Transportation

Larry Di Ianni on Two-Way Conversion

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 01, 2012

Former Mayor Larry Di Ianni, currently the host of The O-Show on Cable 14, delivered an "O-Ration" on May 29 on the current hot issue of two-way street conversion. Following is the text of Di Ianni's oration, reproduced here with his permission:

A debate is raging in blogs, on Facebook and among some at city hall about what to do with the network of one-way streets that still dominate major road arteries in the city. The two best known are King - taking eastern traffic westbound - and Main - going the other way. Cannon is another. In fact in the late 50's my family lived on that street. It was two-way for a short time and then I remember it became one way with Wilson Street going the other way.

A few years ago, around the time I was in the Mayor's chair, we began some trial conversions back to two-way for some of our downtown thoroughfares - John and James (South, the northern portion had already been converted under Mayor Wade's term) in particular. I recall how nervous some were about the conversion. But we managed to pull it off. No one can say that James North isn't a better street now than it was ten years ago. Was it all due to the conversion? I rather think not, but it was probably a major factor.

With this success, why, then is there reluctance to convert all streets that are currently one-way to two-way? Well, it probably has something to do with the engineers' recommendations around the flow of traffic. Streets are meant to be walked near as people navigate to homes and businesses, but are also meant for cars to travel from one destination to another. Main Street is a perfect example that people talk about. If one is going from McMaster to Eastgate Square or beyond, and you time it just right, the traffic flows perfectly without being stopped by a single red light. Commuters like that, I suspect.

And yet the business case for two-way is there: storefront visibility, consumer comfort, traffic calming, easier walkability, it brings people to neighbourhoods rather than simply facilitating drive fast vehicles - and there's the rub. Do we want walkable parts of every city, especially in the core, or do we want to cater to those who are leaving to areas beyond the beyond, in the suburban neighbourhoods, which is home to many of us?

In a postscript sent to RTH, Di Ianni explains:

This O-Ration is part of the O-Show seen on Cable 14 every Tuesday evening. It is meant to stimulate discussion between the two panelists: Laura Babcock and Loren Lieberman. I have been asked to write an article expanding on my thoughts about two-way traffic conversions for the next issue of Hamilton Magazine.

Di Ianni and Two-Way Conversion

Back in 2001 and 2002 as a city councillor, Di Ianni raised concerns about the cost of the planned two-way conversion of James and John North. A Hamilton Spectator column on March 6, 2002 by Andrew Dreschel notes:

Di Ianni admits he doesn't know enough about the technical merits of the project to reach a conclusion about whether it's worthwhile or not. But he's alarmed by the cost and he thinks it wouldn't hurt to take another look at it. "I want to give it some fair, sober second thought."

Once the staff report on the conversion cost was released, it became clear that the significant cost was related to major improvements to the underground road infrastructure, and Council accepted the plan.

As Mayor, he supported the City's 'go-slow' approach to two-way conversions as a prudent response to the prevailing fears about what would happen.

In a 2005 interview with RTH, Di Ianni said, "I think we're heading in the right direction. Some people say we should go faster, some people say we should go slower, so we're probably just about right in terms of - I think we're headed in the right direction."

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 TnT (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:13:23

There you go, give Larry another pat on the back for urban renewal.

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By johnfdavidson20 (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:37:37

Business visibility is increased for those businesses on two way streets where drivers turn around and just reverse their route, however those on the streets that are abandoned get less visibility. Perhaps those on popular two way streets should pay more in taxes and rent and those on one way streets (or the less popular streets) should pay less. Avoiding stop lights leads to less pollution, less tension among drivers (ie. less road rage) and less wear and tear on cars. Safety is an issue I am not sure of--one way streets encourage greater speed (at least controlled by lights), but two way streets require drivers to be alert to things coming from all directions. When I first came to Hamilton I cursed the one way streets. My job required me to locate different residences and businesses and I found King and Main do not line up very well causing me to waste a lot of time. Eventually I caught on and did find it more convenient, but I can imagine first time visitors (and we need more of them) getting confused and the experience taking away from their enjoyment. I confess I like James St being a one way street), but as a consequence I use John St and Bay Street less--probably taking me 1 or 2 minutes longer to get home. So I can see why the merchants on James St prefer the two way system. I have gotten confused as a pedestrian walking across Wilson St, but am gradually getting used to that. The key is to balance all of these concerns. Hamilton is unique and I hope it stays unique, but not necessarily doing stupid things.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:11:44 in reply to Comment 77734

Yea, when I first came here 5yrs ago, I hated all the one-way streets, especially on the smaller, residential roads.

I still hate them, but now I have good reasons to hate them :)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:48:57 in reply to Comment 77734

Perhaps those on popular two way streets should pay more in taxes and rent and those on one way streets (or the less popular streets) should pay less.

It seems to me that a better way to level the playing field is to convert our business-unfriendly ont-way streets back to two-way.

Avoiding stop lights leads to less pollution, less tension among drivers (ie. less road rage) and less wear and tear on cars.

But making it easier to drive encourages more people to drive longer distances more frequently, which results in worse overall air pollution, higher accident rates, and the various chronic illnesses associated with heavy driving.

Safety is an issue I am not sure of--one way streets encourage greater speed (at least controlled by lights), but two way streets require drivers to be alert to things coming from all directions.

A study published in 2000 that used Hamilton traffic collision data found that a child on a one-way street is 2.5 times more likely to be killed from a collision than a child on a two-way street. By requiring drivers to slow down and be more alert to hazards, two-way streets are counterintuitively safer than streets that are engineered for fast, easy motoring.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:01:16 in reply to Comment 77737

"Avoiding stop lights leads to less pollution, less tension among drivers (ie. less road rage) and less wear and tear on cars. "

Less road rage? Cars behind get p'd off because you want to drive the speed limit on King and Main. I don't worry about this as much as my husband, I drive an Astro van so don't feel as vulnerable trying to stay at 50 km/hr. He, however, drives a Corolla and is regularly pushed and followed too closely by SUV's and pick-up trucks for the sin of sticking to the speed limit.

As a driver who regularly uses King and Main every day to work (would prefer to bike it or bus it but I normally need my vehicle to get to other sites), my experience is that there is a great deal of road rage from people who don't expect to have to stop much, or to have to drive the limit. They do things like pull out from behind me too fast, tires squealing, if I follow behind a cyclist whom I cannot safely pass. They make left turns at signaled intersections far too close to pedestrians who are crossing and who have the right of way...

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:47:17

We can't afford NOT to calm our streets (and convert them to two way).

Anyone who did not spend their formative driving years in Hamilton (late teens for most) can attest to the fact that as a visitor or newcomer, the one way system is a nightmare. The fast moving thoroughfares are intimidating and even the smaller side one-ways make it much more difficult to reach a final destination. For those of us who have grown accustomed to the network, the one ways are quick and reasonably easy to navigate. Unfortunately this takes time.

The problem is, we have infrastructure costs that are skyrocketing and our taxes are already ludicrously high.

Our taxes will only continue to climb unless we attract new residents who are willing to live in areas that already have infrastructure. This means intensifying our existing neighbourhoods (which is most easily done in the lower city).

In order to grow our tax base we need to do several things. First is to encourage adaptive reuse for multi unit residential. We have some incentive programs, but we need to fundamentally change the restrictive zoning so that every building owner can benefit from converting vacant spaces into apartments. The current programs only benefit big developers, and it's clear that relying on them has not been working.

And we need to build livable streets, so that we are treating every visitor to this city as a potential resident.

First impressions are everything. We have to stop thinking of livable streets as a transportation compromise - we need to consider them a sales pitch to future citizens about how great it is to live here.

If we don't sell this city, we'll lose what little we have left, and become a ghetto suburb of Toronto.

So are we going to be a city? Or are we going to be a commuter 'burb?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 23:20:40 in reply to Comment 77736

The fast moving thoroughfares are intimidating and even the smaller side one-ways make it much more difficult to reach a final destination.

I've often wondered about all the one-way side streets. Were they implemented at the same time the major arteries were? Or were they a response to adjust the system of flows, once driver behaviour changed from the major conversions?

Anyone know the history about that?

To be honest, while I can understand how a traffic engineering perspective might advocate for King and Main or James and John becoming one-way pairs, I have a harder time fathoming why streets like Bold, Duke, Robinson, Forest, Catherine, Mary, and Hughson were restricted to one-way flow.

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By Park Street (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:14:07

Larry should talk to Councillor Farr - he is very close to getting Park Street turned fully into 2-way for a cost of under $10,000. Paint, signs and labour. Easy!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:46:20

I can appreciate the desire to take it slowly and carefully, but at this rate we'll have all the streets of downtown converted to 2-way roughly in time for them to be obsoleted by teleporters and spaceships.

I mean, we did it. We did some nice, careful trials with James and John and by every metric we can think of, they're a success. It's time to take our foot off the brake.

How long did it take for the city to implement the 1-way conversion back in the '50s?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:26:48 in reply to Comment 77766

To be fair, he did make that remark back in 2005 only about a year after the James and John conversions. Sounds like even he is starting to think we've been slow and careful enough.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:57:41 in reply to Comment 77766

How long did it take for the city to implement the 1-way conversion back in the '50s?

Overnight. Literally overnight.

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By saveusfrom this (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:32:30

"WHEN I WAS IN THE MAYOR'S CHAIR..." yes Larry, we've heard that ad nauseum, including in your "interview" with CBC/Hamilton in which almost-only you brought CBC here. When YOU WERE in the Mayor's chair, yuo were found uniquely guilty of several counts you plea-copped from 41 prosecution driven charges. You lied to CBC-Gillespie about your admiration for hard-working alt media--about which Ecklund's site blog allowed you to do defamation. Why Ryan is devoted to allowing you to reclaim your stuffed pompous self is his business--it's his site. But may the blind see by doing a little search engine digging; and by being reminded that you've lost three consecutive elections, incl. a federal election in which you did MUCH worse than Valeri and MUCH worse than other Liberals in Ontario in that federal election, and, again, Ecklund allowed you to blame it on the party leader, not on yourself.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:40:38

Best mayor ever!

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By who is speaking (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:06:46

Well at least we can all see what Di Ianni actually stands for, thus informing others why we should not listen to him and views.



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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:41:43

Insert topical Cardinal Collins joke here.

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By DiIanni (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 08:43:12

Well except for the couple of anonymous haters who have responded and are totally incorrect of the scant facts they cite, I ask you to consider my full comments on this topic in the upcoming issue of Hamilton Magazine. My views may or may not please, but I will speak as someone who has had the responsibility of implementing change, never an easy task, especially in a political setting. I appreciate the comments made by Highwater placing the interview with RTH in context of its time period. Has the time come for a speedy/speedier transition? Did I tell you about Hamilton Magazine?

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By tell us oh great one (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 12:00:14

Pray tell us, oh great sitter in the throne, which facts the public has known for years now are false? How come you took em off Wiki? Even Dreschel knew what the "facts" are. You are of a personality type that has never made, let alone acknowledged, a mistake or false act in your life. Professionals ran your campaigns, and you invented the stuff on the Ecklund blog--pulled down to avoid scrutiny & embarrassment, not because of Ecklund's phony laughable 'explanation' about fairness to all. Hundreds of thousands of Hamiltonians wouldn't believe you if you said it was snowing out [it isn't]. You are incapable of veracity. The Spec even edited your get out of jail so-called essay.

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By hey Larr ious? (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 12:53:16

Hey Larr,
What the RTH reader above said about your federal election try? it's true. When you decided to mess up the last city election some voters took a look at the Elections Canada site for when you ran in the national election. Everything this person wrote in the comment in this thread is true, unless you don't believe Elections Canada. I'm not going back to find all that now because, well Larry, it's not worth it and the information is correct. It was even honestly and accurately on your Wiki biog for a while but it disappeared! Even you are not calling Elections Canada a liar right? Are you still supporting Conservative David Sweet like it said in the Spectator? Do you like all the Harper politics? Why did the Spectator ask you of all Conserv supporters about Bob Rae and the Liberal leadership? Somebody found a Spec article that said local Liberal organizers were really mad at you for your Harper & Sweet support--even though you used all kinds of raelly dumb excuses.

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By Larry and 'hater'? (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 12:56:57

Larry, what's a "hater"? You and the obnoxious Serena Williams have used this expression publicly. What does it men?

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By DiIanni (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 18:37:32

Oh that those brave enough to issue invective anonymously might find the courage to do so using their real names. Suffice to say, we are straying from the topic. So I will sign off. Thanks Ryan for the opportunity.

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By um,,, (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 15:17:01

What part of the above recent Hamilton history comments are "invective"? Everything is on the public record. That's what Di Ianni wants to pretend does not exist. What Conservative Harper candidate will Di I. canvass for publicly next time?

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By L.D. (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 16:25:04

Arggh-gh-gh!!

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