Installation of New Traffic Lights Reveals Our Values

By Jason Leach
Published April 04, 2007

I came across an interesting document today regarding the installation of new traffic signals (PDF link) throughout Hamilton.

The main things I noticed are the following:

  1. Most locations identified are areas with busy car traffic but very little pedestrian traffic. I think this shows our values.

  2. There is only one location in all of Ward 3 that was even requested to be studied for a new signal and it wasn't on Main or King - it was Gage and Maplewood.

    Does this councillor not know that people are being killed on King and Main with too much regularity?

  3. Once again, highlighting our values, two locations that I'm very familiar with ­ Main and Strathcona and York and Strathcona. Both received insanely low scores when they were evaluated for a new signal.

    I suppose all the pedestrians running for their lives to catch a bus or head down to Locke Street for breakfast don't count in these scoring systems. Traffic speeds along and therefore everything is deemed to be fine.

Ryan's recent piece in the Spec highlights the wrong thinking being used by our politicians and planners. Downtown streets are for living, not speeding to a big box store.

Go check out Main and Strathcona sometime. If that location doesn't warrant a stoplight, nowhere in Hamilton does.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 11:54:28

Along the same lines, the detour around the Dundurn construction from Aberdeen-ish to the Fortinos plaza is a pedestrian nightmare. Your options are to go one (very large) block east to Locke, or to take a detour by the Spec building (where the sidewalks start, end and switch sides at will), ending up on Main at a spot which is no less than a 5 lane superhighway (where, incidentally, the merging mayhem has worsened as people try to cut across main in order to reach the spec detour instead of simply trying to turn right at Dundurn which was bad enough on its own). Alternatively, you can play chicken with a train and follow the tracks behind the fortinos plaza. What a mess. They should have built permanent pedestrian-specific bridges over the tracks BEFORE shutting the road down to cars. Dundurn needed to have the people separated by the cars at those bridges anyway...

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 12:18:37

I'll be happy if they remember to put sidewalks back in on those new bridges once they're rebuilt.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 14:45:20

I wonder what the layout plans are for those bridges... same width as before? I hope not!

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 21:36:33

Oh yes, very important that we get people in and out of shopping malls as quickly as possible. Thanks for making this top priority Hamilton!

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 21:49:00

I noticed that too....Eastgate and Limeridge got a pile of attention. As did the new Red Hill Parkway. We'd hate for cars to crash into each other....into pedestrians is fine though.

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By Roberta (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2007 at 18:11:47

I use public transportation every day.Returning from business the closest bus stop to my home is at Aberdeen and Locke, I live on Fairmount, so I must cross to the south side of Aberdeen. There is a light on Aberdeen and another on Locke and yet I still have difficulty crossing the street. When the light is red on Aberdeen and I attempt to cross, the traffic on Locke just continue to make left turns, mostly illegal, and often when I think it is safe for me to cross the East-West Traffic is ready to go.There are more bad drivers on Hamilton Streets than there is careful pedestrians. Maybe a police presence would help but one needs to walk to Dundurn to find one in Tim Hortons.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 06, 2007 at 01:02:13

Hey Jay, I can't find much on traffic signals themselves in my TAC manual other than requirements for platooning however I read the documents on the link above, it seems that the Main/Strathcona light didn't meet the minimum pedestrian volume and I have no idea what that number is. As the report says it costs 75Gs to install a pedestian light and approximately 125Gs for a full signal installation and the recent rash of pedestrian/vehicle mishaps shouldn't warrant knee-jerk reactions as I believe that will result in bandaid solutions and take budget money away from a solution to the actual problem - the roads themselves. Five lanes travelling in one direction is extremely conducive(sp) to street racing. When I lived on U. Ottawa there was street racing going on nearly every night from the bridge over the Linc thru the stoplight to Rymal and that's a 4 lane 2 way road. People kept telling me that I would see police there and during the period that I lived there I rarely saw one. When I lived on Grant Ave between King and Main, I saw people driving upwards of 50 km/h down at RESIDENTIAL street just to miss the light at King and Wentworth. As for the intersections receiving lights, I believe they're warranted. If you read the report, the first three under section (a) are the Annual budgeted lights to be installed. Studies for these would have taken place pre-2006. Section (b) lights are getting installed as a result of development and would have been a requirement in order for the developer's site plan to be approved by city hall and therefore must be installed. Section (c) contains lights for Eastgate (one for buses and one for people to get out of the parking lot because ignorant drivers on Centennial don't let drivers through to the other direction of traffic and the exit onto Delawana is usually blocked because of the long green light for Centennial). This light will also help people crossing from the large residential neighbourhoods to the East get to the mall easier. The light at the South entrance of Limeridge Mall is a long time coming once again because drivers can't get out of the parking lot to turn left without getting nailed by traffic heading north on U. Wentworth or they can't get through the traffic piled up from the light at Kingfisher and Limeridge. Section (d) contains lights for the RHVP that are part of the development stage. Has nothing to do with planning and they will be needed unless of course you want traffic coming off the highway to merge immediately with traffic on roads like Barton right near Nash or Main which has apartments on both sides of the RHVP with the ones to the east chock full of elderly people...notice the pedestrian light recently installed west of Nash to facilitate their crossing. All except the first three are part of various site plans/development proposals and are funded by the respective parties with the City cost sharing where there will be an added benefit to the safety on the roadway or where transit will be improved.
Once again, I don't think the appropriate reaction is to blast the City for not slapping bandaid lights all over the city in places you feel they should go. There's always analysis done and this has to be consistent everywhere throughout the city or we'll end up having lights all over that will be useless in 5 years. I agree that the long stretches of Main/King and York are problems but I don't think installing more traffic lights will solve it. I think York will have to stay the way it is but I would really like to see something like an overhead pedestrian walkway. It's a great area as people crossing will be able to look over into Hamilton Bay and the grounds of Dundurn Castle etc. York should remain the way it is at least for the time being simply because if we want to get rid of rushing cars downtown we have to push them elsewhere. No matter how you cut it, cars will need to travel around the city at least in the foreseeable future.

A fourfold approach should be taken involving a redesign of problematic roadways and a long range transit plan, proper policing and proper education for drivers. The last two will bring a city wide improvement quicker than the others. Officers rarely pull over vehicles travelling under 15km/h over the speed limit as it's a minor offence and hardly a deterrent to drivers. I say do it... 3 minor tickets still makes you lose your six star rating and adds about 75/month to your insurance (that's experience talking) and I really believe that it's too easy to get your license. Instructors are popping up everywhere and it seems like drivers don't know the rules of the road anymore or they simply refuse to use common sense while driving. Driving habits here are disgusting and that's being gentle. I think all of these are necessary in order to improve the Hamilton experience.

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