Transportation

Downtown BIA on Two-Way Street Conversion

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 24, 2012

Last week, I interviewed Kathy Drewitt, executive director of the Downtown Hamilton BIA, to ask whether the BIA has a position on the two-way conversion of Main, King and Cannon Streets.

Drewitt noted that the Downtown BIA does not have a formal position on two-way conversion of Main, King and Cannon. However, she said that whenever asked about this, she cites the survey of businesses on James and John North one and a half months after the those streets were converted to two-way in 2002.

Drewitt said, "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.

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 surveys then & now (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2012 at 14:24:15

..."survey of businesses on James and John North one and a half months after the those streets were converted to two-way in 2002." One and a half months--and nothing since? I'm half surprised, but real pleased though, that they haven't followed the usually reactionary so-called "Chamber of Commerce": & whose commerce is that, again? The ones who want aertrpolith and fought hard for the Red Hill expwy and an ex-mayor & others?

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By Quetzalcoatl Logicl (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2012 at 15:09:45

My guess is that the Downtown BIA lobbied for Main & Cannon to get taken off the trucking routes knowing that it's a good bargaining position -- Cannon is at the edge of their jurisdiction, so my guess is that they care more about change on Main.

Cannon is an orphan ta the moment. IMHO, James North's resistance to the idea of a BIA is arguably impeding its ability to lobby for the change that the neighbourhood so clearly craves.

As far as surveys go, if you're doing anything meatier than the infinitely game-able Survey Monkey and its ilk (ie. if you want your findings to have more value than as entertainment), you're into funding and staffing considerations. And that alone might have prevented a proper follow-up.

That said, the window for findings was early enough to have nominal value. They should have committed to a series of follow-ups, maybe every 4 years, which keeps pace with election cycles and the water-torture pace of urban redevelopment in Hamilton.

Had they done so, we'd have a much more interesting picture. As it stands, this is like a MySpace headshot.

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By nothanks (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2012 at 17:21:36

The majority don't want the BIA and do not want it speaking on our behalf. I have heard there is a group starting up made of many nghbhd assoc, residents, businesses and others hoping to lobby the city on two-way conversion.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 24, 2012 at 20:10:19

Of all BIA's to have no leadership or vision...no wonder the area around the Gore looks like it does. These guys should be screaming and pounding their fists louder than anyone for change...especially having seen the effects on James.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 09:58:17

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 26, 2012 at 23:02:15 in reply to Comment 77278

Is that you Mr Foxcroft?

Whoever you are, get over the obsession with blasting an expressway through the West Harbour.

BTW, when was the last time anybody had to stop or even slow down on any Hamilton road?

Main is 5 lanes. Cannon and King are 4. The Claremont Access is 6 lanes! Has anybody ever seen more than a couple cars on that road?? Cootes Drive is a divided 4 lane highway. Really??

We've got enough lane capacity for a city twice our size...Sao Paulo would be jealous.

Let's move on and stop talking about this nonsense please.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:06:28 in reply to Comment 77278

We don't need less traffic on Main/King/Cannon. Traffic levels are plenty low to switch to two-way with no problem. Note Main being 2 lanes over the 403 right now...no probs. Past 2 years King was 2 lanes over the 403 and at Pearl...no probs.

Furthermore, we do have a ring highway system...403/QEW/Red Hill/Linc. What more do we need?? PLUS, we have Burlington St, which is a de-facto freeway. As I mentioned in a previous article, I can get from my home at Locke and King to the QEW/Burlington St interchange in 10 minutes. If I use Main, it takes at least twice that long...sometimes 3x. The only way for Hamilton's cross-town routes to get any faster is to start using hovercraft.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:50:45 in reply to Comment 77281

Yup, I use Burlington St. often to go east-west. Ever since the RHVP opened, Burlington st expressway has become easier and more convenient as it links to the RHVP and LINC.

That route is faster and easier than going through the timed lights of Main and King streets.

There is no longer any need for Main and King to be expressways.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:09:26 in reply to Comment 77293

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:34:26 in reply to Comment 77296

the same way you get to the Gardiner Expressway from Yonge and Dundas. You drive there.
Last time I checked, it wasn't the right of every human being to have a freeway ramp in front of their house, and in front of every destination they might go to.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:42:38 in reply to Comment 77299

I take the Lakeshore rather than fight with the Gardiner to Jamison when I'm going to the Ex but that has little to do with the question I asked

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By ringer (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:19:06 in reply to Comment 77296

You can drive there on a two way street, and you don't have to go so fast that you ruin the homes and stores on the streets you drive on.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:14:51 in reply to Comment 77281

Main to Victoria to Burlington to QEW. 10 minutes. I can see that. Locke to King to 403 to QEW to Burlington St. Not so much

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:35:33 in reply to Comment 77282

I actually do York to James or Victoria to Burlington to QEW. The 403/QEW over the Skyway is just under 15 minutes.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:40:23 in reply to Comment 77300

So you agree its way quicker to go through town?

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:22:41 in reply to Comment 77282

Home Depot on Centenial via Main 19 minutes 11.8 km
Home Depot on Centenial via Burlington St 21 minutes 13.7 km
Home Depot on Centenial via 403 22 minutes 24 km

Via Google Maps. So if you can do it in 10 minutes its obviously even faster than google suggests via Burlington Street

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:37:28 in reply to Comment 77283

Based on my experiences with my GPS, Google Maps travel times are never accurate. They had my trip to Florida taking 2 hours longer than the GPS. The GPS nailed every leg, every time. Even if I'm off by 2 or 3 minutes, the point is, its quick easy and simple to get across town without using Main...faster, in fact to use Burlington St, even with Main functioning as a freeway.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:52:49 in reply to Comment 77283

So for the sake of 2 minutes we do not need the damaging affects of Main/King expressway given the alternatives you provided.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:59:54 in reply to Comment 77294

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:57:02 in reply to Comment 77283

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By ringer (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 10:51:46 in reply to Comment 77278

A ring highway goes AROUND the city not through it. We do have a ring highway that goes right around the city- QEW, RHVP, Linc, 403.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:04:45

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:40:12 in reply to Comment 77280

Better tell that to the RHVP proponents who kept telling us we had to build it to 'complete the ring' and get all those trucks off our city streets.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:39:06 in reply to Comment 77285

we knew they were lying then...and still will today.
People in Vancouver probably howl reading this discussion. We have a true ring highway. They have zero highways. Yet none of us could afford to live there...apparently the economy hasn't tanked because of the absence of a ring freeway. Who knew?

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By ringer (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:48:56 in reply to Comment 77285

and we all know how well that turned out. You'd think the chamber types would be the first ones saying it's time to go two way now that they've got their ring highway.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2012 at 11:59:46 in reply to Comment 77286

Trucking companies, warehouses, and heavy industry are on the Chamber as well. Those folks are quite happy with our urban highways.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:55:22 in reply to Comment 77286

As someone who uses the eastern leg of the Main King corridor and Centennial Pkwy I can tell you honestly that it has helped a lot, particularly along Centennial

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By ringer (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:37:52 in reply to Comment 77280

Duh, a ring highway IS a detour, you're going around the city not through it. That's the WHOLE POINT.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:53:04 in reply to Comment 77284

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By ringer (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:22:27 in reply to Comment 77287

"the point is to get to the destination faster and cheaper" Clearly that's what you care about but some people care more about making streets safe and pedestrian friendly. That won't "harm local residents" any more than changing james/john to two way harmed local residents as the haters warned at the time. If this means an extra few minutes for someone to drive around the city ON OUR RING HIGHWAY instead of through it that's a fair trade. We SHOULD take city streets off the truck route. That way local trucks will still be allowed to go where they need but trucks just driving through the city will have to go around.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:45:57 in reply to Comment 77290

James and John were never the only North South artery, in fact they were actually designed not to be that. Wellington and Victoria were designed to be the north south arteries. The RHVP and Linc were built to relieve traffic on the Wellington-Victoria/Upper James access and get truck traffic an alternate. It has worked but an east/west link to the west end is still ellusive

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:41:22

You can't address either ideal in a vaccuum. Thats whats happening now with Main being the speedway it is but trying to change that without addressing the other side of the equation only ensures the status quo will be defended more vigourously against even policy that has little or no impact. Call it human nature if you like. To completely ignore legitimate concerns and label them as false will only cause a complete failure to reach a suitable outcome for all parties no matter who is doing it

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 13:42:08 in reply to Comment 77291

everyone understands the concern, and have presented suitable outcomes. Use the QUICKER, SHORTER route of Burlington St instead of Main St to get across town. Everyone wins. People who want to drive fast can do so, and those who want business to return to downtown streets can have that too. There's only person in this discussion not willing to acknowledge the clear evidence of a great alternative already being in place. As I said last week, I would take Main to the east end if it was quicker. It's not...even as a freeway.

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By Route (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2012 at 11:54:43 in reply to Comment 77305

Jason,

Where is this trip to the "east end" starting and ending? I'm curious how your trip is faster using Burlington St because that is counter to my experiences.

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By no contiuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 14:27:27

I agree but the question is still how to get to the Burlington Street option. Surely we can discuss how that can be accomplished while still addressing the legitimate complaints of Main West being unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. Logical alternatives are needed if traffic is diverted from this stretch especially for those that live and work in central Hamilton. If Main becomes too slow traffic simply shifts to York/Wilson and Aberdeen. That may be good for Main but what about York/Wilson. If we make York/Wilson too slow afterwards doesn't the traffic simply turn down James to get to Burlington? One thing for sure is that traffic won't simply disappear or re-route to the 403/QEW. It will find a way through even if the detour is complex and even if local advocacy groups try to discourage it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 14:53:42 in reply to Comment 77308

Main won't become too slow. More than half it's lanes are gone right now at the 403 and it still flies along. And nobody is talking about losing lanes. There are 4 eastbound and 4 westbound lanes on Main and Cannon. I'm simply suggesting we re-distribute them equally so there are 2 each way on both streets. Like virtually every other street in the country. If anything, traffic will improve because people won't need to loop around and cut through neighbourhoods etc.... If the speeds drop by a few minutes through town, no probs. That will actually start to resemble a more normal drive through a city.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 15:02:14 in reply to Comment 77316

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 21:17:23 in reply to Comment 77320

Imagine if all these streets were two-way. When there is construction on one, viola, you drive on the other one...the way all the two-way opponents do on the Mountain and their suburban communities. Doubling the options for drivers is actually a pretty handy thing.

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By no to no contiuous (sic) ring (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 15:05:25 in reply to Comment 77320

You mean slow like in a normal core of an urban metropolis. Or slow like on a congested highway slow?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 15:13:58 in reply to Comment 77321

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 15:15:29 in reply to Comment 77323

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2012 at 14:39:11 in reply to Comment 77308

If we make York/Wilson too slow afterwards doesn't the traffic simply turn down James to get to Burlington?

Traffic is not a fixed sum. The amount of traffic is directly proportionate to the amount of lane capacity. If you increase lane capacity, the total amount of traffic increases (this is called induced demand, and it's a well understood network phenomenon). The reverse is also true: if you reduce lane capacity, the total amount of traffic decreases.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 14:53:48 in reply to Comment 77311

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By Route (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2012 at 12:01:51 in reply to Comment 77317

But Ring, the theory of induced demand backs up Ryan`s viewpoint. It doesn`t matter if it doesn`t make sense or that he is cleverly twisting words around so that it sounds like what he is saying is true.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2012 at 20:01:25 in reply to Comment 77367

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2012 at 07:28:21 in reply to Comment 77372

I have a very difficult time believing you did any research whatsoever before making that pronouncement.

Here's an article discussing a major research paper on reduced demand:

Many cities, either not provided with dissuasive modelling forecasts, or disbelieving them, have introduced measures to reallocate road space away from cars. In general, they reported that there has often (but not always) been a fairly short period of traffic disruption, but that 'gridlock' or 'traffic chaos' are rare, and never last longer than a few days, as traffic adjusts relatively quickly to new conditions. Sometimes there has not even been a short-term problem. Two characteristic comments from local transport planners are: 'it'll be all right by Friday', and the ubiquitous 'the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to'. [...]

Altogether, evidence from over 100 places was collected. Over 60 provided primary case-study material, and included locations in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the U.S., Canada, Tasmania [which is actually a state of Australia - CB] and Japan. This material was supported by related or partial evidence from many other locations. The U.K. studies include major town-centre traffic schemes (e.g. Cambridge, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, City of London); bus priority measures (e.g. Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford, London); and bridge closures (e.g. London: Tower Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Hammersmith Bridge; York: Lendal Bridge). These studies were based on a range of methods, including road-based and cordon-based traffic counts, roadside interviews, repeated cross-sectional travel surveys and panel surveys.

Available evidence showed a very wide range of results. The sample of case-studies for which complete traffic information was provided showed an unweighted average reduction in traffic on the treated road or area of 41 per cent. Less than half of this reappeared as increased traffic on alternative roads, at the same or different times of the day. Thus the average overall reduction in traffic was 25 per cent of that which used to use the affected road or area. These averages were influenced by a few extreme results - in two cases the overall reduction in traffic was greater than all of the traffic originally travelling on the treated roads, and in seven cases there was an overall traffic increase.

The median result, which is less affected by outlying figures, indicates that 50 per cent of cases showed overall traffic reductions, taking affected and alternative roads altogether, which were greater than 14 per cent of the traffic which originally used the affected road. If the nine exceptional cases mentioned are excluded, 50 per cent of the remaining locations showed overall reductions of more than 16 per cent of the original traffic on the affected roads.

-- Evidence on the Effects of Road Capacity Reduction on Traffic Levels,

The authors note that the biggest real reductions in overall traffic occur when:

  • Total lane capacity is actually reduced rather than just shifted around; and
  • There is not so much existing spare capacity that it can continue to accommodate existing volumes of traffic.

Jane Jacobs wrote about the phenomenon in her 2004 book Dark Age Ahead, noting that the evidence of disappearing traffic contradicts the standard planning assumption that traffic volumes are static.

Planners' models assume that closing a road causes the traffic using it to move elsewhere ... The study team ... found that computer models used by urban transportation planners yield incorrect answers ... [W]hen a road is closed, an average of 20% of the traffic it carries seems to vanish. In some cases they studied, as much as 60% of the traffic vanished. ... The report at hand is a logical extension to a 1994 finding that building new roads generates traffic. If that's the case, "then the closure of roads is bound to cause less traffic," according to London-based transport consultant Keith Buchan. ... [T]raffic vanishes because commuting habits are so variable ... Flexibility helps people cope with road closures ... Experts ... suggest that government should stop worrying about causing vehicular congestion by pedestrianizing sites.

-- Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead, 2004, p. 75

Jacobs goes on to draw a distinction between helping large numbers of drivers reach a macro-destination - served by limited-access highways, urban expressways like Main-King, and one-way streets with a single path from A to B - and helping large numbers of drivers reach a multiplicity of micro-destinations - served by a grid of two-way streets with free ability to turn left or right and multiple paths from anywhere to anywhere else. (pp. 7-78)

Jacobs writes, "In effect, somebody told traffic engineers and road designers that the journey matters more than the destination - an inappropriate analogy about a philosophical approach to life - and they believed it. [emphasis in original]. (p. 78)

In other words, converting all the streets to straightforward two-way (i.e. a yellow line down the middle and damn all the other over-engineered gimmicks) would 'magically' reduce total traffic, provide more routes from anywhere to anywhere else at a slower, safer pace, and improve street life immeasurably for pedestrians and cyclists.

Finally, here's transport planner Todd Litman explaining the elastic nature of generated traffic:

Traffic congestion tends to maintain equilibrium. Congestion reaches a point at which it constrains further growth in peak-period trips. If road capacity increases, the number of peak-period trips also increases until congestion again limits further traffic growth. The additional travel is called "generated traffic." Generated traffic consists of diverted traffic (trips shifted in time, route and destination), and induced vehicle travel (shifts from other modes, longer trips and new vehicle trips). Research indicates that generated traffic often fills a significant portion of capacity added to congested urban road.

Generated traffic has three implications for transport planning. First, it reduces the congestion reduction benefits of road capacity expansion. Second, it increases many external costs. Third, it provides relatively small user benefits because it consists of vehicle travel that consumers are most willing to forego when their costs increase. [emphasis added] [...]

Ignoring generated traffic results in self-fulfilling predict and provide planning: Planners extrapolate traffic growth rates to predict that congestion will reach gridlock unless capacity expands. Adding capacity generates traffic, which leads to renewed congestion with higher traffic volumes, and more automobile oriented transport and land use patterns.

-- Generated Traffic and Induced Travel: Implications for Transport Planning

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-05-28 08:05:09

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By continuous ring (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2012 at 12:19:34 in reply to Comment 77377

A balanced view from:
Evidence on the Effects of Road Capacity Reduction on Traffic Levels
by Phil Goodwin, Carmen Hass-Klau and Sally Cairns


General caveats and problems of interpretation
In every case, there were caveats and problems in obtaining absolutely definitive results. Problems arose because monitoring is usually done for a different purpose. Screenlines for traffic counts are rarely completely reliable and often cover a rather small area, but however large the area there is always the possibility that some changes to even more distant routes are missed. Some counting methods are proportional to the mileage travelled, and these are not always reconciled. Surveys of behaviour usually do not cover a long enough period of time, are not always carried out at the most appropriate intervals, and rarely use techniques which can identify the underlying changes in individual behaviour behind the net changes in aggregate quantities. Available reports, written for specific local purposes, often omit some pieces of information which would have been relevant to this study, and require some interpretation. In addition, in many cases, other transport changes have also been implemented in the same time period, such as opening a new bypass, or improving public transport services.
Four main potential sources of systematic bias were identified. These were:

(1) Day-to-day variability in traffic not allowed for in one-day traffic counts. This is almost certain to result in an overestimate of the range of results from lowest to highest, but would not, by itself, cause bias to expected mean values.

(2) Journey detours may be longer-distance than captured in cordon counts. Logically, such detours are always possible, and would result in some increase in traffic outside the studied area, and hence, an overestimate of the measured reductions in traffic. The likely size of this effect will be influenced by the availability of alternative routes outside the studied area, and the proportion of trips whose origin or destination is sufficiently far away from the affected roads that longer-distance detours are realistically more attractive than any other behavioural response. Selection of counting locations in most studies was decided by local professionals, who considered that they had caught the routes and roads for which traffic effects were likely to be important. For the few examples with surveys where individuals were asked to report on their responses, long-distance detours were not recorded as a very common phenomenon.

(3) Traffic growth occurs due to other factors like increased income and car ownership. If this is not allowed for in before-and-after studies it will lead to an underestimate of the decrease in traffic due to capacity reduction, and this underestimation increases as the period of the study lengthens. The extent to which traffic reduction is underestimated relates to the magnitude of the traffic growth that would be expected as a result of increases in income, car ownership and similar factors, assuming road capacity remained constant. In many circumstances, it is therefore estimated to be in the range of 1 per cent to 4 per cent per year. If road capacity itself has been increased elsewhere on the network, this will similarly tend to result in an increase in traffic masking the effect where capacity has been reduced.

(4) Partial sampling. If a survey-based is confined exclusively to the users of the road before the capacity reduction, it can observe people who reduce their use but will not observe offsetting former non-users who increase their use, resulting in an overestimate of the estimated reduction in travel.

Where the potential sources of bias applied, the analysis did not make adjustments to compensate for these effects, but drew attention to the issues in relation to the particular case-studies. The second and third effects mentioned are those cited most frequently in discussions on interpretation, and can apply to many of the case-studies. They pull in opposite directions, and the crucial question is the net balance between them. For any given relative magnitude of the two effects, the net effect will logically be progressively more influenced by considerations of general traffic growth, the longer the time period of a study. There is therefore a greater possibility of overestimating the traffic reduction effect in the short-term studies, and underestimating it in the long-term studies. This interpretation is reinforced by substantial empirical evidence on aggregate demand elasticities, and is consistent with pervasive evidence on the importance of other behavioural responses in addition to route change.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 15:12:33

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 25, 2012 at 21:15:23 in reply to Comment 77322

This must be Bill Kelly or John Dolbec... "abandon their cars"?? Really? We're talking about leaving 4 lanes of CAR traffic in each direction...just split evenly on two streets, instead of on one-ways. Nobody here has even brought up the lack of any connecting bike lanes in Hamilton, skinny sidewalks that barely fit two people and a horrendous built environment from a pedestrian perspective - trees, benches, soft landscaping etc.... I dream of a day where we lose 1 lane on each of these streets for 2-way bike lanes, but I'm not an idiot. This is Hamilton. As you've just proven, converting a street to normal, North American-standard, two-way traffic brings out all sorts of hysteria about 'abandoning cars' and 'war on cars' etc.....

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