Revitalization

Toronto Street Life a Lesson for Hamilton Downtown

By Jason Leach
Published July 16, 2006

My wife and I spent the day in Toronto yesterday and met Ben and his wife for lunch in Kensington Market.

Wow - stalls all over the sidewalks in the market, and on Spadina, Queen, and King, filled with artists, musicians, fruits, veggies, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Hamilton City Council should plan a field trip to the Spadina/Kensington/Queen West area some day to get ideas for our downtown. How wonderful would it be to have our Asian markets spill out onto the sidewalks along Cannon, York, Vine and James North!

We really need to re-think our "urban braille" program and its consequences for sidewalk activity. I like the concept of urban braille, but many of our streets are now impossible to have sidewalks stalls or tables due to the braille.

I'd love to see Council encourage this sort of sidewalk life by removing several lanes of traffic on main downtown streets and widening sidewalks, and then even verbally encourage building owners and market owners to bring some of their wares outside.

It was funny: as we strolled along Queen, then John towards the dome for a Jays game, we came upon Wellington Street. I turned and said to the group - "now this looks familiar," as I motioned to the four lanes of one way traffic, with not a soul on the sidewalks – no patios, markets, or shops.

We all marvelled at how, even in the heart of Toronto's busiest downtown area full of life and pedestrians, Wellington St. was barren like our downtown streets. Four lanes, one-way, narrow sidewalks: in T.O. It doesn't really matter, I guess, because every other street surrounding Wellington was jammed and hopping with life.

However, in our fine city, I hate to say, Wellington is the norm.

Head to Toronto this summer and check it out. Hamilton is seeing great things start downtown – a simple re-thinking of our streets/sidewalks and commerce downtown could have people coming here to marvel at the bustling retail/market districts in our core.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted July 24, 2006 at 12:13:10

Hey Jay, It'd be great to be able to just "take" existing traffic lanes and change them into sidewalks and perhaps city hall or the traffic/planners have tossed the idea around. The problem that will generate is more pollution, traffic snarls and an increase in the number of accidents as the commuters who currently use those major one way streets to travel east/west through the town. A viable alternative has to be provided to allow traffic to travel quickly east/west somewhere between cannon and the base of the mountain or else taking traffic lanes away will generate more problems.

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By Ben Bowen (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2006 at 14:30:53

...following up on that comment, the other reason that's so easy to do in TO is that transit there is so good. Frank's right: if we did it here traffic would be a nightmare, whereas in Toronto so many people are able so easily to get around efficiently that closing a few streets to cars isn't as big a deal. I work in Ancaster and live near Dundurn castle. It takes me 10 minutes to drive to work, or 70 minutes to take the bus via Kenilworth; the first step to fixing many of our problems in Hamilton has to be beefing up our transit system.

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