Special Report: Bus Lane

No Strong Case Against Bus Lane

It seems some councillors would rather plug their ears and ignore the facts presented to them than recognize the real benefits of the transit-only lane.

By Ian Reynolds
Published January 13, 2015

I'm writing in regards to the heavily debated transit-only lane, or the "bus line" as we all call it when arguing. I've never felt compelled to contact a councillor before - I guess when you move to a place you care about you're willing to try things out.

Number of Collisions

One of the things I'd like to ask is in regards to Appendix F in the staff report, which lists the number of collisions at various intersections along the bus lane corridor by year:

Collision Data by Year and Segment
Segment 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Average
Victoria-Wellington 9 7 5 6 5 2 7 6
Wellington-Mary 7 12 6 17 7 10 13 10
Mary-James 14 18 21 23 17 21 23 20
James-Bay 10 10 8 17 17 6 7 11
Bay-Queen 12 16 14 13 18 12 20 15
Queen-Locke 5 4 4 4 11 5 8 6
Locke-Dundurn 11 14 22 16 18 17 18 17
Total 68 81 80 96 93 73 96 84

One of the first things that popped out was that despite claims from some councillors that collisions are sharply on the rise, and while last year's number was technically above average, it was no outlier, statistically.

Aside from a brief drop in 2013, last year's number rivals that of the previous few years. Not only is that not an outlier, but it clearly displays the fact that while some are claiming collisions were on the rise, they've at the very worst stayed the same.

Additionally, it appears that nearly a quarter of these collisions were at the King and Mary area, which is, from anecdotal chatter on social media, always a little cluttered. Again, this number again equals, or nearly equals, that of the previous few years, rather than marking a sharp increase.

This leads me to believe that this intersection has had a number of previous collisions because of pre-existing design issues, rather than the bus lane.

Giving Up Too Soon

I'm far from a traffic engineer, but to me this seems to be something that could be tinkered with using minor adjustments, such as slightly altering the timing of the lights, or maybe allowing bidirectional traffic onto Wellington Street.

Based on these statistics, it seems that the solution to reducing collisions would be found in minor tweaks, rather than giving up too soon on a lane that carries as many bus passengers as the other lanes carry drivers. The argument that this lane has led to an increase in collisions is simply incorrect.

Some councillors are claiming an increase in collisions, lack of transit benefits and unnecessary traffic congestion, despite the fact that the report argues against all of these things, and despite the fact that they openly and willingly refuse to consider the facts when they'd eventually come out in the report.

It seems some councillors would rather plug their ears and ignore the facts presented to them, while collecting paychecks from citizens that these lanes would benefit greatly.

My Driving Experience

I know that these supposed complaints are being brought forward on behalf of most drivers, but my own experiences don't match up whatsoever. I drive regularly because I work out of town, and I take King Street to Highway 403 100 percent of the time.

Not only have I noticed nothing more than a negligible difference in commute time to the highway, but I've also rarely had to so much as stop at a red light on my drive. My driving habits have remained the same and so too have my shopping habits.

As a driver, I can without a doubt say I'm in favour of the bus lane, despite the fact that it's being portrayed as a hassle to me. I don't know why my car should be more important than someone's bike, or someone's bus pass, but that's the way our city seems to rank them.

Despite being, on a micro level, the benefactor in this situation, I can't really seem to think it's a good idea for our future to think this way.

On CBC this morning there was an article with a video about a race between a driver and a transit rider on King Street at 5pm on a Friday. The car arrived at the end of the lane a litle less than two minutes after the bus.

The fact that it only takes a car two minutes more than a bus, at rush hour on a Friday, to travel halfway across the city, is not an issue. That's a fantastic commute. We should all be so lucky as to have that kind of rush hour experience in every area.

Additionally, I'd like to point out that a number of people have shown that one Councillor's complaint about driving to City Hall from Stoney Creek is unfounded, because even according to several popular map websites, there are simpler, faster routes as compared to King Street.

This article is adapted from a letter to Council.

Ian Reynolds is a sound recordist in the film industry. You can visit his website: www.ianreynolds.ca


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By jason (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 11:43:06

excellent letter. Good to see all of the letters that have been sent to council. And so far, all of them are from people who drive, live and work along the route.

Keep em coming....

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 12:25:31

One can draw two things from the CBC video:

First, the bus lane works exactly as it is supposed to. It allows transit riders in packed buses an advantage over cars mostly populated with a driver and no passengers. The bus made stops to pick-up and drop-off passengers and it still won. Good incentive for those that can make the switch to do so, which is precisely the intent.

Second, it also shows why there is the major divide in perception about congestion between motorists and other users. The video clearly shows stop-and-go traffic, but of course those of us who walk or cycle in the core see the huge empty gaps between the packs of cars on King, Main, and Cannon, and recognize that even at peak flow none of these streets are really congested ... its just the difference between catching the full green wave in non-peak and having to stop at red lights during rush-hour.

This, btw, is the typical experience all day long if you live in the core and drive north-south for any reason ... happens when i have to pick someone up from Hamilton GO and drive up John Street. Not that i'm complaining about the time it takes to make the trip to Hamilton GO ... it's perfectly normal to stop at traffic lights in my experience, at least in other places i've lived.

Great letter.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-01-13 12:54:25

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By IanReynolds (registered) | Posted January 14, 2015 at 02:40:25

Thanks, Ryan, for cleaning up the prose and hosting it here. Thanks for the feedback as well.

Terry Whitehead called me and left a voicemail encouraging me to have a discussion with him after this was posted. He's one of the big ones arguing against the obvious facts, so I'm not sure what would really change in a discussion, though I'm willing and open to suggestions of other points to bring up, should anyone have any. Do have to hand it to him for reaching out, however.

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