Waterdown: Quaint Small Town or Car-Dependent, Soul-Sucking Suburb?

By Ted Mitchell
Published March 20, 2007

For anyone interested in what that Waterdown road lane widening project really means, let's do a little math.

The 6,500 new houses and 15000 new residents projected to arrive will require a new four lane road to be built at a cost of $15 million. It is 3.5 km long from Dundas St. to the 403.

A study including projected traffic volumes is not explicit in methods, but one strange point arises: the current capacity of Waterdown road (two lanes) is listed as 800 vehicles / hour, while the expanded, four lane road would carry 1,800 vehicles per hour.

From a course I took in transportation engineering, it is nearly impossible to double capacity by doubling lanes, never mind exceeding double capacity, so I'm going to ignore the study.

But here is an example, using some made-up numbers to illustrate a point.

The typical two lane road has a capacity of about 1,800 vehicles/hr. Say 6,000 people will commute using Waterdown Rd. to get to the 403 over the space of two hours each morning and night.

If they carpool with two people per vehicle, that is 1500 vehicles/hr, within the capacity of the current road.

Road building cost: $0.

But if they travel alone as is usual for commuters, that is 3,000 vehicles/hr, which cannot be handled by a two lane road. You need four lanes.

At $15 million per 6,000, that is $2,500 per person for the privilege of driving by yourself, not counting road maintenance.

That sounds like a lot, but amortized over say 30 years at 5 percent, it is only $155 annually.

Of course, imagine any council actually billing Waterdown taxpayers for that small premium: no chance. Transit can be area rated, but roads?

Again, I've made up these numbers, but in reality, regardless of what the conventional studies show, a real solution with transit, carpooling and cybercommuting will not require building any new lanes.

If you examine costs on a scoped basis, which is the way consultants typically do it, the argument for new roads seems quite sensible.

The problem is those extra, impatient 1,500 cars per hour infiltrating Waterdown streets, the 403, roads in Hamilton and Burlington at rush hour, and of course Waterdown will not be the only new suburb. This can easily tip other roads into gridlock.

Then there is the parking, the pollution, the physical inactivity, the road carnage, and social isolation of transforming Waterdown into another boring, life-sucking suburb - not to mention anything about environmental sensitivity.

Those are the things that matter to your quality of life, acknowledged or not. Debating the extra few dollars it will cost misses that point completely.

Reframe the road debate not as one about how much money or who should pay. Rather, it becomes this:

Waterdown: Quaint small town or car-dependent, soul-sucking suburb?

What a massive price we pay for the one person, one car lifestyle.

Ted Mitchell is a Hamilton resident, emergency physician and sometimes agitator who recently completed a BEng at McMaster University. He is fascinated by aspects of our culture that are harmful, but avoid serious public discussion.


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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2007 at 18:16:33

same goes for Ancaster....we should have had this discussion 30 years ago before both of these towns turned into a joke. Leave it 2-lanes. If people choose to move into the middle of nowhere they can figure out how to get to work everyday. Why should I have to pay for their dumb choice?

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By Rick (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2007 at 10:37:06

It is interesting that people want to live in Waterdown and then complain about getting out. My wife and I live in the centre east of Hamilton (Gage park Ottawa Street area). Her assistant lives in Waterdown. Their office is up by Toronto Airport. It takes her assistant 20 to 25 minutes longer to get to work than my wife. Constantly complains about Hamilton doing nothing for them and the road problem is Hamilton’s fault. And she had to pay allot more for this privilege to live in Waterdown. She would never consider living in Hamilton, to dirty.

I always thought that when we amalgamated that the sprawl would be more controlled and directed into certain easily serviced areas. The same with industry and then leaving the rest of the areas like Flambourgh to farmland and recreation.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 22, 2007 at 21:49:52

we were told a lot of things heading into amalgamation. All of which turned out to be a big farce just so a few politicians could follow through with their pet project of ruining our city. I wish we could de-amalgamate and let old Hamilton keep every red cent we generate in taxes instead of subsidizing all the whining and complaining that goes on around us. They want to live out there? They can pay for it.

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By Chris Bradshaw (anonymous) | Posted September 02, 2007 at 20:50:00

You have hit the nail on the head. The "one-person, one-car lifestyle" is a regime, really, since we are not offered anything between one-car and zero-car: feast or famine.

I am a carsharer and former owner of the Ottawa carshare club, Vrtucar, and have created a compromise.

OPOCO vs. MASC (one person, one car orientation vs. metered access to a shared car) is the battle, which the latter could win with some realization by communities and governments that OPOCO costs so much in roads, parking lots, "distance pollution," negative health outcomes, inequitable access to transportation resources, GHG, air-et-al pollution, etc that it is not really that far fetched to see people accept the idea of sharing a fleet instead of owning a single vehicle, that has to be driven around everywhere in order to have any access to a car.


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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 04, 2007 at 21:21:38

What should be considered here is that there are many Waterdown residents that do not want a four lane road to the 403. Will a higher capacity road in this location really do anything positive for the community? If we consider some of the studies talked about by Jane Jacobs about traffic engineering we might reconsider City of Hamilton's thinking on this. Aside from saving people a few extra minutes on the drive to work. A bike path and bus route linking us to Aldershot and Burlington would be much more environmentally minded solution and may actually add to the sense of community. I think Burlington was right to consider other options, too bad they finally agreed with Hamilton to go ahead. Thanks Ted for putting this out for discussion.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 06, 2007 at 08:43:56

When they are done with it, Clappison's is going to be a bigger headache than Meadowlands. I find it quite sad.

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By Glenn in Waterdown (anonymous) | Posted January 31, 2008 at 09:46:37

You Know every time a politician opens thier mouth in this country there is a 99.9% chance they are not telling the whole story or lying outright.
Amalgamation was done so the city of Hamilton which has coincidentally the highest per capita social service expendature and the Highest Tax rate in the country, could suck the money out of the burbs to fund the cities rediculous overhead.
But I digress...If they say it will cost $18,000,000 to build you know in the end it will cost almost double that that.
So lets be conservative here and estimate on a final cost of $25,000,000 it would have been MUCH cheaper to extend Bus routs with the Huge amount of money the fiberals promised for Transit...much of it promised to Hamilton to improve the fortunes of Hamiltonians ( of course we are only considered Hamiltonians when it comes tax time...forget giving decent services for our money or including us in any improvements ...were wealthy out here in Waterdown, Ancaster, Dundas, Etc what do we need?...sorry i digress again)
between Bus routs both up waterdown road and Highway #6 to parking area's with smaller shuttle busses to collect folks from the town core and deliver them to the bus stops we could not only connect riders to the Go station in burlington but also to the Hamilton centre where we must now go IN CARS!!! to renew licences and Ohip cards etc. it would also allow folks from Hamilton to access the resources and recreation facilities these outlying areas have to offer.
I'm sure Flamborough Downs and Christies perhaps even Gullivers, and Emerald lake would consider running a shuttle service if they had a central point to pick up and drop off at.
setting up these locations would also be the start of what will become a larger infrastructure network as expansion will inevitably continue...Waterdown road could use a turn lane "eventually" but this could be achieved with a small widening on either or both sides where it suits the existing route and home locations.
so with all the benefits to Hamilton and Burlington and thier respective residents with no destruction of the waterdown rd corridore and its residents home values and lifestyles.
Because Hamilton needs to find work for all those overpaid Underworked City employees and the Mob owned and operated paving and excavation companies want the tenders THATS WHY!
not to mention the inevitable Pocket lining that goes along with such mammoth operations.
in short when we think of our future in this region.....BE AFRAID BE VERY AFRAID!!!!

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By Trey (registered) | Posted February 01, 2008 at 10:29:46

Headline for 2021.

4-Lane Road to Waterdown needs expansion to 6-Lanes. Residents complain it's too difficult to get to work.

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By AldershotResident (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2008 at 17:45:58

Whining about the citizen requested road expansion solves nothing. The process allowed all affected peoples to contribute to the discussion. With the expansion in Waterdown and Plains Road West, we need the easy highway access.

I am glad that we have politicians who listen and eventually act on projects we asked them to do

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By Fed Up with all of it (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2009 at 21:11:25

I live in Waterdown and have no problem getting out. We were not asked if we wanted to be part of Hamilton and nor do we enjoy being part of it. I have to say my taxes have gone up over $1000/year since we amalgamated. So, the extra $133 / year for a widened road is pocket change compared to what we've been gouged with up until now. What has our money been paying for so far? Your new city hall?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2009 at 23:34:41

Fed up with all of it.... actually, our money has been paying for your little town for about 3 decades. Hamilton's suburbs were given a disgustingly free ride during the Hamilton-Wentworth regional days. Your taxes are FINALLY going up (much slower than they should) in order to bring some fairness to the region. Fact is, your taxes are still about 40-50% lower than comparable properties in Hamilton. And we're not the ones sprawling across the countryside, wasting money and needing more expensive infrastructure projects to keep up with all of the goofy sprawl.
My dream is de-amalgamation where all the suburbs are told to go on their OWN. NO Hamilton tax money. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Watch how fast your taxes will go up if that ever happened.
Old city of Hamilton residents paid about 70% of the cost for the development of the Meadowlands of Ancaster according to former Ancaster mayor Wade.
The numbers would be similar across Waterdown, Stoney Creek and other sprawling suburbs.

Keep complaining, keep wasting our money and keep enjoying your free ride. Hopefully someday our tax rates will be even.
Or if you'd prefer, you can keep all of your social needs out there and take care of them yourself instead of sending them into Hamilton.

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By Artsey (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2009 at 08:17:54

My husband and I have been living in Waterdown for about 15 years. We chose Waterdown because of the small town feel of it, with all ameneties within walking or biking distance. The clincher was the baseball diamond on Hamilton Road. It reminded me of my youth, spending summers in the small town of Mattawa.

Shortly after we moved, expansion of Dundas started. Little did we know that it was the beginning of the end of Waterdown as a small town. The expansion opened the flood gates to a huge amount of car and truck traffic. The nice quiet town we loved so much was gone. Since then, it has continued to expand, bringing with it more traffic, more noise, more construction and more vandalism (and one murder).

If that wasn't bad enough, we then amalgamated with Hamilton, which was the kiss of death. Areas deemed as part of the green belt was now open season for developpers. People who moved into homes with the green belt in their backyard were told there would be no development. I'm sure the people who bought those homes paid a premium. All bets were off when we amalgamated. Our new ploughs were taken away by Hamilton and now, our road is one of many that gets ploughed last by a famer in a tractor. Our sidewalks aren't ploughed either.

We recently purchased 25 acres in Hockley Valley so we can get away from Waterdown. The town we loved so much is now a thorn in our sides. We hate it here now. Too much traffic, too much noise and so many people. All the things we wanted to get away from. We realized, it didn't matter what people in Waterdown wanted. Hamilton would do whatever it wanted in order to make money, even if it meant distroying a beautiful Victorian small town. I can't wait to move.

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