Transportation

More Predictions of Doom for James, John South Conversions

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2012

Despite the fact that the sky didn't fall when James and John North were converted to two-way traffic in 2002, all the same dire predictions resurfaced when James and John South were converted to two-way traffic in 2005.

Following is a sampling of letters and opinion pieces published in the Hamilton Spectator in 2005 and 2006 - but first, an article from 2005 reminding people about the non-catastrophe in 2002:

This time it's not as historic as 2002: Phase one was the first time in nearly 50 years people drove cars north on James and south on John. This time, it seems, the devil is in the details.

Traffic chaos predictions in 2002 didn't happen. City traffic staffers didn't get a complaint. And retail chaos? A survey by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area found foot traffic increased for shops on two-way James and John.

"I expect the same will happen wherever two-way conversion is created," says BIA executive director Kathy Drewitt, who opposes the two-way conversion on Cannon and Main.

-- Rob Faulkner, "One-way streets going two-way", June 21, 2005

But never mind that: on with the doom!

I don't know if you will be able to smell the roses (what roses?) with all the extra pollution in the air as cars stop at almost every street corner. Our city fathers of old designed these streets to expedite traffic.

If I am going from point A to point B, I am not going to stop and shop along the way. All it is going to do is frustrate drivers and add to more road rage.

I, for one, will ignore the core completely.

-- Letter, July 9, 2005

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Downtown Hamilton's one-way streets have worked efficiently for 49 years. Leave them alone. ...

[A] Smart Moves plan was dreamed up in 1998, "to make downtown more inviting for pedestrians and slow traffic so that motorists would stop and shop."

The miracle to achieve this is a two-way street system. The plan approved by council envisions Cannon and Wilson streets , and King and Main from Paradise to the Delta, as two-way streets . The plan did not recommend John and James be changed to two-way, but that is where the city has already begun this dramatic changeover. ...

We have only two main arterial streets below the Mountain that go all the way from east to west. Create a bottleneck in the centre and motorists will avoid the downtown like the plague.

-- Anne Jones, "Council should leave downtown one-way streets as is", July 16, 2005

Council has spent countless millions trying to [rejuvenate the core], and so far they have failed. Given the previous track record, and millions wasted, why would this be any different. ...

In the end, we will be no better off than we are now, except that the city will be $1 million poorer and taxpayers will have to endure long traffic lines while traveling up and down the hill. Is this really the best use of $1 million?

-- Paul Roney, "Exploding some myths on two-way streets", July 30, 2005

Just like London, Tokyo or New York City, we now have traffic jams, gridlock, slow-moving vehicles and a lot of very angry drivers who are vowing never to come downtown again if it means using John or James streets. ...

At various times, various councils have come up with some pretty stupid ideas, but this road conversion has got to be right up at the top.

-- Letter, November 12, 2005

Hamilton is making a big mistake turning James Street and John Street into two-way streets. ... I definitely will not use those accesses.

-- Letter, November 22, 2005

Now some bright folks at City Hall have decided to take a step back into the past. Yesterday I had occasion to visit St. Joseph's Hospital. By the time I got there, my blood pressure had gone through the roof.

It is a mistake to think that two-way traffic will flow better in a city the size of Hamilton.

-- Letter, November 28, 2005

It's always nice to sit back and reflect on the good old days, isn't it? As when John and James streets were one way and traffic flowed smoothly.

-- Letter, May 25, 2006

If there is one thing I hope the new city council does quickly, it is to put to rest the ridiculous notion that Hamilton's one-way streets are to blame for its downtown woes.

Two-way streets and lane reductions that will most certainly cause a drastic increase in downtown traffic congestion is not going to encourage people to come downtown and it will definitely not reduce smog.

-- Letter, December 1, 2006

The conversion of James and John South was more turbulent than the conversions of James and John North, at least at first, but drivers quickly adjusted and the City's traffic department tweaked the street design over the next few weeks and months.

Since then, the streets have made steady, incremental progress, with new restaurants and cafes like Bistro Parisien, Boo's Bistro, One Duke, WASS Ethiopian, Radius Cafe, Rapscallion, Incognito, Affinity, the London Tap House, and a growing plethora of restaurants and pubs on Augusta.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 14:57:53

Kathy Drewitt opposed to two-way conversion of Main and Cannon?? Yea, cause I'm sure her members all love how fantastic those streets are for their businesses.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2012 at 16:12:15 in reply to Comment 76997

I just talked to Kathy Drewitt today. She noted that while the Downtown BIA doesn't have a formal position on two-way conversion of Main, King and Cannon, she continues to cite the survey of businesses one and a half months after the James/John North conversion.

She told me, "Many of them told me they experienced an increase in sales, they hired more staff, and that's a positive. We see the conversion of James and John as a positive where people slow down and the traffic can help to support the businesses located there."

She also expressed frustration that the City continues to allow Main and Cannon to function as through trucking routes now that there is a continuous ring highway around the city. The Downtown BIA lobbied to have Main taken off the Truck route last year, but Council rejected their plea. Of course, Council has been ignoring downtown business owners since at least 1957.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 18:13:16 in reply to Comment 77005

Thanks for reminding me about that 1957 newspaper article!

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By ENBertussi (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2012 at 16:30:27

To all the human beings who identify them selves as "Drivers" please don't wait for more excuses to 'not come downtown' stay in your suburban former farmland homes, get jobs in your former food baring lands and yes please stay the hell away from downtown.

Downtown does not need your auto-centric consumer oriented sprawl loving energy sucking life force any more today than it did 80 years ago when automotive culture began to sprawl this wonderful city using up more of it's awesome greenspace and farmer fields that once fed it's people almost exclusively.

As you import your food into your refrigerator after it gets exported from china to your local big box store ask yourself this:

How much is my hate of a healthy downtown and my love of automotive convenience culture going to cost my grandchildren? How long can the life I lead be sustained with the amount of energy my life style uses every day?

What the 1950's saw was our culture our human culture high-jacked by corporate culture, by the automobile, and very directly by GMAC, they got rid of Street Cars/LRTs for they knew that we Humans would not enjoy being bus passengers, they did this not so much to sell cars but to ensure that your love of cars would ensue a love of sub urban sprawl, where GMAC made more money than god helping convert Greenfields into filled fields filled with auto loving suburban gas guzzling credit card using consumers, who watch TV all night learning about what next desire for 'goods' and 'products' they'll have manifested for their next pay cheque.

What the information age has taught is that we are indeed teachable, and with a little bit of effort we can re-wash our own brains when we act like humans and not so much robots that are programmed to buy crap at the lowest price even if it means we drive half way across and all over hells half acre seeking to satiate our obsession with the high cost of low prices, as our programmers from TV land insisted we do...

The triumph of our culture is to include Humans in the way and form we shape the way and form of our environment, if you want hyper efficient transportation, then look to some old fashioned technology and mash it with MAGLEV http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuated_T... so you get http://www.et3.com/.

Comment edited by ENBertussi on 2012-05-16 16:32:25

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2012 at 17:16:20 in reply to Comment 77009

I admit I'm always amused by people who only use downtown as a shortcut to somewhere else, and then pull out the "I'll never come downtown again!" line. That's kinda the point.

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