The data show once and for all that the massive one-way network that was built to accommodate the crush of north-east industrial sector workers is simply not needed anymore.
By Jason Leach
Published December 17, 2012
Complete streets have finally become a prominent point of discussion at city hall after several years of grassroots work to move it up the agenda.
The Complete Streets Study Group looking at Cannon and Queen is a great start, and despite the slow progress, several two-way conversions are on the books at City Hall awaiting implementation.
The recent creative industries study commissioned by the Hamilton Chamber, Walkability And Urban Development, once again highlighted the need for complete streets and their attractiveness to the creative sector which is beginning to grow on James North and elsewhere downtown.
Hamilton has had its major one-way highway-style streets downtown since the 1950s. Interestingly, areas of the city without one-way streets have never been heard asking for them.
Yet, residential and commercial areas with them have been asking for their removal since the day they were implemented.
One major item absent in the entire discussion has been hard traffic data of our various one-way and two-way streets.
Without facts, the discussion becomes emotional and opinionated, but with nothing to back up any claims.
The data you're about to see should help further the discussion surrounding complete streets, and in many cases finally show once and for all that the massive one-way network that was built to accommodate the crush of north-east industrial sector workers is simply not needed anymore.
|Street||Lanes||Ways||Description||Traffic Volume||Volume Per Lane|
|Aberdeen E of Dundurn||4||2||2 lanes each way||17200||4,300|
|Wentworth S of Barton||3||1||3 lanes 1-way||5400||1,800|
|Barton E of Wentworth||4||2||2 lanes each way w/ curb parking||13700||3,425|
|Queen S of Charlton||3||1||3 lanes 1-way||12200||4,067|
|Bay N of Main||3||1||3 lanes 1-way||12400||4,133|
|King W of Bay||4||1||4 lanes 1-way w/ parking NS||24900||6,225|
|Bay N of King||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||10800||2,700|
|Cannon W of Mary||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||16700||4,175|
|Mary S of Cannon||1||1||1 lane 1-way||1100||1,100|
|Up James S of Mohawk||4||2||2 lanes each way||32800||8,200|
|Mohawk E of Up James||4||2||2 lanes each way||18600||4,650|
|Cannon W of Sherman||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||9100||2,275|
|Cannon E of Sherman||4||2||2 lanes each way w/ curb parking||10800||2,700|
|Sherman S of Cannon||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||9900||2,475|
|King E of Catharine||2||1||2 lanes 1-way||14400||7,200|
|Catharine S of King||3||1||3 lanes 1-way||3400||1,133|
|Concession E of Up Gage||2||2||1 lane each way||9400||4,700|
|Hunter W of John||2||1||2 lanes 1-way||7500||3,750|
|Garth N of Fennell||2||2||1 lane each way||19700||9,850|
|Victoria S of Barton||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||8900||2,225|
|James S of Herkimer||4||2||3 lanes SB/ 1 lane NB||18700||4,675|
|Mohawk W of Bishopsgate||4||2||2 lanes each way||19500||4,875|
|Main E of Dalewood||6||2||3 lanes each way||55300||9,217|
|Main W of Longwood||5||2||3 lanes EB / 2 lanes WB||39700||7,940|
|Main E of Dundurn||5||1||5 lanes 1-way||37300||7,460|
|Main E of Bay||5||1||5 lanes 1-way||28400||5,680|
|Main E of Wellington||5||1||5 lanes 1-way||21100||4,220|
|Main E of Kenilworth||4||2||2 lanes each way||20300||5,075|
|King E of Wentworth||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||16400||4,100|
|Wentworth N of King||3||1||3 lanes 1-way||5400||1,800|
|Golf Links W of Stonechurch||4||2||2 lanes each way||26600||6,650|
|Wellington S of Wilson||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||12200||3,050|
|Wellington S of Main||4||1||4 lanes 1-way||17900||4,475|
Some highlights that stood out to me:
Cannon Street has traffic volumes ranging between 10,000 near Sherman to under 17,000 downtown. It has timed lights and is four lanes one way.
Yet, Aberdeen Ave carries more than 17,000 cars per day and is two lanes each way, with no timed lights and even a pedestrian-activated signal at Kent!
Concession near Upper Gage has 9,500 cars per day and is one lane each way with curb parking on both sides of the street 24-7 all along Concession.
King Street in the International Village carries 14,400 vehicles on only two lanes, yet is still a fast moving freeway most of the day.
Garth St as it heads down the Queen St hill carries just under 20,000 cars per day and is only one lane each way.
Quite simply, Cannon Street does not need to be a freeway anywhere along its route. It is a great candidate for a complete street due to the clear over-built size, which is a remnant from the big industrial heyday in Hamilton.
Keeping many of the numbers in mind I just mentioned, consider the following lunacy:
Wellington Ave between Wilson and Hunter carries anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 cars per day and is also a four (sometimes five) lane one-way street with narrow sidewalks and timed lights. This is 4,475 cars per lane at its busiest stretch.
Wentworth between King and Barton carries a measly 5,400 cars per day and is three lanes one-way - that's just 1,800 cars per lane. Ditto for Catharine, south of King, which is also three lanes, one-way, and carries 3,400 cars per day, or 1,133 cars per lane.
This is a clear sign of excess capacity. If Wellington can handle 4,475 cars per lane, why do we need all those lanes of one-way traffic on Wentworth and Catharine? Catharine carries fewer cars on all three lanes than Wellington does on a single lane!
Quite simply, many of these north-south one-way streets can be eliminated tomorrow without putting a scratch in traffic flow.
Complete Street in Brooklyn showing what Hunter or Catharine could be. Image credit: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.
All of the one-way streets I've mentioned so far are ripe for a complete streets treatment with ample curb parking twenty-four hours per day, wider sidewalks, less lanes, bike lanes and street trees.
Let me finish with a look at Main Street - our most sacred one-way street.
Between McMaster and Westdale High, Main Street carries large traffic loads: between 40,000 to 55,000 cars per day. However, once crossing the 403, Main begins to rapidly drop off in volume.
By Bay Street it's down to 28,000 and by Wellington it's 21,000 where it remains steady for the remainder of its route. Yet it's five lanes one-way, with timed lights.
By comparison, Golf Links Road in Ancaster, which is hardly a model complete street and is built to accommodate high speed vehicle traffic to and from big box stores is two lanes each way and carries under 27,000 cars per day - more than virtually all of Main Street east of Bay.
I wouldn't want Golf Links to be considered a safe, downtown, mixed-use street yet the fact is, it's miles better than downtown's five lane, treeless, synchronized-light freeway.
Upper James near Mohawk carries just under 33,000 cars and is two lanes each way with turning lanes. Again, not a complete street befitting a mixed-use, dense downtown core, yet it functions fine with a level of traffic that only exists on a few shorts blocks of Main, east of the 403.
If Hamilton is to get serious about complete streets throughout the city we need to learn from other municipalities who have learned to design their streets to still carry large volumes of traffic, but with room for bike lanes, parking and safe sidewalks. This 3-lane cross section in Seattle can carry 25,000 cars per day!
Main Street at Kenilworth functions as a two-way street and carries over 20,000 vehicles per day.
Remind me again why Main, Cannon, King, Queen and many others can't go two-way, or have seriously reduced lanes in order to become complete streets?
Why do councillors whose wards contain two-way streets with heavier traffic constantly rile up the public with dire predictions if Cannon or Main were to go back to two-way?
Why aren't people clamouring for Upper James, Garth or Golf Links to become one-way?
Quite simply, the data shows that virtually none of our one-way streets are needed. And nobody without them wants them due to the massive damage they inflict on street business and the quality of life for everyone who lives around them. This includes virtually all of our Code Red neighbourhoods as well as the heart of our city - the downtown core.
Main, James, King, Cannon and many others used to be the vibrant, bustling heart of our city. We've seen local neighbourhoods improve rapidly when given the chance in areas along Locke South and James North.
Let's give our entire urban core a chance to succeed by removing the industrial freeway network from the 1950's. The stats give us hope that it's absolutely possible.
Much thanks to Brian McHattie for his assistance in getting this data, along with the wonderful staff at the Technical Services Department at City Hall. All data was gathered in 2009-2010.
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