What happens to the traffic volume argument against two-way conversion when our city's two-way streets actually carry more cars than the one-ways?
By Jason Leach
Published September 19, 2012
In the recent one-way/two-way debate in Hamilton one of the most common refrains from conversion opponents is the mass congestion that will be caused by converting some of our main streets back to two-way traffic.
In a recent chat with a Mountain councillor I was told that this individual can't support changing the road network if it means drivers sitting in their cars for an hour when they come downtown.
This same councillor did, however, agree that we need the complete streets/ traffic calming approach to the one-way freeways downtown. He just wasn't convinced that two-way conversion would work.
I can't imagine a scenario in which the 10 minute trip downtown from virtually anywhere on the Mountain would become an hour. Regardless, some residents outside of Hamilton's urban core believe this is a real concern.
I decided to look up the city's traffic count numbers and see which streets would be easy to convert and which ones could perhaps lead to heavy gridlock.
The City of Hamilton website has a fairly comprehensive table of traffic volume counts per street section [PDF] from 1999, the most recent year for which data are currently available for free. (Note: the city has newer data, but charges money for access on a section-by-section basis.)
Here are some selected streets and their total traffic volumes.
|* James North was converted from one-way to two-way in 2002 and James South was converted in 2005.|
|Aberdeen west of Dundurn||2 lanes each way||26,000|
|Wellington south of Main||5 lanes southbound||22,000|
|Barton west of Wentworth||1 lane each way||13,000|
|Queen south of Charlton||3 lanes southbound||13,000|
|Bay b/w Main and King||3 lanes northbound||15,700|
|Longwood south of Main||2 lanes each way||23,000|
|Kenilworth Access||2 lanes each way||35,000|
|Cannon at James||4 lanes westbound||18,000|
|Upper James south of Mohawk||2 lanes each way||36,000|
|Cannon east of Sherman||2 lanes each way||16,000|
|Cannon west of Sherman||4 lanes westbound||11,000|
|Catharine south of Wilson||3 lanes southbound||3,800|
|Centennial south of South Service||2 lanes each way||40,000|
|Concession west of Upper Wentworth||1 lane each way||17,000|
|Hunter west of John||2 lanes westbound||11,000|
|Garth south of Fennell||2 lanes each way||26,000|
|Victoria north of Wilson||5 lanes northbound||15,500|
|James South of Herkimer||4 lanes one-way southbound*||30,000|
|Mohawk west of Upper Sherman||2 lanes each way||37,000|
|King west of Wentworth||4 lanes westbound||27,000|
|King west of Mount Albion||2 lanes each way||31,000|
|Main west of Cootes||2 lanes each way||35,000|
|Main east of Dalewood||5 lanes two-way||52,000|
|Main west of Dundurn||5 lanes eastbound||41,000|
|Main east of Bay||5 lanes eastbound||31,000|
|Main east of Sherman||4 lanes eastbound||27,000|
|Main east of Cope||2 lanes each way||32,000|
|Golf Links at Stonechurch||2 lanes each way||33,000|
|Wilson east of Wentworth||4 lanes eastbound||11,000|
Just a few highlights I'd like to point out:
Concession Street at Upper Wentworth is one-lane each direction 24-7. It carries more traffic than Cannon, Wilson, Queen, Bay, Wellington, Victoria, Wentworth, Sanford, Birch and Hunter. Each of these streets are one-way and range from 2 lanes (Hunter) to 5 lanes (Victoria, Wellington).
It's been said over and over, but the one-way system was designed during our industrial heyday. Those days are gone, as is the traffic they once produced. If Concession can function with no traffic delays 365 days a year at one-lane each direction, can someone please explain why certain councillors are demanding that Queen and Cannon be left out of any conversion talks?
Cannon Street east of Sherman is two-lanes each way during rush hour. It carries significantly more traffic than Cannon west of Sherman, which is 3-4 lanes one-way during rush hour.
Main Street from the 403 to Sherman falls in line nicely with Golf Links and Upper James in terms of total traffic. Having no access to numbers beyond 1999, I'd lay money in Vegas that Upper James and Golf Links have seen much higher traffic growth than Main Street since then.
Main at Dundurn is the only spot on the one-way section of Main that carries more traffic than Main as a two-way street near Cope. Perhaps it's time to lose the five-lane freeway.
Fennell, Garth and Aberdeen are all two-lanes each way with no centre turning lane - and they carry much more traffic than the list of one-way streets I compared with Concession Street above.
Not only is "gridlock" not a problem on these streets, but on Garth, speeding is a big problem. Police are set up with radar guns almost every week on Garth, south of Fennell.
I realize there will always be those who oppose the creation of complete, safe streets in the urban core of Hamilton, but I hope that level-headed politicians will see some hard data like this and help ease concerns of mass hysteria.
As it turns out, most of the suburban/Mountain constituents are driving on much busier streets than those in the lower city, and all of theirs are two-way.
Finally, I would love to see newer traffic volume data to compare what has changed since 1999.