Two-Way Street Conversion in the National Post

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 09, 2012

A recent article in the National Post chronicles the municipal trend of converting urban one-way streets to two-way, starting with the recent conversion of St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharine's.

According to planners, it would slow cars down, make the downtown more pedestrian friendly and spur retail development.

People, especially businesspeople, didn't like it. And then they did.

Lured by the new two-way, the Wine Council of Ontario included St. Paul Street in its redrafted Ontario Wine Route. Crews are currently at work on a new St. Paul Street performing arts centre. Slower-moving drivers have reported discovering stores and restaurants they never noticed before.

"It was somewhat controversial at first, but I would say now that, without exaggeration, people are 90% in favour," said Brian McMullan, the city's ebullient young mayor.

"A prominent local businessman came up to me the other day and said, 'I didn't support it from the start, but this is the best thing you've ever done.'"

Every time a city government decides to convert one-way streets back to two-way, two phenomena occur. The first phenomenon is that the local businesses scream bloody murder and insist that it will ruin the street and bankrupt them.

The second phenomenon arrives six months to a year later: the sky doesn't fall, the opposition evaporates and everyone comes to sing the praises of the courageous planners and politicians who made the change.

The Post articles pulls few punches in its condemnation of the mid-20th century enthusiasm for one-way conversions:

The effects on urban cores were immediate. In small towns, the conversion of Main Street to one-way was usually the first harbinger of urban blight. A much-quoted statistic holds that 40% of the businesses on Cincinnati's Vine Street closed after it became a one-way. By the 1980s, one-ways had become potent symbols of urban racial divides. In dozens of U.S. metropolises, poor black neighbourhoods were severed by loud, dangerous one-ways jammed with mainly white drivers speeding to the suburbs.

It perhaps cheekily reports on a Scottish town that just bucked the trend and converted its main street to one-way.

"The traffic is faster, there's no doubt about that," said Alastair Cameron, the leader of a community movement against the one-way conversion. The road is riskier for pedestrians, sales have plummeted - and locals have reported a problem with confused drivers flying down the street going the wrong way. In a recent survey, 90% of Castle Street businesses opposed the new street.

This, incidentally, is also what happened in Hamilton in 1957, the year after its major downtown streets were converted en masse to one-way. Local businesses complained that sales had fallen, business had dropped and customers were staying away, repelled by the fast, heavy traffic.

The Post article cites the May-June 2000 public health study finding that one-way streets are 2.5 times more dangerous for children than two way-streets.

It does close by arguing that it is an oversimplification to conclude that one-way streets are always bad and have no place in a modern urban environment. It quotes New Urbanist Peter Calthorpe, of all people, arguing that one-way traffic flows can make high-density urban streets more functional. (Think Manhattan, San Francisco, Portland and Montreal.)

The main problem with Hamilton's one-way streets is that they encourage fast, high-volume crosstown automobile traffic, and that is incompatible with lively, livable streets for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, as well as local automobile traffic to micro-destinations.

As the article notes, two-way conversion is a cheap, easy, effective way to transform urban thoroughfares back into pedestrian- and local-destination friendly streets. For a medium-density downtown like Hamilton's, that should be a no-brainer.

(h/t to the half-dozen RTH readers who sent me links to the National Post article)

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 Conrad66 (registered) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 14:05:04

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 09, 2012 at 15:56:26

I'd like us to take a good look at some residential one-way streets as well. It was interesting during An evening with Jason Farr, to hear him discuss more specifically, the area south of Centre Mall, but I wonder if there are better work-around's? Ever tried to venture into that area off of Kenilworth? "Look kids, Big Ben; Parliament."

I liked the discussion on here a month or so ago about continuing the Cannon one-way to around Wellington and forcing trucks to use Burlington and up to Cannon via Wellington, are the things it seems worth exploring. Cannon/Wilson are lower city Links without the noise barriers and surrounding by residential homes and pedestrians weary to cross.

All I have to say is Matthew Powers, King & Gage and we all know why these 4 and 5 lane one-way streets need to go. As you pointed out, because they are unsafe for pedestrians. I am all for this city being known most, for it's bike and pedestrian safety.

Hamilton - A Pedestrian's Paradise

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 16:27:35 in reply to Comment 72863

"Cannon one-way to around Wellington and forcing trucks to use Burlington and up to Cannon via Wellington"

Sherman to Wellington two-way seems possible... that stretch is far more residentially intensive than, say, Wellington to York, which aside from a pocket between in John and Mary is dominated by commercial and light industrial properties.

Something like NEN's 30kmh stand makes me think that Burlington Street won't be a viable thoroughfare along its entuire length. Guessing that nobody wants tractor-trailers hauling up and down Bay or James in convoy formations.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:20:58 in reply to Comment 72865

I can guess (probably accurately) where they're going.

To drive from Burlington/Gage to 403/hwy 6 using the highways only = 22.7km. To do the same trip using city streets = 9.9 km.

To drive from the same origin to 403/linc using only highways = 25.2 km. To do the same trip using city streets = 13.5 km.

Using the city streets to get to those two spots saves over 12 km of driving each.

I guess RTHers (some of them anyway) need to decide what is a higher priority for them. Reducing truck traffic on Cannon or reducing truck traffic in general.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 09, 2012 at 16:41:17 in reply to Comment 72865

The real question is "where are those trucks going?"

If they are going to the 401>>Windsor then they should take the highways we built for them. If QEW>>Toronto then they should take the Skyway. The only trucks going through that stretch should be bound for destinations within Hamilton.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 21:34:22 in reply to Comment 72866

Hey, look, I relate. It's just that the way it's designed now, Cannon is a collector road for York, which offers access to the highway, and onward to points west.

A citizens' action group could always press for a chase car or some GPS tags to surreptitiously plot out where those trucks are going. And then hope that they relate to tax-negligible enterprises so that the equation is nice and simple. As it stands, the HPA lands, despite the downturn of recent decades, are still a good little earner, and represent some of the most ballyhooed economic development in the lower city. (And are a constituent of Wards 2-4, which I'm guessing influences policy in some way, shape or form) Until James North artists start pulling international ink, the ass end of the Cannon strip seems destined to remain one-way.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 09, 2012 at 17:04:39 in reply to Comment 72866

For sure. How about 'Trail Signs' like you find along the Bruce trail. I know there are signs that say no trucks aloud, but you hit something when you ask 'where are they going'. Every business where a truck may potentially deliver, should possibly have an official route to be taken assigned to it perhaps?

Maybe knowing what streets are okay to drive on and which ones are not, is kind of like one-way streets. I have lived in Hamilton all of my life for the most part and I have been known to accidentally turn the wrong way onto a one way on a few occasions. It's the scariest thing. Tired, think for some reason you are at Main instead of King, etc. Talk about a holy #$%$ moment!

How easy are our streets for truckers to navigate through? How about taking the guess work out of their inner-city travels. This is the route. If the traffic is heavy, sorry but that's the way. Accident closed off your route? Unless your travel guide shows detours, driving down my residential street (which has happened - perhaps not a full length transport but certainly some not-meant-for-residential vehicles have passed me by during construction), is not permitted so you'll have to wait.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-01-09 17:23:50

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 08:07:13 in reply to Comment 72868

Every business where a truck may potentially deliver, should possibly have an official route to be taken assigned to it perhaps?

That's overkill. If the delivery is off of the official route, drivers are allowed to go off the designated streets as long as they do it in as direct a route as possible, then return to the truck route to carry on. This is not a problem.

The main problem is that our streets are designed so that it takes less time to drive through the city than around it.

The concept of truck routes is to keep through traffic on designated streets - in order to have control over where the large groupings of trucks travel. One-off trucks making deliveries don't pose problems to the degree that caravans of trucks all day and night do.

As far as understanding where the truck routes are -- well -- they are published by the city and well signed, and what else can I say but driving is a trucker's job and knowing the rules is part of it...

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted January 12, 2012 at 04:01:33 in reply to Comment 72891

If the delivery is off of the official route, drivers are allowed to go off the designated streets as long as they do it in as direct a route as possible, then return to the truck route to carry on. This is not a problem.

Not true, my father-in-law drives a home-heating-oil delivery truck and has been ticketed multiple times while making deliveries... just saying.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 12, 2012 at 11:31:47 in reply to Comment 72986

It's true. Your FIL was either ticketed for other reasons, or by a bylaw officer ignorant of the law, in which case I hope your FIL fought it.

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By Shea (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 17:12:23

Dear Jason Farr,
In addition to humanizing the 'big' streets by de-one-waying them, Park St. North, MacNab North, John North, e.g., are all good candidates for two-way calming and civilizing, in the north part of Hamilton--not to mention making driving less crazy, and hence safer for humans. Otherwise, miss an address or a turn and go 'round and 'round the block almost forever, like the poor puppet on Sesame Street who got thus trapped. Except, he was rescued and thus understood the signs, but did not defeat them.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:04:10 in reply to Comment 72869

If someone misses an address, I don't understand why they wouldn't rather park their car past the missed address and walk an extra 30 seconds rather than drive "round and round.. forever".

When people are driving they seem to get into this mindset that they must arrive within 10 feet of the destination. If it's such a pain in the butt to drive to a destination, why not just park where it's easy and walk? This can sometimes even result in a shorter overall trip time.

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By missed point (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:27:12 in reply to Comment 72928

I think maybe you're [on purpose?]missing the point that that poster was getting at. Yes, of course you are right--but that has zero to do with why you may be supporting one ways.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 16:28:42 in reply to Comment 72932

My above post was more about peoples' mindsets than about one way or two way. You picked a good name for yourself.

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By yourmedication (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 20:13:28 in reply to Comment 72937

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-01-11 10:17:53

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By Captainkirk (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 18:51:39

I like the one way older, narrow residential streets in Chicago and NYC as it allows parking on both sides.

Speed bumps slow down any wannabe speeders, making for a nice, calm neighbourhood with roads being used more for parking and less for driving.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 22:15:26 in reply to Comment 72871

I agree. Even cities like Ottawa have this. I really don't find 2-way traffic on the old 1-way streets to make me stop and go into shops that I may have not noticed before.

The way things are - timed lights that can get you through the city if you follow the speed limit - seems good to me.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 08:19:27 in reply to Comment 72883

Comfortable streets (whether one way or two) may not draw a lot of people in who currently use them as through streets - but they makes the places much more comfortable for people to walk along, meaning local residents will spend more time on the commercial streets. The positive feedback of this is that more people will move to these areas and they'll just get better. Look at Locke businesses and then consider the neighbouring areas - including property values. The same thing is happening around James North. It takes time, and it's not all about "two way streets" but a comfortable street has to be the first move otherwise it never happens.

Bottom line, it's not about street direction it's about making the streets comfortable for people so that they'll want to live on/near them - and the drive-thru outsiders are not the target market (well until they see how great the streets have become and choose to move in closer :-)

We are going to have to increase density here somehow, otherwise we will never be able to afford our infrastructure upkeep. The roads and sewers (and everything else) aren't magically going to stop needing work, they aren't going to get any younger, and the work isn't going to get any cheaper. The only way to keep our taxes in check is to attract more residents so that the costs can be better shared.

More residents downtown means more businesses which translates to fewer vacant building tax breaks, more taxes coming in, more money being spent, etc....

Those who hold so tightly to the concept of driving through the city at maximum efficiency seem to not understand that this privilege is directly linked to our rising taxes and cost of living in this city. It's simply unsustainable.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 13, 2012 at 22:15:14 in reply to Comment 72894

I walk regularly along King, Main, John, James and other one-ways, and don't feel uncomfortable. I spend a fair amount of free time on these streets.

Maybe I'm the exception to the rule? I'm still fairly young, but don't really buy into the '2 way makes it more attractive to people, thus bringing more business in, and then all our problems are solved' mentality that others have.

Just my 2 cents.

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By you tough (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2012 at 13:17:07 in reply to Comment 73026

You are one tough dude, male or female. Do you wear a gas mask and chain mail armour? When you meet another pedestrian, do you move to the 'building' side or traffic side of the narrow sidewalk? Does the air pressure from fast traffic destabilize you? etc.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 19:15:05

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Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-01-09 21:09:20

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 19:16:21

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-01-09 21:07:32

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 19:31:27

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-01-09 21:08:26

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By RB (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 13:29:37 in reply to Comment 72875

Hahaha!!!!! So s/he tries it with new handle titled "first time poster"... ahahahhaaha!

that is hilarious...

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By Brian C (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2012 at 23:53:15

In the last few months I have visited Manhattan, Memphis and New Orleans. In NYC 99% of the streets are one way. The other two cities are predominately one way in the downtown cores. They are very pedestrian friendly. Although I personally find one way streets much easier and safer to navigate, the key however is not the direction of traffic but that there is lots of curbside parking. If you look at any of the busy commercial / retail areas of Hamilton the secret is curbside parking. Pedestrians and store owners feel safe when there is a buffer between them and traffic. The two way conversion of Wilson on the other hand has created an "expressway" through the James North area. Any street without curbside parking is by my definition an expressway. That stretch west of James St. is much less friendly to pedestrians than before. Did any market stall holders ever set up street side stalls along that street as originally envisioned? Just imagine Main and King Streets along their entire lengths with curbside parking, right through the core. Automatic traffic calming and pedestrians would feel protected! NYC has free unlimited street parking (with some limitations) almost everywhere! One way streets that are great for walking. James St. North started its recovery long before the conversion, when people like Bryce at YouMe Gallery, Glenn at HIStory and HERitage and Dave at Mixed Media put their money and their heart and energy into their business district. They led the way. One way or two makes no difference. Let curbside parking accomplish naturally what all the badly designed new intersections and bumpouts can't.

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By JM (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 09:05:49 in reply to Comment 72885

bang on! way itself is not a terrible thing. traffic does have the right to flow freely - it just doesn't have the right to speed through at the cost of pedestrian comfort and safety. both trucks and passenger cars...

our major one ways like main and cannon can easily be kept as one way with widened side walks, and on-street parking (even during rush hour!) just as described above. even though it might be slower, just think how much more pleasant the drive would be through a tree-lined street too! (if done properly of course)

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 08:26:08 in reply to Comment 72885

Agreed about curbside parking - and bike lanes too. We have the space to do this right now and hang up the one-way vs two-way debate - might be easier to convert people who see a value to livable streets but who don['t want to give up their drive thru city.

The only thing about the one-ways is that it makes getting to a destination difficult for local residents and extremely frustrating for visitors.

I could handle main and cannon as one ways if we narrowed them with bike lanes and parking on both sides. But for ease of navigation I'd like to see a lot of the north-south streets put back to two way - and king street too. There's just no reason for the one ways on these anymore since the volume of north and south bound traffic is minuscule compared to east-west (and compared to what it was like during our industrial north end heyday).

Here's a question: Why is Bay Street one way? it goes from nowhere to nowhere (no offence to durand and the north end). Its one way status wreaks havoc with the ability to get around the very centre of our city, and is part of the reason that the york conversion is a total joke.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:15:23 in reply to Comment 72895

Agree completely with this. It's especially ridiculous that someone from out of town who is looking to turn left from King onto James (where left turns are forbidden) has to either know the streets and turn 2 blocks early (at Catharine) or proceed all the way to Caroline St (a distance of 1 km) before being able to make that turn.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 09:02:05 in reply to Comment 72895

I like the idea of dedicated curbside parking like Barton Street from Wentworth to Victoria with a vegetated centre medium although it leaves no room for bike lanes in thatg stretch but eliminating a lane from use is a favourite of mine. I'd love to see that on Ottawa Street. You want to see an evening raceway, check out Ottawa street when all the lights are out. Not cool.

I'd love to buy a bike but as someone who hasn't owned a bike since I got my first car at 16, I am not sure I am ready to bike on our streets.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 08:53:22

Ryan, can you please stop being so eager to delete things? Unless they're outwardly abusive (maybe they were, I didn't see them), it seems unnecessary.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:08:07

Despite the fact that Hamilton's traffic levels are such that we don't need any of these large one-way streets, I would be happy if we turned Cannon and Main into this:

However, it's kind of sad that little cities like St Kitts and previously 'old fashioned' newspapers like the post are now ahead of Hamilton. We're clinging to one-way streets like grim death in this city.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 17:35:55 in reply to Comment 72907


One thing I can't help but notice that even in this picture, there's a boulevard of grass separating the sidewalk from the parked car lane. That's another approach that would work.

Every tried to push a stroller along King or Main? Those near-incessant driveways will drive you batty. Some storefronts almost have the entire length of sidewalk in front of their store equipped with ramped curbs. With grassed boulevards, the sidewalk remains flat.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:11:33 in reply to Comment 72907

I'd be okay with that too assuming a couple of things:

1) there would have to be at least 2 driving lanes along the whole corridor. Areas where there are bus stops would have no on street parking to leave room for the bus to pull out of the way of traffic.

2) get rid of one of the two bike lanes. Perhaps the right one would be best removed so that buses can pull in/out of the "stopping" area without the chance of hitting a bike?

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 20:55:14 in reply to Comment 72929

I'd be fine if it went down to 1 live lane at time. And I don't like it when buses have to pull out of traffic. Traffic should stop behind buses. The fact that Hamilton city hall is 100% fixated on high speed traffic flow is the main reason I prefer two-way conversions. Even though they can still botch them, like the recent Wilson St should have street parking on both sides, 24-7 but of course it doesn't because we operate under the mandate of high speed traffic 24-7. Still, it's slightly better than 3 or 4 lanes one-way eastbound like it used to be. I know my above photo wouldn't last in Hamilton. Soon the parking would be gone on one side, bike lanes would disappear, trees would come down, sidewalk narrowed and next thing you know it would be back to 3 or 4 lanes one way. At least once we make a 2-way switch there is no going back. Being home to some of the worst engineered roads in Canada with a city administration that doesn't see any problem puts me firmly in the camp of two-way conversions.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-01-10 20:55:48

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:30:33

I've admitted it before and I'm still ashamed. I was once a pro-onewaystreeter. I despised/feared downtown Hamilton, locked my car doors when I hit Victoria, if not before, and didn't breathe again until I got passed Hess. Get through the ick as quickly as possible.

Then the waterfront park opened and I actually biked to the downtown. And it was nice. Then James St. converted to two-way, and it was nice. Now, I go downtown. It's not at all what it looks like from a speeding car. It's nice. Interesting. Fun.

Victoria Street in particular amuses me. It's a beautiful street. If only it was two-way. Those houses would be snapped up and converted back to nice single-family residences in no time. If I was young and up for the challenge, I'd be looking to move downtown now. Street conversion is an inevitability for this city and the core could quickly become the most desirable place to live.

Comment edited by d.knox on 2012-01-10 10:31:18

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 17:56:28 in reply to Comment 72909

There is nothing wrong with being "pro-oneway". It is nothing to be ashamed of.

It would be shameful for someone to say something like "one way streets are the only kind of streets that should exist". In my opinion it's just as bad to say "two way streets are the only type of streets that should exist".

Both one way streets and two way streets have their place in a city.

To be ashamed of being a "pro-onewaystreeter" would mean that you're ashamed to like cities such as New York and Portland where one way streets abound.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 18:28:18 in reply to Comment 72943

"Both one way streets and two way streets have their place in a city."

You are correct. In Hamilton, where it always seems to be 1960, the place for two-way streets appears to be the upper city, while the place for one-way streets appears to be the lower city.

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By JM (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:40:48 in reply to Comment 72909

not only are they beautiful homes, but there are also on a densely treelined spot... just before Barton anyways.

you could have nice "front yards" if the street wasnt so damn wide!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 11:00:30 in reply to Comment 72910

so true...I've always loved that stretch. It could be a wonderful urban neighbourhood. Imagine one-lane each way with parking on both sides? What a difference in the quality of life. Ditto for Wentworth, just south of Barton...another great streetscape marred by a one-way freeway. Considering most of city staff don't live downtown, we should really push for 3-5 lane one way conversions of their area streets in Ancaster, Dundas and the Mountain. If these streets are so wonderful, let's share the love.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 11:45:06

Having moved from Durand to the North End, I'm a little confused. My current street is no larger than the quiet side-streets I lived on there, it's got parking on both sides and it isn't one way. There's no lines painted on the street, and more commercial destinations. How is this possible? It doesn't feel unsafe, either, despite plenty of traffic and stop signs which almost nobody ever fully stops for, if anything it's safer.

If I were to go by the city's recent two-way-conversions downtown, I'd expect that such a task would require expropriating all our front lawns for the sake of three dedicated turning lanes, and yet after living here I'm tempted to offer up my own bid to city hall: I'll turn any street they want into a 2-way, with a wrench and a ratchet set, for the low price of a case of beer.

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By JM (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 13:38:49 in reply to Comment 72912

thats the problem with how they are converting them now... trying to maintain the one way traffic flow, with one lane in the opposite direction (tada!)

a true two-way conversion does not need dedicated turning lanes!

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:14:28 in reply to Comment 72920

Are dedicated turning lanes safer or less safe to the residents of Hamilton?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 17:45:23 in reply to Comment 72930

I'd have to see a lot of data to know for sure, it's not a topic which I've seen dealt with on its own. I'm not a big fan, though, personally. Some locations may warrant them, but for many they add a lot of unnecessary complexity in the name of simplifying traffic flows. For those who're not familiar with an area, complex sets of rules like we see on the new "TWINO" streets can become a little panic-inducing. For those of us stuck behind them, it can be incredibly frustrating. Also, for bikes, they impose a not-always clear set of rules which seems to change based on the intersection or cyclist.

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By JM (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 15:52:20 in reply to Comment 72930

i don't think they have anything to do with safety - it just separates traffic that requires waiting from traffic that can move through

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 17:51:33 in reply to Comment 72935

Left-turn lanes at intersections substantially reduce rear-end crashes. Exclusive **turn lanes reduce crashes between 18 to 77 percent (50 percent average) and reduce rear-end collisions between 60 and 88 percent*.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 17:43:25 in reply to Comment 72935

Here is a more thorough summary from

Two-way turning lanes are typically used in busy urban areas with closely spaced access points. A single lane is marked in the centre of the road to provide an area for vehicles travelling in either direction to slow down before turning across traffic into significant driveways. This type of lane also provides a space for drivers of turning vehicles who must wait for an adequate gap in on-coming traffic.

In areas where there is pedestrian activity, these lanes may provide some protection to pedestrians crossing the road, and can be coupled with pedestrian treatments such as pedestrian refuge islands to provide added security.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 18:58:54

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-01-11 06:54:21

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 22:00:35

Each city has its unique set of problems which need to be addressed in their own unique way. Solutions that work in one city when blindly implemented in another city can lead to new sets of problems at worst, or leads to a bland homogenizing of the city experience.

Hamilton's lower city and especially the downtown core suffers from a chronic "SPEED" problem and not necessarily a "One-Way vs Two-Way" problem.

We do not have the density presently to wage this battle, and even with an infusion of 200,000 new residents overnight we may never face the complex traffic questions many large cities have to deal with.

Hamiltonians, all tend to drive fast, speak fast, research fast, jump to conclusions fast and opine even faster. We all need to slow down.

"Its got to be the damn lead in the water-pipes!" See even I am doing it right here. No research, no verifying facts... I just dived in and found the solution to our speed problem... instantly!

Even when there are two-way streets converted recently, do we really slow down? Or do we continue to do the same?

Have people on James Street North really slowed down... and become more tempered in their research, and opinions? No. Bob just has to sneeze and they all start revving up and zoom right thru the living room walls at 100kmh. Well, if not all, at least a few - who give the perception of the whole.

Here are some observations made over a period of ten years, on why people speed on Main street and how it has turned into a one-way/two-way issue from being a speed issue - and how it has lent to the driving habits and perception of dangerously high-speeds all across the lower city.

The strong grid pattern of the lower city lends itself to an ideal one-way traffic pattern, which could lead to good results. However it fails because of the random authoritarian breaks in the one-way flow pattern around large blocks in the core - which defeats the very purpose of the one-way flow of a grid. A grid if allowed to flow organically, is in many way a representation of democracy at its best.

The extremely poor connections and traffic calming transitions from the peripheral highways into the city, especially from the Main Street East exit off the 403 - has lead to unplanned rubbernecking of cars while getting off the exit and onto Main Street.

When you provide a tight bottle-neck as an entry into the city - and immediately thereafter a wide five-lane road past the first traffic lights on Dundurn - the natural human tendency is to make a dash to get out of the crowd. This behaviour is reinforced all the way past Victoria Street - until one get to Sanford/Sherman - after which the change in building type on both sides of the road, and the reduction in lanes/widths naturally acts as a reinforcement to the driver - signaling to them that they are in a residential neighbouhood. Most, naturally slow down, yet many don't out of conditioning, and continue speeding and changing lanes to go faster to nowhere in particular.

The green-wave signaling and the wide carriageway of Main Street further reinforces bad driving behaviour and adds to an already bad situation.

Beyond Sherman the natural shrinking and undulations of Main Street East tends to slow down the traffic speeds drastically. But there are always the chronic speeders who are an exception who traumatize the city from the lack of speed enforcement.

The solution as I see it is more a highway engineering issue rather than a pervasive city-wide one-way/two-way conversion issue.

A simple doubling of the exit ramp length from its existing start point on 403 to somewhere near the underpass to Kay Drage Park - and distinctly segregating it from the 403 while defining it strongly with lower speeds up to the underpass on King West - coupled with a strong canopy of tall trees and other lower-speed landscape inducements -- would result in a dramatic calming effect on drivers who are getting off the 403 and make them aware that they are entering a significant city of half-a-million people.

As this exit curves onwards to Main street, there are two parks on both sides that can be landscaped far more effectively with water fountains and solar/led lighting to signify the "presence" of a major city. Yes, awe and pride can be used strategically to dramatically slow-down the human instinct to zoom by.

The "last-mile" problem into the city from the 403 east exit to Dundurn street will always be a problem, because of the many cross-over of lanes - a secondary problem which could be easily tackled if there is a will to tackle the primary problem of speed and phasing down of highway aggression as one enters the city.

That little exit experience can become the most refreshing drive-by 'spa' experience for half the cost of all the one-way/two-way conversion costs - and which can impact the self-image of all drivers into self-correcting their speeding behaviour.

Of course a significant one-way boulevard landscape on Main street with bike-lanes - from Dundurn to Wellington or Sherman would make the entrance as dramatic as the York Blvd entrance - giving the drivers an extended drive-by 'spa' experience and slowing them down naturally.

When you use drivers to slow down drivers behind them, it can be the most sustainable and fulfilling way to reduce the speed on roads. If our roads are beautiful, there may never be a need to put up a glut of speed signs. And there will be no reason to enforce - of course that may be the start of new problems, when the Traffic dept begins to see a drop in revenues from errant drivers.

Similar speed reductions across Wilson, Cannon, and Barton if and when achieved, would be the starting point of Hamilton's rebirth as a tempered city.

There is much research available on One-way/Two-way street conversions - on both sides of the argument:

Reviewing it with diligence can only help us to create rapid innovative solutions to our problems. Failing to do so, will only continue the propagation of rabid ideologies and conflicts between both sides of the one-way/two-way debate.

While living in Manhattan over many years, I never once experienced the need to debate one-way/two-way street issues. In spite of NYC's famous super blocks, super high density, wide street widths, and high speeds - the kind of vitality in street life which we are seeking in Hamilton through two-way streets, just happened there on one-way streets -- which I believe was on account of the open-spiritedness and inclusive nature of its people.

Of course there were reckless speedsters there too, but they just got ticketed heavily.

I fear that even if we get two or even three or four-way streets, we will continue to remain who we are until we slow down and open up to diversity and co-existence - but we are in love with speed instead, and hence we lack vitality.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-01-10 22:31:22

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2012 at 09:26:12 in reply to Comment 72950

May I suggest (as I have done many times before) that removal of all highway style "ramps" within the city limit should be priority number one... starting with the 403 interchanges and continuing with such atrocities as jolley/concession and claremont access/claremont drive/west 5th...

The 403 issue could easily be solved if the exits at main east terminated at main at a proper light. Then THe exiters would get a green light chance to turn and go to whatever lane they want. The current ramp'n'scramble should be illegal. What a liability!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:36:18 in reply to Comment 72959

While I agree it's a terrible design, I don't think that's something that could reasonably be changed at this point. It's a bridge. Where would you even put an intersection? Floating in the air? The cost would be horrifying.

This mess should've been fixed before Fortino's Plaza was built, but I don't know if it even can be fixed now. The only altnernative I could think would be something insane like adding lights to the existing structure... that is, put a light on the bridge and a light on each ramp, allowing the traffic to move individually even though they're all going in the same direction... but that would be wierd.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-01-11 10:37:10

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2012 at 11:45:09 in reply to Comment 72962

You need to look more closely... the 403->main east ramps do not meet main on the bridge. They meet it on solid earth. All we need to do is change the approach angle and put a light in:

403 eastbound->main:

403 westbound->main:

Also, lots of bridges have intersections on them at highway interchanges so even if that were the case, I don't see what the problem is from an engineering standpoint...

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 11, 2012 at 12:19:41 in reply to Comment 72966

I live near here and have studied these ramps too. You are correct. They can easily be changed by simply having them angle perpendicular to Main instead of roaring onto Main. Ditto for King. A stop light could be placed on King at the start of the 403 crossover with a left turn lane leading to a perpendicular ramp to the 403 West and a right turn leading to the 403 East. Like this interchange on the Red Hill:

Now, look at King Street at the 403:

The 403 Eastbound ramp from King is actually lined up to meet King at a 90 degree angle, except some brilliant planner somewhere decided to give it a sharp curve to the south-east so that it turns King Street from about Locke Street into a defacto on-ramp. It could easily lose this curve and meet King dead-on.

Ditto for the King ramp to the 403 West and the 403 ramp to Main East. No major reconstruction virtually everything else we talk about here in the realm of livability, safety and revitalization, simply some will at city hall.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-01-11 12:23:06

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By agreed (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2012 at 13:28:10 in reply to Comment 72970

The 403 ramp onto Main can easily be changed to a perpendicular stop. Even if the street remains one way it would be safer

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:04:08 in reply to Comment 72959

The 403 issue could easily be solved if the exits at main east terminated at main at a proper light.

Even Burlington - suburban, need-a-car-to-go-anywhere Burlington - doesn't let you zoom off of most of the QEW exits: you come to the Brant/Guelph/Walkers/Appleby/Burloak, signal and turn.

The traffic planners must know about this ... after all, isn't that where they all live?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted January 11, 2012 at 09:34:03 in reply to Comment 72959

The current ramp'n'scramble should be illegal.

I remember when GO used to come off this ramp to get downtown, rather than heading down the 403 a little farther west. They'd have to come off the ramp and immediately speed over to the south lane in order to access the stop at Dundurn. The number of near-misses I saw over the years... Yikes!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 10, 2012 at 22:29:13

I think this is what you're looking for Mahesh.

I would LOVE to see Main, Wilson and Cannon turned into this. Street parking, two traffic lanes, a flower garden boulevard barrier and two-way bike lanes.

Here is the cross section:

it's roughly a 4-lane cross section...which we have plenty of.

And it doesn't always have to involve a concrete flower planter along it's entire is the same street Vancouver with a cheaper, yet still effective separation option:

The main point here is simple. There are many options at our disposal to create safe, livable, vibrant communities through our lower city and 'code red' neighbourhoods where cycling is more necessary than simply a spandex event on Sun mornings. The lack of will from city hall on something so simple, and extremely cheap in the world of transportation infrastructure is sad.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-01-10 22:33:58

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2012 at 22:38:42 in reply to Comment 72951

Yes, for sure jason! this and the picture you posted earlier are great examples of a simple cost effective solution that can have major ripple effects across the lower city. In the hands of enlightened natural landscape + traffic designers, we could have the most stunning downtown very fast. But if we go the route of canned landscape (like on York) it could be a wasted opportunity.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2012 at 15:15:01

I read the article with much delight.

I think Hamilton needs to convert both Main and King to two way traffic. Full conversion, not five lanes one way and one lane going the other.

People are not comfortable walking downtown and this harms residential and business development. Two way traffic will also illuminate the streets at night because of lights from cars travelling in the opposite direction. People will feel safer dt and it won't be so bloody dark. All this making the dt a more lively place as it should be.

Some one-ways will need to remain dt such as Cannon and/or the mountain access routes.

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By Lakeside (registered) | Posted January 12, 2012 at 12:34:13 in reply to Comment 72977

Capitalist, you make a good point about how two-way traffic can increase pedestrian safety.

I'd like to add that it's not just the illumination provided by two-directional headlights, but also the eyes of all of those drivers that can enhance the safety of those on the sidewalks.

I would bet that almost every driver traveling along these streets is likely to have a cellphone with them.

While it's been said that being insulated from the world while inside a car can serve to disconnect one from the world around them, there may also be a benefit to this in some situations.

You hear of many car drivers (who are often characterized as being selfishly indifferent) using their phones to call-in incidents they witness while driving, from to drunk drivers to street robberies. (Dare I say that perhaps the protective shell of their vehicle might help give them the courage to make that call?)

One-way traffic patterns induce a massive wave of high-speed traffic followed by an empty street, while two-way traffic produces a situation where there is a generally constant flow of low-level traffic, coming from both directions.

The result is that there is almost nowhere to hide. And the near-constant flow of slower moving traffic means that someone is always there to bear witness to whatever might be happening on the sidewalks, and in doorways.

Even in low traffic, as a bad guy you never know when traffic will come along bringing with it these lights, eyes, and phones. As a pedestrian, you know that you're never really alone for more than a moment.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 12, 2012 at 09:56:29 in reply to Comment 72977

You never cease to surprise me these days Capitalist.

I agree with you.

I also agreed with Mahesh's points up above, another delightful surprise.

See, we can agree on some things after all.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted January 12, 2012 at 10:07:14

DTs are supposed to be dense, pedestrian friendly, and somewhat conjested and traffic snarled. How else are you going to support the heavy concentration of small businesses? The suburbs are to be the exact opposite. People can make up their mind as to where they choose to live.

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