Special Report: Bus Lane

Observations from the First Few Days of our Transit Lane

That single bus lane carries more people every day than all the other lanes of King Street - combined.

By Jason Leach
Published October 26, 2013

Hamilton's first few days with a bus-only lane are behind us. Following are a few casual observations from my experiences walking, cycling and driving on King several times this week.

New transit lane on King West (RTH file photo)
New transit lane on King West (RTH file photo)

1. Bye-Bye Urban Highway

In all the lead-up to this bus project, I never once clued in that walking or hanging out on the north curb of King Street would become a more enjoyable experience.

I've lived near King for over a decade, and one of its many annoying features has always been that it felt like a highway, not a downtown street. It certainly has not felt like a downtown street that has been one of the two main commercial, retail and pedestrian oriented streets through our entire city's history.

But with the transit lane, spending time on the north sidewalk of King is suddenly a much more pleasant experience:

A friend mentioned to me that they were on the north sidewalk near the Sheraton Hotel chatting with someone the other day, and it felt strange. They weren't yelling to have their conversation. After a while they clued in: the street was slower and traffic wasn't right at the sidewalk anymore, making it much quieter.

Bus traffic is more sporadic than car traffic, and bus drivers are among the best trained drivers on the road. They aren't doing 70 km/h weaving through four lanes like it's a video game.

2. All-Important Buffer

If we want King Street ever to come back to life like Locke, James or Ottawa Street, it needs to be a pleasant place for people to congregate and hang out. It was this way for over a century before we decided it should become a freeway for cut-through traffic.

With the transit lane on the north lane, all the curbside parking has been shifted to the south lane. That now creates a nice buffer for pedestrians walking on that side of the street.

People who are accustomed to racing on King Street may not like the slower, more humane speeds on the street, but if we ever want to see it revitalize and boom back to life, this is exactly what we need.

3. Traffic Flow

Leaving aside the congestion on day 1 as crews were still painting lines and traffic was pinched to one lane in places, traffic flow has actually been pleasant between Catharine and Locke for the first time in my life.

Several trips in my car this week highlighted the better balance that we need to aim for on all of our major streets. At 8:45 AM on Friday morning, my drive along King only took an extra three or four minutes to get to Dundurn than it would normally take.

It was an appropriate speed for a downtown street during rush-hour. There was no Toronto, NYC or LA congestion here. We hit a few red lights, but progressed nicely through the city.

Free-flowing traffic on King during midday (RTH file photo)
Free-flowing traffic on King during midday (RTH file photo)

4. Bus Priority

That Friday morning drive down King saw me enter King at Gage right next to a B-Line bus. I thought, "this will be interesting to see where we are in relation to each other by Dundurn".

Well, I'm happy to report that the B-Line bus was at Dundurn while I was just passing Queen.

This is an important piece to the puzzle: Hamilton has no choice but to find a better balance between our transportation options.

When was the last time a bus went faster than your car in Hamilton? Never. But if we want to see transit ridership increase, it has to be fast and convenient.

Finding the optimum balance will take some work, but the status quo of freeway-style automobile traffic flow at the expense of all other transportation modes must end.

Our population is expected to grow by 40 percent over the next 30-35 years. If our transportation options remain completely geared toward high speed car traffic, I've got some bad news: there will be no high speed car traffic. King would need to be 8-10 lanes to handle all those new cars.

The more people who find it safe and convenient to bike, walk and use transit, the better off everyone will be - including drivers.

I'd love to see Hamilton implement a broader bus-lane system that could grow ridership and balance our east/west streets. It would really enhance transit times and boost ridership if we establish a bus-lane with signal priority on Main from McMaster to the Delta, and on King from the Delta to Wellington, and from Mary to Macklin.

5. Cycling

I've been to a few cities with bus-only lanes that also allow bikes in those lanes. Most cities implement a 'leap-frog' system where both bikes and buses can pass each other safely on the left in these lanes.

I've used the bus lane three times now on my bike. Not only is it a no-brainer to allow bikes to use this lane, but I discovered another fantastic benefit that I hadn't realized prior to this lane opening: this is actually a fantastic piece of bike infrastructure.

Bikes and buses can actually coexist nicely, as bikes have the advantage of not stopping every few blocks for passengers. I was only passed by one bus during my rides, and I stayed to the right so it could continue along. I then passed it at its next stop and never saw it again.

My experience riding in the bus lane has been wonderful. This is far superior than the typical bike lanes we build right next to traffic (when we build them at all). Only a physically separated bike lane, such as those coming to Cannon Street, would feel safer and more enjoyable than this bus lane.

Bikes allowed in bus lane in Mannheim (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Bikes allowed in bus lane in Mannheim (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

City Hall should follow suit of the many cities, including Toronto, and modify our bus lane pilot by allowing bikes and painting sharrows along the right side of the transit lane.

One great statistic that has come out this week demonstrates both the benefit and the need to re-balancing our street network: that single bus lane carries more people every day than all the other lanes of King Street combined.

Comparison: space on road to carry 40 people in cars, bicycles and a bus (Image Credit: Cycling Promotion Fund)
Comparison: space on road to carry 40 people in cars, bicycles and a bus (Image Credit: Cycling Promotion Fund)

Despite the cries from some drivers about slower driving speeds, the fact is that more people are getting to work and school more quickly by taking transit on that one dedicated lane. Automobiles, most of them single-occupancy, still get to claim three quarters of the road for themselves.

As someone who lives near King and uses all modes of transportation, I hope to see these bus lanes extended to other streets.

I also hope that we may see some businesses set up sidewalk patios in the spring (if City Hall doesn't hassle them) now that the sidewalks are actually an enjoyable place to be and carry on a conversation.

We're only 73 years later than the world's first bus lanes, which opened in Chicago in 1940, but it's great to see Hamilton take another small but important step toward building a truly vibrant city.

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

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2013 at 20:12:13

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By CG (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2013 at 20:16:15

"I'm at a loss as to how this will improve public transportation."

Yeah, we know.

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By think (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2013 at 20:34:58 in reply to Comment 93784

It may pave the foundation for LRT. Think progressively, don't be a boner.

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By CG (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2013 at 08:59:35 in reply to Comment 93785

I know that. Why are you calling me a boner?

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By gdouglas131 (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2013 at 21:29:19

My father in law was complaining the other day about the bus lane slowing down traffic. He didn't get that this speed reduction is, in part at least, the point. Faster buses and slower cars.

My mother in law usually drives from their house at King and Ottawa to her office at King and James for work. In any other city, this would be a crazy thing to do.

If this city is to grow sustainably, we need most of these new residents to live in the urban core. That means better transit and people-friendly streets. Highways running through our core are not the way.

The bus lane is step - and a very easy one - in the right direction.

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By Common sense is not common (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 23:08:46 in reply to Comment 93787

This is rediculous! Anyone who drives on King St. on a regular basis knows that its a waste of time speeding as the lights are perfectly timed, so that if you drive the speed limit or less you will carry on smoothly to the highway or Westdale.

First off I would like to know who even identified this as a problem. I have ridden the buses around this city to work and school for more years than I have driven them. So I see both sides as a commuter. How are the buses even making any better time when 1) they have always stopped often due to the many riders on this stretch of road on King. 2)everyone yields to the buses. Does the express bus now have a right to pass another bus that makes all stops on King?

MORE TRAFFIC: You have now made a street designed to accomodate 4 lanes of traffic (years ago might I add) down to a 2 lane street with even greater numbers of commuters.

On top of that, the traffic is worse now because no one considered the main businesses on that stretch of King going towards Dundurn. Many people still have to go into the bus lane to turn right due to the Tim Hortons, gas stations and also the popular right turn at Dundurn. These turns and also the daily stopping of trucks to load/unload and Darts vehicles meant the right turn lane was often congested. Nothing has changed the need for people to enter the bus lane at this point. Hence it is still an impedement to the buses at that stretch of road. Instead whay you have done is slowed traffic across all of the lanes due to increased volume in the remaining lanes.

SAFETY: It is even now more unsafe to bicyle as cyclists are now sandwiched between a bus lane and drivers needing to cut across their path to enter the bus lane to make right turns. And drivers are not allowed to enter the lanes much earlier than their turn off.

You would think with the sheer increase of the width of the bus lanes someone would have had the foresight to make a separate bike closer to the curb with cyclists yielding to any stopped buses, as you would with street cars in Toronto.

A SLIGHT TO BUSINESSES: This is a real slight to businesses who have weathered many years in the downtown area on King St. You have now taken away their parking. How can we talk about putting in two way streets to help businesses, and then take away store front parking spots for businesses on a busy one way street. Seriously!?


**************

ONE POSSIBLE SENSIBLE SOLUTION: Since I doubt the lanes will be removed, let us have the common sense to make the Bus lanes "Buses Only" at rush hour times only. Then open to all traffic at posted non-rush hour times. This is a already common practice in the GTA and a more sensible use of the road.

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By In complete agreement (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2013 at 00:18:46 in reply to Comment 93946

I could not find a point in your post to disagree about.

When I heard about the bus lane, I just put it down on the ever growing list of "Why I avoid the downtown core."

To me, it appears, this need to cater to the downtown core and neglect the rest of the city, is a little backwards. I wish they would have taken the 150k and made dedicate bike lanes to connecting Westdale to Stoney Creek. None of this sparsity here and there malarkey.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:42:56 in reply to Comment 93946

A solution to what? During non-rush-hour times, the roads are SO EMPTY that we don't need another driving lane

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By reddiculous (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:59:41 in reply to Comment 93964

A solution to OUTRAGE!

Oh, you wanted to solve real problems?

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By None (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 16:04:10 in reply to Comment 93787

The point should not be to slow down/impede all traffic other than buses. Car owners/drivers pay for the roads with gas taxes and should not be considered less human and of lower value.

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By Dm (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 22:30:25 in reply to Comment 93921

Gas tax funds transit. Interesting.
http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2013/07/gas-tax-fuels-transit-improvements.html

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:41:20 in reply to Comment 93943

... and property tax funds roads. Interesting.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 20:37:39 in reply to Comment 93921

You're right.

How about we make a deal. Let's give car drivers 3/4 of the lanes on King and leave one measly lane for the buses. West of Locke cars can get 4 out of 5 lanes. In light of the great point you mention here I think it's only fair to make sure that the majority of that roadway is left alone for cars. I hope others will agree with me here.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-10-29 20:38:20

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2013 at 16:39:20 in reply to Comment 93921

Car owners/drivers pay for the roads with gas taxes

No they don't. Roads are paid out of property taxes, which all Hamiltonians pay whether or not they drive. In fact, since pedestrians, cyclists and transit users a) take up less space on the road and b) cause less wear and tear on the road, they actually subsidize people driving.

In any case, this isn't about ascribing one group of people higher or lower value than another group. As many people have pointed out, driving, cycling, walking and taking transit are activities, not categories. A healthy city provides a variety of ways to get around and lets people choose the way that makes the most sense for a given trip.

For too long in Hamilton, we have prioritized driving over the other ways of getting around, to such an extent that they have not even been viable options. As a result, most people are forced to drive for most trips, even though large majorities (especially among younger people) would rather drive less and walk/cycle more.

Another consideration is financial sustainability. After decades of building our city around the assumption that almost everyone will drive for almost every trip, we have a legacy of road infrastructure we can't afford and an urban area vastly under-performing its potential. In other words, building a city for driving has simultsneously driven up our costs and driven down our revenues. We simply cannot afford to keep doing that. (Not to mention the dividend of people spending less money on driving and having more to spend in the local economy.)

Of course, shifting more trips from driving to walking, cyclong and transit also reduces air pollution and improves public health - so it's a win all around.

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By dangeroos (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 13:15:31 in reply to Comment 93923

Can you consider running in our city's upcoming election. Hamilton desperately needs this type of thinking going foward.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 23:58:55 in reply to Comment 93923

There was a report issued on this exact controversy two weeks ago: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/10/... To summarize, drivers pay for 70-90% of the roadworks across Ontario via gas tax, licensing, etc., and more than 100% in the GTHA (147% in Toronto). In other words, drivers in Hamilton pay more than they're getting out of the roads. Unless there's another report somewhere to dispute this, I dare say this question has been answered.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:48:32 in reply to Comment 93947

According to this just released study, Canada spends $29 billion a year on roads, only $16 billion of which is covered by fuel taxes and vehicle-related fees.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-10-30 09:48:57

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:20:47 in reply to Comment 93947

A very simplistic report - commissioned by the CAA - which attempts to calculate the total cost across Ontario of all our roads, and sets that against the total revenue generated through fees and taxes paid by drivers alone. And they found:

Across Ontario, drivers generate about $7.7 billion in revenue and the province and municipalities spend between $10 billion and $13 billion on roads, said Gill.

Which by my calculation is a 2-5 billion dollar deficit. Notice that their range of error in calculating costs is 30% - they got it accurate to within 3 billion dollars... um OK.

Meanwhile, the "revenues" they are counting do not all go towards the roads. So, mathematically, they are considering the government as a black box and simply analyzing inputs and outputs. But if you are going to do that, then you have to calculate a LOT more externalities - health care, lost time from building infrastructure that lengthens commute time, opportunity cost lost by not having efficient transit etc.... all stuff that is virtually impossible to calculate.

A much better way of looking at this is to consider Hamilton's budget directly. We are a billion dollars behind in our infrastructure spending, and we spent 102 million on roads this year - out of our general property taxes. According to public works, we SHOULD have spent 179 million this year in order to keep up with our maintenance requirements. In other words, we added another 77 million to our deficit this year. And next year we'll do the same - unless we add a crapload to everyone's property tax bill.

roads budget roads budget

Meanwhile our 2013 gas tax kickback is 10 million... so 10% of what we spent and less than 6% of what we NEED to spend to keep our roads running.

So, yeah, you can believe a blue sky report by the CAA or you can look at what Hamilton actually spends on roads. Since I pay property tax, I'm quite concerned about the latter... I'm not going to put much weight into the former.

Comment edited by seancb on 2013-10-30 09:40:24

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:27:55 in reply to Comment 93961

Perhaps I'm not understanding what you're saying, but wasn't that the point of the report? Hamilton's road maintenance does, indeed, come out of our city taxes--but it shouldn't have to. Drivers pay more than enough to cover the maintenance costs, but those funds are not kept separate at the federal/provincial levels, and are not sufficiently returned to the city, and as a result, are spent on things other than roads. Are there external costs not included? Of course. Similarly, there are external revenues not calculated (such as municipal taxes and HST, also paid by the drivers).

The question has always been, do they pay enough? The answer, it would appear, is yes, they do--in Hamilton. Since this discussion is related to Hamilton roads, I'm naturally focused on that--though I did mention that, overall across Ontario, this is not the case.

As for the overall, across the province deficit, that doesn't really surprise me. Take the drive to Ottawa up the 416, and try to understand why on earth there's an eternally empty 4-lane expressway going all the way there.

I really don't know why you have a problem with this report, when at the very least, it could lend itself for getting more gas-tax kickback.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 13:43:48 in reply to Comment 93982

The question has always been, do they pay enough? The answer, it would appear, is yes, they do--in Hamilton.

No, that is not the answer. First of all, it discusses GHTA - not Hamilton alone which, without lumping with Toronto has nowhere near the density figures. Secondly, all it answers is that in the most densely populated part of the province, the people:infrastructre ratio is much higher and thereforer more efficient - something we already know.

In fact, what this study tells us is that we should be doing everything in our power in Hamilton to max out our population density to get the most bang for our buck in terms of our roads budget - something that I have been harping on for YEARS. Building more lanes for less people is not the answer. Reducing our lanes:drivers ratio is. We can do this in two ways... reducing lanes and keeping the same number of people, or attracting more people. In my opinion we need to do both.

I really don't know why you have a problem with this report, when at the very least, it could lend itself for getting more gas-tax kickback.

Because it draws impossible conclusions from insufficient data. Why do you you think that the kickback is not high enough? Are they just sitting on all that cash because they don't like us? No, they are spending it elsewhere. Where is that money going instead?

Well, part of it is going towards costs that are incurred by our car-centric infrastructure that are not accounted for in the study. Health care, subsidies to industries... things that are almost impossible to account for directly, so this study glosses over them. Of course it also goes to other things such as government inefficiencies, fancy dinners, social programs, etc. But by ignoring all of the externalities, the conclusions of this study become quite useless.

Sure, we can ask for more money but it has to come from somewhere!

Comment edited by seancb on 2013-10-30 13:45:06

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By arienc (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:00:06 in reply to Comment 93961

The report basically made the assesment that users of urban roads heavily subsidize users of rural roads, which is true. If you look at roads as a system in their entirety, they are not fully paid for by road users - even if you count the 10% ("attribution to non-users") fudge factor that the CAA funded study included.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:43:27 in reply to Comment 93971

In other words, "urban car owners don't pay for the roads, but rural ones don't pay even more"

To be clear: I don't think drivers should be 100% responsible for paying for roads. I'd just like them to stop pretending that they do.

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By Dm (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 22:28:04 in reply to Comment 93923

http://www.gastaxatwork.ca/ ?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2013 at 16:26:58 in reply to Comment 93921

Car owners/drivers pay for the roads with gas taxes and should not be considered less human and of lower value.

This is false. Municipal roads are paid by property taxes. Gas taxes go directly into provincial/federal coffers and are not tied to municipal spending (or any spending for that matter). These are completely disjoint cash-flows.

And remember, there is as many people travelling in the one bus-lane as there is in the other lanes combined. So by giving the buses a dedicated lane the city is not actually making drivers "less human". Automobile traffic still consumes the majority of the road to move fewer passengers. Bus passengers are effectively being allotted a disproportionately small area of the road when the bus is forced to travel with cars.

Consider the major streets outside of downtown - where they have fast traffic, you see the sidewalks spaced safely away from the road. Upper James has grassy boulevards keeping the pedestrians away from traffic, for example. Rural areas will often even have a full ditch dividing their traffic from their pedestrians.

Hamilton's downtown streets have nothing of the sort. Pedestrians are expected to walk only a few feet from live, high-speed traffic. This is inappropriate and unsafe. So move the traffic away from the pedestrians and/or slow the traffic down. A bus lane or a bike lane or a parked car lane will accomplish that task handily.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2013 at 23:01:01

What is the curb lane for, beside the Bus only lane at Jackson Square?

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2013 at 14:01:22 in reply to Comment 93791

Cars could technically drive in it, though it's always been a stopping and pick-up lane so really it's taxis, DARTS, delivery vehicles and people pick-up and dropping off at the Mall.

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted October 26, 2013 at 23:28:20 in reply to Comment 93791

I've been told it's "multi-use", but that isn't much of an explanation. It seems like a waste of real estate to me - widen the sidewalk or add a bike lane or something!

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted October 26, 2013 at 23:27:09

I wish they would make the North parking lane all-day, instead of leaving "rush-hour" time restrictions. Then you could start to think about more permanent accommodations like bump-outs and/or painted parking lines. That would really make the parking lane feel like a reliable buffer.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 27, 2013 at 08:37:01 in reply to Comment 93792

I assume you mean south parking lane? Good news. It is 24-7. I had the same thought. Even large planters at corners would be great during the pilot. We could turn this into a NYC style bare bones complete street project very cheaply.

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By Bike commuter (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2013 at 14:00:21

Hmm.. Yes - it would be good for cycling - if a cyclist did not have to worry about a 60$ plus ticket for using the bus lane! I find east-west cycling within Hamilton incredibly difficult through downtown. York street and Wilson (the alternate route) is very dangerous. On York the meridian allows cars to travel very fast - I have almost been ridden of the road numerous times on this street and have never felt safe.
I in general am very much in favour of non-car transportation - however not at the expense of bikes.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted October 27, 2013 at 16:09:54 in reply to Comment 93812

Thanks; I was going to look to see what the penalty for riding a bike in that lane would be. Without being able to get into the rightmost lane (I'm not a fan of being between a car to my left, and a bus on the right) I'll avoid that stretch entirely.

Speaking of York, what a POS. Until the start of the bike lane at Hess, I find myself riding as far to the left in the "sharrow" to encourage drivers to get into the left lane. Otherwise, drivers give very little room. And Wilson is where I got taken out by a driver one morning commute...bright sun and garbage collection played a role.

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By MVH (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 09:38:58

When making a right hand turn across the bus lane, can I enter the lane, or do I have to make the turn across the lane?

Just wondering what the rule is. I have seen drivers do both.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 00:01:48 in reply to Comment 93835

You should be entering the bus lane. You'll notice that prior to every intersection, the solid line becomes dashed, indicating you are allowed to enter it.

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By sarcasm (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:43:06 in reply to Comment 93835

Just a fun tip...don't just turn your hand. ;)

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 09:51:58

For me this has been a nightmare. We carpool, so I have to drop off downtown before I head the West end. There is no where to pull over and safely drop off a passenger along King and the line in front of the Sheraton is solid white, so I can no longer pull up there. I thought it would get easier after the first week.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 11:00:42 in reply to Comment 93837

But isn't that the Sheraton's regular taxi/drop-off lane? Why would that be out of bounds now?

You'd think the hotel would be complaining loudly if people were no longer able to make stops in front, since they don't have a dedicated driveway.

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By downtown gal (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 13:41:50 in reply to Comment 93837

There is a handy spot to drop off a passenger on the South side of King just after Catherine. There is a divider between the small lot/area and King so it is safe for the passenger and it's easy to get back on the road too.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 09:58:54 in reply to Comment 93837

The curb lane in front of the Jackson Square block can still be used for pick-up and drop-off.

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By laws (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 09:54:24 in reply to Comment 93837

I'm pretty sure you are allowed to cross the white lines in order to pull over for turning, parking and passenger drop off/pick up

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:06:56

Thanks for the replies. You can be ticketed for crossing a solid white line. There are not a lot of places to legally drop off along the north side of King Street between James and Bay. The Sheraton was always the safest. I am hopeful that this traffic situation will stabilize as people get used to it. But right now, if I had the opportunity, I would avoid the core.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:47:50 in reply to Comment 93842

I don't think there is a specific offence for crossing a solid white line. There are rules about not driving outside of a marked lane, which is usually the ticket you'd get if you, for instance, crossed a white line to drive on the shoulder. My understanding is that road markings are there to present guidelines to help you follow the HTA. For instance, putting a solid line where in most circumstances it would be unsafe to change lanes. But tickets are written against the actual rules (eg: was it safe to change lanes?) rather than being written against the road markings.

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By Concerned citizen (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 10:20:47

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 13:10:08 in reply to Comment 93843

Here's a deal, we leave the transit lane for people commuting in buses and taxis (and add people commuting in bikes), and dedicate all the other lanes for people commuting in cars. That way you get three quarters of the road (four fifths past Locke) which is more then fair since that one transit lane carries more people then the others combined. Deal?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:25:22 in reply to Comment 93843

In Vancouver, the transit lanes are open for buses, cycles and are an HOV lane for vehicles with three or more occupants.

It might indeed be a good idea to expand the transit lane to include carpools for vehicles with three or more occupants, but there is no way the city should accommodate even more those who insist on driving alone to work, which is an extremely wasteful use of limited road resources. Remember, the buses on King already carry more people than the other three lanes put together!

It is always helpful to think of transportation in terms of "people going places", rather than "cars going places".

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-10-28 12:28:29

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By the rest of the city (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 11:49:51 in reply to Comment 93843

"I work in the core, live in Binbrook"

How is that everyone else's problem? Why must every neighbourhood along your route bow to your desire to drive to work faster?

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By DM (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:47:46 in reply to Comment 93847

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 13:13:43 in reply to Comment 93854

I love how wanting to make your neighbourhood safer is selfish but wanting to blow through someone else's neighbourhood as easy as possible isn't. Begone troll, your mask has slipped off.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 13:07:51 in reply to Comment 93854

Why would lowering speed limits (say to 30km/h, which is a safe speed for an urban core with lots of pedestrians) make motorists happier than adding a transit lane? The complaints are precisely about "slowing down traffic", not the fact that a lane that has always been dominated by buses is now reserved for them.

So, you would be happy with traffic limited officially and enforced strictly to 30km/h at all times of day on King and Main?

In addition, experience shows that simply lowering the posted speed limit on a fast street without accompanying it with engineering changes (reducing lane widths, adding bump outs, etc.) does not work. Motorists drive at the maximum speed they feel comfortable with given road conditions and that they feel they can get away with with respect to enforcement.

The city core was there long before the freeways. King and Main themselves are NOT designated freeways themselves, they are city streets with multiple functions. As has been pointed out over and over, Hamilton as a whole would benefit from an economically dynamic and attractive downtown core, and this is not compatible with high speed auto traffic at all times of day.

King and James is about 2km from the 403 on-ramp ... no one is proposing closing the on-ramp, just making King and Main more compatible with multiple uses, including residential, business and commercial.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-10-28 13:08:43

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By Dm (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 19:09:37 in reply to Comment 93856

Park on King Street tonight between 2am and 7am. Tell me what that ticket says tomorrow: no parking on through highway between 2am - 7am

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2013 at 21:50:43 in reply to Comment 93870

So.. you want more overnight street parking on our major downtown streets? Or is there some other point you are getting at?

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By DM (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 08:28:42 in reply to Comment 93874

Read the post above: "King and Main themselves are NOT designated freeways themselves"

They are designated highways.

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:30:01 in reply to Comment 93879

Man - every public road in Ontario is called a "highway" under the ontario "highway" traffic act. So you are arguing nomenclature? I think you'd better stop.. you're embarrassing yourself.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 09:20:29 in reply to Comment 93879

Umm ... I specifically said they are not FREEWAYS (i.e. like the 403 and QEW). In Ontario, freeways are a specific class of highways with controlled access and speed limits generally of 100km/h.

Highways in urban areas are generally limited to 50km/h, although for some reason King and Main in Hamilton have limits of 60km/h, even in urban areas. There is no reason that sections of highways could not have lower speed limits, as they currently do in school zones.

Note further that legally ALL roads in Ontario are termed highways (i.e. governed by the highway traffic act):

“highway” includes a common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct, trestle or any other structure incidental thereto, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof; (“voie publique”)

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statute...

and “through highway” means a highway or part of a highway designated as such by the Minister or by by-law of a municipality, and every such highway shall be marked by a stop sign or yield right of way sign in compliance with the regulations of the Ministry; (“route à priorité”)

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statute...

in other words, it just means that traffic coming from intersecting roads must stop or yield ... it says nothing about speeds, or that the through highway somehow prioritizes motor vehicle traffic flow over the other function of the street (cycling, pedestrians, business, residential, commerce).

Please at least familiarize yourself with the Highway Traffic Act if you want to start playing a pedantic terminological game of gotcha using terms you don't even understand!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-10-29 09:34:59

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2013 at 09:41:15 in reply to Comment 93882

The motivating purpose of a troll is not to change your mind, but to keep you playing Whac-A-Mole for as long as possible.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 01:53:52 in reply to Comment 93884

Perhaps they should be called moles instead. ;-)

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 08:43:36 in reply to Comment 93879

And so is Lakeshore all the way to Toronto.........your point being?

And by the way, the offence is for parking on a through STREET from 2AM and 7AM.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2013 at 16:53:35 in reply to Comment 93856

King and James is about 2km from the 403 on-ramp ... no one is proposing closing the on-ramp, just making King and Main more compatible with multiple uses, including residential, business and commercial.

Speaking of which ... I just came back from a run to the Dundurn Plaza and back to Westdale on King Street West. So I didn't have to decide where to ride as far as the bus lane goes this time.

But King Street West from Dundurn to the on-ramp was horrifying. In fact, King Street West effectively is the off ramp for those two blocks.

In almost every city that I can think of, you have to slow down as you get ready to turn from the city street onto the on ramp, at which point you speed up.

On King Street West, you accelerate along the city street - well over the speed limit - and then slow down once you are on the ramp, as you hit the curve marked "40 km/h". And I was never sure that a car accelerating onto the bridge in the second lane wasn't going to suddenly swoop over to the ramp (without needing to slow down yet) just as I thought I had a break in the traffic so that I could cross.

This is not normal in any urban setting.

Comment edited by moylek on 2013-10-28 16:55:22

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2013 at 17:11:23 in reply to Comment 93864

Now imagine that pushing a double jogger stroller. I was doing that as a work-out through Spring with my daughters. A shame it ends so badly, because the run across the bridge itself just feels great.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 17:08:09 in reply to Comment 93864

Yes, that is ironic: the recommended speed limit (and actual car speed) is actually lower on the freeway on-ramp than on the city street!

And I also find it unnerving trying to look directly backwards trying to guess which cars will swerve at the last minute onto the ramp, usually without signalling. With the rapid acceleration and last minute lane changes, it is quite challenging to judge when there is a safe gap to ride across the on-ramp to continue on the cycle lane.

Most cities would have a traffic light, or maybe even a cross-walk at that location.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-10-28 17:08:25

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2013 at 16:58:41 in reply to Comment 93864

Martin Zarate recently wrote about exactly this issue.

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By the rest of the city (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 13:06:27 in reply to Comment 93854

your metaphorical "offramp" is "everyone else's problem" because an economically unhealthy core is a tax burden for the entire city, and it has been proven that high speed through traffic causes economic depression, while building a livable core greatly improves the economics of downtowns.

your personal problem of where you chose to live however, is solvable by you alone and is not in fact anyone else's problem.

You may not understand it but the supporting data doesn't lie.

This isn't nimbyism, it's intelligent urban design. If you think that the billion dollar road budget backlog is a result of a healthy, sustainable system, then I doubt it's worth anyone's time to try to argue facts with you as you are clearly blinded by denial or selfishness or both.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:07:56

I think in concept the lanes are a great idea! But I am curious...have transit times increased along King Street as a result of this? I would typically think that they'd be great on a highly congested route (which King Street really wasn't before this). Just curious if anyone knows this answer, or the City/HSR have commented.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:08:52 in reply to Comment 93848

Always re-read before you submit...today's lesson. The question is rather have transit time DECREASED along King Street...

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:12:36 in reply to Comment 93849

I think that's one of the main points of the pilots - to study these numbers. So I wouldn't expect (nor trust) answers given less than a week into it.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 16:27:10 in reply to Comment 93851

The other question is (realistically given the Trans. Dept. slant towards car traffic) does this significantly affect congestion? If it doesn't, that pretty much destroys any congestion or adverse-traffic-effects argument against implementing Light Rail Transit on one of these roadways at some point.

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By Cyclist (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 19:17:45

We should lobby city council to make us cyclists put 4 foot poles with orange flags on our bicycles. It'd sure be a lot safer visibility for us on the road. Safety is the goal afterall.

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By Cycle-Shaming (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 21:25:57 in reply to Comment 93871

And women who don't want to be assaulted shouldn't dress like "sluts". Congratulations on your concern trolling an active transportation forum by blaming cyclists for the danger cars pose to them. Now go find something useful to do with your time.

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By Lerosh (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2013 at 21:33:51

It's been a very nice experience, having that lane. Well, driving the road that is, and walking down it.

On the other hand, the rhetoric being thrown around by some prominent promoters of the lane has begun hitting the "you're making it hard for me to agree with you, even though I agree with you" level.

One particular giant thread on Facebook that started with Matt Jelly basically wishing anyone who drive in the lane illegally would be charged so much money they'd go bankrupt started a giant shitstorm of angry responses from people who were best left alone to let the idea sink in properly, and being backed up by others who basically inferred people driving cars were elitist who were murdering the planet for their own selfish immoral motivations. I won't even go into how many people this hurt who didn't bother responding, I know people who were in quieter corners and are just giving up now and staying out of it all, myself included. It seems to be both about improving the city AND oneupmanship of the rhetoric. Some day, perhaps soon, it'll just all be about the rhetoric.

I don't see how it helps when you've basically won a round in the debate of the balance of public transit, pedestrian, and auto traffic needs to then spit in the eyes of the opponent while they're down. I also think it's driven me to just stop defending against the accusations of urban elitism, because those assessments are now clearly correct. Some urban activists have now become what they've been accused of being.

It's great this lane is working out. It's too bad that one of its costs was a bit of our soul and goodwill.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2013 at 21:54:13 in reply to Comment 93873

I'm not sure why you are posting this here instead of on the offensive facebook thread....?

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By Concerned (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 09:56:32 in reply to Comment 93875

Dismissing a reflective post contributes to what is beginning to be elitism by us. I am guilty of it as well. We must remember that we are all citizens of the city. Understandably the roads do not help us cyclists as they are now, but we must remember to be conscious of all citizens.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:53:43 in reply to Comment 93885

I'm just trying to determine if there's something in the above discussion that is overboard anti-driver or elitist... The article itself seems to me to be fairly positive while pointing out some better decisions the city could have made. The following discussion is mostly civilized, with some discussion about how we are supposed to behave in these lanes. I didn't participate in that facebook thread. How many of the other commenters here have? Hard to say - so what are we being accused of exactly?

I think most people understand the frustrations of having to commute to work by car (we've all been there, some of us still are there). But Hamilton has catered to every whim of through traffic in this city for decades, to the detriment of all residents (including through commuters who live outside the core but still pay very dearly through inflated tax rates caused by overspending on roads and under-performance of the city in terms of revenue generating growth - i.e. densification versus sprawl which costs more than it brings in)

Given the city's history, and its continuing habit of taking teeny tiny baby steps - like one millimetre at a time - toward balance - and then routinely pulling back out of fear of backlash from through drivers, I think it's understandable - and forgivable - for promoters of balance to be completely fed up by the overboard reactions (and the press given to them) after LESS THAN TWENTY FOUR HOURS of a year-long pilot.

Maybe I'm biased because I count myself among those who want balance, but it seems to me that most promoters of balanced transportation are arguing based on research, facts and observations of cities as a system, while those who push back against these changes are doing so mostly based on personal impact and a more narrowly focussed observation viewport: their own daily route.

I don't think that fighting about it is terribly productive, but leaving all the negative comments floating about unanswered might give a casual observer (a councillor for example) the impression that the majority of people hate the idea of the bus lane (or whatever other measure is being discussed)

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 13:41:25

My observation on the first few days of the project: my trips on GO bus #16 are now unimpeded and faster, in the transit-only lane.

Comment edited by movedtohamilton on 2013-10-29 13:42:02

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 02:05:09 in reply to Comment 93908

Based on having taken the #16 and #47 GO buses many times in the past...I honestly have a hard time believing this. I don't recall ever being 'stuck in traffic', unless you count playing leap-frog with the city buses. I'm sure it feels faster...but I rather doubt it truly is. IMHO, the biggest cause of delays on the GO bus is the cash customers. Why GO hasn't implemented a 'no-cash-sales' policy on in-city stops is beyond me. Stick a machine at Dundurn and Mac, if people can't be bothered to make their way to the station. While they're at it, eliminate the stops between the GO station and Dundurn. Seriously...all points east of the station need to take the city bus to get onto the GO. Not to mention the folks on the mountain. So it's not like it's asking the folks that use these stops to do any more than the rest of the city does. Why have six extra stops? THAT annoys me far more than traffic ever has.

Comment edited by jonathan on 2013-10-30 02:08:47

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:49:34 in reply to Comment 93956

Ideally, the only payment form should be presto

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:31:14 in reply to Comment 93968

I considered say that, but I'm afraid it might discourage occasional users from making use of it. They have machines at the stations--no reason these couldn't be placed on the street. I don't recall which, but there's a nearby city bus system that offers them at some major intersections. North of Toronto.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 13:46:33 in reply to Comment 93983

It would be great to have presto stations everywhere. It would be even easier if you could buy pre-loaded presto cards at any store - like the gift card displays at shoppers etc... and then you could register and reload your card later

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 20:47:44

A few new observations after a few more days of our transit lane:

  1. It's ironic to hear all the one-way supporters complaining about buses slowly merging across all lanes of King to make a left turn into the McNab transit terminal. Ironic, and kinda funny.

  2. Speaking of left turns, we really should have implemented transit-only signals at James, McNab, Queen and Dundurn. Buses go left at James, McNab and Queen. Having a transit signal would have allowed them to turn left from the bus lane without having to do the slow merge across traffic for a block prior to those intersections. Bus riders and car drivers win.

  3. The lane should have gone to Dundurn. For a suburban-oriented strip mall style intersection, it has a tremendous amount of transit ridership. With the lane ending one block before Dundurn, all the cars get into the right curb lane (aka, the 403) and buses end up stopping well behind the intersection at red lights and take another full cycle to pull up and load/unload. Again, a transit signal here would have allowed the buses to leave before cars and easily get over into the 2nd lane before heading into Westdale.

  4. Large planters. We really need to put large planters to act as bumpouts on the south leg of King at various intersections: Bay, Hess, Ray, Locke, Strathcona, Dundurn. This would make that lane unavailable for crazy speeders and promote more of the complete street affect with the 24-hour parking that is in effect. Also, would be great to add some green to the street.

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/04/02/new...

  1. Speaking of green, why are pay machines set up west of Locke? It's pretty much just a residential stretch and Victoria Park recreation users through there. I've yet to see a single car park there. I'm guessing this is because people don't want to pay to visit a friends home/apartment or a park. They don't have to do this anywhere else in the city, why here??

All in all, it's a nice improvement for King. But issues like transit signals really should have been thought of. It is a bit ridiculous to see 5 buses all cramming into the 2 car lanes between James and McNab to turn left into the terminal. Too bad someone hasn't invented a two-way street. Could really eliminate that problem.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-10-29 20:47:59

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 01:44:11 in reply to Comment 93938

As for #1, haven't the buses always done that? At least, since McNab was built? How have the bus lanes changed this? I'd have to agree with others that the current method is some pretty poor planning, especially when most of these buses just turned onto King from John. Perhaps they could take over the left 2 lanes between John and James, and build a bus drop-off zone. The left lane starts just before that, anyway. The previous method for the suspect buses (drop-off zone in Gore Park) was, frankly, much better, and in light of the fact everyone seems to have forgotten it was supposed to be pedestrianized, I'm not sure why they can't go back to that. At least until something actually happens there. Which may or may not be in my lifetime...

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 14:28:17 in reply to Comment 93954

Yes, buses have always done this, but now with cars restricted to the two left lanes and buses in the 3rd lane, it makes for a slow merge to the left-most lane for buses to get into McNab. A transit signal at King/McNab would allow them to simply stay in the transit lane and go left from there.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2013 at 09:48:07 in reply to Comment 93954

The McNab terminal was a huge mistake, these buses should be doing their transfers at the hunter station.

If we had the guts to tell the province "LRT or Bust", we could completely rewrite the transit routes and eliminate all of the ridiculous turns onto and off of king, relegating all busts to N/S routes and letting the lrt handle E/W

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 01:32:11 in reply to Comment 93938

Regarding #3, I can testify, from a driver's perspective, to what a nuisance this intersection is, for both drivers and buses.

Every weekday morning, I stop at the Esso station just west of the intersection, to grab my morning caffeine fix. And every morning, this runs through my head as I approach the intersection:

"OK, coming up on Dundurn. Is there a bus there? I see one...is there another hiding in front of it? How long is it going to sit there? Do I risk trying to pass it? Will it leave before I do, and prevent me from getting into the station? What's this car in front of me going to do? Oh, thank GOD, it's a GO Bus! Those things sit there for forever! Wait...Sonofa...RED LIGHT!! I'm screwed..."

Something definitely needs to be done. Transit-only lights might very well be the solution; combined with a completely separated (by a curb) transit stop. Though the Timmy's drive-through and the Shopper's right there cause other problems. Ones which I handily avoid by hitting the Esso station instead. Same coffee, 1/4 the time.

Of course, the transit lane ended my other morning debate...will there be a car parked in front of the theatre, blocking the right lane, or not? No doubt, bus drivers had much the same thought.

As for the bus-only lanes, apart from the intersections you've mentioned, I'm quite certain that simply removing parking from the north side of the street would have resulted in very similar transit times. But whatever. This whole thing, in my opinion, was unnecessary, and does a disservice to the future LRT by already turning people against reducing the lanes on King St. Better if they had waited to piss off drivers until after the funding had been committed, the plan in place, and the construction had commenced. Shame, really.

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By Common sense is not common (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 23:45:39 in reply to Comment 93951

After reading this whole discussion, it seems Jonathan, cyclists, and people who ACTUALLY drive and take the buses on this road are the only ones who actually understand the unique patterns on this stretch of road. And we don't need a year long study to state that it is now more unsafe for cyclists, does not speed up bus transit, and has in addition slowed traffic in the remaining lanes.

Everyone else is making blanket statements like "slower traffic is safer" etc and not realising the reality and nuances that occur for different streets.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2013 at 09:16:31 in reply to Comment 94016

my name isn't Jonathan, but I cycle and ACTUALLY drive every day of my life. King is absolutely safer now than it was 2 weeks ago. Even with bikes still not being promoted in the bus lane, several cyclists are using it, and those who aren't are simply riding beside the parked cars on the south curb the same way they used to ride along the parked cars on the north curb. For pedestrians and traffic speed the street has improved dramatically.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2013 at 06:26:10 in reply to Comment 94016

I've travelled on King Street several times since the introduction of the bus lanes at various times of day, on a bike and in a car.

Automobile traffic has slowed during rush hour but is still free-flowing the other 22-23 hours of the day. That is entirely normal for a city street - what's abnormal and highly unsafe is free-flowing traffic during rush hour and highway speeds the rest of the day.

Cycling has definitely gotten a lot worse. I've been riding a bike in mixed traffic since I was in my twenties, and am shocked at how frightening it now is to ride on King.

I have a cruising speed of 22-25 km/h and can hit burst speeds of up to 35 km/h or so, but traffic on King was moving much faster than this on the two occasions I have had to ride. Combined with aggressive drivers passing too closely and cutting me off, it was extremely intimidating and unpleasant - and as I said, I'm one of those <1% risk-seeking male cyclists.

However, it would be extremely easy to fix the issue of cyclists: simply let cyclists ride in the transit lanes. Jason has already explained in the article above how this would work - indeed, how it does work in other cities. Riding in a transit lane might not be ideal, but it would be a damn sight better than what we have now.

I haven't taken the bus on King yet, but all the transit riders I've talked to say the same thing: bus speeds are now faster, smoother and more reliable than before.

As for the blanket statement "slower traffic is safer", that's a mathematical fact supported by decades of research.

Ultimately, traffic patterns are more flexible than people think. Give this some time - people will figure it out, and we'll have saner, safer streets with better transit service.

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By Alex (registered) | Posted October 31, 2013 at 21:56:42 in reply to Comment 94020

I scrolled down here to advocate the exact same thing, we need a critical mass to petition the city to ALLOW CYCLISTS TO RIDE IN THE TRANSIT LANE. Yes, I am yelling. This is a common sense practice done in most cites with such transit-only lanes. Not only is it much, much SAFER for all road users but would also improve traffic flow by eliminating the forced need for cyclists to ride in-between the buses and car traffic. The new transit lanes on King have made cycling on that strip extremely hazardous to all road users, or expensive to the cyclists who are ticketed for taking the safer route in the bus lane.

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By Common sense is not common (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2013 at 23:46:59

The best compromise for this "unneccessary solution to an unknown problem" would be to make a dedicated bike lane to the right of the bus lane (it is definitely wide enough - maybe painted a different colour to highlight it) and to make the bus lane multi-use at non-rush hour times.

If you want to pilot an LRT, build an LRT. Pilot it, then expand based on results. Besides last time I checked this isn't the first LRT in the world, why not have consultants to assist with what works usually and what doesn't. Most importantly, combine that knowledge with actual evaluation of traffic/ road usage patterns in our city.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2013 at 17:18:57

And now the Hillbilly Heaven is saying he's closing his doors on King Street East because of the greater congestion out front.

https://twitter.com/HH_BBQ/status/396006...

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By hoho (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2013 at 18:19:55 in reply to Comment 94048

Yeah right. After one week of a transit lane that doesn't even start until after his shop? I guess it has nothing to do with the store being empty all the time for months before or the owner pissing off half the city to try and grab some media attention. This is just Cameron being Cameron, blaming everyone else for his problems.

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By a (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2013 at 17:47:53 in reply to Comment 94048

What a shame. I'm sure that businesses on Toronto's congested Yonge Street, Chicago's Michigan Avenue, and Manhattan's Broadway will soon face the same fate.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2013 at 17:33:36 in reply to Comment 94048

What is it with these food places being completely out of touch with the fact that people have to be NOT IN A CAR to come into their stores? Murphy (Subs) also just this week said the bike lanes on Dundurn forced him to close ... !?

I can't shake the feeling that these are a couple of business people who had been planning to close and are now trying to make a whiny political statement out of it. When they leave, they will make space for the next generation to cash in on the new residents who will inevitably move downtown once our streets become more and more human-friendly.

That corner at Walnut has been terrible for turnover and I can guarantee you it's not because cars on King move too slowly out front.

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