Special Report: Light Rail

Reflections on the LRT Announcement and Next Steps

LRT is a game-changer for Hamilton - as long as we truly seize the opportunity and muster the political courage to make the policy changes that will ensure success.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 29, 2015

It has been a few days since the historic announcement of full capital funding for light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton, and so I've had the chance to ride the euphoria and start thinking about the implications of the announcement and the next steps we need to take.

Map of approved and funded LRT route
Map of approved and funded LRT route

Politically Inclusive

First of all, it's worth noting that this is a very politically smart plan.

Some plans seem designed to alienate and divide communities, but the rapid transit funding announcement was clearly calculated to maximize the overall benefits of LRT while at the same time serving a wide array of direct interests.

Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins has decided that LRT in his ward is a bad idea. I happen to think he will come to rue this position in the fullness of time, but the fact is that he is an influential politician and it is much better for the LRT project for Collins to be onside or at least neutral than for him to be an opponent.

The Provincial plan gives his ward what he wants: expanded GO service and a foreshortened LRT that stops in the middle of Ward 4.

At the same time, the Province made it clear that the LRT line will "ultimately" be extended to Eastgate Square, just not right now.

Many people who criticized the B-Line noted correctly that it did not connect directly to regional transit via Hamilton's new GO Train Station, currently under construction on James Street North.

Most people forget that the plan was always for two LRT lines - an east-west B-Line and a north-south A-Line - and with the approved plan, we are essentially getting most of the B-Line and the first part of the A-Line with a spur running up James Street to the West Harbour GO Station. (If the budget allows, I would love to see this go right to the waterfront.)

The plan also includes a "higher-order" pedestrian route from the B-Line to the Hunter Street GO Station, which is a few short blocks away. It will likely run along Hughson Street, which is a narrow, low-traffic one-way street that stops at Hunter anyway.


But the plan is not just well-designed spatially. It is also well-designed temporally, in the sense that the timeline has been structured to prevent a future government from pulling the plug.

As Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Tuesday, "It's hard sometimes for politicians to think beyond an election cycle, so when I say things like, 'The work on that station will start in 2017', well, that means it's not gonna be finished by 2018 when the next election comes around. But you know what? That's not the point. The point is that government exists to make long-term investments, to look into the future, and to do things that we cannot do on our own."

The east-west section has already been assessed and designed to the point where the Province can start tendering contracts, but the north-south section still needs design and environmental assessment. According to the timeline, that work will be done over the next two years so that the Government can start locking in contracts in 2017, before the next election.

That means a subsequent government will have a hard time pulling the plug without creating another gas plant scandal in which huge amounts of public dollars are wasted on penalties for cancelled contracts.

Following that, construction work is slated to start in 2019, after the next election, so that ripped-up roads and temporary traffic don't turn LRT into yet another election flashpan.

Metrolinx estimates that an LRT construction of this size will take four or five years to complete, so we would be looking at an opening day in 2023 or 2024.

Provincial Infrastructure

It's also important to note that the Province is not giving the City money to build an LRT. The Province itself will be responsible to fund, procure and build the line, and the Province will own the asset once it is completed.

That means the City will not somehow end up on the hook for any cost overruns that might occur, as some naysayers have been suggesting. This is a Provincial project, and the Province will be in charge of designing, building and maintaining it.

It remains to be determined whether the transit service that operates on the line will be operated directly by Metrolinx or locally by the HSR.

In Toronto, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will be operated by the TTC, but the TTC has expertise in operating higher order transit that the HSR lacks, so that model may or may not make sense here.

City Has Responsibilities

The Province will hold the reins on the LRT itself, but the City has a crucial role to play in ensuring that we align our land use and transportation policies with the LRT investment to maximize the benefits.

That means building on the Nodes and Corridors study that staff undertook a few years ago, including meetings with stakeholders and a series of public design charrettes along the line so residents could envision how the areas around the stations will grow and develop.

It means ensuring that we have a progressive Secondary Plan in place to support and encourage the kind of high-quality, dense, mixed-use and inclusive new development we want to achieve in the corridor around the line.

It also means seriously rethinking our transportation system on the streets within the transportation corridor, particularly Main Street. We'll get into more detail on this in subsequent issues, but Main Street must be transformed from its current configuration as a five-lane expressway into a complete, inclusive two-way street that supports walking, cycling, transit and local vibrancy.

We are already hearing stories about large developers deciding against investing in new projects on Main Street specifically because of the current design of the street. Far from a "competitive advantage", Main Street is holding the lower city back from achieving its potential.

Political Power Struggle

Out of nowhere earlier this year, senior staff produced a $300 million Ten Year Transit Strategy that was designed and calculated to offer the Province a way out of keeping its commitment to fund LRT.

In June 2013, staff had directed staff to come up with $45 million in new local funding for local transit improvement. Instead, staff came back with a $300 million plan using entirely provincial money to build a new bus maintenance facility and new local and express buses.

This poison pill was created against Council direction by bureaucrats who, having allowed themselves to become overly political, made a strategic gamble that both Council and the Province would pounce on this made-in-Hamilton get-out-of-LRT-free card.

Unfortunately, most councillors fell on the Ten Year Strategy like shipwreck survivors scrambling onto flotsam. They bolted the $300 million plan onto the existing Rapid Ready LRT plan as a way of playing the odds, but it was still a painfully low point in a Council term that was only a few months old.

But with this week's announcement, it is clear that the Province really was serious about its commitment to make bold investments in transformative infrastructure that will carry us well into this century. Instead of funding the Ten Year Strategy and delaying the LRT investment, the Province funded the LRT and brushed off the local transit request.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, a consistent LRT supporter, has pulled off a major victory by successfully providing the Province with the courageous and enthusiastic local partner it was waiting for.

A big project like LRT needs local political champions to see it through all the challenges and upsets that happen along the way, and Mayor Eisenberger has demonstrated that Hamilton has that champion at last.

Combined with the standing unanimous Council vote to support LRT with full funding, that was enough for the Province to move ahead after four years of malarkey under former Mayor Bob Bratina.

Ten Year Strategy

It is time for staff to go back to the original Council direction to find new opportunities to boost local transit service levels with new investments of local money.

The city already receives both federal and provincial gas tax revenues - and the provincial gas tax amount is partly dependent on how well a city grows transit service! - in addition to the property tax levy to fund local transit.

We need to recognize the value of investing in local transit and start strategically building more capacity, particularly on the north-south A-Line. One big benefit of the LRT is that it will free up 18 buses that can be redeployed to increase service on other routes.

At the same time, the advent of LRT means the City has an opportunity - indeed, an obligation - to realign its legacy bus routes to maximize the capacity of the LRT lines.

We still have buses running on two-way streets along routes that only made sense when the streets were still one-way. There is plenty of room for fresh perspectives and innovative thinking to make more effective use of the transit capacity we already have, as well as making smart investments in growing capacity along strategic corridors.

Not a Magic Bullet

LRT is not a magic bullet, but it will be a game-changer for Hamilton - as long as we truly seize the opportunity and muster the political courage to make the local policy changes that are needed to ensure success.

That courage needs to come from both Councillors and staff - especially our senior management team, who hold the power to shape their departments' corporate cultures from top to bottom and align the City's workers with a strategic plan for success.

We have a particularly exciting opportunity in Planning and Economic Development General Manager Jason Thorne, who was the lead author of the Regional Transportation Plan and is an expert in transportation and land use planning.

It will be essential for Planning and EcDev to be much more closely involved in the Rapid Transit Office when it is re-formed. We can't make the mistake of allowing narrow technical considerations to eclipse the vital role of integrated strategic planning.

We also need more of the leadership that Transit Director David Dixon displayed in his defence of the doomed bus lane, when he advised Council, "It really depends on where you as a city want to be. You can lead people to become a more progressive, transit-oriented city, or you can choose to let that evolve naturally."

For better or worse - just kidding, it's for better - we have formally chosen to lead on becoming a more progressive, transit-oriented city. Now we need to let that choice guide our decisions.

Finally, we need to get everyone working together to explain this LRT investment to every Hamiltonian so that the City is aligned in understanding why this billion dollar investment makes sense. That includes Metrolinx, the City's reformed Rapid Transit Office and engaged citizens alike - we will all need to work together to ensure success.

On a final, personal note: after a few months of feeling truly despondent about the City's prospects for breaking out of its self-defeating legacy mindset, I am indescribably buoyed by this Provincial commitment to Hamilton's future. As I have been putting it this week, my cynicism has taken a major hit.

After more than ten years volunteering with Raise the Hammer, I have never felt more excited and hopeful about our city's potential. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set the City on a robust trajectory of revitalization. I can't wait for us to get started.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By fmurray (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 10:57:17

Great article, Ryan. And congratulations for this wonderful outcome, driven by your hard work.

I'm glad you raised the topic of Main Street. I've already listened to a business owner who is worried about the effects of construction. I think it will be key for the people living along the route to have a two-way Main Street in advance of the construction start on King.

I remember reading somewhere that a two-way conversion was part of the overall plan. Hope that is true.

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By Greg Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:01:11

I want to start by saying how excited I am for this project and that I support it wholeheartedly. My only concern is the section of rail that will run through the Global Village. I'm familiar with Main St. in Buffalo that was closed to vehicle traffic and was an absolute ghost town. Buffalo is itself going through a bit of a renaissance and is in the midst of converting Main St. back to mixed transportation use. I've also wandered the Spark St. area in Ottawa, which is itself a dead-zone at times. Are there any examples of a successful closed street area? What would Hamilton need to do different from the two areas mentioned? Wellington to Catherine is a fairly long stretch, I'd hate to see the area suffer.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:23:07 in reply to Comment 111841

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By George (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:16:16

Chris Higgins from a CBC article today, "Higgins said Wednesday that it's feasible that the real estate market has improved projections. His new thesis, nearly completed, takes an updated look at projections.

Economic uplift will only happen, he said, if the city implements policies that encourage the growth. That includes complete streets, relaxing parking requirements and encouraging more height and density, he said" --- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

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By myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:17:20

For a cynicism recharge, just wait for the comments - the apathetic will be out in droves shortly.

For the future - I can't get:

There's a great big beautiful tomorrow Shining at the end of everyday There's a great big beautiful tomorrow And tomorrow's just a dream away

Out of my head.

And in case you haven't been to WDW, I'm pretty sure that it's Ryan sitting in Hamilton's version of the Carousel of Progress.

I can't wait to hear the LRT whistling by the end of my street, fully justifying a comment I made (but can't find) about how we included "proximity to future LRT line" in our purchasing decision for our current home. Added to the fact that I'm near (500m) the eastern terminus of the line, which thanks to the hard work of Sam on the Motel demolition will become a commercial node, I'm more happy to be an Intentional Hamiltonian today than ever before.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:29:53

James North is an interesting question. I see 4 options that could each be applied on a block-by-block basis from King to Barton.

1) Mixed Traffic. Let the LRT and cars use the same lanes. This is Chris Higgins' preferred approach (and I think he said it's the city's current plan), but I feel like it partially defeats the purpose of having an LRT, since the LRT would crawl slowly through dense James North traffic. But it lets us keep everything about JN's current form, so that's good.

2) No cars. Traffic can go through neighboring streets Bay, Hughson, and John, and then connect to the bridge over the tracks to the station via Barton. This might be bad for local businesses because of the loss of street-side parking, though.

3) 1 dedicated lane for cars in each direction and the same for LRTs. It means knocking out all the bump-outs and street-side parking forever. This one sacrifices local businesses and walkability for the sake of through traffic. I hate it. Could be applied just north of Barton over the bridge to connect to the GO station at Strachan.

4) Return James North to 1-way Southbound. Knock out the bump outs on the east side of the road to run the LRT there, and then leave the west (southbound) side of the road as-is. Means local businesses get to keep half of their street-side parking. Could be unpleasant in the east sidewalk as the LRT whooshes by. It's a compromise, but this is my personal preferred option.

Of course, we could change it up per-block - use option (2) from King to Cannon, and then option (3) from Cannon to Strachan.

What does everybody else think?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-05-29 11:31:03

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By Nathanael (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2015 at 17:38:13 in reply to Comment 111846

3 alternate) Put the LRT in the CENTER two lanes, leaving car traffic, parking, etc. This is the way it's been done for 150 years; this is the way Hamilton Street Railway originally did it; this is the way to do it.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2015 at 18:09:31 in reply to Comment 112120


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By higgicd (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:50:33 in reply to Comment 111846

I don't claim to know what the city is thinking, but I know if I was in charge there would be 2 options:

  1. Mixed traffic, streetcar-type stop spacing. This is what Brampton is going to do with the chunk of their LRT that runs through downtown, and what we will do in the International Village. Travel times will be slower, but the lower speeds and shorter stop spacing also mean the service is more intimate, something befitting the street. Look up images of the downtown Portland Streetcar to see how that looks.

  2. Pedestrian/Transit/Active mall or arcade, closed to cars in certain sections. This could work too, and maybe well. Calgary runs their LRT downtown like this, with free on-and-off through the strip. With streetcar type service it could be great.

But I don't know enough about the success rate / factors of pedestrian malls, don't want to screw up what is working on the street. Buffalo's was a dismal failure, but I'd bet eating my hat that the failure isn't due to LRT/pedestrianization, rather bigger trends in suburbanization, downtown parking, etc.

I do know I have seen some very nice pedestrian malls in my day though... wide sidewalks, cafes, string lights across the street for a nice night ambiance... It could look amazing and be a huge boon. I get excited thinking of the street full of people on their way to an NHL game downtown like the red mile in Calgary (hey I'm a dreamer).

Plus, the West Harbour GO station is so long that losing James as an access point isn't a huge deal, not like you need the one node for cars. Can still get there via Bay, MacNab, maybe even John (traffic planners - resist the urge to turn that into a circuitous one-way network please!).

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 13:44:47 in reply to Comment 111853

For International Village, I like option (2) as currently as a driver, I don't pull over in International Village because of cars fast-speeding behind me.

Turning Main Street into a 2-way street with 1 permanent streetside parking and easy turn lanes towards downtown, it would invite me to stop more often. As a carowner I may grumble but I already know that zero shuttered storefronts are more important locally, and I fortunately have Red Hill Valley Parkway as a faster crosstown alternative now, if I'm driving from Stoney Creek to downtown - I find it is now faster than trying to fight my way through in Lower City. These days, we do not need Main/King to be urban expressways anymore, and whenever driving that route, I drive that route because I might feel like stopping at all the wonderful new establishments that pops up. With more stops on Main Street, more pedestrians come to International village even when there is no longer any cars in International Village. This keeps the LRT fast and convenient for the entire route, if we don't have any mixed traffic on the B-Line, and I'd take it to commute to Toronto, if I can quickly LRT to the GO station, without being slowed down by rush-hour traffic.

So I propose closing International Village to cars.

International Village will protest.

But we need detours during LRT construction.

So as a trial, let's make Main Street a 2-way street before LRT construction.

This will help revitalize it quickly (as LRT construction will take many years). It will also allow International Village to realize that it's a good idea after all, to turn it into a pedestrian/transit-only section and that their business will actually improve (except during construction inconvenience).

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-05-29 13:45:31

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 15:11:53 in reply to Comment 111857

Iirc, closing part or all of International Village was actually the B-line plan when the IV requested a station. I might be getting this wrong, but originally there was going to be no stop in IV, but when the IV BIA said they wanted a B-line LRT stop, the planners came back with a plan where the IV LRT stop would be a pedestrian-mall completely blocking traffic at Wellington.

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By My thoughts (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 15:03:08 in reply to Comment 111857

Just make the lrt go north on Wellington and then turn on Barton then to west harbor GO stn. That way int'l village stays open to cars and don't have to rip up roads on James north which is already narrow and doing well in terms of pedestrian flow.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 17:05:44 in reply to Comment 111860

I think B-Line needs to service McMaster students (including at Jackson Square) very well, and also be a good way to go crosstown in Lower City. The Wellington route would be best as a separate LRT route rather than a B-Line diversion. But I don't think Wellington bus traffic warrants an LRT.

Also, all-day GO service was mentioned to be going to Hunter street, instead of West Harbour, though that can change. So it's best to continue the B-Line down.

West Harbour is on the Niagara GO route (where they'll someday get all-season GO service) and Metrolinx needs it to build westwards, plus it's the only place near downtown to build parking garages for free parking, to save the drive to Aldershot or Burlington for Mountain people. So we need both Hunter GO (downtown friendly and B-Line friendly) and JamesNorth (Niagara friendly route, StoneyCreek-to-Hamilton rapid commutes, car-friendly, James Street friendly, residential friendly). The A-Line spur will connect the two GO stations.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-05-29 17:17:21

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By myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:52:58 in reply to Comment 111846

I like the idea of using Hughson/John.

From James North GO -> Barton -> John -> Hunter -> Hughson -> Barton -> James North GO

Only takes one lane on each affected road.

There's a section in Seattle that does something similar - a loop rather than a bidirectional to deal with some narrow streets in the middle of downtown.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:24:02 in reply to Comment 111849

Agreed.... BUT I would prefer to do a loop on James/Hughson. It allows us to keep one streetside, keep both traffic lanes, and sacrifice only one streetside to the LRT lane.

It enables good LRT traffic priority systems since green lights is easier with just one direction. And it also makes it easier to shut down the LRT on James Street during the supercrawl, since you can just do back-and-fourth operation on the parallel Hughson street.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 11:32:30

I agree that this version is a far better thought out route design than the original and completely isolated B Line. Realizing budgets being what they are, I personally would have cut the east end of the route a little more to have the spur connect with the Hunter St. Station. My single point is that, any improvements to the bus system or to the future rapid transit network of Hamilton should be designed to allow the maximum number of connections with as many big traffic generators as well as the LRT Line itself. This of course is the always the goal with good transit route design but here I think it really shows what is possible when that is one of the primary goals in mind of your transit network. The TTC is not perfect but, one of the things that still draws transit planners from around the world is the shear number of interconnections the TTC network has. This gives their network a built in flexibility that many other transit systems just do not have. This should be one of the main goals of Hamilton's transit network as well. But, you still have to fix how you fund transit with different levels of taxation in each area of the city. That will continue to keep your network from functioning at its best for many years to come.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 13:35:40

One modification I'd make to the LRT diagram is that there probably should be a westwards extension into Dundas.

As for the method of getting A-Line up the mountain, I imagine it'd be a tunneled ramp. The LRTs that Hamilton wants to use, are rated at up to an 8-9 degree gradient, so a short tunnel of a few blocks long would do the job. It's probably a long wait before we have an LRT reaching all the way to the airport, but it would revitalize the moribund airport, and start the beginnings of a Mountain LRT network which we are currently (for now) leaving out.

We also need to work with the Mountain to convince them to let Lower City gain this starter A-Line and B-Line, it will benefit them as all the simultaneous revitalization projects (that would run simultaneously with LRT); and would reduce burden on mountain taxpayers (paying for Lower City stuff). Or debate of widening of Red Hill Valley Expressway as a quid pro quo for making Main Street a 2-way street. Etc.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-05-29 13:36:30

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 16:36:37 in reply to Comment 111856

Iirc, dundas extension of the LRT is part of the long term plan, but like the L,S,T line long-term decades-away part. Their plan was to continue up main and end at the university plaza, which is imho a cop-out - university plaza is barely dundas. Run it on cootes' drive right to the heart of dundas...or continue past university plaza to end in front of the Thirsty Cactus, but that means LRT in a residential neighborhood and that's no fun.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-05-29 16:37:46

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 14:42:54

great piece Ryan.

I'm also excited about the opportunity with Jason Thorne and his background. Get this project as far away as possible from the staffers who tried to de-rail it, and allow Thorne's office to work with Metrolinx. It will ensure that this is done right.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 16:32:53

Hopefully we can get an initial car-free zone in the International Village. That will put us "only" 50 years behind cities like Utrecht.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2015 at 17:11:03 in reply to Comment 111863

How can we help convince International Village?

I understand some of them may be reluctant but count the streetside parking -- there's only a few over there! They don't get much business from the streetside parking in International Village, especially some of them just walk into Denniger's or elsewhere. But Denniger's has a huge International Village parking lot that's easily accessible from Main. As a quid pro quo that big parking lot could become free for all International Village customers.

Show an International Village receipt (with timestamp), you get free parking. There's enough room for a hundred cars. Denniger's does not need hundreds of cars. Parking lot is almost never more than half full even during midday.

People will do this just to "get away" with free parking even when they are also shopping elsewhere too. But that's fine -- everyone wins because International Village received business they would otherwise not have!

Can we make a special deal with Denniger's parking lot?
Even at least as a temporary trial lasting a few months?
Even paid with fundraising? So International Village is happier with car-free King after Main Street 2-way conversion?

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-05-29 17:16:48

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 19:37:12 in reply to Comment 111866

Two way main. Two way king. Two way king William. Two way Wellington. And two way North-South side streets that are allowed to cross king... with ample curb parking. That's how iv will thrive with a block or two closed to cars

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 17:45:03 in reply to Comment 111866

The owner of JHGordon books agreed with me when I said International Village would be a great place for a car-free zone. Not sure if she was just being polite, but she seemed enthusiastic about it.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 19:00:01

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 19:34:35 in reply to Comment 111869

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 22:31:28 in reply to Comment 111871

not everything that is heard/learned at city hall is fit to be released to the public by those of us brought into the know. In fact, often, stories and info is passed along with a request for privacy. This is very common in business, politics and life in general.

I'm aware of 3 developers wanting to do major projects on property on Main St, but they won't as long as Main St is a freeway. The one Ryan is referring to is a true shame. Would have been a show-stopper development.

Hopefully Metrolinx can bring us past the "empty freeway" vision for our downtown streets and through this LRT project create an environment that will be enticing to developers, not a turn-off.

Comment edited by jason on 2015-05-29 22:31:55

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 23:05:37 in reply to Comment 111875

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Comment edited by ergopepsi on 2015-05-29 23:12:11

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 19:04:27

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By Mr Dressup (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 09:56:23 in reply to Comment 111870

You're just adorable

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 29, 2015 at 19:43:03

Thank you, Ryan, and all others who have put in so much time, effort, and determination despite the ease of cynisim, over the last decade. It feels dishonest calling myself a Hamiltonian, after only being here for two years, but knowing this city has such a dedicated, progressive, and impactful community of grassroots "activists", to use a dirty word, fills me with great pride and optimism for this town and its future.


What does a "high order pedestrian route" entail?

I also really hope they take the spur down to the waterfront. It's such a small distance to span to justify a future remobilization and reengineering of a turnabout. And does it not offer an immensely better opportunity for a turnaround?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 12:40:06 in reply to Comment 111873

A-line spur shouldn't go to the waterfront, but east along Barton to Hamilton General Hospital.

James North past the CN tracks is mostly fairly low-density residential, and the West Harbour is not a huge transit destination. Barton Street is a better intensification target, and Hamilton General is a huge trip generator.

An actual LRT along Barton to Wentworth would also obviate the need to build spurs up Wentworth and Barton to reach the storage facility.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 08:46:52 in reply to Comment 111882

Why not just have an express bus on Victoria linking King to the general? I suspect all of the downtown bus routes will be realigned to North-south service... Barton could have a bus lane :)

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 11:31:13 in reply to Comment 111920

It is only a 1km walk to the hospital from King but chances are that for a lot of people going to the hospital walking might not be one of their strengths. I think it would be a great idea to have a shuttle - just a short bus like a 20 seater - running back and forth to HGH.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2015 at 10:38:04 in reply to Comment 111920

More north/south buses aligning to the LRT stops has always been what I wanted (and honestly something they should have done when they started the B-line), but I was just thinking that an eastward turn of the A-stub would make sense if they're going that way anyways to go the garage. Basically, just upgrade their planned "garage service track" into a proper stop.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 12:20:28 in reply to Comment 111921

This. Plus it just makes sense for major trip generators to be on the LRT, not on a branch bus route. Especially if the A-line eventually makes it up the mountain, linking Mohawk in. There's a lot of traffic between the hospitals and McMaster/Mohawk.

I still don't understand why anyone thinks LRT to the west harbor is necessary.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2015 at 22:05:26 in reply to Comment 111882

I work at the HGH, so naturally I agree with LRT to HGH.

Remember that the GO terminal isn't on Barton, but Strachan, so that's where the existing plan ends. However, Strachan could still work for LRT - there's a narrow strip of greenspace on the South side of Strachan that could still work as an LRT track up until Wellington.

So we get 2 additional stops: one at the Mary Street Pedestrian Bridge, and one for HGH.

After HGH it likely would have to turn into a simple service-spur, if there's even room for that. I don't know which land is part of the CN rail ROW and which land is owned by the city. I mean, there's empty space for tracks, but it's a question of what space is "available" along Birge to Wentworth.

picture of Strachan/Birge route

Either way, HGH would be a nice terminus. And the area northeast of HGH semi-disused industrial that's already attracting developers interested in creating new businesses there.

But obviously, the west harbour is also attracting developers. Possibly you could head North from Wellington or Victoria but that's going straight into active industrial territory that is unlikely to get the condo loving we're seeing west of there.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 01, 2015 at 10:57:19 in reply to Comment 111896

My idea was to forget about crossing the CN tracks, and just go east from Barton and James. The walk from the James North GO station to Barton is less than Hunter to King, and less than Port Credit GO to Hurontario.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 18:37:49 in reply to Comment 111882

I'd like to see it branch off down York and into Burlington along Plains / Fairview.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2015 at 21:50:28 in reply to Comment 111887

There is a plan for that in the BLAST network plan for Hamilton, but it's like 25 years away and realistically that means "never". Probably the better hope would be for better transit coming out of the Aldershot GO.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 17:34:45

Kudos to all who have advocated for this for so long, especially Ryan. Your consistency and steady knowledgeable approach to making the case is admirable, and a great example of citizens engaging in a cause they believe in.

Some thoughts on a few aspects of the plan:

  • It looks like they've eliminated the LRT bridge over the 403, which was originally meant to be the connector between King and Main St. West. This must be a substantial cost savings (even considering a slightly longer detour on King and Paradise) and likely won't have much impact on performance.
  • I love the idea of the Hughson St. pedestrian connection. It would be great to see an improved pedestrian and cycling access to the Innovation Park as well. And I'm glad the King corridor remains the plan, because it more directly accesses the new stadium and I think King between Gage and Wellington offers the most opportunity for land use transformation.
  • Incremental expansions once this is built (and there's no reason they cannot be planned concurrently with construction) are a good way to expand systems like this, rather than trying to do it in major chunks. I've always wondered what Toronto's subway system would look like today had they continually made shorter expansions starting in the 1970s. I think they're less disruptive, any political issues are not as big or widespread, they're more budget-friendly, and there's a natural advantage to building onto an established service.
  • I really don't see an issue with operating the James North spur or the section in the International Village in mixed traffic. While speeds may be slower, I don't think they or the typical traffic levels are an impediment. I do think a pedestrian zone would work in the IV, however.
  • I'm interested to see how the James spur will operate. Will it be a true diversion that all EB and WB vehicles make, will just some of the LRVs take the diversion (e.g., every other one), a diversion for either WB or EB services but not both, or have transit vehicles that run dedicated service from the switch at King to West Harbour GO, with a transfer to EB/WB service. The latter may be the best option from an operational standpoint, even if it's just during peak periods, as it would be more optimal for E-W service that will likely represent the bulk of the travel demand on the system. Not that operations will be static - it can be changed as passenger flows dictate to maximize efficiency and service.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2015-05-30 17:47:28

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By Jeanskirt (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 19:17:46

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By Lame (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 20:50:48 in reply to Comment 111890

Oh look, a troll defying people to flag his comment as trolling, yawn.

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By pastdue (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 21:07:23

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2015 at 14:07:09 in reply to Comment 111893

actually you are paying, along with the rest of the province. Thanks

By the way, which is it: Hamilton is too small for this? Or the proposed LRT route is too small for Hamilton?

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By Oryx (registered) | Posted May 31, 2015 at 04:24:30 in reply to Comment 111893

Having lived in Hamilton for 5 years, and now living in Halton as well, I feel the LRT system will be a success in the long term. Hamilton has the same population as Calgary who's expanding LRT system has been very successful, has a higher density on average than Calgary and has a far greater surrounding population who might also benefit from it. HSR already has more passengers on buses along the route than Calgary had when they started building their light rail. Yet Hamilton is too small?

As this is money from the province I understand that it can bother people when they see their tax dollars spent in other cities but this happens every day, this is just an easy to point to example of it. You could say that Ontario is so in debt we can't afford it. But how are we ever going to get back on a positive economic footing without strong, vibrant cities?

This project represents a modest system along a highly traveled route in a major economic center in Ontario. I often feel like we've lost the guts to bite the bullet and build these initially high cost long term reward infrastructure projects and it makes me very happy that the Province is investing heavily in public transit across the province, including Hamilton.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2015 at 13:34:02 in reply to Comment 111898

"HSR already has more passengers on buses along the route than Calgary had when they started building their light rail. Yet Hamilton is too small?"

Very good quote, thanks.

Even before hearing this, I thought that the projected transit user increase is an underestimate. B-Line manages 11,000 people while running concurrently with semi-duplicated bus routes, and the B-Line bus stops running in the evenings and does not run on weekends. By reallocating HSR buses to becoming feeders to a very frequent LRT service, and making sure LRT runs predictably (19.5+ hours per day, 365 days a year), I can rely on it and leave my car behind, and stay a 1-car household or even switch back to carsharing (I used to be a carshare member for 8 years in other cities such as Ottawa and Toronto).

I truly think the B-Line LRT could eventually easily exceed projections by a large margin, and possibly go into six figure daily users especially once extended to Dundas and Stoney Creek, extensive north-south bus feeder routes, A-Line interchange, if the LRT is properly done concurrently to all other revitalization efforts. I think a lot of people will be surprised how popular the Hamilton LRT will eventually become, if it's properly implemented. I don't use the B-Line as it doesn't operate during working hours, when I eat at downtown restaurants I take the car, and I have to be designated driver when I go to an Augusta pub. (I'm sure McMaster students visiting Hess would also appreciate the LRT too when it runs late hours or 24 hours). There are people whose 0 annual bus trips would rocket to 10 or 100 bus trips annually, if a 24/7/365 Lower City crosstown BRT/LRT existed (With guaranteed high frequencies).

I think eventual 100,000+ daily passengers could very easily be realistic within a spetacularly-planned and King-routed LRT, and would actually lower Main-King traffic enough to revitalize them as pedestrian/bike friendly streets (and satisfying Mountain with a RHV/LINC lane expansion and the A-Line LRT as a quid pro quo).

I know Toronto former-residents (myself included), who moved here, spoiled by more predictable TTC (even if not perfectly predictable!), who has stories of waiting at a random bus stop only to realize there's no bus ever coming (e.g. waiting for B-Line on a Sunday as an example) and that affects their long term impression of HSR, just getting used to their car realizing how car-friendly Hamilton is, and as a result contributing to Hamilton's congestion.

Certainly, Hamilton bus service can be sometimes good at peak, but then the bus is crowded, can't text on my phone while standing without grabbing a pole, while it's easier to stand on an LRT without grabbing a pole, as they don't swerve and move more predictably, so crowded LRTs (better European-style, preferably not cramped TTC-style) is preferrable to be a standee on, than a standee on a bus during peak periods and event surges. Considering the drinking going on all over Hamilton at these events, improved capacity and convenience that makes them more attractive than taxis or buses, makes a big difference too.

When the last passenger projections for the LRT was done (a modest tripling), I do not believe they fully accounted for latent demand as there's more things to do now downtown during evenings (e.g. Augusta, James restaurants, downtown events) and this is continually improving, and there are multiple theatres and stadiums along the route that current attract drivers because buses chronically overflow during these times or can't trust the route to operate when it's needed. For a King LRT combined with Main 2-way conversion, I fully believe that the LRT projections are actually low.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-06-02 13:41:47

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2015 at 18:54:39 in reply to Comment 111929

Underscoring my above comment.

I have since learned about Calgary's C-Train history. Did you know that the C-Train LRT carried less people daily at first, than today's Hamilton B-Line (11,000 per day, which doesn't even operate evenings/weekends)?

Today, the original Calgary C-Train line now carries over 150,000 people per day -- and today, the whole two-LRT-route system now carries over 300,000 people per day.

People had not liked the bus service back then on the original route, not too much unlike Hamilton not liking HSR public transit today. But they love their own LRT. Ontario does not have a true traffic-priority LRT, none of TTC streetcar lines (not even Spadina or St. Clair, yet at least) are nearly as fast and efficient as C-Train or several European-style LRTs.

Back in 1981 when C-Train started, the entire metro area of Calgary had a smaller population than Hamilton. And Calgary doesn't even have a Golden Horseshoe. 25% of Canada's population is within 2 hours driving distance of Hamilton!! And the original C-Train route was not as good as Hamilton's even shortened B-Line LRT, as it went through quite a lot of low-density neighborhoods, not too unlike Hamilton Lower City outside downtown.

Allow me to make a prediction that the Hamilton LRT will be in the six-figure ridership well before 2050 after eventual B-Line extensions to Dundas/Stoney Creek and the A-Line stub extended up the mountain to the airport, connecting to both GO stations and eventual all-day two-way GO service. Who wants to bet their mortgage? ;-)

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-06-04 19:07:53

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 21:56:14 in reply to Comment 111893

You are paying for it via your provincial taxes. The entire line will be built and owned by the province not the city.

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By Doubtful (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 22:42:21 in reply to Comment 111895

"The entire line will be built and owned by the province not the city."

Built, sure. Owned? Only till there's no money left. Then it'll be downloaded to the municipality to pay for. Maybe not in your lifetime but it'll happen at some point.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 23:10:55 in reply to Comment 111938

The B-line corridor is Hamilton's only profitable transit route. And the #1 cost (appx 50% of the annual budget) is on HSR drivers.

B-line LRT carries far more people with far few drivers and will also be a profitable transit line. Province would be nuts to download it. Regardless, Metrolinx being in charge means this will be done correctly. Another huge win for the city IMO

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By oh, please: Main as is? (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2015 at 14:04:25

Bunch of folks here clearly trying to distract and divert from the issues at hand--in particular re current destructive structure of most of Main St. through much of central Hamilton. Would YOU want to open up a business on Main St. at this time, hoping for people by foot, bus, and car traffic from more than one zooming direction? See haberdasher Newman's piece in RTH a couple years ago, for a good look at what you can't currently see while dodging traffic and staying alive even as a driver at 60 k.p.h.

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By LauraKirkendall (registered) | Posted June 01, 2015 at 16:00:57

I agree that the LRT could be great, but don't understand the logic behind eliminating car traffic on King through International Village. Mixed-use lanes might be an alternative, with (dare I say) dual-direction traffic on King AND Main? Slow people down a bit to promote businesses in the area.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2015 at 16:26:54 in reply to Comment 111914

International Village has only 2 lanes. LRT takes 2 lanes - 3 where it stops. Making a stop in the international village may require cars not being there. Either way, traffic can go around the international village, while the LRT cannot.

Either way traffic there is going to be so tight that drivers should be directed to find another route.

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By What Am I Missing? (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 12:11:37 in reply to Comment 111915

I don't see why cars and LRT can't share the two lane stretch thru International Village the same way cars and buses do now. LRT could be given green light priority entering the Village and cars could pull in behind. Then everything goes back to "normal" once the two lane stretch is done. What am I missing?

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted June 01, 2015 at 18:18:24 in reply to Comment 111915

Can the B-Line not go south on James (along the A-line tracks) then East/West on Main to Victoria, South on Victoria and back to Main? It would still be close to IV - only one block away. The line on main could remain dedicated.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 08:08:07 in reply to Comment 111916

This seems to overcomplicate the situation... How long is the narrowest stretch? I still think that proper arrangement of the side streets will allow even easier access than we have now.

However another option would be for westbound rail to use king William. The line could divert through the park at Wellington and merge back through the empty lot across from Lister and using the Jackson forecourt.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2015 at 23:24:28 in reply to Comment 111916

Honestly, I would have preferred a main alignment the whole way, but the city's opinion is that the best economic outcome in terms of opportunities for Dev and intensification exists along King.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2015 at 12:37:03 in reply to Comment 111918

The morning commute to the 403 is constrained to two lanes. There's also the compromise option of making Main a 2-way street, but use a dynamic center lane (out of 5) with overhead electronic arrows. This would allow 3-lanes towards the 403 during the morning commute, and bypass the IV bottleneck.

If we put the LRT tracks on King Street instead, we really truly have tremendous flexibility of future options. Main can be a 2-1-2 arrangement (center turning lane, dynamic center lane, or both (peak vs offpeak). Or a 2-2-1 arrangement (permanent curbside parking), or permanently 2-2 arrangement (curbside parking on both sides) with bike lanes fifty years from now if car traffic falls enough due to LRT/RHVP/LINC expansions. We can even convert Main Street between all these options over time.

Whatever happens, we have more flexibility on Main Street's future if we install all LRT lanes on King, and keep IV car-free. We don't even need to convert Main to a 2-way street NOW, but the door is permanently left open.

And if RHV/LINC expansions + LRT actually decrease Main-King car traffic even further, actual voters may even be more comfortable with Main 2-way conversion. Heck, they may actually vote to install bumpouts and bike lanes on Main about 30-years from now -- if most eventually concedes we no longer need Main/King to be urban expressways.

As a result, I feel we must install LRT on King Street, even though Main Street seems a more logical lower-cost LRT routing in theory. Also, King is closer walking distance to areas needing further revitalization (e.g. Cannon, Barton). I agree with the city's opinion that potential is maximized if LRT is on King.

We would be shooting ourselves in our foot if we make the mistake of installing any LRT lane in the wrong location. If any car-excluded LRT lane is on Main, it becomes much harder for cars to turn left and/or right, and that slows down cars behind them greatly. By making Main a 2-way street, we avoid this problem, AND we can gain 3-lanes towards 403 in the morning using dynamic center lane (overhead electronic green arrows). Everyone wins!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-06-02 12:40:33

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 13:08:37 in reply to Comment 111925

I agree for the most part that King is the better location, particularly between Wentworth and Gage where it really works its way into the centre and comes close to the stadium. However, I worry that the trains are going to loom too large in the IV. It looks like that infrastructure will essentially consume the entire streetscape and pose a real problem if the tracks are shared with cars. We want to see the LRT passing cars in gridlock - not stuck alongside them. My preference would be for the LRT to by-pass the IV while at the same time widening the sidewalks and installing a parking protected bike lane on one side with no parking on the other.

Running the LRT a short distance on Main may also provide the incentive to convert at least that span to two way which would open up the possibility for further conversion in the future.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2015 at 13:49:48 in reply to Comment 111927

That's an interesting concept to route the LRT around IV, but that dramatically slows down an LRT. In Toronto, streetcars turn very slowly, and turning LRTs are more difficult to traffic-prioritize, especially with pedestrians crossing the crosswalks.

My prevailing opinion is to turn IV into a pedestrian-only place (LRTs and pedestrians only) and solve IV parking by making a BIA contract with Denniger's parking lot to provide free customer parking to the whole BIA (upon providing IV receipt). I don't even currently pull over my car in IV because of cars racing behind me, makes it dangerous to pull into the bumpouts sometimes, and I've often overshot 3 blocks past IV, or suddenly decide to drive into Denniger's parking lot (but only to visit Denniger's at the moment).

I want to use the LRT to commute to Toronto. Don't slow commute by adding turns to the LRT. I work in Toronto daily. Catch LRT to GO station (once GO increases service), catch GO train. Spouse can keep car. Currently I drive to Aldershot since the train schedule in Hamilton downtown doesn't fit me, and I often unexpectedly work past the last train. Catching the GO bus, to a no-longer-running B-Line, is no fun, so I never use the B-Line (at current no-evening no-weekend schedule) but if a BRT/LRT runs 19.5+ hours a day, 7 days a week, and there's allday Hamilton GO trains, I'd commute to Toronto by LRT+GO since it will be equally as fast (or even faster) as driving to Aldershot and catching GO.

If there are four turns (turn off king, turn onto main, turn off main, turn back onto King) in the LRT that slows it down by 5 minutes (because of peak traffic), that actually doubles my commute between home and GO station -- TTC detours "U" shaped in streetcars are extremely time-consuming due to lack of traffic-signal-priority being easily possible for LRT turns without upsetting lots of car traffic. Traffic signal priority for LRT is much simpler and frustrates the car lobby far less, if there's no turns, since traffic signal priority during turns can means blocking the whole intersection to through-cars, depending on how it's laid out. It can often take more than 1 minute for a streetcar to make a turn through a peak-period intersection. And you're talking about FOUR turns. That might make LRT feel annoying as I get within 1 kilometer of GO, and then annoyingly it suddenly slows down by having to do multiple turns just before IV, especially if I am running tight to the GO train schedule. It then feels slower than car, and less appealing. McMaster students may also agree, trying to commute through downtown, as well, etc. So, I say, send the LRT as a straight beeline (pun intended, B-Line).

I have been in Hamilton near Gage Park for more than a year, and repeatedly drive to Mulberry Street Cafe on James Street (but how wonderful if I can predictably LRT/BRT sometimes instead, so I can drink a beer without worrying about driving) but have not yet gone to Café Oranje (in IV) yet. I know, I'm ashamed, I often don't turn my head left/right in IV because I'm so focussed on keeping my slot between the car ahead/behind me, and then I realize I overshot some nice places and can't turn back easily because all the surrounding streets are 1-way. UGH. LRT would actually increase IV business dramatically, even for carowners, as most IV businesses are served by pedestrians, not cars. As long as there's an LRT station in the middle of IV (or two stations; at each end of the IV).

TL;DR: Make IV a pedestrian-only section. Turn Main and some surrounding into 2-way streets. Create a quid pro quo BIA (funded) agreement with Denniger's parking for free parking for customers of whole IV BIA.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-06-02 14:00:24

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2015 at 14:38:09 in reply to Comment 111930

I should add... If we add any turns to the B-Line, it should be a loop into Hunter GO station / Jackson Square / MacNab bus terminal. That's because that whole area is a transportation hub, and I can just get off the LRT at the most efficient point of the loop.

Mississauga's newly announced Hurontario LRT has a loop around Square One, and it is a decent idea, as long as the loop is at a transportation hub, where a large number of people heading to/from downtown would transfer to a different transit (e.g. GOtrain or A-Line LRT), and thus the loop doesn't slow down their journey appreciably, unless going crosstown through downtown.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:37:04

Woot! Transit nerds rock!

Why not ditch the proposed waterfront stop and extend the A line to TH&B. This would connect intercity bus service with Hunter GO.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2015 at 13:54:28 in reply to Comment 113593

Mayor Eisenberger is gung-ho about waterfront development. I think it's one of the few things he seems to really fight for. No way he's trading that for anything.

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