Special Report: Walkable Streets

A New Vision For Main Street West

These illustrations demonstrate what Main Street could be like, what it should be like, and perhaps what it will be like if City Council - and the City's traffic engineers - heed the growing clamour for balanced streets.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published June 01, 2012

What you're about to see is a radically different vision for Main Street West.

But before we get to the pictures, take a moment to picture Main Street West between Dundurn and Queen. You've just exited the 403, crossed Dundurn, and you're heading down Main Street towards downtown.

This is where the Main West Esplanade BIA is located. An esplanade is "a long, open, level area, usually next to a river or large body of water, where people may walk".

Main Street West is certainly a large, open and level area. It also features a river, although it consists of speeding traffic. And people may walk along it, although most choose not to.

What comes to your mind when you picture Main Street West? How do you feel about it?

For example, as a Hamiltonian, does it seem homey and welcoming to you? Does it evoke a sense of pride, or comfort and belonging, or vibrancy and interest, or fun and excitement?

I rather doubt it, because how could it? I mean, look at it:


Main Street West, looking west from Queen Street. Click for a much larger version. Photo by Brian Potstra.

This photo is the starting point for the illustrations you'll see next. You can click on it for a much larger version, just like all of the photos in this piece, and you should.

This photo has been altered using Photoshop to remove the lane markings. This was done to turn it into the base for the next illustrations, but it's interesting to see it this way because you get a sense of what an absolutely massive strip of pavement this is.

For the same reason some edits were also done to the street in the far distance. Other than that, it's unaltered.

There's something very interesting and very relevant about this photo. It was taken at mid-day on a warm and sunny Monday in May. The perfect day for strolling around, doing some shopping, grabbing a bite to eat.

And yet there are virtually no people anywhere!

On the first block, there's one woman sitting outside. On the second block, there's a total of four people on the sidewalks. That's it. Now contrast that to Locke Street, which intersects Main in the middle distance. On that day in May there were more people on 10 meters of Locke South than on 1000 meters of Main West.

In spite of these issues, you can see that this is a beautiful vantage point from which to appreciate our city, one that's entirely missed by drivers since they never see it from this direction.

Main Street Re-imagined

Now let's get to the illustrations. Here's the first one:


Main Street West re-imagined, looking west from Queen Street. Click for a much larger version. Illustration by Chelsea Robinson.

Features of this redesign:

And, of course, the icing on the cake, the change that for years we've been told is flat-out impossible: a single yellow line painted down the middle of the street!

Skeptics should note that this redesign only sacrifices a single lane to make room for wider sidewalks and the bicycle path, which is only a 20% reduction in road capacity. We've reduced Main Street by more lanes than that without adverse effects (such as during maintenance on the bridge over the 403), which makes this redesign eminently feasible from a traffic capacity perspective.

Main Street Re-imagined For Everyone

But what if we stopped optimizing for through traffic and started optimizing for all users of the street, including drivers who want to find a destination along the street and then park?

That's the goal of the redesign shown here:


Main Street West re-imagined for everyone, looking west from Queen Street. Click for a much larger version. Illustration by Chelsea Robinson.

This has all of the features of the previous redesign, but it also features street parking. This is a complete street. You can drive on it, park on it, cycle down it, walk along it, and hop on public transit.

As author and urban designer Ken Greenberg put it, when you're designing city streets "you want to sub-optimize everything in order to create an optimal whole." I think that's exactly what this design does.

What do you think? What do you want for our city: this or this?

About The Illustrations

A consistent obstacle to achieving public support for transformative change is that people don't know what it looks like.

This gave me an idea for a design competition involving architectural firms, design companies, artists, and so on, that would showcase designs, renderings and drawings showing Hamilton's various one-way thoroughfares as complete, two-way streets.

I mentioned this idea to Paul Shaker, Executive Director of CCS Urban Research, and he suggested a prime candidate for re-imagination would be Main Street West between Dundurn and Queen. Here's why he believes this is a crucial location:

The Main Street West strip is strategically important for a few reasons. First, it is surrounded by revitalizing neighbourhoods to the north and south and in its current configuration, it acts as a barrier in connecting the two together.

Second, Main West has a number of under-performing buildings that have suppressed land values when compared to buildings on adjacent commercial streets. Conversion would help unlock the land value of the built environment, spurring further renewal of the street.

Third, Main West is a vital link connecting important nodes of the new Hamilton economy: McMaster University, McMaster Innovation Park, the South-West, and Downtown Hamilton. Much of this economy is knowledge-based and therefore, efficient people movement is key. To accommodate this, you need complete streets that will facilitate safe and easy movement for people by all modes: walking, cycling, transit, and car.

As it happens, our most recent intern here at the office is a very talented technical illustrator named Chelsea Robinson. She was excited about the idea. Here's her take on the design:

The purpose of the illustrations was to give the mood of the image a completely different feeling. The two-way street, bike lanes, trees, wider sidewalks, and curbside parking evoke feelings of a thriving city that pedestrians and cyclists enjoy touring. Hamilton has many areas that have great potential such as this portion of Main Street. I hope that these illustrations make people see what a beautiful, dynamic, and lively city Hamilton can be.

The illustrations are rendered in an architectural sketch style. This style is meant to be loose, without being overly rendered. My approach to this project was to create a conceptual sketch with a style that would keep the images fresh and give some life to the city. We chose to overlay the sketch on top of the photograph, so that viewers could get a good sense of what the space would actually look like.

The original photograph was taken by Brian Potstra. "This is perhaps the most lifeless portion of Main Street," said Potstra. "While it has the potential to function as a nice pathway between the Locke St. shops and Hess Street, it's really a no-go zone for pedestrians."

Special thanks are also owed to Ryan McGreal, who supplied key advice about the features the redesigned street ought to have.

Call For Design Submissions

Calling all architects, designers, photographers, illustrators and artists: Raise the Hammer would be pleased to feature your visions for Hamilton's one-way streets re-imagined as vibrant two-way streets. Contact me at adrianduyzer@gmail.com to submit designs or to learn more about what we're looking for.

All images copyright factor[e] design initiative Inc. and distributed under the Creative Commons - Attribution license. For high-resolution versions, contact me directly. factor[e] believes we can and will transform our streets and is willing to do its part to make it happen.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

147 Comments

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 07:56:45

I can't tell you how much I'm applauding this effort. Well done, to all concerned.

I have long pilloried the notion that this strip of roadway is an 'esplanade', and have maintained that it is an inhospitable part of town, despite the throughfare being framed by...houses and neighbourhoods and communities. I remember the first time I saw the 'Esplanade' sign; it was a good thing I wasn't drinking anything at the time, otherwise, I would have done a massive spit-take.

This area is, in a real sense, 'my hood'. So it's always grieved me to see it as it's been. However, I'm quite chuffed to have it showcased here, in this way.

Fantastic effort; this can only lead to better dialogue, and fingers crossed, a more livable Hamilton.

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By bravo! (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 08:01:56

Right on! This is EXACTLY what we need to be doing! Bravo to the artist who made this, what a great way of imagining what Main Highway West would look like if it were a real city street! How could you look at that and not know in your gut that it's the right thing to do?

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 08:22:42

Brilliant. I've already shared the link on my FB page.

So many people are visually oriented, making this a hugely important step in helping all of us see what can be. This is such a refreshing approach to expanding the dialogue.

Thank you for doing this. I hope it is only the beginning. In fact, I would love to see something similar done to the Cannon Knitting Mills building featuring HWDSB signage and a café located in the southwest corner. Obviously, 6 Trustees didn't see that picture.

Finally, a smile on my face. And the stirring of energy that comes from feeling potential. Sure beats drifting on a sea of disappointments.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 08:42:44

I hate to sound like the traffic department, but...

Is bringing Main down to one way each direction reasonable? I know reducing capacity usually reduces demand, but is this reducing capacity too much?

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:38:02 in reply to Comment 77714

You sound like you live up the mountain ... lets make the whole mountain one-way streets

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 11:29:30 in reply to Comment 77749

Nope, I live downtown. I work in Burlington, but I (usually) take the train.

I was mostly just asking a question (I'm not a traffic expert). I definitely support traffic calming on our throughways, but I think one lane each direction might be a bit overzealous. Although, I like what Jason said below,

They could always use the TO method where no street parking is allowed between 6-9 and 4-7, but is allowed the rest of the day.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:00:25 in reply to Comment 77749

Hahahaha... he actually lives right downtown, in my neighborhood (Stinson area). Nice try, though...

Comment edited by RB on 2012-06-01 11:00:37

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:02:19 in reply to Comment 77755

Doesn't change the fact that the original comment was framed from a through-driver's perspective :-)

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:15:25 in reply to Comment 77757

Nope... sorry, I don't see it. It looked like a reasonable question to me, one in which judgement was passed onto rather flagrantly.

"Let's make the whole mountain one-way streets?" ...Really? Sounds like someone needs to settle down a little...

That's just my opinion, though.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:48:54 in reply to Comment 77784

Im sure alot of pls on the mountain whould love to get all the Uppers changed to one-ways to go to work and back home

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:31:02 in reply to Comment 77784

"Let's make the whole mountain one-way streets?" ...Really?

I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting we should do this. It's a cheeky response to the many people who live on the mountain and support one-way streets in the lower city. Very few people would want their own street converted to one-way, which is kind of the point.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:13:22 in reply to Comment 77788

Its tipical mountain peoples who whats it there way alll the time

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By SpellCheck (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:21:51 in reply to Comment 77797

Do you make typos and misspell words purposely? It's painful to read. With the embedded spell check, even if English is your second language, the frequency and type of error is really inexcusable.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:40:18 in reply to Comment 77788

Gotcha... I always have a hard time figuring out context, tone & inflection with just a few ASCI characters...

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By SpellCheck (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:46:41 in reply to Comment 77791

It doesn't help that they can't put together a sentence that makes any sort of sense.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:11:55 in reply to Comment 77714

Is bringing Main down to one way each direction reasonable? I know reducing capacity usually reduces demand, but is this reducing capacity too much?

The problem is that our models for determining what happens when you reduce lane capacity don't work. Here's an excerpt from a major research paper on what actually happens when cities reduce their lane capacity:

Many cities, either not provided with dissuasive modelling forecasts, or disbelieving them [emphasis added], have introduced measures to reallocate road space away from cars.

In general, they reported that there has often (but not always) been a fairly short period of traffic disruption, but that 'gridlock' or 'traffic chaos' are rare, and never last longer than a few days, as traffic adjusts relatively quickly to new conditions. Sometimes there has not even been a short-term problem.

Two characteristic comments from local transport planners are: 'it'll be all right by Friday', and the ubiquitous 'the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to'.

Repeat that last line to the traffic engineer in your head: "the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to."

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:30:39 in reply to Comment 77714

They could always use the TO method where no street parking is allowed between 6-9 and 4-7, but is allowed the rest of the day. Allows greater traffic during rush hour, yet still allows street-oriented businesses to locate on the street and have easy access for customers. Convert Hunter to 1-lane each way with parking on 1 side...ditto for Queen, Ditto for Bay...along with Cannon and Wilson going 2-way, and suddenly it's way easier to get around downtown, without having to cram everyone onto a couple of eastbound streets.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:37:54 in reply to Comment 77730

That's a good idea. I could get behind that.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:18:53 in reply to Comment 77714

one way in each direction.... no,

two ways in each direction... i think it could work

even if its kept as a one way, max 3 lanes in width and on-street parking as well. together with widened sidewalks and street trees this would make a comfortable experience for pedestrians :)

if they wont convert to two way, it think thats the best way to go

Comment edited by JM on 2012-06-01 09:19:11

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By donnajeanmcnabb (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:04:13

We have always avoided Main Street when walking, for obvious reasons. We would love to see the changes you have shown. In my lifetime would be nice. I'll be 65 this year and relatively healthy. Is their any hope I could see this kind of improvement in my neighbourhood? BTW, the changes to York around the market are good, but a few more trees would be nice. It seems to me the illustrations showing what it would look like when completed showed lots of trees.

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:08:58

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:21:26 in reply to Comment 77718

This idea that increasing traffic flow reduces pollution is a myth that has to end. If a road accommodates fewer cars / hour, and those cars are generally travelling slower (with less air resistance) then the total pollution will be reduced, not increased. Your car is spewing way more fumes travelling at 60kph than it is idling at a stop light.

Removing buildings is absolutely the wrong approach. A liveable street has to work on the human scale, which means you shouldn't have to walk 100 yards to cross it. And what for? It's just as fast to get across the city via the QEW or the Link/Red Hill.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:33:59 in reply to Comment 77762

Your car is spewing way more fumes travelling at 60kph than it is idling at a stop light.

Exactly. You're just not sticking around long enough to smell it!

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By 4oragainst (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:51:46 in reply to Comment 77764

So where do you guys stand? Are you for diverting traffic around Hamilton onto the highways where cars travel at over 100 km/h or for driving through it at slow start and stop speeds?

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 19:41:07 in reply to Comment 77828

That's kind of a false dichotomy. Personally I would prefer if we had an effective rapid transit network so that we could travel around the city with little environmental impact. But faced with the choice as presented, I say 100 km/h on the highways (which have minimum separation distances from residential areas), and < 50 kph in the city.

The effects of pollution can have very local effects. Particulate (dust kicked up by tires and incompletely burned fuel, both horrible for the respiratory system) doesn't travel more than a few hundred meters. This is why you see the worst air quality in Hamilton closest to the major thoroughfares:

http://raisethehammer.org/article/1399/c...

http://msep.mcmaster.ca/epp/publications...

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 18:15:19 in reply to Comment 77828

Who are "you guys"?

Here's where I stand:

There is a time and place for driving at cruising speeds without having to stop. That's on our actual highways.

There is a time and place also for designing streets for slower driving. That's on our city streets that are shared between all road users.

An efficient, safe, and user friendly system uses both to its advantage and does not force highway traffic onto city streets nor force pedestrians and cyclists onto highways.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:33:55 in reply to Comment 77718

Personally I don't think we should be removing buildings to satisfy mountain residents who live a stones throw from the Linc/Garth ramp, yet choose to shortcut through Kirkendall everyday. We built them a perfect ring freeway network. Use it.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:31:20 in reply to Comment 77718

Removing buildings is not going to make people want to walk next to 5 lanes of 50-60km/hr traffic.

How long have the turn restrictions been in place on Queen? It takes some time for regular users to adapt and once they do, equilibrium is restored. If it takes 10% more time to travel a stretch of road, it is worth it if 10% of the people who used to drive that stretch do not any more.

Queen is a good example of how we were willing for years to sacrifice our core neighbourhoods for the sake of 3-5 minutes of car travel for commuters. Many people coming down that hill to access the 403 should be using the Linc. That is why we built it.

Remember when King had a lane removed on the right (for construction) and another on the left (at Hess)? The worst backups were less than one block (and one light cycle) long.

Building streets for more people and fewer cars does not increase pollution, even if the cars that do use it spend a few more minutes on the street during rush hour - because the end result will be fewer car trips and more human trips throughout a 24 hour period.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:10:19

WOW - just imagine!!! look at the transformation already :) thats exactly what it needs to be... i think option 1 (2 lanes each way) is the best of those presented. but what about an option with LRT

Comment edited by JM on 2012-06-01 09:20:59

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:12:59 in reply to Comment 77719

The City is committed to putting LRT on King Street through the downtown.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:20:11 in reply to Comment 77721

my bad.. i thought they were still on the split plan!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:25:28 in reply to Comment 77725

Personally, I'd rather put LRT on Main than King, but I can see the argument either way, and I think it can be successful on either street as long as the planning framework for redevelopment is done right.

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By ilpo (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:21:58

I like the proposed illustrated changes. I cross this piece of Main St W on a frequent basis to get home from the GO bus/HSR. As such I feel a personal attachment to this same stretch of Main St W. There is scant little else to draw me back for other activities there.

More versions need to be done.

One matter not shown is the LRT or other transit along this stretch. Without that it may not survive as well as may be possible. I like the bicycle lanes, trees, car parking [perhaps differently], and the people in the example.

I wonder if both Main and King would need an bi-directional LRT to satisfy a new need from a living street on each.

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By trackofalljades (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:30:37 in reply to Comment 77726

Is there a compelling reason not to have two one-way streets parallel to each other in a "couplet" formation with LRT on both? That allows for sufficient turning radius to make the LRT into a loop, and each of the two streets could undergo a makeover as pictured in the above designs with bike access, wide sidewalks, and flexible lanes (traffic carrying during rush hours, parking between rush hours).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:26:19 in reply to Comment 77726

The City's plan is to put both directions of LRT on King Street.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:32:40

CBC Hamilton has republished this essay under their Talk page.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-06-01 09:49:53

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By meanerjoanna (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 09:59:20

These illustrations are beautiful! I lived in this area recently and only saw main street as frightening obstacle to getting onto locke street. It feels more like something that divides the city rather than connecting it. this makes Main street a destination instead of just something one reluctantly passes through on the way to somewhere else. Fantastic!

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By mmcpeak (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:31:37

One thing that needs consideration is the highway ramp from the 403 to Main Street, which currently it feeds into the leftmost lane. How would the conversion work around that? Would it continue as a oneway street until Dundurn?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:43:58 in reply to Comment 77746

All of the 403 ramps should terminate at main (and king) at proper lights - even if the streets are one-way. I can't believe that these ramps pass any provincial safety standards.

Does anyone at any level (from lowly citizen driver to top provincial civil engineer) think that the 403 ramps onto Main East are working well as-is? With the mayhem of throwing two highway ramps and three fast lanes of traffic into a mixer and having everyone darting across 2, 3, 4, 5 lanes in order to get where they need to be?

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By Punchbuggy (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 09:48:20 in reply to Comment 77751

Seems like they're working on these bridges now...

I gather that city traffic planners were unreceptive to the 403 bridge proposal when it was presented to them? Does anyone know if it's it too late to get them to change their plans, or will we just have to stew about this until the bridge restoration cycle comes around again in another 50-60 years?

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By mmcpeak (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:01:16 in reply to Comment 77751

As someone that uses that ramp often and needs to turn South onto Dundurn, I fully agree with you. The 403 ramps on Main Street West (west of Longwood) have lights.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:20:28 in reply to Comment 77756

Yea, that whole area from the on ramp to Dundurn is pretty chaotic; everyone from the right lanes are trying to get into the shopping plaza (or just turn West onto King to get into Dundas/TO/etc...), and everyone coming on from the on ramp are just trying to scoot over a lane or two.

I drive it everyday (I work by Westdale HS and live downtown) and that area is a zoo.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:04:19 in reply to Comment 77756

Yep, and if the Main East ramps terminated at lights, everyone would be able to calmly turn into whatever lane they needed to without having to risk getting creamed by the b-line bus while froggering-it across every lane.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:25:55 in reply to Comment 77758

Also, if you look at the land around those ramps, they can easily be curved to meet a new stoplight at Main without any new bridges etc....

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By Jamie W (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:36:02

The only problem is that public transit would have to be strengthened and invested in..... I just returned from Tokyo. 95% of the people take public transit to downtown.

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By trackofalljades (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:37:01 in reply to Comment 77747

Portland, OR here...same deal, very few people drive to downtown today. Portland makes for an interesting case study because unlike Tokyo it's not a huge town, in fact it's not all that different from Hamilton in terms of size and topography (complete with the hill/water setup). Portland has a very walkable thriving downtown, a great bus network, an expanding and highly utilized downtown streetcar, and larger light rail vehicles which reach to the suburbs.

The reason I mention all this is that many folks, especially long time natives, were absolutely positive a couple of decades ago that all of that could NEVER possibly work here...they were sure that people wouldn't use it, government wouldn't actually do it, etc. Yet today Portland is arguably one of the most "livable" small cities in the U.S. and all kinds of people chomp at the bit to find ways to move here.

Hamilton intrigues me expressly because I see so much of the same potential in it that Portland has managed to realize.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:41:10 in reply to Comment 77747

Blasphemy. That will never work in Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:26:15 in reply to Comment 77747

agreed 100%

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 10:40:39 in reply to Comment 77747

The City is already at an advanced stage of planning for LRT to run on dedicated lanes from McMaster to Eastgate Square (it is being designed to run on King Street through the downtown). That would be a dramatic improvement in the speed and availability of transit over today's B-Line bus service.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-06-01 10:41:14

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By Notreally (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:23:29 in reply to Comment 77750

> That would be a dramatic improvement in the speed...of transit over today's B-Line bus service.

If someone travels the full, complete line, they would save 5 minutes. For someone traveling half the route, they're not even saving 3 minutes.

How can anyone call that "dramatic"?

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By Hammer Mark (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:08:39

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:27:08 in reply to Comment 77759

There are enough thoroughfares already in place; Burlington St is fine... The ones on King & Main unfortunately tend to hurt local business & general walk-ability.

Yes, they might get people from East to West faster, but at what cost? A few extra minutes spent in my car is something I'd G L A D L Y pay in return for a walkable, people-friendly city where business can rely on foot-traffic & I'm not terrified to take my kids anywhere on their bikes.

Also, a spin off might be that if people have to spend a few extra minutes in their cars, they might deem it not worthwhile to live so far away (Stoney Creek or Burlington), and in turn might be tempted to move into the city/downtown to be closer to work.

That can't be a bad thing...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:33:21 in reply to Comment 77786

Also, a spin off might be that if people have to spend a few extra minutes in their cars, they might deem it not worthwhile to live so far away (Stoney Creek or Burlington), and in turn might be tempted to move into the city/downtown to be closer to work.

And of course, a more liveable downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods would make that prospect all the more attractive - a virtuous cycle.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:59:32 in reply to Comment 77789

Totally agree.

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By hmmm? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:21:02 in reply to Comment 77759


Main between Dundurn and Queen is not "efficient" for me, and I suspect many other people who actually live near it.

There are more stakeholders in this discussion than through drivers - like people who actually own property near this de facto expressway built for your convenience.

(sorry for the snark, I've been reading these posts for weeks now and I cannot understand how people do not realize that there are other considerations beyond their travel times that might bear some discussion)

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:20:07 in reply to Comment 77759

Do you routinely walk on Main Street? Particularly between Dundurn and Queen? How many businesses on that street can you name from memory? And of the ones you can name, how many have you actually visited? Would you live on that stretch of Main? Would you live within a block of it?

No one said it's impossible to walk or cycle on Main. It is of course possible - bu it is a terrible experience only performed out of necessity.

The point that you don't get is that we should make walking on our main street a desirable thing to do.

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By tim (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:40:25

These diagrams look nice, but not practical to real life. With these types of designs, it would take a significant longer time to travel from the west end to the east end. In addition, providing signal progression on a two way street is very difficult especially whem you have to take into consideration that over 25,000 vehicles travel on this route. Can you say "GRID LOCK" "POLLUTION" "FRUSTRATION" "EMERGENCY VEHICLES".

Just more flaws to the design above, there are no left turn lanes, everyone behind the left turning vehicles will wait a long time to conitinue on through an intersection. Then there are buses stopping, they too would hold up all the traffic behind. What about when there is a collision or a utility cut or repair on the street.

Doing such a change on Main Street.. how else would you get acrross the city??? The lower section of Hamilton is limited to the number of street that can be used to cross the street.

I applaud your attempt and your vision, but needs to be more practical.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:27:40 in reply to Comment 77765

It already takes longer to get from west to east via Main then it does via Burlington St, or the 403/Linc/Red Hill. This will simply re-enforce to drivers to use those already-faster routes.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:02:44 in reply to Comment 77765

These diagrams look nice, but not practical to real life.

You mean, "less convenient for people who want to drive across the city in 10 minutes."

With these types of designs, it would take a significant longer time to travel from the west end to the east end.

Good. Slower traffic means safer streets. If you're in a hurry, use Hamilton's continuous ring highway system: 403/Linc/RHVP/QEW.

In addition, providing signal progression on a two way street is very difficult

A city street should never have timed signals that allow motorists to drive at 50-60 km/h through urban neighbourhoods.

especially whem you have to take into consideration that over 25,000 vehicles travel on this route.

A significant fraction of this is generated traffic [PDF] that would simply disappear if the street didn't have so much excess lane capacity.

Can you say "GRID LOCK" "POLLUTION" "FRUSTRATION" "EMERGENCY VEHICLES".

The evidence does not support your predictions:

Many cities, either not provided with dissuasive modelling forecasts, or disbelieving them [emphasis added], have introduced measures to reallocate road space away from cars.

In general, they reported that there has often (but not always) been a fairly short period of traffic disruption, but that 'gridlock' or 'traffic chaos' are rare, and never last longer than a few days, as traffic adjusts relatively quickly to new conditions. Sometimes there has not even been a short-term problem.

Two characteristic comments from local transport planners are: 'it'll be all right by Friday', and the ubiquitous 'the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to'.

That's what is actually observed to happen when cities reduce lane capacity. It's what actually happened in Hamilton on James North, John North, James South and John South when they were converted to two-way - despite the widespread predictions of doom.

Just more flaws to the design above, there are no left turn lanes

So introduce left turn lanes at intersections. They don't need to run continuously between blocks where the space would be better used for curbside parking.

Then there are buses stopping, they too would hold up all the traffic behind.

LRT will run on dedicated lanes on King Street, one block away. Lots and lots of transit capacity.

What about when there is a collision

Collisions will be fewer and less severe when traffic is moving more slowly. In serious cases, an officer can direct traffic as happens today.

or a utility cut or repair on the street.

The city can temporarily restrict curbside parking during the repair.

Doing such a change on Main Street.. how else would you get acrross the city???

Use the continuous ring highway system we finished building five years ago.

I applaud your attempt and your vision, but needs to be more practical.

This is eminently practical, which is why cities all around the world have fully functioning streets that look like this. Only in Hamilton does "practical" equal "maximally convenient for through traffic".

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:29:41 in reply to Comment 77772

Nice...

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By hmmm? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:09:20 in reply to Comment 77772

Well said. Though this issue is drowning in facts. Maybe it's time for some emotion.

(though perhaps my yelling is not the right kind...)

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By What! (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 17:03:13 in reply to Comment 77774

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By hmmm? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:57:05 in reply to Comment 77765

ARGH! I don't care how you are going to go across the city! Since you own a car, why don't you try the Linc?

I'm trying to raise kids in this nest of one way streets. Why is the safety of my 2 kids less important than five minutes of your time stuck in your car? For five goddam minutes of inconvenience you are willing to kill people?

The tenor of the discussion of this issue needs to change. Get your cars off of my streets!

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By Safety (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:35:29 in reply to Comment 77769

If the safety of your 2 kids is SO important and living in a "nest of one way streets" is SO dangerous, why on earth do you live there?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 18:08:47 in reply to Comment 77823

Great point! Many people, in fact, choose not to live there.

Which is why we have such a small tax base...

Which is why taxes are so high...

Which is why we have so many potholes and sewer overflows and other infrastructure problems.

God forbid anyone should want to fix this mess....

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By Thepoint (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:27:35 in reply to Comment 77831

I think the point was that hmmm probably cares a lot about her kids and the truth of the matter is that living in downtown Hamilton is NOT dangerous. Some people just like to use the "but, what about the kids" argument to pull at people's emotions (even when it doesn't hold water).

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 12:29:06 in reply to Comment 77769

I wonder how people think car drivers travel in Montreal or Toronto?? Do they have highway ramps at the end of every residential side street downtown?? No...hence the great quality of life and desirable urban neighbourhoods filled with commerce, street life and vibrancy. Why does downtown Hamilton deserve less?? All for the sake of 5 minutes.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:34:00 in reply to Comment 77779

Here we go AGAIN with much BIGGER CITYS then Hamilton .. don`t even mix Hamilton with Toronto and Montreal .. are you a wannabie Montreal and Toronto the population Toronto over 5 million and Montreal over 4 million . and Hamilton 500.000 .. lol do the Math look at other citys that has Hamilton population to put up againts

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By trackofalljades (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:40:37 in reply to Comment 77790

I see your point, perhaps better examples would be for you to look at similarly sized cities that are either in the midst of starting to try these kinds of renovations or have successfully made these sorts of changes with much success.

Pittsburgh, PA is an example of the former (improving streets, bus lines, and becoming more bike and pedestrian friendly) and Portland OR is an example of the latter (complete downtown transformation, former brownfields and emptied industrial buildings all packed with high demand housing and thriving businesses).

This kind of stuff can work for smaller cities, too.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:12:01 in reply to Comment 77790

If we built the city as a dense livable place maybe we could top a million people - and our taxes would be cut in half!

(before anyone jumps down my throat abou those numbers, I meant this as an exaggeration - to demonstrate a different way of looking at these population differences)

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:38:09 in reply to Comment 77790

Ummm, so that should actually work in our favour. We don't have millions of people to move.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:02:11 in reply to Comment 77790

It's true that there are many differences, but there are many things that are the same and that we can learn from & adopt to our own needs.

Just because a city is much more dense than another doesn't mean that EVERYTHING else is totally different and therefore deemed un-comparable.

Comment edited by RB on 2012-06-01 14:07:52

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By hmmm? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 13:45:41 in reply to Comment 77790

Maybe we should compare Hamilton to Portland then? Pittsburgh? Raleigh?

Nah, probably nothing to learn from that.

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By trackofalljades (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:41:41 in reply to Comment 77792

I've spent a considerable amount of time in all three of those places, and they're great examples.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:48:51 in reply to Comment 77765

Tim - how do you currently get across the Mountain from the west end to the east end or the other way? I thought a lot of people lived up there? It's where I grew up, but there's been a huge amount of growth since I navigated all those two-way streets. BTW, I live downtown now and have to cope with one-way streets throughout my neighbourhood.

Comment edited by H+H on 2012-06-01 12:14:26

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:19:19

Maybe some of are own CANADIAN citys Halifax , Wpg ,Regina

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:28:12

Last night when I was driving along King Street (westbound from the Delta) I was passed by a gentleman driving a Jaguar that was traveling approximately 80 km an hour.
By the time I got to King and Sherman I had caught up to him at the light. So really, he wasn't getting where he was going any faster than if he were obeying the speed limit. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of people that treat the one way streets like freeways.

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By Exactly (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:39:01 in reply to Comment 77801

This is exactly why One Way streets are better for discouraging fast driving. If that same (stupid) Jaguar driver was doing the same thing on a Two Way street, he could have potentially traveled at 80 km/h indefinitely. They timing/synching of the One Way streets encourage driving the speed limit and absolutely guarantee that drivers like the Jaguar driver will be forced to come to a stop shortly.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 18:11:41 in reply to Comment 77824

This comment can only come from someone who has never driven on Main, or who is making things up.

If you catch a yellow on Main, the incentive is to go at least 70. Without fail, every single time you perform this trick, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you'll be able to go at least 70 through block after block of green lights until you catch up with the pack.

The only time the green wave enforces 50 km/hr is for the four people at the very front of the line.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:34:55 in reply to Comment 77832

THIS comment can only come from someone who has never driven on Main, or who is making things up.

I've driven on Main quite frequently. I even posted a video, on this blog, of my trip one day.

The whole "if a person catches a yellow" argument only holds true for those people who do, in fact, catch the yellow, and of those that catch the yellow they also have to be the type of driver who speeds 70 in a 50. The chances of that happening are much less than on a two way where the person can do the same thing at any given time.

Also, your argument about "every single time, 24 hours a day..." is completely false and totally impossible. Try it! or at least imagine trying it the next time you're driving that route. It is NOT possible all the time.. even most of the time... especially during the times when kids might be in the area. This is so because there are OTHER cars on the road, actually driving around 55km/h. Unless you're willing to push them out of your way, you are going to catch up to the wave of cars traveling 55 km/h very soon.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2012 at 20:33:44 in reply to Comment 77866

Every three minutes there is a yellow light and every three minutes there is an opportunity for someone at that yellow to speed up instead of stopping, and cruise at 70 to catch up with the pack.

Your implication that most people are "too good" to do such a thing is totally false. I take main every day to work - half of the time in my car and half of the time on my bike - and I witness this behaviour at every light cycle.

The "24 hours a day" comment is absolutely true because the timing of the lights does not change based on the time of day.

Would you support timing the lights on main so that 18km/hr travel catches the green wave (instead of 50km/hr)?

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By pstevens300 (registered) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 15:38:43 in reply to Comment 77896

Hey...it doesn't matter which street you start downtown on Main...if the traffic is moving at 50kph and not slow because of volume you will get a green all the way to Ottawa street. Actually, to be exact 52kph. Ask any cab driver...it has been the same for decades.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 12:48:03 in reply to Comment 77896

You didn't really read (and think) about what I wrote did you?

Whether or not the timing of the lights changes from one hour to the next, it simply isn't possible to do 24 hrs/day.

To make a huge exaggeration so that you can understand (because you failed to do so the first time)... Imagine bumper to bumper gridlock on Main. How can anyone do 70km/h without plowing into the cars in front of them!? Now, change reality (traffic) for the exaggeration (gridlock) and hopefully you can now see how your original statement is a complete fantasy.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2012 at 23:24:21 in reply to Comment 77902

I drive Main at the height of rush hour and the space is so great between those squeaking a yellow and the pack in front that it is entirely possible to go 60-70 for several blocks before catching up with the pack at even the worst times of day. We do not see anything even remotely similar to gridlock here.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:01:41 in reply to Comment 77801

And it's that "stop & go" driving that kills your gas mileage (in turn costing your more in gas) wears out your break pads (and possibly rotors) faster & is generally bad for the environment.

Just another few reasons why these one-way highways are (mostly) a bad idea.

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By Umm (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:42:08 in reply to Comment 77817

What? I don't understand. One of the things that pretty much everyone can agree on is that One Way streets (especially if they're "highways") have the advantage of reducing the starting and stopping.
This is one of the reasons (few or many depending on who you ask) why One Way streets are a good idea.

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By Speed Demons (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 14:36:33 in reply to Comment 77801

This puts to the lie the idea that timed traffic lights have everyone going at the speed limit. All the time I see drivers race as fast as they can to the next light only to slam there brakes until it turns green and then do it again.

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By All the time (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:43:59 in reply to Comment 77804

All the time? Really? You didn't say whether you see them doing this One Way streets or on Two Way streets.

I don't see people doing this "all the time", but I do see people doing it. When I do see people doing it, it is MUCH more common on Two Way streets.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:00:04

Thank you. Spectacular. CBC Hamilton has also picked this up http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/talk/story/20...

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By Justathought (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:02:16

I like the ideas put forth here. Another option would be to look at a three lane roadway, with one lane in each direction, a turning lane/island in the centre, and one row of parking. The turning lane would eliminate some of the traffic backups from left hand turns, and would further break up the roadway.

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By RB (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:04:52 in reply to Comment 77809

That's a really interesting idea... so there would be one row of parking on the outer lanes, then the two East/West lanes next, with the turning lane in center.

Anyone with traffic engineering knowledge see this is a good/bad idea?

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By WhyNot (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 16:25:57

Why not, just close the entire street to cars and make it cycle and walking only? All these arguments about reducing capacity to reduce demand make so much sense!

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 18:29:04 in reply to Comment 77822

We sure had no problem cutting the edges of the street right to the property lines so that people can't even walk side by side without fearing getting whacked by a truck's mirror as they barrel down the road. WhyNot are you even remotely suggesting that Main Street is a nice place to walk or cycle or are you a person who believes that we can just blatantly disrespect parts of our city through brutal design because of your need to quickly cut through it?

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By Tangential Spoke (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 19:17:59

I think lane capacity is less of an issue than the access to and from the streets, driveways and laneways that open onto Main. The additional stop lights address some of this, but the dedicated bike path is bound to come up against practical friction. Aside from the half-dozen north-south streets you've got a half-dozen entry/exit driveways between Queen and Margaret, and Strathcona to Dundurn is even more porous. These kind of considerations make the continuous barrier improbable. A centre median would be much easier to preserve intact. Excellent visualization, though. Far, far closer to complete streets. Definitely admire the thought and effort that went into it!

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 22:41:42 in reply to Comment 77836

A "continuous barrier" doesn't have to be entirely continuous throughout all the streets and driveways.

A "cutout" from the protected bike lane where there are through streets seems like the easiest solution. As for driveways, I don't know how many of those there are, but again, I think it wouldn't be unreasonable to provide a few cutouts, with appropriate paint cues on the ground and other and perhaps some signs that make it clear who has the right of way, cyclists or turning vehicles.

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By Sellers (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:19:48 in reply to Comment 77847

Going off Google Maps, it's mostly three blocks between Dundurn and Hess that would be impacted.

Between Strathcona and New: 3 driveways
Between Queen and Hess: 3 driveways
Between Queen and Pearl: 3 driveways
Between Hess and Summers: Construction TBD.

Between MacNab and Summers: 1 driveway
Between James and MacNab: 1 driveway
Between Hughson and James : 3 driveways
Between John and Hughson: 1 driveway
Between John and Catharine: 2-3 driveways
Between Catharine and Walnut: 2 driveways

Going off that, it seems to be at worst 3 cutouts per block, fewer downtown where density is highest and access is shared.

The biggest variable might be whether there's a bulk waste pickup, as at Select. A car's turn radius is obviously different than that of a garbage truck. But cutouts can always be generous.

Also: These barriers aren't intended as absolute protection, mostly a psychological environment that encourages pedestrian and cyclist culture.

Judging by the implementation timelines of 2001's Downtown Transportation Master Plan, if the city decided to do this today, the Queen-to-Dundurn stretch would be finished by 2022.

Obviously, tradition dictates that they vote to send it to a consultant to report back on the potential for implementation. So you might want to add another 12-36 months.

Still, something is better than nothing, and behind the curve is better than never. (Still awaiting word on whether that will replace "Together Aspite, Together Achieve".)

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By timd (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 20:14:31

One of the finer aspects of Vancouver traffic engineering is the fact that there are no highways in the city--all the major throughways are two-way streets, and in the downtown, a lot of them have two-way segregated bike lanes as in the illustration above. The reason traffic moves just fine is because of the abundance of feasible routes, since one street is as good as another. Relying on one or two main roads to move the bulk of traffic is crazy. Cut down the lanes on Main and King and traffic will naturally disperse.

That said, the reason there are no highways downtown Vancouver isn't due to any decision making at city hall, but because neighbourhoods got together and rejected the proposed development (and saved a substantial chunk of Chinatown in the process*). How long will it take before Hamiltonians realize that city hall is not and has never been invested in their lives, their families or their neighbourhoods? Probably not until every last inch of spare land has been blacktopped, striped, and assigned a parking space number.

*It must be noted that Hogan's Alley, a predominantly black neighbourhood (and home to Jimi Hendrix's grandma!), was destroyed before development on a thoroughfare into downtown was halted.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:44:23 in reply to Comment 77842

You raise a good point. Some traffic will naturally disperse. More cars on more residential streets is exactly what a lot of people on RTH are trying to reduce.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 23:24:19

Has there ever been a cooler neighbourhood name than "Hogan's Alley"?? Plain awesome.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 01:14:18

Excellent initiative. The impressions show what we can have when people design for people.

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By downtowninhamilton (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 08:41:08

I've been reading (and re-reading) this article and the comments since it was posted.

The pictures look great. It's nice to see trees, medians, parking, and people walking. But...

I don't think it would, or could work. That's not to say it shouldn't, but I forsee problems.

  1. Turning a stretch of Main St into 2 way with 1 lane going either way just isn't feasible. It would cause a lot of backups and congestion. It would just make me avoid going through that part of the city - doing the exact opposite of the intention (slowing down, shopping, etc).

  2. There's no turning lanes. As tim said, the backups from that, buses stopping, cars letting people out/picking people up, utility or emergency vehicles, would cause more slowdowns. And if there were resurfacing work, sewer work, it would essentially shut this strip down.

  3. There's plenty of businesses along this stretch, but nothing I would ever shop at. Some places we stop at (we will walk from St. Joe's to Dairy Queen in the summer to get an ice cream treat or Tim's on a cold winter night), we may go to Wimpy's for a bite, we also walk to Select Video to pick up a movie or a game, sometimes I get my hair cut at First Choice in that same plaza - but there's a lot more I don't need (the gay bathouse, the multiple beauty salons, the convenience stores, the doctors/dentists, the women's clothing stores). Would I be more inclined to shop along this stretch if there were men's clothing, a shoe store, a hardware store, electronics store, or something else? I don't know.

One other thing. I know it's just an illustration, but what kind of trees would be getting planted? As you can see they already obscure the store names. Would they need to be cut down at some point for growing too large?

I get off the Main St E ramp during the week for work. It's a broken ramp. It's unsafe. Although never witnessing a collision here, I've seen the aftermath and many near-miss situations. I've had to do the NASCAR-style passing to get from the ramp over to Dundurn South before, although now I usually just work my way up to Locke and double-back along Charlton. I usually just stay in the leftmost lane until the incline, then gradually move over lane by lane until I get up to John.

So, after the long-windedness, it's nice to see people thinking out loud about what we can do with our streets and our city, but something along the lines of maybe, say, 3 lanes heading East, 2 heading West (or maybe even just 1 heading West) with bike lanes would be best.

PS - I was denounced on another post for talking about putting barriers up to keep pedestrians and bikes safe. This stretch here has just that but nobody is talking about the price tag of it!

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:42:46 in reply to Comment 77854

"I know it's just an illustration, but what kind of trees would be getting planted? As you can see they already obscure the store names. Would they need to be cut down at some point for growing too large?"

There's no question that trees soften a landscape like this and make it more appealing. One element that often goes unconsidered, however, is the requirements of the root ball. The rule-of-thumb tends to be about 1 foot for every inch of trunk diameter, so if you're talking about a mature tree with a trunk of 4-6 inches, you're looking at a substantial root ball (to say nothing of the root system that will eventually arise from it).

This is why, for example, the median trees along Main West near MUMC are both relatively slender (2"-3") and centred in a large hardscape island. For a larger greened median (as you find on York or the Gore), large trees are possible because they can grow unimpeded by roads/roadwork.

On a stretch of road like Main that is prone to over-salting in the winter and perennial resurfacing in the summer, trees can be scorched at the best of times. If the root ball is too big for the space provided, the tree will suffer or it will find a way to thrive, and that often winds up compromising water/sewage lines. Penny wise, pound foolish.

Columnars are generally best for most compact city settings, because you get desired height without too much spread. Across the city you'll see regular plantings of of Ginkgo, Pear, Poplar, Maple, Hornbeam and so forth as columnars because they satisfy the need for predictable outcomes.

You can also incorporate large, broad-trunked trees into settings that are dominated by hardscaping, but you need to allow the tree to thrive. These kind of plantings need to incorporate realistic parameters for future growth and allow for expansion (the inevitable horizontal spread), and any such transplants need constant care in the first year or two so that stupid stuff like water stress doesn't flat-out kill the tree before it can even get settled.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 16:24:28 in reply to Comment 77882

This is why, for example, the median trees along Main West near MUMC are both relatively slender (2"-3") and centred in a large hardscape island.

Actually, I believe a number of the trees on Main are Plane trees which can grow to an enormous size. I'll have a look next time I go by.

Columnars are generally best for most compact city settings, because you get desired height without too much spread.

I'm not sure where the dictum came from that assumes that 'too much' spread is a bad thing in urban settings, as long as it's high enough not to obscure sightlines. Sounds to me like the forestry dept. equivalent of the dictum that prioritizes through-traffic flow for our city streets.

We need street trees to create the kind of sheltering canopy that is conducive to making our streets healthy centers of commerce and social interaction.

I recall several years ago reading a study that showed health outcomes, and other social indicators, were better in neighbourhoods with tree canopies than those without. The conclusion was that the existence of sheltering shade on the streets encouraged neighbours to linger outside their homes and businesses, fostering the kind of social support networks that lead to better mental and physical health outcomes, lower rates of crime and addiction, lower drop-out rates, etc. etc.

You just don't get that with columnar trees. If street trees aren't going to provide the kind of canopy we need to make our streets liveable, what's the point? Planting columnars just so the city can say they planted trees, strikes me as the kind of watered-down half-measure that has undermined the success of the two-way conversions of York and James S, and, well, just about every other progressive initiative this city has undertaken.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 20:19:10 in reply to Comment 77884

Drove by a little earlier. Yep. A number of Plane trees that are already quite large, as well as some maples.

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 17:19:46 in reply to Comment 77884

What I was getting at was the idea of proportionality. There's room for all kinds of trees in a city, but how you choose to deploy them has a way of limiting your viable stock. IMHO, columnars work best in tight sidewalk and island settings such as cycling lane dividers. If you're inclined to grow toward a canopied boulevard, annex a lane and dedicate the space.

Plane trees are also admirable performers, and I don't doubt that the trees along Main West are *capable* of growing to a far larger size than they are presently. What I was getting at is the idea that you want to leave room for them to safely do so, which is what they seem to have done. If you're working with a two-foot-wide traffic barrier or a narrow sidewalk, it's possible that you're only ever going to be dealing in trees a couple of inches thick at best. And this is a city that has no trouble deploying squads of student gardeners to plant garish annuals every spring/summer, so it may be that there's a willingness to replant regularly. Common sense can sometimes take a back seat in these parts.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 16:28:15 in reply to Comment 77884

Just to clarify, the study was comparing low income neighbourhoods with trees to low income neighbourhoods without.

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 17:28:53 in reply to Comment 77885

Great study, very striking. I would imagine that the same is probably true of all infrastructure investments... money tends to follow money... the squeaky wheels that get the most grease are often ones that can play the property tax card. Does that sound overly cynical?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 18:37:40 in reply to Comment 77889

Not in this case. It was a US study that compared neighborhoods that were otherwise similar socio-economically, but social outcomes were better in those neighbourhoods that had existing canopies of mature trees. No squeaky wheels or influx of money involved.

The reason I'm aware of the study is because Marvin Caplan, councillor of ward 1 at the time, was motivated by it to start a street tree planting initiative in the North End. Not sure how far he got with it.

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 19:52:44 in reply to Comment 77891

Interesting. Most of what I've seen to date have been Code Red-style findings that are mostly unsurprising, but an apples-to-apples study of variables would be revealing. Any idea of the institution, authors or year of study?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 20:16:11 in reply to Comment 77893

Alas, no. It was a number of years ago when Caplan was still the councillor for ward 1. I remember reading about it in the context of his tree-planting initiative and it stuck in my head because, as you say, it was a rather remarkable study of apples to apples with the one variable of street trees.

It would probably be pretty hard to track down now, but I'll try. Of course you could always just drop Marvin Caplan a line. I'm sure he'd be happy to share any info he might still have. :)

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By Sellers (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:29:47 in reply to Comment 77854

I gather that trees get cut back to accommodate vehicles (ie. they would not intrude upon traffic: see http://goo.gl/maps/cAQa ) but signage is a grey area.

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By Sellers (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 10:37:17 in reply to Comment 77865

Store signage, anyhows. Traffic signage is a little more clear-cut.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2012 at 09:39:28 in reply to Comment 77854

Your objections have already been addressed in other comments, but here goes:

I don't think it would, or could work. That's not to say it shouldn't, but I forsee problems.

You mean you don't think it would work for you.

Turning a stretch of Main St into 2 way with 1 lane going either way just isn't feasible. It would cause a lot of backups and congestion.

The evidence does not support your predictions:

Many cities, either not provided with dissuasive modelling forecasts, or disbelieving them [emphasis added], have introduced measures to reallocate road space away from cars.

In general, they reported that there has often (but not always) been a fairly short period of traffic disruption, but that 'gridlock' or 'traffic chaos' are rare, and never last longer than a few days, as traffic adjusts relatively quickly to new conditions. Sometimes there has not even been a short-term problem.

Two characteristic comments from local transport planners are: 'it'll be all right by Friday', and the ubiquitous 'the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to'.

That's what is actually observed to happen when cities reduce lane capacity. It's what actually happened in Hamilton on James North, John North, James South and John South when they were converted to two-way - despite the widespread predictions of doom.

There's no turning lanes.

It's easy to put in turning lanes at intersections. Between them, there's no reason that space can't be used for curbside parking.

There's plenty of businesses along this stretch, but nothing I would ever shop at.

It's not all about you. Nevertheless, as the street becomes more livable, the mix of businesses would expand and change, making them appealing to a wider variety of people.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 05:34:37 in reply to Comment 77858

And it's not all about you either. I'm providing my 2 cents, not saying that all will agree, but am putting my opinion out there. It just doesn't match yours.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 09:23:51 in reply to Comment 77854

No offense to you, downtowninhamilton, but I think you're missing the point of this exercise.

I've been a proponent of getting this strip of Main changed for a very long time. It is, to my way of thinking, inhospitable, inhumane, an absolute joke in terms of 'livability'.

My fervor about getting this changed has nothing to do with anyone coming in from outside the local environs. I believe it has to change for the sake of the people who live there.

This abomination...a multilane thoroughfare...runs through what *should* be a connected set of neighbourhoods: Strathcona and Kirkendall. But it may as well be the QEW separating them.

These Ward 1 communities deserve better than to have one-purpose-and-one-purpose-only thoroughfares running through them. And really, because of inherent adaptability on the parts of drivers (Time? The argument is TIME?!?), returning this stretch of road to something that actually reflects the fact that from Queen to Dundurn, from the Esparment to at least York we have this incredible conglomeration of truly 'livable' neighbourhoods. Except for this 'highway', and its sister-asphalt, King.

Even if the 'one-way' thrust was lost, we desperately need to make this stretch of macadam a 'pilot-project' in taking back our streets.

So I continue to salute this 'charrette' effort, and await further developments.

P.S.: http://townhallshamilton.blogspot.com/2012/01/reimagining-hamilton-can-we-play-please.html

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 09:32:17 in reply to Comment 77856

No, I understand it fully. I just don't think it's feasible.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2012 at 09:39:33

downtowninhamilton

Just by way of trying to respond to some of your concerns....

  1. Two lanes both ways is the first of the suggestions in Adrian's piece. I can't see why that wouldn't work. I realize we have to consider curb side parking given that we want to promote healthy retail and that does present a design challenge, but not an insurmountable one as far as I'm concerned. Hours allowed for street parking on one side of the street only is one solution, just as it's done now on Cannon.

  2. There are many main streets on the mountain that do not have left-hand turning lanes, especially in the "older" neighbourhoods. Some do, of course like main intersections of Upper James (but most side streets of which there are many do not), but some don't like Upper Gage, Upper Ottawa, most of Fennel. Advance green is always a possibility. In fact, I would say it would be a requirement.

  3. I'm not a horticulturist, but I know that the Plane tree (aka Sycamore) is an ideal city tree. They are the trees that are on the west side of our City Hall plaza. They are also the favoured tree along streets in Paris. They can be trimmed high as they grow, so while initially, they may obscure a sign or two, as they grow they provide a shade canopy for the street. They can live for several hundred years. As is the case in the proposed rendering, the trees provide a wonderful visual addition and lushness to the street. Perhaps we'll need to think of a tall tree that has a smaller diameter trunk, just so long as we don't put up the small junk trees that City Hall seems to prefer. We end up compromising so much that we end up with crap instead of an urban forest. Just like we end up with fields that the City labels "parks" because they're easier to cut, and have effectively no other maintenance because there is literally nothing else in them. I don't want third rate. You plant great trees once, not every year. You trim them every few years. They last generations.

I don't pretend to have this thing all figured out, but I do have to say that I'm struck by the concerns about backups that would lead to people not venturing downtown. Really? How is it that people can handle all the backups on the mountain streets like Mohawk and Fennel and Upper James on their way to work and back? Somehow people cope. Even with these backups, they still go about their lives up there. Surely we should be permitted to do the same downtown.

As I've said before, Dennis Vranich has proven to us with the barriers in front of his abandoned building at King and Hess that we can do without an entire lane on King St. West for what has now been well over a year and with no end in site since there has been zero activity on the site. Somehow we're coping. Wonder what our traffic engineers have to say about that fact?

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By exile on main street (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 11:52:29

i have lived on main (at locke) for 11 years. i have witnessed this monstrosity called main street for a LONG TIME. we own the house, so i definitely have a vested interest in seeing changes such as the ones proposed in the article. i love the idea of cutting down lanes to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. i love the idea of having 2-way, slower traffic. it would make SO MUCH SENSE. i'm more into the 2 lanes of traffic idea vs. one lane each way, as that seems most realistic. but there definitely has to be a traffic slowing measure, and 2-way traffic.

i HATE this steel river! i am an active cyclist; never got a driver's license. i get around by walking and cycling. but i don't cycle on main street, EVER. because it is a death trap for cyclists. i have seen many crazy collisions in front of my house over the years, due to speed and bad driving. many of those cars have slammed into the building that is now the yoga studio. i don't even like walking along main street because i don't trust the traffic, so i often take the side streets. if i am waiting to cross main to get to "crunch crunch convenience" (the irony is rife when you see how many accidents happen here) i stand behind the building that housed NINA's restaurant, away from the street because there is always the chance of being crushed by a car accident. i am faced with the threat of injury or death every time i want a chocolate bar! isn't that absurd?

there is parking in front of my house at all times except rush hour, and i have seen parked cars being smacked because of drivers going TOO FAST, not paying attention. a few months ago a minivan smashed into my next door neighbour's porch to avoid crashing into a parked car. luckily no one was injured or killed. when we are parked in front unloading our groceries, we are faced with the threat of injury or death. isn't that outrageous?

DRIVERS ARE GOING TOO FAST here. this cannot be an inner city highway any longer. something has to change.

if we are going to have businesses flourishing along the streets, there has to be a change to the traffic flow. please don't tell me that if i want to live on a sane street i have to move to the suburbs (suburbs=yuck to me). there has to be some creative, forward thinking in planning our city streets. there have to be compromises for the future good of this city. the rewards could be phenomenal. more shops and businesses would work on a slower, more pedestrian friendly street. maybe if we imported a bunch of montrealers to main street we could get some changes??? ha ha... no i'm serious. they know how to live (and protest) in montreal!

kudos to this article: to the VISION it presents, to the ideas proposed, to the excitement it has generated in me and others, and to getting a great dialogue going. i hope one day soon to see that mellow yellow line painted in front of my house.

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By Hamgravy (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 11:57:34

Pretty much all of these implementation considerations are just creative challenges. They're not lethal until we name our constraints.

Everyone on this site knows that renderings don't reflect reality, and that the city's track record suggests a certain, shall we say, "comfort zone". As far as what something like this would actually look like, the sobering thing is that the city tends to want to harmonize its designs, so my best guess would be that the barrier would basically resemble the best of any hemi-lane median we have going, simply shunted to one side.

We can wonder about trees, but my impression is that the prevailing practice favours low plantings rather than any kind of tree, so it's entirely possible we'd get nothing taller than a boxwood.

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By Maxim (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 12:42:22

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of travel.

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By Mainman (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 14:46:04

I often have thought, this is the gateway to our city? What kind of a message does it send to people whose first impressions are traveling down this "road"? I also live on this section of the Main Street Super Highway. The pollution and noise are unbearable at times. FIVE lanes of one way traffic at rush hour passing in front of the house i own. The 403 between Hamilton and the Niagara cutoff only has 3 lanes! In November 2011 the city roads department saw-cut across the north three lanes just east of Locke to do sewer work and left a cold patch across those lanes, and were not planning to repave it until spring. Imagine, if you will, 140,000 lb. trucks driving down an empty Main St. W. catching a wave of green lights around 4:15 am. Dropping an inch and a half at 60 kph in front of your house! Shaking my home to its core, windows rattling and foundation shuddering. One morning the dishes in my kitchen sink fell over as a result of the shoddy road work.

Over the 10+ years i have lived here i have witnessed numerous high speed car accidents, cars flipped over, children on bicycles hit by speeding cars. The corner at Locke and Main is a DEATHTRAP with cars turning left off the super highway onto Locke heading north. The building on the corner has been hit countless times. If you are passing by don't linger there looking at the pock marks and replaced brickwork, you can be crushed by someone's car wanting to get across town really fast, who rear ends someone turning right onto Locke.

Outside of rush hour there are parking spaces on the north side of Main in this section, leaving four lanes of traffic traveling east. I cannot count how many times drivers have honked, slammed on their brakes, yelled at me for parking at a meter in front of my house to unload or load something into my car (not at rush hour--to do so would be suicide). Drivers are outraged that I would dare park at a parking meter, because they are under the impression that this is a highway.

The new vision for Main St W. is a welcome one here. I would love for something like this to happen. The highway system around the city supports this idea--so construction should start NOW! The bottom line is Main Street is not a highway. It's time we created it into a street that served not only impatient speeding drivers, but walkers, shoppers, cyclists, families, residents, the entire community.

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By Berm (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 15:56:27

Sweet! Stoplights at Ray would be great but I doubt there's enough demand to rationalize the investment. We have lights at Locke, Queen, Hess, Caroline, Bay because there's sufficient through traffic to warrant it, but the rail line has severed streets like Ray and Pearl.

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 00:32:55 in reply to Comment 77883

If you have a morning to spare, stand around Poulette and Main between 7 and 9 on a school day. You will count 20-30 people trying to walk across Main from Strathcona, or the other direction from Ray. These are Strathcona residents trying to catch a bus on Main, or Kirkendall residents trying to get to a King bus or Strathcona Jr. Public School. It is 250m either way to the nearest cross walk (1/2 km round trip) so most try to gun it across the five lanes between green waves (when you only have to dodge vehicles turning onto Main from Dundurn). I have seen more children nearly get run down by cars speeding down this section than I care to count.

Tell me what is enough to "warrant" more stop lights and crosswalks. The needs of through traffic, or the needs of the community?

Comment edited by brendansimons on 2012-06-03 00:35:50

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By Berm (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 06:32:40 in reply to Comment 77898

Looking back through the case I cited, there's a comment on city policy that is germane:

http://raisethehammer.org/comment/52087

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By Berm (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 06:16:25 in reply to Comment 77898

Stoplights are usually the most expensive form of pedestrian crosswalk, especially if Main goes two-way.

Signalled crosswalks might be needed at various intersections across the city. I imagine that the city has tipping points for warranting investment, probably involving anecdotal evidence as the "worth a closer look" trigger.

What you've seen in the last year on this very blog is that a community activist raises a red flag, the community rallies around the cause, the ward councillor decides whether or not to back the resulting community request, the traffic engineers add their two cents and council decides whether the outlay is warranted. This was the case when Councillor McHattie put forward a motion for a crosswalk at Aberdeen & Kent, thereby sparing nearby residents a 400m walk.

In commenting on this intersection, you're in the starting blocks. Your councillor is familiar with these concerns now and should be able to shepherd you through the process.

Either that or roll the dice. Trust that City Hall feels your pain and is already on the case. That's inherently risky. Poulette/Main may be 250m from Dundurn/Main, but it's just 140m from Locke/Main (Strathcona is 200m from both).

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By silly (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 17:13:26

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 17:39:14

A little digging...

City of Hamilton Street Tree Planting Policy - Planning & Design

"The Street Tree Planting Program and initiatives shall attempt to establish a robust and flourishing infrastructure of Street Trees that will provide maximum benefits to the community with minimal costs, and conflicts to abutting land uses, traffic circulation (pedestrian and vehicular) and regular maintenance programs. Planting works may be initiated by property owner request or by staff, and will comply with the Design and Layout requirements contained herein.

Planting Layout Regulations

1. Generally the planting of approved tree types will be allowed within road allowances subject to the following requirements:

a) Day lighting Triangles: At the intersection of roadways or vehicular access points, no plant material with a mature height greater than 50 cm within a sight triangle measuring 9 m by 9 m along the boundary of each of the intersecting roadways, measured from the point of intersecting curb lines, except where engineering standards indicate otherwise shall be planted. Exemptions will be made in mature neighbourhoods where historical location patterns will be respected, particularly when existing trees within the area are replaced;

b) Boulevard Width: Boulevards containing a minimum soft surface width of 1.75 m are eligible for tree planting;

c) Boulevard Planting Curb Setback: Tree plantings in boulevards must achieve a minimum setback from the curb face of 80 cm;

d) Curb Face Sidewalk Setback: Tree plantings adjacent to curb face sidewalks must achieve a minimum setback of 1.0 m from the back of the walk (and remain in the road allowance);

e) Driveway Setbacks: Tree plantings shall achieve a minimum setback of 1.5 m from driveways and alleyway entrances and shall ensure avoidance of eventual interference with or obstruction to any improvements installed for public benefit; f) Ditch Setbacks: Tree plantings shall achieve a minimum setback of 1.5 m from the top of the back side of any ditch;

g) Building Setbacks: Tree plantings shall achieve a minimum setback of 3.0 m from any building or structure;

h) Overhead Clearances: Only low-growing tree species that do not attain a mature height greater than 6 m shall be planted under or within 3 m of any overhead power lines, exclusive of street light or service lines. Location exemptions will be made in mature neighbourhoods, where historical location patterns will be respected, particularly when existing trees within the area are replaced. Large growing trees planted within 3 m of the powerlines shall only be pruned by the City of Hamilton to allow the mature crown to grow around the lines;

i) Utility Appurtenance Clearances: Tree plantings shall achieve a minimum setback of
1.5 m radius of a fire hydrant, light standard, utility pedestal, transformer, or water valve;

j) Tree Spacing: Larger, maturing trees should be spaced 10 m apart and smaller maturing trees 6 m apart;

k) Hard Surface Tree Plantings: Tree plantings made in a sidewalk or other hard surfaces must have a minimum of 1.5 m cut-out area. The tree must be set back from the road a minimum of 80 cm from the face of the curb;

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 08:04:13 in reply to Comment 77890

For fun, drive along Main and count the trees planted along sidewalks from Paradise to Bay.

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By Heartwood (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2012 at 19:49:01 in reply to Comment 77890

Link:

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/6C8916A6-07E9-4855-9657-14998E5C7B98/0/SitePlanGuidelinesAp16.pdf

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted June 03, 2012 at 00:11:02

"I get off the Main St E ramp during the week for work. It's a broken ramp. It's unsafe. Although never witnessing a collision here, I've seen the aftermath and many near-miss situations. I've had to do the NASCAR-style passing to get from the ramp over to Dundurn South before, although now I usually just work my way up to Locke and double-back along Charlton. I usually just stay in the leftmost lane until the incline, then gradually move over lane by lane until I get up to John."

Yeah, it's pretty bad there. Try it on a bicycle.

"In general, they reported that there has often (but not always) been a fairly short period of traffic disruption, but that 'gridlock' or 'traffic chaos' are rare, and never last longer than a few days, as traffic adjusts relatively quickly to new conditions. Sometimes there has not even been a short-term problem.

Two characteristic comments from local transport planners are: 'it'll be all right by Friday', and the ubiquitous 'the traffic has disappeared and we simply don't know where it has gone to'"

The late Jane Jacobs recounted almost exactly this reality in her last (I think) book in which her disdain for traffic engineers, and their conclusions founded upon "what they believe" as opposed to evidence. Dark Age Ahead is well summarised on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Age_Ah...

An excerpt:

The following is a summary of Jacobs' description of the decay in each area.

Community and Family

People are increasingly choosing consumerism over family welfare, that is: consumption over fertility; debt over family budget discipline; fiscal advantage to oneself at the expense of community welfare.

Higher Education

Universities are more interested in credentials than providing high quality education.

Bad Science

Elevation of economics as the main "science" to consider in making major political decisions.

Bad Government

Governments are more interested in deep-pocket interest groups than the welfare of the population.

Bad Culture

A culture that prevents people from understanding/realising the deterioration of fundamental physical resources which the entire community depends on.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2012-06-03 00:16:34

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 15:20:21

Just back from Montreal where there are two way bike lanes and Bixi bike stands all over... Surely we can do this!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2012 at 20:14:53 in reply to Comment 77941

Leadership

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 08:57:45 in reply to Comment 77952

"Leadership."

Other than in exceotional situations...say in the form of a brand-new development, for example in a part of town where nothing has happened for the longest time...councillors 'lead' only when they have the clear indication from their residents that where they're leading to is where people (not 'all', but 'enough') want to go.

Within the context of this city, of Hamilton, I think that 'leadership' in the form you're talking about is dormant. (At the very least, we've seen it lacking in the garbage issue, with ward boundary reform, and recently in responding to The Hamiltonian's efforts with their 'Perspectives Virtual Panel' regarding the City's goal of being 'The Best Place to Raise a Child, with 13/16 on Council not responding to the request for input)

"You don't ask, you don't get."

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 13:06:57 in reply to Comment 77968

Yes, you're right. Pretty sad when the only form of 'leadership' comes when citizens beg, plead, petition and send mass emails. That's not leadership at all. We can pay monkey's 1/4 of the salary to respond in situations like those. We need leaders who are willing to make the tough choices necessary to move our city forward.

There's a reason why Hamilton continues this slow growth rate in the middle of Southern Ontario, while cities all around us - big and small - from TO to London to Kitchener to Guelph outpace us and are intentionally transforming their urban cores so they can compete in the future.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 13:27:19 in reply to Comment 77999

"Pretty sad when the only form of 'leadership' comes when citizens beg, plead, petition and send mass emails."

Not really. Not if the citizens are pressing in concerted ways for projects they've deliberated over. That's actually a great dynamic.

"We need leaders who are willing to make the tough choices necessary to move our city forward."

Yes, sometimes the 'tough choices' are made independent of any resident input- Actually, if you don't mind, let's make this an exercise:

What issues over the past five years have required 'tough choices', and how did each situation go? I think this would make a great article/comment thread all its own, don't you?

"There's a reason why Hamilton continues this slow growth rate in the middle of Southern Ontario, while cities all around us - big and small - from TO to London to Kitchener to Guelph outpace us and are intentionally transforming their urban cores so they can compete in the future."

And that reason is...? Are you saying that we've had a really bad run of councillors being elected? I'm going to assume you are, seeing as we're having this 'leadership' discussion. So of course, I'm going to point out that 'It's the residents who voted them in...'

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By djfern (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 11:52:37

Love it. Would like to see this vision extended across main street to Gage tho. Main east needs a lot more love than it gets...

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 17:49:04

How much traction do you think this issue is gaining? It seems that inspite of the fall of King Solomon at the traffic department, they still wield a huge amount of influence over these matters. What was the process to convert other streets.

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By Stout (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 07:56:30

Hamilton is drowning in red ink. The city's 2012 debt has been projected at $742 million, climbing to $910 million in fiscal year 2013.

Hamilton currently has a AA credit rating, while neighbours/peers such as Halton, Peel, Waterloo and London all have AAA ratings.

Hamilton is also staring at a $2 billion infrastructure deficit.

If the City barely has enough money to allow a partial pedestrianization of the south face of Gore Park (the pilot budget was promised, then pulled, then restored after BIA protest... the City had previously had planned to defer the entire project entirely until after the 2015 Pan Am Games on similar gounds), how long do you think it will take them to bankroll the esplanade described so vividly above? And what sort of tax levy will ride shotgun?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2012 at 08:55:54 in reply to Comment 78025

A bg part of Hamilton's dire financial picture is due to the fact that we continue to build outwards, investing in high-cost, low-value sprawl infrastructure instead of revitalizing our built-up area and increasing the tax productivity of our existing infrastructure. An investment in making Main, King and Cannon viable places to live, work and invest would pay for itself many times over in the growing revenues and falling public costs that come from improving neighbourhood vitality.

One option to pay for this is tax increment financing (TIF), in which a municipality borrows against future increases in tax revenue for an urban redevelopment project. The Ontario government is trying out TIF in a couple of pilot projects, including the West Don Lands redevelopment in Toronto.

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By Stout (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 09:21:23 in reply to Comment 78027

I'm not disputing the sprawl dynamic. Many if not most councillors understand this. But if Canada Bread wants to build a plant on the periphery, or Tim Hortons wants to put a roastery in an Ancaster business park, no official at City Hall is going to issue a brownfield ultimatum. Residential development is another way of expanding the tax base and generating jobs that is, in the short-term, relatively painless, and certainly easier than persuading those same developers to develop high-density projects downtown, or put a moratorium on exurban builds. Municipal politics is almost always a matter of the easiest route from A to B. If we want to see the above happen in our lifetime, we need to position the issue as an economic boon. Nail that case shut. The walkability is the wrapping paper, the soft-touch stuff that politicians say to make themselves seem more tuned-in to the needs of humans. Council and staff need to see this as a fast-track to increased revenue, or at the very least a quick break-even. It's an argument that will be won or lost in terms of economic development.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2012 at 09:36:21 in reply to Comment 78029

The recent Chamber of Commerce study on creative businesses concludes, "walkable environments should be viewed as economic infrastructure that attract employment and should be invested in accordingly."

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By Stout (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 11:36:33 in reply to Comment 78031

As sympathetic as I am to the case, the business case behind that link is about as airtight as Aerotropolis. But maybe that's good enough.

I'm sure you are aware of the Chamber's historic track record of "benign neutrality," of its hereditary disposition to serving the needs of the trucking industry, aka "the essential lifeblood of our economy" and its flat dismissal of the "red herring" of peak oil.

I’m equally sure that you are aware of EcDev’s unblemished history of championing the cause of walkability and transit as quick-wins that will rejuvenate the downtown and bring prosperity to the broader city.

Whatever the colour of spots that these bodies are wearing in their current incarnations, I would advise against leaving this matter to them.

That 20-page report contains around a dozen pages of analysis, and opens with a question: “What is the impact of walkable and transit accessible environments on jobs and economic development?”

But it only ever offers half an answer.

The report lists the top 10 neighbourhoods in terms of WalkScore (80% of which are in Wards 1-2), but offers no corresponding numbers for creative industry population or accompanying investment. Ward 2 in particular boasts the city’s three most walkable neighbourhoods by their accounting (Beasley, Corktown and Central) but fails to acknowledge that these are among the most economically depressed neighbourhoods in the city. (As well as WalkScore’s own limitation, that its methodology doesn’t factor in pedestrian design.)

Cheaper bottom-line rents hold self-evident appeal for fiscally challenged creative workers (see Hill Strategies Research’s 2009 study that showed artists across Canada earning, on average, just 9% above LICO, and have seen their earnings erode, dropping 11% even as the cultural-sector work force tripled in size), a selling point that has earned prominent and sustained placement in media interviews with creatives who have moved here.

Nor does the report detail the number of jobs in any of these sectors, the associated income/revenue, or the local investment attributed to spin-off effects. This despite a concluding remark that “there is distinct clustering of businesses in areas close to or within the neighbourhoods that rank the highest on both scores [WalkScore/TransitScore].” Not that the data appears in the report. We’ll also discount the possibility that creative entrepreneurs might cluster where there is a glut of media coverage devoted to promoting creative entrepreneurs (or, for that matter, a social milieu where they can mix and mingle with other creatives).

Another leap: “Further, we know from recent survey data that creative industries are a fast growing sector in Hamilton and thus, this correlation demonstrates a link between walkable and transit accessible environments and jobs. Moving forward, this understanding can help inform local efforts at job creation.”

And yet there is no measure of the economic argument, aside from the anecdotal observation. No sense of what kind of jobs these are, what sector of the creative industries, how many are under one roof, how many are self-sustained or rationalized solely by grants, even whether they are full-or part-time.

No granular analysis, only “a number of interesting trends.”

Despite these quibbles, I agree with the philosophy espoused in the report following the quote that you cite: “Just as investments are made to ensure suburban business parks have the required infrastructure to make them centres of private investment, walkable environments need to be created, enhanced and maintained in order to attract jobs for other sectors… Strengthening the link between walkability, transit accessibility and jobs will be important for Hamilton to effectively build a strong and diverse economy moving forward.”

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 12:24:48 in reply to Comment 78034

As sympathetic as I am to the case, the business case behind that link is about as airtight as Aerotropolis. But maybe that's good enough.

Yes. Seeing as we are comparing the costs of two-way conversion, street trees, street parking, and bike lanes vs. the hundreds of millions it will cost to service and maintain Aerotropolis, I would hope the burden of proof would be a little lighter.

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By Stout (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 13:28:30 in reply to Comment 78035

You take my point, then. Both arguments are wafer-thin and based on anecdotal arguments. I see no reason why we should give opponents ammunition, however.

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By Stout (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 13:39:13 in reply to Comment 78037

Added to which, the Chamber seems to support both. Which do you imagine will it fight harder for?

http://www.aegd.ca/blog/what-i-like-about-the-aegd

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2012 at 13:48:10 in reply to Comment 78038

The one that gives them a more direct channel into our tax-dollars, obviously.

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By ERgo Sum (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2012 at 13:48:49 in reply to Comment 78039

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/738157--dreschel-red-hill-parkway-is-a-cash-cow-for-the-city

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