Comment 78938

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2012 at 14:44:33

On developing a better understanding of our Main Street phenomenon:

"Highways show two faces, much like Janus, the ancient Roman god of passage and beginnings. One face seeks speed and mobility, the other wants comfort, beauty, and community. As guardian of roadways, Janus represented the transition and balance between countryside and city, between past and future, and between war and peace.

On our modern roadways, Janus’ balance sometimes seems absent. The pedestrian often feels in conflict with the motorist, although every motorist becomes a pedestrian at some point! Nowhere is this more evident than where highways run through downtowns. When the main street is also the highway, the street that has been the heart and social center of our city for generations must also support the passage of thousands of cars and trucks every day.

As a complement to the Oregon Highway Design Manual, this Main Street Handbook seeks to bring peaceful coexistence to the dual personas of downtown and highway.

It proposes ways to design our main streets that make use of our natural inclination to drive as quickly or slowly as the roadway itself suggests. Its goal is to make main street a place that is attractive and that works from many points of view: pedestrian safety and activity, smooth traffic flow, economic vigor, and high quality of life."

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"In Sarasota Springs, New York, U.S. 9 changes from a four-lane, semi-rural highway with a 55 mph speed limit to a three-lane urban road with a 30 mph speed limit, all within a stretch of 1,800 feet. (above 3 photos: Reid Ewing)

Calling Hamilton's Main Street traffic thru traffic in my opinion is problematic. Only extreme solutions can evolve from such characterization.

A bulk of the Main Street traffic that enters the non-existing gates of Hamilton Downtown at Dundurn & Main, traverses Main Street for work to in and around the core; or it is en route to various homes/apartments in the lower city thru to Ottawa, Kenilworth or thereabouts.

If the bulk of traffic on Main were indeed --thru-- traffic which was supposedly using Main Street to --rapidly-- fly thru to Parkdale and beyond into Stoney Creek, such traffic could very easily arrive at their destinations in the east, far more quicker and efficiently, by continuing on 403 or taking the 403 from West Hamilton, to QEW/South service road and exiting on Centennial.

Almost all locally aware drivers have already figured out the shortest and fastest routes to and from their destinations.

Most Main Street traffic is local, in my opinion. And by local I mean either coming back home from work or coming in for work via 403 E/W or via Main West from West Hamilton, Dundas, Ancaster etc.

The perceived waves of --thru-- traffic usually dissipates as it passes the old core, with a much smaller percentage of it dissipating between Wellington and Gage; and thereafter petering out thru to around Kenilworth.

Main is also the primary access route off 403 and West Hamilton for local residents to get to the mountain access points on Queen, James, John, Wentworth & Sherman to get to West and Central Mountain area north of the Linc, if they are living or working there. For those living south of the Linc on the mountain, the 403 to Linc works more efficiently.

While the extremely poor 403 East Exit into Main just before Dundurn has created very serious problems for Main Street traffic, this problem is primarily that of vehicle speed and induced stupor.

Without deeply understanding the complexities of the Main Street artery, if one were to apply cookie cutter solutions formed around buzz words, Main Street's problems may appear to vanish for a while, but the much anticipated outcomes of a vibrant urban life on Main may never materialize.

We need to break Main Street into its logical neighbourhood segments and undertake a deeper study of what ails each segment specifically, before arriving at solutions, least standing still becomes the default antidote for a society that has been drunk on speed for decades.

“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” ~ Chinese proverb


Private houses/condos occupied by usual residents: 266,377

Place of residence five years ago (Lived at the same address): 590,545 or 87.40%

When you take such numbers and more in Hamilton, and factor in the reality of the lower city, which primarily comprises of single family homes with one or two cars each, we will soon realize that Hamilton's problem is not an urban v/s suburban problem, but a very peculiar us v/s us problem - arising from the pervasive suburban quality of our supposedly urban lands. Outside of the miniscule James/King urban axis in downtown, the lower city is nothing but a sea of suburbia with it logical dependence on cars.

The enormous churn of local vehicles causes its entrance and exits at 403 to get clogged, which causes drivers to pump the pedal. Good road design at these points is imperative for quality urban life to evolve around and beyond these points.

In my opinion the biggest threats to achieving quality urban life in the lower city is the abject lack of focus on these two city-defining points on Main and King. The other equally large threat is the asinine 15 feet road setback that is being thrust upon all new development on Main and King - which has the potential to destroy the very architectural quality that powers urban spaces. These are the critical fights we need to deploy our resources and attention towards, rather than the two-way fight which is still short of a deeper, collective contextual knowledge.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-06-26 15:12:04

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