Special Report: Bus Lane

Incorporate Bus Lane into More Complete King Street

Let's take advantage of the opportunity to showcase a complete street on King, instead of simply adding a bus lane into the dangerous, business-harming status quo.

By Jason Leach
Published June 25, 2013

I was intrigued to read about the petition to halt a bus-lane pilot project on King Street this week.

As someone who has lived within spitting distance of King Street West for 12 years now, I can completely sympathize with merchants and local residents who are fed up with the freeway barreling through our neighbourhood.

Last December, RTH published an article showing traffic volumes on various city streets and as expected, King Street never carries enough traffic to warrant a New York City style five-lane freeway.

In fact, since the bus lane pilot project was announced, I've sent some concerns to the folks at city hall responsible for the project. Not surprisingly, all concerns were quickly dismissed in the various responses that came my way.

It must be said that the King West merchants who have survived the past 40+ years ought to be commended. There is absolutely nothing about this street (or any of our wide, fast freeways) that lends itself to a successful business environment.

I've long felt that their saving grace is the continuous curb-side parking and street trees which visually, and physically provide some protection for pedestrians from the King Street freeway.

Just a few blocks west towards Locke and Dundurn, the retail picture is bleak as the street widens to five lanes with no parking and few trees.

While understanding the concerns of the merchants, I don't think axing the bus lane is the solution.

In keeping with the city's desire for an inexpensive pilot to improve transit along this crucial corridor, and keeping in mind that transit riders and cyclists are big business in urban retail districts all over North America, allow me to provide an option that satisfies the concerns of merchants, while still allowing for better transportation options, and safety along King Street.

First and Second Avenues in NYC provide the basic template for what I would like to see on King from Bay to Dundurn:

First Avenue, New York City (Image Credit: Streetsblog)
First Avenue, New York City (Image Credit: Streetsblog)

From Bay to Locke, we have room for curb parking on the north curb (where the merchants want it), a bus lane, two general traffic lanes and bike lane on the south curb lane protected by bollards and narrow curbs:

Protected Bike Lanes (Image Credit: West Side Action)
Protected Bike Lanes (Image Credit: West Side Action)

West of Locke, a fifth lane appears on King. This extra space could be used to protect the bike lane with curb parking on the south curb. The rest of the street continues the same cross-section as described above all the way to Dundurn.

Bike lane protected by parked cars (Image Credit: Bike Denver)
Bike lane protected by parked cars (Image Credit: Bike Denver)

This design meets all the items necessary to satisfy all parties:

Most important, merchants and prospective business owners in the area from Locke to Dundurn are now given a chance to succeed by having parking on both sides of King, and sidewalks safe for pedestrian activity due to the buffer protecting them from vehicle traffic

This is a win-win-win proposal for businesses, residents and city hall. All it requires is some paint and some short-term parking signs.

Let's take advantage of the opportunity to showcase a complete street on King, instead of simply adding a bus lane into the dangerous, business-harming status quo.

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

18 Comments

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:43:27

And Rapid Transit on Main? Or hold off on conversion until that infrastructure is installed?

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By Eric Gillis (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:58:24

This would actually be brilliant, and would satisfy a lot of different peoples concerns about the impacts of a dedicated bus lane.

...Time to start the "Mimic NYC's First Avenue" petition?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:15:42

Same thing could be said about Main strret from Dundurn to Gage HEADING easdt for that matter

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By Connie (registered) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:21:42

Great ideas!

Is Council listening?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:59:51

This will never work. Hamilton is different... what works elsewhere won't here - you know that. /sarcasm

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 15:13:01 in reply to Comment 89727

Ok, we get it already.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 15:50:39

Common-sensical, but I doubt it will happen, for practical reasons. The lanes are supposed to be installed in July/August. If harmonized implementation is your sine qua non, the clock gets set back to zero as council debates a more expensive and permanent project.

The next budget cycle begins in the fall, so at best you're pushing it back a year. The danger in doing so is that you're taking an already-contentious $300K pilot and transforming it into a more expensive, substantial and permanent project going into an election year.

If council decides to release more money for transit, my guess is that it'll be service levels that benefit, not street design.

After the 2014 budget, once new Metrolinx "revenue tools" are established by the province, the City will have a new resource stream to point at these projects. Until then, appreciate any forward movement for the improvement that it is.

I don't mean to sound resolutely down about this. I appreciate the vision laid out. But I also know the City's history on similar roll-outs (eg. Putting People First, Shifting Gears) and tend to regard the dismissive correspondence you've received regarding similar suggestions/concerns as an omen.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:57:56 in reply to Comment 89731

Well, this is supposed to be a one-year pilot, right? If it is successful, maybe they will look at a more integrated solution to make it permanent.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 16:54:33 in reply to Comment 89748

That would be a logical next step.

Or tweak King and take the larger step on Main, which is wide enough through downtown to handle something closer to what is shown in the first photo.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 17:08:27 in reply to Comment 89754

That's ideally what the upshot of this proposal would be: The determination to press for this solution sufficiently early in the process that it actually arrives before Council with a bow on top. There are streets getting worked on all the time in Hamilton. If any of them can be radically improved at little to no additional cost, I would hope that staff and council would rally around it as the new normal.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 16:35:21 in reply to Comment 89748

I would hope so as well. The article just appears to position the call for complete streets as an element of the nearly-here pilot, rather than a desirable next step of a project whose findings won't be reviewed by council until Autumn 2014.

Even a non-permanent, bargain-basement version of "complete streets" would require some bureaucratic backtracking. I'm confident that Public Works could stickhandle some minor tweaking, but worry that a substantial redesign, even a cost-neutral one, might mean a lengthy detour before implementation.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2013 at 19:00:17 in reply to Comment 89731

The City will lose the $300K Quick Wins money from Metrolinx if they don't spend it by Dec 2013 so if it gets pushed then it's dead.

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By KT (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 01:34:05

I'm glad to see that there seems to be a movement started in opposition or alteration to the bus lane. For a while I truly believed i was the only one concerned. Some of the comments and suggestions are great! The best of all was if we are being heard or not.
Konstantine

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 19:23:45

What is the typical lane width on arterial streets? 3 metres? (some streets, like stretches of King, have a wider parking lane too)

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 22:59:45 in reply to Comment 89756

Not Hamilton, but Burlington:

On-road Bike Lanes on Lakeshore Road, east of Downtown
Report Number: TS-36-12
Report Date: November 23, 2012

http://cms.burlington.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=24009

Review of Bike Lanes, Edge Lines, and Vehicular Lane Widths
http://www.rnbc.info/Press%20Room/Bicycle%20Lane%20Widths%20MMM%20Report/Attachment%20B%20_MMM%20Report_.pdf

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 27, 2013 at 01:33:22 in reply to Comment 89759

Thanks!

3.0-3.5m

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 22:42:35 in reply to Comment 89756

the general rule of thumb in other Canadian and US cities is 9.5-12 feet. Obviously tighter urban areas see narrower lane widths than suburban areas. Parking lanes in Toronto are 6.5 feet wide. It's virtually impossible to find this info for Hamilton from my experience of Google searching....

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 27, 2013 at 01:24:55 in reply to Comment 89758

I couldn't find anything specific either. There might be some diagrams out there somewhere, like the ones in the Burlington Lakeshore bike lane document referenced above.

Just eyeballing with the distance measurement tool on Google maps, Main is a little over 15m wide for the 5 lanes downtown. King was 13-13.5m west of Bay across the 4 lanes (with a wider north-side curb lane in places) and about 15 west of Locke where the extra lane appears.

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