Special Report: Walkable Streets

Longwood Road Plan Sacrifices Complete Streets for Cars

Against the city's own objectives, the Longwood Road preferred plan jettisons walkable streets, bike lanes, scaled roadways - any consideration of anything other than cars and trucks.

By Graham McNally
Published April 05, 2012

I must admit that I have not been following the development of the Longwood Road project very closely. I had intended to go to the public meeting last week but due to a last minute schedule change, was unable to.

However, I saw the issue in the news yesterday and decided to take a look at the work that has been done to date. I was thrilled!

I saw presentation boards that had images of divided bike lanes, walkable streetscapes, wide sidewalks, benches for elderly people that need to take a break. I saw images of trees and of scaled roadways that promote slower traffic rather than faster.

Then I realized I was looking at Step 2, the previous public meeting's materials.

I opened Step 3. I was horrified.

Gone were the walkable streets. Gone were the scaled roadways. Gone were bike lanes. Gone were, seemingly, any consideration of anything other than cars and trucks.

I have seven specific issues with the plans presented.

1. I see that a roundabout is proposed for the intersection of Aberdeen and Longwood. If the goal is to create a neighbourhood walkable street, which I believe was a stated goal and certainly should be given the type of development that MIP is, then a roundabout of the scale indicated will not accomplish that goal. How exactly does a pedestrian cross a roundabout?

2. I see in the ultimate build-out of the roundabout, a bypass lane is proposed for people making a right hand turn from Longwood onto Aberdeen. What purpose does this serve? The whole purpose of a roundabout is to eliminate the need to stop. So why do cars/trucks need two ways to turn right?

Proposed roundabout with bypass
Proposed roundabout with bypass

I can't see that lane becoming anything other than a great place to get in an accident. It will create two different merge points within likely less than 100 feet! Absurd!

3. Why is a roundabout being proposed for this location? I live in the area and am rarely stopped at that light due to congestion. Even in peak traffic times, it has been my experience that one can make it through the light in one cycle.

4. Why put a roundabout here when a light was just installed at the road by the rail tracks? It seems completely counterintuitive.

5. A roundabout and the proposed roadway will not create the type of environment that will encourage people to walk from McMaster Innovation Park to the neighbouring residential zones. When MIP was proposed, it was understood that it should be a connection between two parts of a the city. This road and roundabout will ensure that they are divided.

6. I noticed that in Step 2, all the images and pictures were from street level. In Step 3, all the images were in plan view. There were a few sections on one board, but predominately, all the drawings were in plan. I believe that this is a subconscious conceit to the real force in the recent work on this project - the car is paramount, the experience of the street secondary.

I would have expected to see a great deal more work done on the section of the roadway and how different modes of transportation could be accommodated, instead of just how can cars and trucks get through here.

7. Step 2 talked about roads designed for 8 and 80 year olds. What happened to that idea?

To conclude, the design of a road will affect the behaviour of the cars on it. It's more comfortable to drive on the highway (or in Ancaster subdivisions) because the roads are wide, the bends have a long radius and any visual distractions (people, mailboxes, light standards, trees) are kept well back from the road.

A roundabout and wide road without careful consideration of the sidewalks, bike lanes, street trees will not create a street that meets any of the stated goals or achieves any of the images displayed in Step 2.

I urge the City to reconsider this work and spend more time devising a design that considers how this road will support the stated objectives of the study, MIP and the City in terms of creating a walkable, safe community.

Graham is a partner in the firm, Toms + McNally Design. In addition to his firm's work, he has a particular interest in Hamilton's urban design and issues.

22 Comments

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By JM (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 08:45:52

i blame public works... and this happens all over (not just in Hamilton) planners and designers have this great vision and plan - but then engineers come along and crash the party (because they manage the actual project). all the planners have is an idea and a suggestion/recommendation...

nothing like this will EVER come to fruition unless the planning and public works department come together and discuss the ideas in the same room: and then make compromises (both sides), or god forbid come up with something creative! the same thing happened with the York Blvd streetscape. sure the new sidewalks and light standards look fantastic... but what happened to the tree lined, open market style street??? (yep, just like the stage 2 panels stated above)

wait - i should be thankful they "gave" us the bike lanes right??

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2012 at 09:00:55 in reply to Comment 75732

In many cities, traffic engineers take a more inclusive view of traffic. I've been to events organized by the City of Hamilton in which traffic engineers extolled the benefits of wide sidewalks, street trees, narrow car lanes, dedicated bike lanes, and so on. Listen to the Dutch traffic engineer in this documentary; or Hans Monderman, another Dutch traffic engineer, who invented and applied the concept of shared space to great success in a number of Dutch municipalities.

This isn't an engineering problem; it's a problem of priorities.

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By JM (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 09:34:38 in reply to Comment 75733

"This isn't an engineering problem; it's a problem of priorities"

...that's exactly what i meant! you just said it better. it's not an attack on the engineers themselves, but their mandate to this city

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2012 at 10:22:44

The Careport Centre is gradually opening up their eastern fencing and fixing up their eastern facade. It's sad when an arm of Steelcare, one of the companies that really capitalizes on the city's network of truck highways, seems to be shifting towards pedestrian-friendly access on Longwood faster than the city is.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 10:27:57

I see in the ultimate build-out of the roundabout, a bypass lane is proposed for people making a right hand turn from Longwood onto Aberdeen.

Okay, I'm trying to visualize this, and I keep thinking that it can't possibly be as stupid as I imagine. Is there a render or diagram of what they're planning on doing?

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 12:42:42

What exactly are the plans? Based on what I saw, the plan includes a European-style 2-way cycle track in addition to pedestrian sidewalks running from the north side of Aberdeen to the east side of Longwood. These would be on their own bridge seperate from the road infrastructure.

It's actually not too bad for active transportation users the way I look at it.

Comment edited by arienc on 2012-04-05 12:43:48

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 13:01:55 in reply to Comment 75738

Preferred Alternative

The preferred alternative includes a two lane roundabout at Aberdeen and Longwood with one separate lane for southbound right-turning traffic on Longwood that will provide a good level of service for ten to fifteen years or more, at which time additional elements may need to be added - see the ultimate roundabout configuration inset on the plan.

It is proposed that cycling and walking be concentrated on the east side of Longwood Road, and that a new bridge for Active Transportation, i.e. walking and cycling, be built over Highway 403 on the east side of the existing Longwood bridge. Additional crosswalks for cyclists would be added at Main and Longwood.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 15:41:48 in reply to Comment 75739

Probably the best idea to enhance this setup would be to have an advance light for cyclists activated by pushbutton at Longwood/Main instead of crosswalks.

Cyclists would have the option to cross Main from Longwood southbound and get over to the east side of the street before the rest of south / northbound traffic proceeds. Delay to motorists would be minimal (and none if no cyclists present).

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By grahamm (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 13:03:08

In the document linked by arienc, its on page 17 and 18 as the "Ultimate" conditions of Roundabout 2a and 2b. Ironic?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2012 at 18:52:05

It amazes me that they've managed to take one of the most terrible street designs for pedestrians and cyclists in West Hamilton -- and make it even worse!

That traffic circle diagram is simply amazing. It must be a joke... those right turn bypasses? Really? And look at the length of those pedestrian crossings. Just terrible.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2012 at 10:04:23

Why are we putting a roundabout here? I know they're kinda hip as civic architecture goes, but what do we really hope to gain here? If my experiences elsewhere (Vancouver, Kitchener-Waterloo etc) it takes year before unfamiliar drivers "get the hang of it". I got stuck for an hour beside one out west which I'm told had been in place for around five years - it was like watching Failblog. Every fifth car got stuck, went the wrong way or almost collided with another, often with horns blasting. The locals just laughed and shrugged, "yeah, we don't know why they did that either".

Expect CHAOS if/when they open this thing.

Geographically, too, this just doesn't make sense. This spot is a bottleneck. We just built a new path on the rail bridge to Ainslie Wood, and another is planned through the MIP. This area gets a lot of this traffic already and it's only going to get more. They almost put a GO station there. Building the intersection like something out of an industrial business park will only cut a swath through the middle of this for high-speed traffic and nothing else.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 11:37:04

The saving grace in this silly design is that installing any version of a traffic circle or roundabout would require removal of parts of the Careport Centre, which is slated to stay for the foreseeable future.

Hmmn, imagine that. The Careport Centre being a good thing?

Either way, traffic planning really needs to pull their collective heads out of their collective asses.

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By Cul de Sac (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 20:16:19 in reply to Comment 75748

"...the Careport Centre, which is slated to stay for the foreseeable future."

I had understood that Careport's a placeholder until Mac gets its funding sorted.

"August 24, 2011, Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario, announced up to $11.5 million dollars will be granted to McMaster University for research and development of green automotive technologies. McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) will employ 120-150 people.

Construction of the 88,512 sq. ft. McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) is expected to commence shortly at 270 Longwood Road South. The creation of MARC will see the phased re-development of the 177,000 sq. ft. CAREPORT building, providing a home for a number of strategic research initiatives driven by the McMaster Institute for Automotive Research and Technology.
Continuum Productions will continue to operate the CAREPORT facility during and after the construction of MARC, hosting a variety of shows and events."

http://www.mcmasterinnovationpark.ca/mcmaster-university-automotive-resource-centre

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 09, 2012 at 07:40:59 in reply to Comment 75779

Doesn't the fact that they are planning to build 'McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC)' not 'McMaster Alternate Transport Resource Centre (MATRC)' shed any light on the situation? It certainly does to me. The epic fail has actually occurred further up the food chain than road planners etc .

While 'greener' cars are a step forward the real prize should 'greener' transportation. Seems Mac and the province are building a temple to the continuation of the automobile ruling our roads. The city planners are just following suit.

When I see the province put 11 million on the table for cycling research maybe something will change. FWIW Cervello has likely put that much into R&D and now make the majority of the bikes (despite what the stickers say) on the pro (road racing) circuit. So a business case can be made for this type of investment.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 21:12:57 in reply to Comment 75779

That's what I thought too. I was under the impression that it was temporary until MAC needed the space for development. But in the EA PICs we're all talking about here, http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/3121... it says on page 12 that;

 Alternatives that included a wide landscaped median because it was determined by staff and stakeholders that more functional and aesthetic space could be provided along both sides of Longwood Road, especially as the existing building on the west side of Longwood Road will remain for the foreseeable future

 The existing road allowance on Longwood Road is 20m, and the Official Plan calls for an ultimate road allowance of 36m, i.e. a widening of 8m on each side: however, much of the existing warehouse building on the west side of Longwood Road will remain as a 5m encroachment onto the future road allowance for the foreseeable future; a fact that constrains some alternatives because of clearances from the existing building

Between this and the BoE debacle, I'm really beginning to wonder what road we're on here :(

Comment edited by DavidColacci on 2012-04-08 21:15:11

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 15:38:57

Wow. Talk about over-engineering.

I imagine that "2 rights" would be prohibited if bypass lanes are there, with drivers directed to use the bypass to make their right turn. But how do you actually prevent someone from entering the roundabout and making that right anyway? It creates a dangerous situation.

What happens if the CPR yard eventually becomes an extension to the MIP, which was one of the concerns when that land was being considered as an alternate site for the stadium? Will that change the traffic patterns? Will this intersection require further "enhancements" later that will require more land, which may be better served for other uses? (such as MIP buildings, or even just open space on the corner for people?)

Why didn't they consider grade separation for EB/WB traffic between 403 and the city along Aberdeen? Expensive yes, but digging down to create some direct through-lanes for traffic that does not use Longwood might save space, reduce complexity, and improve things for pedestrians or cyclists.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2012 at 16:16:54

That diagram looks like they superimposed the design for some sort of particle collider on top of a current intersection photo.

I guess in practice that roundabout will actually become a particle collider in a certain sense.

Maybe this is actually a large scale avant-garde art project...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 23:01:18

That just looks unnecessarily complicated. Forget about whether or not it's pedestrian/cycling friendly - that thing doesn't even look car-friendly!

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 12:32:46

I cycle to the MIP now and that relatively short distance along Aberdeen and up Longwood is the most hair raising part of the trip. Leaving with rush hour traffic is worse. The City of Hamilton, with this plan, is announcing that Hamilton remains unfriendly and even deadly to anyone not in a car or truck.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 10, 2012 at 15:01:47 in reply to Comment 75771

From the drawing, that cycle to the MIP appears that it will be on a seperate cycle track (the gray stripe beside the yellow pedestrian walkway). I'd be ecstatic if I had the same option on my daily commute.

Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to avoid the roundabout completely. It will mean a road crossing at some point if heading to the west side of Longwood, but that would be the same no matter what configuration.

The tricky parts for users like ViennaCafe will be the transitions at the opposite ends of this proposed cycle track - requiring a dangerous crossing when heading home eastwards past the CPR bridge on Aberdeen, and negotiating the switch from west side to east side cycle path heading south on Longwood across Main.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 10, 2012 at 17:51:46 in reply to Comment 75834

But all of this is unnecessary. The city is adding layer upon layer of new problems to existing ones instead of simply solving the fundamental issue which is lack of accessibility for all modes of transport INCLUDING cars.

If everything west of Dundurn was two-way, and the highway accesses on Main and King were proper intersections instead of ramps, then everyone would be able to get everywhere they need to efficiently. We would be able to designate all of these streets - including Main, King, Paradise and, yes, Longwood as proper multi-mode corridors. Additionally, all of the extraneous loops and u-turns would be eliminated, cutting the number of interactions at Dundurn where it intersects both Main and King, hence easing the safety issues there. We have the space to do this and it is the simplest solution but the city is in such a deep rut that it never even occurs to them to consider it.

Meanwhile we're going to build a cloverleaf at clappison's to ease access to big box malls.

What the hell is going on in our traffic department and how is it that they can easily get together with the MTO to build an unnecessary monstrosity at clappisons but they can't solve the more important 403 links to the city?

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-04-10 17:53:32

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:12:28 in reply to Comment 75771

Yeah, I used to work at Steelcare and that was part of my regular commute.

To put it bluntly: It's worse than Main Street.

I mean, I can see why the city hasn't done anything with it - the bridge makes it hard to widen things up, and the ramp right there means that no matter what there's going to be a load of traffic coming through. But seriously, it sucks.

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