An article published last week in The Atlantic Cities points out several ways that urban tram investments can go awry. According to the author's criteria, Hamilton's B-Line seems well-positioned to achieve success.
Distance and Speed: First of all, a streetcar must cover a long enough distance at a fast enough speed to provide real convenience for passengers. Hamilton's LRT will run from McMaster University to Eastgate Square through the downtown and offer frequent, high-speed service.
Dedicated Lanes: The line should run on dedicated lanes that are physically separated from other traffic and parked cars. Hamilton's B-Line will run on dedicated lanes with signal priority so it does not get stuck in traffic.
Supportive Zoning: To attract transit-oriented development (TOD), the line needs supportive zoning through the corridor to ease the way for investors. Hamilton has done extensive planning along the B-Line corridor to identify opportunities and challenges so a secondary plan can be put in place that supports investment.
Feasibility Study: To be successful, the line needs to be able to accommodate new investment and attract new ridership. Hamilton's LRT has been studied by the City, by Metrolinx and by researchers at McMaster and is considered a good candidate with a large net benefit.
Real Commitment: The author's final warning is that a city can't just build streetcars without also doing the other things that make urban transportation, development and community work well. This is the biggest challenge for Hamilton, a city that has systematically under-invested in transit for the past two decades.
It's an encouraging sign, then, that Council recently overturned the Public Works Committee's decision and approved a pilot project to run a dedicated bus lane on King Street.
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