Transportation

A Trip Down Highway 6

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 21, 2013

this blog entry has been updated

There are lots of interesting discussions we can have about what policy goals the City of Hamilton should pursue and how we should go about pursuing them. Those discussions are most productive when the people participating commit to an honest, good-faith treatment of the evidence and arguments.

Unfortunately, every open discussion attracts a few trolls who refuse to let mere facts, or indeed basic principles of discourse, get in the way of squelching and stonewalling any idea that might move our city forward.

One of the more common excuses for why we can't have nice things is because the municipality spans an area of 1,100 square kilometres. The argument is that if you divide the city's population by its area, our density is too low for walkable neighbourhoods, effective transit, functional bike lanes or anything else aside from single-family suburban houses, wide, multi-lane streets and mandatory free off-street parking.

There's a quick and easy answer to this claim, but I want to put this meme to bed, so I hope to indulge you for a few minutes by taking you on a trip. Or rather, by bringing you back from a trip north of the city.

Maybe you were enjoying a recursive experience on an island on a lake on Manitoulin Island. Maybe you were SCUBA diving for shipwrecks in Fathom Five. Maybe you were hiking the northern stretches of the Bruce Trail. Maybe you were cottaging in Lion's Head or Wiarton. Maybe you were getting high, happy and healthy in Mount Forest. Maybe you were camping in Elora Gorge. Maybe you were visiting a friend or family member at U of Guelph. Maybe you were enjoying an entertaining murder-mystery dinner theatre at the Aberfoyle Mill.

But you're on your way home now, and you're coming south toward Hamilton on Hwy 6. You're on a rural highway, 80 km/h dropping to 50 km/h when it passes through a village. You're surrounded by farmers' fields, stables, livestock pastures, copses of northern carolinian trees, a cheerful red barn, a stately rough-hewn stone house.

Just south of Puslinch you pass a blue sign welcoming you to Hamilton. It's just outside the gravel shoulder in front of an evergreen thicket. You're in Hamilton now, but you're still in farm country, surrounded by rolling fields and distant farm-houses.

After several minutes, you pass the turn to go to Valens, a relaxing campground operated by the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Keep driving, you're still in the country.

After several more minutes, you pass the turn to go to African Lion Safari, the bizarre drive-thru zoo where the monkeys have fun tearing off your wiper blades. Keep driving, you're still in the country.

Several minutes later, you pass the turn to go to Flamborough Downs, which an investigative report by Steve Buist in today's Spectator tells us is one of the few parts of OLG's casino operations that is actually making money, unlike its resort casinos. Keep driving, you're still in the country.

All in all, it's a 15-20 minute drive through the rurals before you finally reach Clappison's Corners and the top of the Escarpment, with a highway design that looks like something you find in a city.

It's fully 21 kilometres from the northern border of Hamilton to the downtown - a 21 kilometre wide band of farmland that happens to be inside the official borders of the city thanks to amalgamation.

So remember: the next time someone tries to say Hamilton can't have a functional mixed-use, mixed-mode, mixed-density because of its area, what they're really trying to get you to believe is that we can't have livable streets in downtown Hamilton because there are farmers in Flamborough and Glanbrook.

Update: this entry originally described Hwy 6 as one lane in each direction south of Hwy 401. However, it soon expands to two lanes in each direction and the entry did not make this clear. RTH regrets the oversight.

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 and HuffPost. 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 Rational Optimist (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 15:56:03

What is the population density of the built-up areas of Hamilton? I know that some Lower City census tracts approach those of downtown Toronto, but does anyone happen to know what the density is like when we exclude the rural areas of the city (weird oxymoron), but include the suburbs and everything else?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 17:33:39 in reply to Comment 88847

Population density by ward was published here in http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/15...

For example, ward 2 has a density of 6100/km^2 and wards 1-10 have an average density of 2800/km^2.

For comparison, the City of Vancouver (which is entirely urban) has a population density of 5,249/km2.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 17:43:48 in reply to Comment 88848

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 18:14:43 in reply to Comment 88850

what is the minimum required densities that should be reached before we build new freeways and cloverleaf interchanges?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 18:12:04 in reply to Comment 88850

What do you think the minimum population density necessary for LRT is? Why?

Why do you think residents of other urban wards don't want improved transit service? That's not what the City found when they surveyed over 1600 Hamiltonians throughout the city.

The B-line LRT is proposed to run through the wards that already have high population density and very high transit demand. That is a good place to start, and LRT will lead to increased development and density as it has elsewhere. The question of whether LRT is feasible and justified for Hamilton has been addressed in numerous studies, described and discussed extensively on this site.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 17:35:54 in reply to Comment 88848

comment from banned user deleted

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 18:08:00 in reply to Comment 88849

The contrast is between rural and urban, not urban and suburban. Hamilton does not distinguish between urban and suburban, only between rural and urban.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 18:57:59

The province isn't fooled by these games. EIther they think Hamilton LRT is viable or not, and if so, they'll be able to attach a priority to it just as with Lakeshore West service and eventual electrification. They're taking the 50,000 foot view, and aren't distracted by council shenanigans.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 19:49:14

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By More Like TROLL (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 21:44:10 in reply to Comment 88856

If you set out to prove the authors claim that "every open discussion attracts a few trolls who refuse to let mere facts, or indeed basic principles of discourse, get in the way of squelching and stonewalling any idea that might move our city forward" well you succeeded.

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By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 21:35:15 in reply to Comment 88856

Psst, the urban part of Hamilton is 235 square kilometres and has 480,000 people. Now please go do something less useless with your time.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 21, 2013 at 20:40:37 in reply to Comment 88856

Well, if you're only considering Canada then Calgary and Edmonton are the only cities that have actually built LRT (as opposed to skytrain), and they were similar in size to Hamilton when they were first planned.

In the USA, Sacramento has a population almost identical to Hamilton's, Charlotte is similar in size (750k) and Norfolk, VA has a population half of Hamilton's.

25 French cities have built LRT, and most of these cities are tiny (e.g. Dijon at 150k) compared to Hamilton http://fr.wikipedia.org and have similar population densities /wiki/Liste_des_tramways_de_France. But then I suppose that we have nothing to learn from their experience because they are 'European'.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2013 at 21:48:13 in reply to Comment 88857

Let's take another look at your claims. Sacramento proper has a population of 466,000. The urban area has a population of 1,440,000 and the metro area has a population of 2,600,000. Hamilton proper has a population of 520,000 and the metro area swells that number to 720,000. A far cry from the real numbers of Sacramento which also happens to be the capitol of one of the most populous states in the U.S.A.

Charlotte proper has population of 750,000 the urban area increases that to 1,250,000 and the metro area stands at 2,300,000.

Norfolk proper has a population of 245,000 but the urban population is over a million and the metro population is over 1.6 million.

Again and again the numbers show that no city as small as Hamilton has a LRT system. There is a reason for that. The cost. Again and again we see that LRT is found in MAJOR urban centers not small cities like Hamilton.

LRT here and now makes no sense, especially economic sense.

Let the downvoting begin.


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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 23, 2013 at 07:12:06 in reply to Comment 88873

Actually we had the foundations for a comprehensive LRT system more than 100 years ago:

Hamilton & Dundas Street Railway 1873-1923 Hamilton, Grimsby & Beamsville Electric Railway 1891-1931 Hamilton Radial Electric Railway 1893-1925 Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway 1896-1931 Hamilton Terminal Company 1907-1930s

It included incline railways to move man and machine up and down the escarpment quietly, cleanly and efficiently in a matter of minutes.

Some cities kept their early systems and expanded them as they grew. Unfortunatley in Hamilton it was probably those with views similar to yours that caused the systems to be abandoned in favour of "modernizing".

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2013 at 11:07:54

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-05-24 10:28:09

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 22, 2013 at 12:04:28 in reply to Comment 88864

Allan Taylor, is that you?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 10:08:24

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-05-24 10:28:03

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:13:52

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-05-24 13:28:07

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:32:17 in reply to Comment 88948

Wow, all of a sudden Allan Taylor is real desperate to suck up the oxygen on RTH again like he used to before getting banned. Maybe he got kicked off thespec.com and has nowhere else to troll...

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:35:02

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-05-24 13:36:51

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 15:02:42

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By Sky (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2013 at 14:02:54

Ryan,
I seriously wanted to scream when I read your VERY INACCURATE description of Highway 6!

It is a FOUR LANE Highway (plus turning lanes) for MOST of the stretch with the exception;North of Puslinch...it goes down to two lanes in parts of the smaller villages and then back to FOUR+ all the way through to Guelph.

There are MULTIPLE multi use COMMERCIAL properties on both sides of the Highway.

The "turn for Flamborough Downs", is Highway 5, a King's Highway established before there was a City of Hamilton. This intersection of 5+6 is known as Clappison's Corners and was considered the most prestigious development areas in the 70's and 80's for all of Hamilton Wentworth...

"keep driving, you're still in the Country" ~ WRONG~ in less than 2 minutes you HIT THE 403, (less than 3km from Clappison's) not more farmland~ a candle factory on the West, a golf range on the East, an exit to head into Dundas or Aldershot.

If you had glanced to your right aproaching Highway 5 (West side) you SHOULD have noticed the INDUSTRIAL BUILDING known as Corselab...to your left (East side) TARGET, KEG, DOLLAR STORE, VALUE VILLAGE, BOSTON PIZZA, CANADIAN TIRE...ETC...(Post amalgamation, yet slated for expansion pre; my Father's companies have been at Clappison's since 1976)

If you had glanced to your right (west side) just past this intersection; you should have seen 'Innovation Drive' a large building housing multiple companies PLUS the other large scaled retail, commercial and industrial buildings. (All were in place PRE amalgamation.)

"So remember: the next time someone tries to say Hamilton can't have a functional mixed-use, mixed-mode, mixed-density because of its area, what they're really trying to get you to believe is that we can't have livable streets in downtown Hamilton because there are farmers in Flamborough and Glanbrook."

No Ryan, there are also multiple businesses, some second and third generational operators; who thanks to the mindset you have echoed (simular to our municipal Employees) cannot fathom that we have our own world away from the core...NO BETTER, NO WORSE ~BUT we do not have the TRANSIT system to get our kids to their jobs AND we don't mind doing so...(unlike Canada Bread that has City subsidized bussing).

Please paint an accurate picture and try not to blame what our Government FORCED upon ALL OF US ~ to those of us who continue to live where we were brought up. That is NOT going to solve any of the issues whether we live in Durand or Dundas, Flamborough or Glanbrook.

I would support better Transit in the core if it were capable of sustaining itself...until then, I support repairing what needs to be repaired/replaced and ADDING SAFE pedestrian + cycling venues through out our City.

Have a GREAT day Everyone.

Danya

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