is going to help downtown Hamilton. The only response was that, yes, there will be more danger spots but they won't be a problem because traffic will now be moving slowly. That's not good enough, either.

-- Letter, March 9, 2002

With two-way movement, the core would be reduced to a stalled, honking traffic jam, as has already happened at the recently narrowed section of King Street , west of Wellington. Pollution would rise and there would likely be more accidents as drivers attempted left turns across busy streets. ...

Sure, traffic flow is fast downtown and intimidating to pedestrians. But the answer to that is increased law enforcement, more red-light cameras and increased police patrols to catch speeders and stop-sign runners.

-- Letter, March 15, 2002

It is astounding, given the facts, that there is a plan to abandon one-way streets in a back-to-the-future move that defies logic. ...

I walk a great deal downtown and I believe one-way systems are twice as safe. It's logical that facing only one flow at an intersection instead of two is safer. A perusal of the results of introducing one-way over a four-year period, before and after, shows that.

Even if the facts were not enough to discourage this move, council would do well to heed the wise counsel of [Councillor] Larry DiIanni and shelve the proposal.

-- Jack MacDonald, "Two-way streets will drive us crazy", May 7, 2002

Until intelligence prevails and efficient traffic flow is restored on core streets, the downtown has seen the last of me.

I will miss eating in the ethnic restaurants on James Street North, shopping at Jackson Square and going to Copps Coliseum, the cinemas and Hamilton Place. But it is a sacrifice that I am more than willing to make to emphasize my point.

Slowing down traffic has nothing to do with attracting business. The keys to business success are easy access, interesting goods, good value, and friendly, helpful staff.

-- Letter, October 1, 2002

Of course, we know how that those predictions turned out. Within days, people were already acknowledging that their fears were unfounded and that James and John really did feel better with calmer, two-way traffic. By 2003, observers were already detecting a new "buzz" on James ... and the rest is (very recent) history.

See also: More Predictions of Doom for James, John South Conversions.

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 Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 15:33:07

Great find Ryan,

Lets move to convert more one way streets to two way in the dt esp Main and King.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 15:49:42

Count me among those naysayers back then.

I was wrong. Consider me converted.

I'm all for the two way conversion of King and Main! The sooner, the better.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:39:14 in reply to Comment 76909

very refreshing to hear someone acknowledge new realities once the evidence is in. City Hall needs more folks like you.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 15:58:56

http://youtu.be/O3ZOKDmorj0

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By two-ways-please (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 16:25:06

A Letter to the Editor in today's--Tues.--Spec says this--except it isn't an argument:

"Apparently some people still see two-way streets as a panacea (Two-way streets attract creative companies, Letters, May 12). If that was true, why does Barton Street between James Street and Kenilworth Avenue have boarded-up stores and some permanently converted to apartments? Kenilworth is also a two-way street, yet it has the same problem as Barton Street."
There's fallacy here: If Barton and Kenilworth were one-way, they'd certainly be in much worse shape than they are--with less accessible and fewer reachable businesses that are getting by.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 16:30:41

And let's not forget some of the other swithces. As incredible as it seems now, both Hess and Caroline were one way prior to their conversion back to two way.

No longer can cars cut through Durand passing each other with ease well in excess of the speed limit. These streets are now calmed so that they are not intimidating to walk along at rush hour. Everyone can still get where they are going, they just have to do so at a speed suitable for the NEIGHBOURHOOD in which they are travelling through.

You know, kind of like it is where they live.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 16:39:38 in reply to Comment 76912

Very true!

As a matter of fact, I just drove around there (had a few minutes to kill) and even the nice slow drive is a pleasure. There is a distinct noticeable improvement in that area even when driving.

Driving doesn't have to be a road race.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 20:51:57 in reply to Comment 76913

Charlton is multi-laned along this stretch, and yet I never feel like it's a road race. I never really did when Hess and Caroline were either. I go along Charlton pretty regularly, and I know there used to be a large "high-collision area" sign at Hess and Charlton (now removed), but I have yet to see people treating it like a freeway.

1-way, multi-lane, yet it's calm. And, it's primarily residential, too.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 08:46:40 in reply to Comment 76921

I don't know where you live but your comments re: one way Hess, Caroline and Charlton would indicate you do not live in the Southern part of Durand.

Things may have been calm when you drove through, but I can assure you that there are many who do not drive like you do.

Spend a morning rush hour standing on Herkimer/Hess and let me know how calm that flow of traffic on Herkimer is.

At rush hour these one way streets are anything but calm.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 07:26:12 in reply to Comment 76921

I have to disagree. I live on Charlton near Hess and there is a lot of speeding and inattention on the one-way street.

There are dozens of crashes each year at the Hess/Charlton intersection, so many that the City put up one of those "high crash intersection signs" (which was later removed because it obviously didn't made a difference). The problem is that motorists are looking ahead to Queen (trying to make the light) and don't notice the traffic light at Hess. Having two-way traffic would slow things down and seeing stopped traffic in the other direction would make it obvious there is a traffic light.

Before Hess went two-way I would often hear and see cars drag racing side-by-side on Hess late Friday and Saturday nights. Two-way conversion immediately stopped this and has slowed the traffic.

Further east, at least one car has ended up in Durand Park as a result of a collision and there are no traffic lights between James and Bay which, combined with no oncoming traffic, encourages high speed and inattention right next to the Park. In fact there are no safe crossings adjacent to the park across Herkimer and Charlton at Park St.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-05-16 07:45:44

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 07:47:22 in reply to Comment 76938

We differ on opinion then. I see drag racing happening every weekend on John, and on the 2-way part of Charlton.

We need better enforcement, then 2-way streets.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 08:05:26 in reply to Comment 76940

Well, you should at least agree to convert two-lane one-way streets to two-way, since this eliminates the drag racing! (I'm a bit surprised that you see drag-racing on John and the 2-way part of Charlton since the drag-racing was associated with Hess Village and the two-way part of Charlton is mostly one lane in each direction, which is what stopped the drag racing on Hess.)

Better enforcement is not going to stop this behaviour: the police can't be everywhere and drivers will drive at speeds that feel comfortable, if the roads are engineered to allow it.

No one claimed that two-way conversion is a panacea. However, we have a lot of local and international evidence that multi-lane one-way streets with narrow sidewalks encourage speeding, driver inattention and are hostile to pedestrians. A network of one-way streets, as in downtown Hamilton, also makes it difficult for motorists to get to local businesses.

We could reduce the number of lanes on Main from five to three, triple or quadruple the width of the sidewalks, plant street trees and dedicate one of the three lanes to buses and bicycles. Then I agree that we would have a pedestrian friendly one-way street (although it would still hinder vehicle access to local businesses). This would be very expensive and disruptive.

Or, we could gain many of the same advantages (and keep more traffic flow) by converting to two-way traffic with two lanes in each direction, like most streets in Hamilton and other cities. The point is that two-way conversion is a relatively simple and cost-effective solution. Wider sidewalks and buffers should also be built, but we can start with two-way conversion. After all, before 1957 the streets were two-way and the rest of Hamilton functions well without one-way streets!

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By MVH (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 16:40:54

I find the logic of your last sentence refering to a "buzz" in error. Just because James Street North is now an up and coming neighbourhood does not mean it is the result of a change to two way streets. If that were true, than John Street North would also be seeing a similar increase in property values. It has not. To infer that two way street converstion has a direct effect on economic growth blatantly ignores the broad range of economic factors which influence the gentrification of a neighbourhood.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 17:57:20 in reply to Comment 76914

John Street North...would that be the parking lots and Horizon Utilities building you're talking about? Not much room for improvement there, oh and the fire station.

Let's see...further up, we have more parking, a funeral home, and some commercial at cannon...a park apartment building, residential....and more residential and parking lots all the way to Barton.

Looks like really the only stretch of John North that could see any improvement as easily as the once-empty storefronts on James North is the area between Main and King William where:
1) Treble Hall is being rennovated.
2) Offices are supposedly going in at the old Crazy Horse Saloon Building.
3) U Shao Korean BBQ opened in the old KFC/Liason College location and is doing well.

So yes, I think that John Street has benefitted from the two-way conversion as much as it can, given the circumstances.

It would be nice if John also had a street wall of underused retail space which could have been put to use as quickly as James.

But I think we can all agree that the existing building stock was one of the big reasons why James turned around, whereas if James were primarily parking lots - as the stretch of John from King William to Cannon is - I don't think we'd see much happen on James Street either.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 23:54:58 in reply to Comment 76915

I don't know how great U Shao is doing. Most of the time that place is empty - or there is 1 booth in there. This is usually around dinnertime, during the week. When I go by later in the day, say, when walking to the HPL, I still don't see big crowds. I'm hoping to get in there to try their food, and hope their business succeeds.

As for the comment regarding the parking lots, if this area was booming, why wouldn't there be construction there to put in a new condo building, or strip mall, or mixed use facility? Those are better revenue generators than parking lots. The same thing is happening over at the old Federal building and the hotel (covering up parking lots that is)...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 18:07:08 in reply to Comment 76934

It's much easier to make existing abandoned retail "ready" for new retail than it is to construct a building on a parking lot. The lower financial costs means these types of renovations become more attractive sooner than, say, a new building (similarly I think the costs of rennovating larger buildings such as the Connaught are holding that development back, while other smaller renovations (like Treble Hall) move forward.

in terms of parking lots, first, we'd have to assume the owners of the parking lot have any interest in owning a building, and then they'd have to see the opportunity such a building would create (and that the benefits outweight the costs), and finally line up financing, get permits, build, etc.

Vrancor's developments at the old Federal Building have been literally decades in the making (he's been acquiring the land one lot at a time for at least that long), and are largely based on the corproation's efforts to "expand" Hess village and get a better connection to Bay Street, Copps, and Hamilton Place through hotels/condos with street level restaurants and retail.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 21:46:06 in reply to Comment 77020

Again, I disagree. Let's take John South from Main down to Agusta. After that it's the strip mall and housing/doctor offices so we'll end where there's lots of space.

East Side

  • Empty lot (eventually will be the Hamilton Grand, will believe it once there is actually contstruction on the site, not just a pit)

  • Lordly Jones furniture

  • Empty storefront

  • Labour Ready

  • Beauty supply/hairstylist

  • Empty storefront (used to be a payday loan store)

  • Shawarma Hut

  • Convenience store

  • New Horizons building

  • Tailgate Charlies

  • Empty Lot (parking)

  • Affinity restaurant

  • Empty storefront

  • Incognito restaurant

  • Empty storefront

  • Empty storefront

  • Head shop

  • Apartments

  • Canadian Mental Health Association

  • Empty storefront

  • Lionshead pub

  • Tattoo parlour

  • 2 empty storefronts

  • Empty storefront

  • Empty storefront

  • Empty storefront (some pseudoscience building, I haven't seen it open in years so my guess is it's not there)

  • Stationary store

  • Restaurant

  • Gallagher's

West Side

  • McMaster continuing ed building

  • Tim Horton's

  • Emil Fusaro tailor

  • Real estate office

  • Beauty school

  • Empty lot (Parking)

  • Jewellery store

  • Empty lot (parking)

  • GO station

  • Gas station

  • Lawyer office

  • Unknown office

  • 2 unknown offices

Now, most of the buildings on the east side (and west side before going under the train tracks) are multi-storey buildings. It looks like prior to Jackson they are unoccupied or some apartments, after going under the bridge you can't tell. So, there's plenty of space for artists, businesses, and people, yet nobody is there. Explain.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:45:03 in reply to Comment 76915

Don't forget, London Tap House, Gallaghers Bar, new offices on John near King William, Incognito, Rapscallion Restaurant etc..... even without a proper retail streetwall, John has managed to land many new businesses and see continued success of older ones like My Thai and the Capri. John, north of King William is largely residential, although it's worth noting that Pane Del Sol bakery moved off of Cannon onto John, and cited the easier access on a two-way street as part of the reason why they moved literally around the corner. James North and South the list of businesses are too long to name without rambling on forever....the evidence is clear. There are cheap buildings to be had on King, Main, Cannon, Wilson, Hunter etc.... why have ALL these businesses and arts community settled on James?? Walkability is one of the key factors. If it was still 4-lanes, one way it wouldn't be like it is today. How do we know this? By looking at King, Main, Cannon, Wilson, Hunter etc......

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:48:53 in reply to Comment 76927

"why have ALL these businesses and arts community settled on James??"

Because, when they located there, space was:

a) cheap, and

b) plentiful

I don't think walkability had too much to do with it.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-05-15 21:49:05

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 08:32:00 in reply to Comment 76928

There are cheap, plentiful buildings on Main, King, Cannon etc.... you really think it's a fluke that they ended up on James? Is it a fluke that the TO neighbourhoods around King, Queen and Spadina are massive hubs of creativity as well??
I know I know, it's all just one massive fluke. Hamilton knows better. The rest of the world and their experiences are just a fluke.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 20:52:26 in reply to Comment 76915

What about John South? What about James South?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 20:56:25 in reply to Comment 76922

New restaurants, new cafes, new creative businesses - yeah, who wants that crap?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:39:27 in reply to Comment 76923

Let's see:

John South

new restaurants (that I know are post-conversion):

  • U Shau BBQ (beside the London Tap House)
  • London Tap House
  • Incognito restaurant
  • Rapscallion (John and Young)

New Cafes:

  • None that I am aware of

New creative businesses:

  • None that I am aware of

James South

New Restaurants

  • Can't think of the name, but they serve Etheopian food)
  • Maybe La Piazza Allegra? I think they were there prior to conversion though)

New Cafes

  • A coffee shop beside the Etheopian restaurant

New creative businesses:

  • Not sure what exactly a creative business is, but the only new store I know that's gone in there, not replacing a 'same with same' type store, is the store that sells lingerie, and maybe 1 bookstore.

So, if I am missing anything, please feel free to fill it in.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-05-15 21:40:14

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By John 2 way (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 18:54:53 in reply to Comment 76915

It never made sense that John was included in the one way grid after the Bus Terminal left. Frankly I don't see a change in John one way or the other. The real issue isn't one way vs two way. Many cities have thriving one way streets downtown. Montreal is an example. The problem is lack of local residents with money to support business.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:16:46 in reply to Comment 76917

"The problem is lack of local residents with money to support business."

It's the one ways that are designed to be freeways that are the problem, and are a big reason why people don't want to live there.

Make it livable first, and residents will come.

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By Clement Wood (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 18:00:18

Well-worn word: Correlation.
One that rhymes with causation.
Seductive but ambiguous urban equation.

Increased propagation of millenial gentlefication.
Ennui arising from suburban living situation.
Renewed enthusiasm for two-wheeled transportation.

Grassroots cooperation atlernating with mutual stimulation.
Monthly recession-era evening of cash-free socialization.
Appeals to job-challenged generation(s) with time for exploration.

Sprinkle with years of weekly media proselytization.
City staff displacement during City Hall renovation.
Monochromatic marketing of street of every nation.

Municipal urban revitalization.
Provincial tax incentivization.
Federal-funded digital aggregation, er, "innovation".

CCTV camera installation.
Thinly veiled real estate speculation.
Entrepreneurial self-aggrandization.

Fishbowl of social media indoctrination.
Twitter hype conflagration. Instagram duckface documentation.
Facebook's finite, like-minded gravitation.

A kaleidescope of concatenation.

Meritorious claims for two-way transportation?

- Ease of inter-urban navigation.
- Anecdotal ties to urban beautification.
- Congestion as symptom of healthy densification.

Self-evidently an open-ended situation.
Still worthy of broader implementation.
Despite blog(t)roll consternation.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 19:37:40

Living off of John, I still am anxiously awaiting the flourishing community to rise from the ashes of the evil 1-way street.

Has this done any good aside from 1 section on James North? And really, was the revival caused by conversion to 2-way?

Anxiously awaiting the downvotes...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 22:54:53 in reply to Comment 76918

John is a long street, where do you live?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 23:29:14 in reply to Comment 76932

John and Charlton.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 12:41:34 in reply to Comment 76933

So at Charlton you have an apartment/parking lot, hospital, church, and residential - nothing to improve there.

Then more apartments at forest, a strip mall (set way back from the street with parking out front), a subway, a mechanic, Rapscallion eatery (which, although only open part-time, apparently has reservations booked into August, or so I read in Hamilton magazine).

Then we have a hydro substation, another mechanic, and we start getting into the bars of Augusta, and finally some street-wall type retail (some occupied, some not).

The area immediately closest to you is unfortunately either full of non-commercial uses (churh, hospital, residential), or composed of strip malls which benefit less from walkable streets than, say, street-level retail.

Any further improvement in the area is likely to happen further up around Augusta, nearer to the GO Station.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 20:05:51 in reply to Comment 76918

It's a contributing factor, yes.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 20:49:25 in reply to Comment 76919

If it's a contributing factor, can you prove it?

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:44:54 in reply to Comment 76920

Can you disprove it?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:50:04 in reply to Comment 76926

No, I can't. However...

I'm not the one that's saying 2-way streets make these things happen.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-05-15 21:50:32

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 20:32:21 in reply to Comment 76929

Neither did Kirk. He, as well as many others here, believe that the 2 way conversions help the streets.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 21:54:44

Also, one thing I've noticed a large increase in, is the number of collisions at John and Charlton. In the past 2 months, we've seen 3 collisions, all involving cars going north on John turning west onto Charlton colliding with vehicles going south on John. We've heard, then seen, the collisions. The one thing I don't know about is the colour of the light when the collisions have happened. But, I am told by retired residents of our building, this happens on a regular basis (when asking for more details, such as is this happening weekly or so, they were a big vague). So, when asking if this happened when John was 1-way, I am told they can't recall any collisions, other than maybe someone rear-ending someone else stopping at a light.

In this not-too-scientific study, I don't feel safer on the streets. But, then again, these collisions could be due to driver inattention, vehicle failure, speeding, medical emergencies, I don't know.

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By awesome (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 22:02:09

James street is way better than it was before conversion! Not just north but the whole street!

They need to covert main and king but sadly its years and probably decades away!

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:53:32 in reply to Comment 76931

Agreed... King and Main need to be way less overt!

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 08:33:26 in reply to Comment 76931

Not to be a debbie downer, but it's probably a generation away. It'll be a long, painful process clearing city hall of the dinosaur guard that have had their way far too long.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 09:11:13 in reply to Comment 76948

@DD:

"It'll be a long, painful process clearing city hall of the dinosaur guard that have had their way far too long."

LMAO

Sorry, don't mean to be less respectful than is warranted (!), but this statement has made me chuckle on several levels.

First off, I'm curious as to what this 'long, painful process' will look like. If you're convinced of its verité, please take the time to describe it.

Secondly, this 'dinosaur guard': I'm assuming that you're referring to councillors who have repeatedly been voted back in by residents. And yet you're labelling the councillors as the problem. No mention of those who have repeatedly installed them at 71 Main Street West. Why not?

Thirdly, 'had their way far too long'. Please explain. Are you suggesting that certain councillors have executed an agenda? If so, I'd like to hear specifics. But the specifics aside, why have their employers allowed this to happen? Why hasn't *their* way been instituted?

Finally, it's the easy course of action to presume that whatever ails a situation will be remedied by getting 'fresh faces' in there. As if all the 'old guard' is bad. And that the 'new guard' will miraculously deliver far beyond the performance of their predecessors.

Seriously? This sounds as arrogant (or misguided) as councillors are consistently accused of being.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 09:43:35

No mention of those who have repeatedly installed them at 71 Main Street West. Why not?

Actually I did. This is why I said real change is probably a generation away. 'Fresh faces' aren't the answer. Faces who realize what century it is are.

Are you suggesting that certain councillors have executed an agenda?

I'm going to assume you're new to the city. And I mean that respectfully. There are several agendas in play....but that's for another entire article on it's own.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-05-16 09:45:14

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By CouldWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 09:55:03 in reply to Comment 76963

OK. So you're saying that you're accepting that you're going to have to wait a generation until a) current councillors have retired, b) new prospects are ready to serve, and c) new voters will be ready to annoint them?

I get the first bit, though I find it sad that you're willing to just 'bide your time'. (I'm speaking in the most general sense possible.) But the next two... Why should a 'new generation' be any more capable of serving...and moreover, why should that new generation's voters be any different than the current ones?

As for being new to the city, no. I was born in Hamilton, and I've actually lived here at least as long as you have. : )

But regardless of how 'clued-out' I've been in not understanding the agendas at play, the fact is that those people who are blessed with the opportunity of contributing towards, and indeed *managing* their own governance, are also clued-out. And aye, there's the rub. Because it's all fine and dandy to acknowledge that developers' agendas and the Mafia's agendas and whomever else's agendas are at play at City Hall (for the record, I believe I'm cognizent of just about all of them), but I find myself doing a spit-take at the notion that some new breed of councillors is going to come to the rescue...without there being a wholesale shift in the role of the residents.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 14:35:02 in reply to Comment 76966

Great thoughts...you're right. There is no guarantee that the next generation won't completely botch things up the way their predecessors did, but seeing how passionate and optimistic the new generation is towards urban life in Hamilton gives me hope that they will undo many of the wrongs that our current leaders won't.

As for biding time...no, I don't believe in that. I try to be pro-active and help in any way possible to further the cause for livability in Hamilton.... it's quite a head-bashing experience though to chat with a big wig at Public Works. You walk away almost resigned to the fact that along with public pressure, a generational shift is going to be necessary.

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By CouldWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 07:54:27 in reply to Comment 76994

I would hope that 'the next generation' will be better equipped, more energized and engaging...but then we also have to look at a downward trend in voter-turnout and the great bugaboo of entitlement.

My apologies for being a bit caustic in my 'biding time' comment. Frankly, my tolerance of the mindset of blaming the politicians (whom we put there, whose performance we *should* be monitoring on an ongoing basis, and whom we should be comisserating and consulting with) has pretty much reached its nadir.

So with this in mind, here's my bottom-line thought: without better-

Actually, I'm not going to yammer on, I'm going to quote the Editor of this very site, as noted to me in an email almsot two years ago, and posted on a subsequent Raise the Hammer entry:


I'm inclined to think elections are overrated. If you vote for a candidate
once every four years but don't get involved in the meantime, it doesn't
really matter much *who* you vote for. Once politicians get inside the
Bubble, it's impossible to keep any kind of perspective without ongoing,
substantive interaction with 'regular voters' for grounding.

As for what makes a good politician, I think it comes down more to
temperament and broad intellectual framework than to a specific set of
political beliefs.

A smart, patient, well-educated, open-minded, intellectually humble
councillor will generally follow a sensible process of getting informed
and land on a sensible policy that does a good job of leveraging the facts
of an issue and bridging the hopes, fears and contradictions of the
electorate and the various interest parties.

Here are some of the pitfalls that render councillors incompetent:

* Ambition - voting to maximize upward political mobility
* Megalomania - refusing to listen to others
* Anger - voting to punish enemies
* Fear - voting to avoid risks
* Partisanship - voting along party lines
* Dogmatism - voting along ideological lines
* Laziness - phoning in votes instead of engaging the issues
* Stubbornness - refusing to cooperate with others or compromise

Left isolated from the outside world, just about anyone will fall prey to
one or more of these pitfalls, which is why it's so important for citizens
to: a) elect councillors who will allow themselves to be engaged, and b)
keep up their end of that engagement between elections.



So another generation will not solve anything, be it on the street or at Council, unless we change the local governance landscape in regards to residents' roles in the process.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2012 at 08:18:51 in reply to Comment 77044

As the editor in question and author of that email, I would like to offer some further perspective on what I was getting at: citizens need to become and be engaged in community advocacy between elections, but part of that engagement and advocacy entails calling out our leaders when they make bad decisions.

Criticizing faulty reasoning, artificially narrow frames of reference, bad decisions, anti-democratic methods (Councillor Morelli's closed-door, top-down approach to the area rating levy investment springs to mind) and so on are every bit as essential to the process of making policy better as proposing better solutions, organizing around constructive initiatives, and building better vehicles of engagement.

It's not productive to respond to legitimate criticism by arguing that councillors are only as good as the citizens who elect them. It's more fair to say that Councillors are only as good as the citizens who engage them, with all the various activities engagement entails.

Today's various methods of engagement may not be ideal and there are opportunities to improve the process of engagement, but that doesn't mean we can afford to stop participating in the ongoing process of current policy making to go all meta.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-05-17 08:20:56

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 08:37:42 in reply to Comment 77045

Absatively.

And I am no apologist for councillors. (Frankly, given what I've seen over the past year, we'd be better of replacing half of them...and yes, I have specific ones in mind.)

For the record, I've never proclaimed that 'councillors are only as good as the citizens who elect them.' And your followup statement there I most enthusiastically agree with and support.

As for "Today's various methods of engagement may not be ideal and there are opportunities to improve the process of engagement, but that doesn't mean we can afford to stop participating in the ongoing process of current policy making to go all meta," well, one of the criticisms I've received is that I -seemingly to them- are dismissing any and all efforts at currently making thing better. Being no dumb-bunny, I realize fully how this criticism manifests itself, and I also see how this is the 'twin sons of different mothers' equivalent of how councillors often respond to 'critiques', but again: I am not wishing away anyone's efforts at community/civic activism. I am proposing a different tack, one that in the main, is disimissed as being 'naïve' and other such descriptives, but one that nevertheless is something I'm willing to be ostracized for...no matter how some take my stridency personally.

This city's future is at stake. I'm not willing to leave it up to counting on 'saviour candidates' arriving on the scene. Instead, I'd prefer to go 'all in' with the element of govenance that has not yet been utilized in ways that I envision.

There are some wonderful community minds in Hamilton. I would include Ryan, Adrian and Jason amongst them, as well as the mainstays who frequent these threads. But until we fully acknowledge the true meaning of 'public pressure', until we go back to your words, Ryan, and have taken our rightful place at the table along with Council, City Staff and developlers, we will be squandering more than we are apparently capable of grasping.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2012 at 08:50:03 in reply to Comment 77049

I am proposing a different tack, one that in the main, is disimissed as being 'naïve' and other such descriptives

I don't think it's naive, but I do think that it needs to happen in parallel with current efforts at engagement, not instead of them. We're not going to get better at community engagement by alienating - even inadvertently - those people who are already engaged.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 09:03:05 in reply to Comment 77050

Ryan, I have never said it shouldn't happen in parallel. Never.

And as for your final point, I've said it before, I'll say it again: Even if you frame my musings as 'alienating', those people aren't listening.

You cannot alienate someone you have plans on being inclusive towards if they're not listaning, they're not watching, they're not aware...they're detached.

So your concern is to me, moot.

I realize that what I say and how I say it often makes you feel -to whatever level you're able to concede- uncomfortable, but I'm not asking you to parrot my words or fall in line or serry up at all. I'm going to be continuing to pursue a better level of engagement at street level in ways that I feel compelled to. Some of these approaches may rankle, some may invoke a certain 'guarding turf' mentality. Regardless, I will be inviting any and all to participate, and ultimately own their engagement and their shifting role in their own governance.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2012 at 09:51:46 in reply to Comment 77052

I have never said it shouldn't happen in parallel.

No, but that is the impression that comes across, not not just to me, when you respond to every comment about a council gaffe or a call to action with a "strident" rejoinder that we should be concentrating on improving our process of community engagement.

As you know, I think what you've been doing promoting town halls and neighbourhood associations holds a lot of promise. I just think you'll get more buy-in with an explicit "Yes, and" rather than an implied "Yes, but".

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 09:58:58 in reply to Comment 76966

How come you stopped using your mystoneycreek handle?

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By ouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 07:39:58 in reply to Comment 76967

Personal, temporary choice...and an experiment.

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[ - ]

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:03:01

"...the downtown has seen the last of me...I will miss eating in the ethnic restaurants on James Street North, shopping at Jackson Square and going to Copps Coliseum, the cinemas and Hamilton Place. But it is a sacrifice that I am more than willing to make to emphasize my point..."

It's unbelievable to think that we've managed without Jack MacDonald coming downtown. ;-)

Your wisdom is dearly missed, Mr MacDonald.

Comment edited by DrAwesomesauce on 2012-05-16 10:03:23

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:51:51 in reply to Comment 76968

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_MacDonald_(Hamilton_politician)

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[ - ]

By Tony (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:23:04

Hamilton Magazine's Weekly Poll is about the conversion of Main Street back to two-way. 70% of respondents are in favour of a two way Main Street!
Vote here: www.hamiltonmagazine.com

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 20:45:17 in reply to Comment 76973

Do you work for Hamilton Magazine?

I'm so glad to know that this purely scientific poll is yielding these results!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2012 at 06:50:14 in reply to Comment 77026

Enthusiastic as I am about two-way conversion, the part of my brain dedicated to social science exploded when I saw this poll. Web polls are not scientific and their results are meaningless; and in any case, the leaded question is calculated to trigger a response bias in favour of the preferred selection.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 11:12:36 in reply to Comment 77039

I think we need to lighten up a little here.

The wording of the last few Hamilton Magazine polls I've seen has been so ridiculously over the top, that I think it's clear they're mainly intended to entertain, or at most convey their editorial stance with the amused detachment that's so popular with the kids these days.

They're pretty much doing everything they can to signal that their polls are NOT an earnest attempt to gauge public opinion.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-05-17 11:13:36

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2012 at 11:22:55 in reply to Comment 77074

Raise the Hammer: Taking Stuff Real Serious Since 2004.

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By Spamilton (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 22:30:09 in reply to Comment 77026

Advocacy polling is almost as reliable as a Skinner box.

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