Special Report: Walkable Streets

An Open Letter to Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

Downtown does belong to everyone, and our one-way, high-speed thoroughfares are holding it back from realizing its potential.

By Justin Jones
Published December 03, 2013

Let me begin by saying thank you for supporting the excellent work that City Staff did to secure the Bike Share program. I am confident that the money invested in this program will have amazing rewards for Hamiltonians of all ages, and in all areas of the city.

It's also one of those win-win-win projects where the $1.3 Million being spent by Metrolinx will provide new transportation options and will also ensure several jobs to operate the system be created and maintained for the duration of the program.

The primary reason for my email is to engage you in a discussion around the two-way streets topic. While I understand that you and I may not see eye-to-eye on this, I know that we both want what is best for this city, but perhaps we disagree slightly on how to get there.

Main Street, downtown Hamilton, in the middle of a weekday
Main Street, downtown Hamilton, in the middle of a weekday (RTH file photo)

First, I'd like to invite you to attend the event being held tonight at Liuna Station at 7:00 PM, where Toronto's Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat will be talking.

This is another event held by The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce encouraging civic leaders to think about how we can best move our city forward together, and I feel that all councillors would very much benefit from hearing from such a well-respected expert.

Keesmat is one of the best planners in Canada, and an excellent speaker to boot. I am confident that she could address any of your questions regarding two-way streets much more effectively than I could.

But that said, I'd like to address a couple of points that were made in today's Spectator article. Now, I know from experience that quotes are edited for brevity, but to my mind the staff at The Spec normally do a pretty good job of making sure that the spirit of your quote is maintained.

If anything I'm quoting you on does not reflect your feelings, then I hope you will clarify your position for me.

When you say that "Major arteries belong to the city, not to a particular neighbourhood", I am left very much wondering what you mean by that.

We all pay our property taxes, we all pay gas tax and we all pay income tax which goes into infrastructure budgets to pay for roads. So all residents of Hamilton very much have an "ownership stake" in every roadway that the City owns and operates.

Yet it is unheard of for residents of Ward 3 to demand a say in how a street in ward 13 would be designed, even if that road was a major arterial in Ward 13.

When it comes to the roads in the lower city, things seem to be different. When we talk about these roads, these areas, it becomes a city-wide issue.

I understand that many of your constituents commute, and that many of them will see two-way streets, increased spending on cycling facilities and increased support for transit as something that merely gets in their way as commuters.

I am encouraging you, as a civic leader, to elevate that discourse and encourage people to think a bit more about what is good for the city as a whole, and what is going to be good for them in the long term.

At the end of the day, these streets do belong to a particular neighbourhood. They are the streets where their children walk to school, where they go to do their shopping, and where they live out their lives. They live there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Your comments in the Spectator make it seem like you care more about the concerns of people who spend 20 minutes a day driving by these neighbourhoods at 70 km/h than you do about the safety and livability of these neighbourhoods.

How do you respond to the fact that Hamilton is 43 percent more dangerous than the provincial average for pedestrians? That it is 81 percent more dangerous for cyclists? That five of our six pedestrian deaths this year were senior citizens, and one was killed by an alleged drunk driver coming around a curve that had already been flagged by the neighbourhood as dangerous?

Charlton Avenue and Wentworth Street (RTH file photo)
Charlton Avenue and Wentworth Street (RTH file photo)

The way we are designing our streets, and the culture of automobile dependence and absolute superiority is, to speak to your earlier comments concerning the Strathcona Master Plan, a "public safety" issue.

Yes, residents of the entire City use these arteries to commute, but they do not belong to them. They also belong to the people who live, work and play in that area, not just to those who drive through them.

Further to the idea of who the downtown "belongs" to, I would agree with you in part that yes, the downtown area does "belong" to the entire city. It is the economic and cultural heart of our great city, it is what draws tourists to Hamilton, and is indeed where the bulk of our economic activity occurs.

And yet, while the downtown is improving year over year, we keep hearing from planners and architects like Ken Greenburg, Dan Burden and Gil Penalosa that our high-speed thoroughfares are preventing our city from reaching its true potential.

They're holding property values down, creating a culture where a car is the first and, in many cases, the only option and creating communities where people don't feel connected and don't feel safe.

Earlier this year, our own Chamber of Commerce agreed with these assessments. Chamber CEO Keanin Loomis stated in a Spectator op-ed, "the prioritization of rapid automobile movement across the city has had an enormously detrimental effect on the health of downtown", highlighting the depressed property values along the corridors that should be the lifeblood of our downtown, not the preferred method to escape it.

What arguments, do you offer to these experts and these assessments to justify your position?

Transport trucks barrel down Cannon Stret (RTH file photo)
Transport trucks barrel down Cannon Stret (RTH file photo)

The final point I'd like to address is your observation, "A lot of cities are spending a lot of money trying to fix congestion and gridlock. We seem to be spending money doing things that will create congestion".

To be clear, in most places where gridlock and congestion are issues, the money that is being spent is being spent on transit and active transportation infrastructure, not on building more road capacity.

I am confident that you will be hard pressed to find a municipality that has successfully cured congestion by focusing on providing more room for single occupant vehicles. As you build more road capacity for that type of travel, it just tends to get filled.

What is your preferred solution to gridlock, keeping in mind that under the Places to Grow Act, Hamilton's population is expected to grow by more than 200,000 people by 2030?

If we maintain our current mode share, with the bulk of our trips being taken by single-occupant vehicles, by 2030 the type of gridlock nobody wants to see will certainly become a reality.

Our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow, and we will have missed out on the opportunity that is already being seized by some of our neighbouring communities like Guelph and Waterloo to build safer, more connected, more age-friendly and more desirable communities where people have choices in how they move around.

King Street East recently repainted: still four one-way lanes (RTH file photo)
King Street East recently repainted: still four one-way lanes (RTH file photo)

While I acknowledge the fact that yes, converting our one-way streets into two-way streets means traffic will not barrel along unimpeded at 60-70 km/h, I would argue that doing that is exactly the point.

We can still move people through the core effectively, even if it adds five minutes to their commute. I, along with many who live downtown, feel that the safety and livability of the people who make their homes along those arteries is worth that small sacrifice by commuters whose only interaction with these neighbourhoods is driving past them.

But more importantly, this is about making it harder for residents to do the kinds of things that we don't want them to do, and making it easier to do things that work better for the community and for our municipal tax base as well.

We know that the rising dependence on automobiles has caused increasing obesity, contributes heavily to poor air quality, causes a heavy burden on municipal taxes to pay for road infrastructure and costs residents many thousands of dollars a year to own and operate a car.

We also know that as long as driving remains the easiest option, most people will continue to do so.

So unless we take some steps to make walking, cycling and transit use a little easier and driving through our downtown core at 70 km/h a little harder, we're going to face the same mode share numbers moving forward. That spells real traffic chaos 10, 15 and 20 years down the line.

Unless we start getting rid of things like sidewalks and buildings downtown, we can't build any more road capacity.

So it's of vital importance that we start thinking about how we can move more people with our existing infrastructure, and the answer to that question is never to continue to rely on automobile transportation.

I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy letter. I understand that there are always demands placed on a Councillor's time, and I appreciate your attention to this important matter. I pride myself on maintaining a high level of civility and respect in these dialogues, and hope that this is the first of many correspondences that you and I share on this topic.

I look forward to your response.

Justin Jones is the Manager, Bicycle Friendly Ontario at the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. Justin is a project manager, sustainability professional and rabble rouser with nearly a decade of experience in the sustainability field. His work with student groups, municipal governments and NGOs has taken him all over the country. He is passionate about civic engagement, with a special focus on active transportation issues and the creation of liveable cities through better infrastructure and education.

27 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 15:13:37

fantastic letter. Perfectly said.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 15:15:21

Beautiful! "Elevate the discourse"...love that phrase.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2013 at 15:22:02

Spot on.

The only point missing is the extreme cost of providing our current lane-kilometer:taxpayer ratio. We have way too much pavement for not enough taxpayers and we simply cannot afford it. We need to attract more people and reduce our infrastructure expenditures, and this means we need to build our streets to encourage movement by far more efficient means than single occupancy vehicle. That means more bike, pedestrian and transit amenities. We also need to foster a land use arrangement that has lots of people living close together with amenities that can be reached without a car. This means livable streets.

The only other economic alternative is raising taxes. By supporting one ways, single occupancy vehicle reliance and overbuilt unsafe streets, you (Mr Ferguson) are choosing higher taxes. It is the ONLY way we will pay to stay on this trajectory, and (with a deficit over a billion and counting) I think most of your constituents would agree that the taxpayer can no longer afford to support the current system.

Comment edited by seancb on 2013-12-03 15:33:09

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By R (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 18:27:31

Was this actually mailed or emailed to the Councillor's office?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Dm (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 19:15:47

Main and king: Lower the speed limit to 45 (25% reduction - safety), keep lights sync'd, and add green painted bike lanes for cyclists. Everyone is happier. Start slow and let citizens grow to like it and revise further later. Keep your full vision in mind and get towards it in pieces. Too much too soon and McHattie is not a councillor or a mayor. The majority just will not accept 2 way main and king.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 19:42:35

Outstanding letter; very well written and articulated!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Start Slow (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 22:36:24

I agree with starting slow. Here's my idea:
Main Street should have two westbound lanes, three eastbound lanes for the first two years.
When traffic inevitably finds alternate routes, change that third lane into a bike avenue.

Voila; Insta-(real)City!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted December 03, 2013 at 23:54:42

Very well said. Any response yet?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jethro (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2013 at 01:20:50

Wow very well written. While I must admit Im on the fence as to whether 1 way streets should be converted to two way streets, letters such as this sure gives me food for thought and hopefully will help move the discussions forward in a civil manner. Good job Justin.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2013 at 09:31:12

It was emailed directly to Lloyd, but I have not received a response as of yet. Any response I get from him will be posted here, unless he specifically requests that the conversation remain between us, in which case I will honour his wishes.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Core-b (registered) | Posted December 04, 2013 at 12:16:47

Excellent letter Justin. I do hope that you get a reply. Considering his position on gridlock/commuting I must admit I'm not optimistic you will get one. Whenever I walk along Main Street I am still amazed at the massive clumps of traffic followed by massive sections of emptiness. I really do not think that 2 way conversion would be that significant. There is so much capacity here that is not being used.

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2013 at 16:35:53 in reply to Comment 95511

I agree, and I also hope that I'll get a reply. Worse comes to worse, I send him another email reminding him that I'm also a busy person, and while I appreciate the constraints on his time as a Councillor, I also put a lot of thought and time into that letter, and, as an elected official, I consider it to be his duty to respond to concerns from residents of the City.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted December 04, 2013 at 17:10:24 in reply to Comment 95526

He may feel that he doesn't owe you a reply because you are not one of his constituents, but then he needs to decide. Is the configuration of certain streets a ward issue, or a city-wide issue? If he is going to contend that the configuration of major roads is a city-wide issue, then he is obligated to respond to all citizens' concerns. If he feels he only needs to answer to his own constituents on the issue, then it is unreasonable for him to demand differently of McHattie, Farr, and Morelli.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-12-04 17:11:01

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By InsideJob (registered) | Posted December 04, 2013 at 18:43:36

Not many people are aware that I graduated in architecture, but I can tell you that the physics of urban renewability hasn't changed in that time. Any slowing of traffic means safer streets, means more people will spend time along them, means more people will want to live close to them. High-density low and medium-rise urban infill bring homeowners into the community and give them ownership of their streets by proximity, because they are near them. This discourages thieves, prostitutes, drug dealers and other divisive forces and helps to unite and renew the community. Incidentally, community renewal means rising property values, and taxes to support those displaced by renewal and give those invested in the community the reward of more equity in the city and in their homes.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 12:32:31

I am new here and interested in many of the issues raised in this blog. Forgive me for being not being in this post but it is my first time posting and the letter to Lloyd was long. Below is a slightly edited version of an email I sent to Jason.

First let me point out that it is a major mistake to spend taxpayers’ money on Bike Share. There is ample evidence in Canada that these types of programs have proven to be a black hole of expenditure. They have produced no justifiable employment for the expense and have not added markedly to the solution to the transportation issues in the cities where they have been tried. To use the word “amazing” is interesting in describing the impact of such a waste of money. Ask yourself, where does Metrolynx get the money. Also ask what scientific or economic analyses support this expenditure. Then ask what private industry has shown the slightest interest in investing in this type of venture. When you have those answers maybe you might agree with someone who would suggest that by opening your letter to Lloyd in this way you are simply pandering.

Mr. Keesmat may indeed be a good planner. Anyone with good ideas should be listened to. However, at the end of the day, many of the issues facing any community on how to spend taxpayers money has a degree of subjectivity to it. Democracy is the apparently acceptable system in this City and the determination of the application of that subjectivity is determined by the majority. So let Mr. Keesmaat enlighten us; And many others too I hope. Ultimately we need to implement what we think is best for us.

We all pay our property taxes. No we don’t. Commercial ratepayers – restaurants, shoe stores, barbers, art studios, etc., pay proportionally more than residential ratepayers who pay more or less depending upon whether or not they even have any money. Approximately 25 per cent of families living in Hamilton are subsidized by the remaining 75 per cent. However, many aspects of the roadways are just as important to them as to the others regardless of the fact that they pay no tax.

Major arteries belong to everyone. Not really. All public property belongs to the Crown who holds it in trust for all of us. No one person or group has any more right to the roadways per se than anyone else. City counsellors are the trustees of the taxpayers’ money. They administer the use of the roads on behalf and for the public good. They are responsible to the electorate. However, in Canada, ultimately the trustees are responsible to the taxpayers because without them, they do not have the funding to administer public property. In other words, wielding power with authority but no responsibility will, in the end, destroy the ability of the trustees to properly administer anything.

It is a weak argument to say that Ward 3 has no say in Ward 12. Certainly, Ward 3 representatives have as much right as any to sit on committee and vote in council. All roads are City wide issues, but some have more importance than others largely on the basis of volume.

Roadways are not much different than pipes carrying water. If the centre of the City requires the most water, then it needs adequate plumbing. The outer regions will have the smallest pipes while the inner regions will end up with either more or bigger pipes. It isn’t that the people in Ward 12 carry an inordinate amount of sway; it is that people from Ward 12 are more likely to need to travel in Ward 3 than vice versa. Their lives are affected by the decisions about travel in Ward 3 and therefore they have a say because travel in Ward 3 demands more attention as a matter of public good. Roads are the lifeblood of the City. People in a City the size and design of Hamilton must get from point A to point B. In the absence of perimeter roads, selective arterial roads need to be maximized to eliminate the need for traffic, both private and public, from rumbling down secondary roads.

It isn’t that many of Lloyd’s constituents commute. It is that most working people in Hamilton commute to some degree, as do students and even non-working people.

Cars are a form of transit; A form of transit used by the vast majority of people. Bike use in Hamilton is extremely limited, and given distances, pedestrian traffic is largely limited as well. People will not walk from Stoney Creek to McMaster, or even bike for that matter, no matter how many bike lanes are built. Your accusation that the “commuters” view cyclists and pedestrians as people who get in their way is hyperbole. I would venture that most people want cheap, efficient, time saving and pollution minimizing transit. I think drivers get frustrated when they pay the lion’s share of the taxes, through gasoline, income, sales and property taxes to see the resource of the roads unfairly shared. They are the majority, they pay the most, and their lives are shared in the sense that their labour is translated into taxes. Quite rightfully they become annoyed when they see a rarely used bike lane eliminating their efficient, time saving cheap and pollution minimizing travel.

Suggesting that Lloyd needs to elevate the conversation is condescending. Who defines elevation? Elevation is a very subjective term implying that those who do not adhere to another point of view are somehow denigrating the conversation. What is good for the City as a whole? What does that mean? What is good? In the long run, good is having a happy life. The majority being forcefully stuck in traffic at great expense for the minority may not be good. I don’t know. What I do know is that the budget of the City is fed by those who are willing to live here and pay for that privilege because without them, the City is a wasteland.

The streets do not belong to anyone and not to a particular neighbourhood. I am sorry but you are just wrong. Public property belongs to the Crown as set out above. Its use is administered according to the principals set out above. Clearly those living in a neighbourhood have a say. But ultimately they have no more say than any others. In Canada we have the luxury of mobility. We may be burdened by what Americans call eminent domain, but the saving grace is our unfettered right to move.

Very few people live in a house 24 hours a day seven days a week. And even if they did, they have no more claim to a public good that those who don’t. If my neighbour has a cottage and is away from his home 33 per cent more than me, do I have any more rights over the roadways in front of his home than him? What you are really identifying is that the trustees must administer their responsibilities giving great care and concern for how it affects people. But they must consider everyone and it is a complex balance.

Statistics are a funny thing. I am not sure that the extremely unfortunate death of a runner, new to the City, running in unfamiliar territory and running in darkness on a wet night at the hands of criminal says much of anything about anything. On the whole, the gross numbers of fatalities on our roadways does not appear to be out of the ordinary. All are regrettable. None are acceptable. But only Pollyanna would think that they can all be eliminated. What does 43% mean? 43% of a small number is still a small number. Just something to ponder.

The culture of the automobile is an interesting point. It has a religious flair to it. However, the industrial world economy is to a large extent driven by the automobile. You may tinker with it. But I am not sure that Lloyd or the other City councillors are equipped to deal with it, nor do I think it is their bailiwick.

Your next points really get to the point. What is the greater vision for Hamilton? That requires a lot more discussion than simply experimenting with changing road directions.

One thing I suspect though is that commerce will drive the decision making as you seem to imply. We have huge issue with brownfields and the decimation of our industrial base. In hindsight, moving the commercial centre from downtown to Limeridge and the Meadowlands was a mistake. But I expect that a reactionary plan of denying easy access to the centre of the City will do nothing but drive industry, commerce and therefore people outside of the City centre. Maybe it won't in the long run. But right now people drive down Main Street in the morning to get to work.

Much of the downtown development has been subsidized or is in fact government driven. That may prove to be an illusion in the long run. But it definitely needs study and discussion.

Now as far as creating congestion is concerned, until recently Hamilton did not have a congestion problem. One is being created so it is a fair question to ask why. Keeping in mind that transit includes private transportation; I do not see why you want to destroy a good thing. In the long run, as you note later, Hamilton’s growth may demand more public transit. But destroying the working private transit system, which in fairness is also public, is not necessary a priori. In a way, you are using a tautological argument. We don’t want more room for single occupant vehicles; we want the room that was already designated for it. Putting in a bike lane that serves one person at the cost of 100 is not logical, not fair and not just. Unless you have other motives - which you admit to below.

I expect that Municipalities burdened by the expense of public transit would have begged for Hamilton’s “problems.” Will the gridlock come? Not if Industry does not come. If not we are a bedroom community of Toronto and we will need many more train tracks to get people out of town in the morning.

Our infrastructure deficit is growing because the industrial base that has fed our burgeoning public trough has abandoned us. High taxes and high labour costs have driven them away and so it will continue as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. I am not wise enough or knowledgeable enough to foresee the future, but I am afraid that like many things that appear to be permanent, one morning we will wake up and find that all the real business of Hamilton has all gone. These indeed are huge questions. I doubt that eliminating one way traffic will solve them and I highly suspect that they may aggravate them for the reasons set out above.

Your willingness to give up five minutes a day is laudable. But what about ten or twenty or thirty minutes a day. If you lose a week of your time a year for a reason you do not feel is justified, will you be as happy? Would you work a week a year for me for free? If so, some on down and I will use your labour willingly. Scarier is your apparent true modus operandi – to make things harder for people; to modify their behaviour as if you know what is better for their behaviour.

Who is we? And who are the grand you who believes you know what is best for people. In a democracy, we are protected by the Crown from people who would try and amend our behaviour. For obscene interference we have the criminal law. Far be it for municipal politicians to start modifying behaviour without authority.

You are going to cure obesity by changing Hamilton’s traffic patterns? Seriously? And if you could, what gives you the right? Just because we have OHIP doesn’t mean that strangers have the right to dictate lifestyle in a free country.

If you do not want to waste money on a car – don’t. Get on a bus. But if that means it takes you 20 minutes longer to get to work and exposes you to the flu, don’t try and force me to take the same risks or waste the same time.

Water finds its easiest course. You lay bear your deterministic approach by trying to interfere with a functioning model in an attempt to direct and dictate people’s behaviour. Most people will continue to drive if it is easiest because it is easiest. When and if the burdens shifts, it will. But it may not. It may just as well be that cheap electric automobiles will replace the internal combustion engine. Who knows? Do you? Or are we all doomed to trundle like sardines to a bus. Fortune favours the brave. Let’s come up with better technology as opposed to falling back on 18th and 19th century thinking like trains and buses and bicycles.

I don’t know that we will have traffic chaos in 20 years. Most certainly we will have it next year if suddenly you eliminate one way streets.

You are, however very correct. We need to think. And we should not be changing anything until we have a good plan.

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 12:06:33 in reply to Comment 95603

A couple more quick points while I wait for a call:

If Bernie Morelli were to pipe up in council and say that he thought that Main Street Dundas should have all the parking removed to create easier movement of traffic so that his constituents could get through that area faster, do you think that Councillor Powers would even have to offer a rebuttal? No, because Bernie would be laughed out of the chamber for even positing such a ridiculous idea. Yet we allow these kinds of discussions to occur unfettered when it comes to wards 1-4. So yes, there is a major difference between how these discussions play out.

Let me get to your "the vast majority of people use cars for transit, and given distance, that isn't going to change" argument. Sure, most people use cars to get around, but I would argue that most people are using the wrong tool for the job. according to the 2006 census data found here: http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recenseme... 69,345 of Hamilton's 207,120 employees live within 5 km of their place of work. So that's about 33% of people in our city who live within EASY cycling distance to work. I'm willing to hazard a guess that if we dug into those numbers further, we'd likely find that at least 10-15% of Hamiltonians live within 2 km of their work, making it an easy walking distance. Yet, the majority of these people still choose to drive. Why? Because it is, as you've so effectively illustrated, the only option that has really been considered for the past 50 years. Using your car to drive less than 5 km to work is like using a jackhammer to mount a picture on your wall. Sure, it does the job, but at the end of the day it's a lot more tool than you need.

I'll get into the financial stuff you raise a little bit later, but I'll just quickly address your dismissal of statistics as a "funny thing". Statistics are what good policy is based on. They are what SHOULD inform every single decision being made by our municipal staff and our Councillors. So when there is a longitudinal study that shows that pedestrians in Hamilton are 43% more likely than provincial average to suffer an injury for the terrible crime of choosing to walk, and when cyclists on Hamilton's roads are 81% more likely than their provincial counterparts to be injured, those should force you to take pause. These are not "small numbers" as you dismiss. Yes, the number of deaths isn't very large (still far too large, for my tastes) at 6 this year, but the number of pedestrian injuries is much, much higher. Let me put it this way to you:

You state that you have children. If they wanted to play a new sport, let's say football, and you have a choice between league 1 and league 2. All other things are equal except that league 1 posted a rate of injury of 4% every year for the last 10 years - that is, on average, year over year, 4% of players had to miss a game to to injury. League 2 has an injury rate of 6% historically. Which league are you going to let your children play in? How much extra risk is acceptable? Because last I checked, kids don't have the option to drive. They're forced to walk, bike or take transit to get around, unless their parents are OK with chauffeuring them all over town (which is a whole other can of worms that I'm not even going to BEGIN to open...). So if Hamilton wants to be "The Best Place in Canada to Raise a Child", and the modes of transportation that kids rely on are significantly more dangerous here than they are in the rest of the province, WE'RE DOING IT WRONG. These numbers are not something to be casually dismissed - they show a deep, systemic problem that, to my mind, stems primarily from the way we've built our city, the culture of auto-dominance that pervades everything to the point where trying to talk logically about normalizing how our infrastructure dollars are spent and how our public realm is used automatically gets turned into a "war-on-the-car" false dichotomy.

Look, at the end of the day, I own a car too. I use it for big shopping trips, for treks out into the countryside and for work trips when they're required. I use it for the things that it makes sense to use it for, and the statistics show us that the majority of people in our city, our province and our country aren't thinking that way. They see their car as their only transportation option, and, as long as we keep making it the easiest and fastest way to get around, it will be their default choice.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 12:13:36 in reply to Comment 95739

Couple of quick points in support of what you've written:

  • In survey after survey, large majorities of people say they want to walk and cycle more than they do.

  • In places where the street infrastructure is changed to make it safer and friendlier for walking and cycling, more people walk and cycle.

The dichotomy between drivers and not-drivers is false: in principle, and where feasible in fact, every person can be a walker, a cyclist, a transit user or a driver depending on the trip and the circumstances.

Permalink | Context

By wow (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:06:20 in reply to Comment 95603

This is one of the most unreadable self-entitled rants I've seen in a long time. I give you big points for taking the time to express your feelings so verbosely though, despite the fact that they are not based anywhere near reality.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ancaster boy (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 15:50:02

Have a look at the Ancaster Master Transportation Plan 2011 and the uproar that it caused in Ancaster. http://preserveancastervillage.com/

Residents had to hold Ferguson's feet to the fire just to get minor compromises. I believe that the ulterior motives for these changes are to pre-stage infrastructure for Aerotropolis under the guise of local improvements.
Did he ever respond to your open letter?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By indundas (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2013 at 16:27:02

I enjoyed both the original letter and the response from notlloyd. Two very different but valid opinions. My issue with notlloyd is the apparent satisfaction with status quo. Making changes to the core, like bidirectional main arteries, are at least an alternative to a model that isn't working. When I drive through downtown, I drive THROUGH downtown. These roads are busy and move fast. I do not take time to look around and find businesses I want to frequent. In my mind, the core of a city shouldn't be a means to move quickly from one area to another. It should be a vibrant, social area of a livable city.

Permalink | Context

By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 17:02:55 in reply to Comment 95632

Thanks. I have some idea. Not sue how good they are but the post here was way way too long. See: http://supporthamilton.wordpress.com/.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 15:31:01

Responding to quotes from notlloyd: "I would venture that most people want cheap, efficient, time saving and pollution minimizing transit. I think drivers get frustrated when they pay the lion’s share of the taxes, through gasoline, income, sales and property taxes to see the resource of the roads unfairly shared. They are the majority, they pay the most, and their lives are shared in the sense that their labour is translated into taxes. Quite rightfully they become annoyed when they see a rarely used bike lane eliminating their efficient, time saving cheap and pollution minimizing travel"

I would like to respond to many of notlloyd's comments but I will address one paragraph that stands out which I find arrogant, and insulting. How did you surmise that "driver's pay the lions share of taxes?" Of course they would pay tax on gasoline. Bikes and pedestrians don't use it. "Income?" Are you implying that cyclists are not gainfully employed, therefore have to income to pay tax on? This may come from an antiquated notion that only people who cannot afford cars would ever purchase a bicycle. Really? As for "Sales and property taxes". Again, rather arrogant to think that cyclists don't pay sales taxes on goods and services (that would included purchase of a car or bike). Of course you would pay more tax for a car purchase but only in an absolute sense. Percentage-wise would it not be the same? It is your choice to purchase a more expensive vehicle.

"Drivers … sees the resources of the road unfairly shared"

How does that work? Cars have had the run of all the roads, well .. forever. Only in the recent past have bike been able to eke our a small fraction of the roadway (bike lanes) and only on a handful of roads - bike lanes which many drivers ignore, park in, open doors in etc. A 1m strip of pavement is not an unfair use of the resources of the roads. Now that they are actually installing a full lane here and there, it will make it safer for cyclists. Do you object to cyclists having a small measure of safety so you can get to work 3 min sooner? Sharing means we all put a little water in our wine. You want the whole bottle is seems - even though cyclists help to purchase it.

"They are the majority, they pay the most, and their lives are shared in the sense that their labour is translated into taxes."

Again, the god-given entitlement that car drivers rule and to hell with anyone else who challenges their superiority, income, largesse. I've got news for you. My labour is translated into taxes too.

"Quite rightfully they become annoyed when they see a rarely used bike lane eliminating their efficient, time saving cheap and pollution minimizing travel"

This is the most puzzling sentence in your whole argument. In what world is a car the cheapest mode of travel? How is a car minimizing pollution over a bike? Huh? It may be time saving but again, your wish to whiz through downtown merits no points in my book unless you drive an ambulance or fire truck. You don;t seem to consider the health and safety of those people in whose neighbourhoods you rush through. Here is an acid test. See how you like cars driving on your street at 80kph. As for the "… rarely used bike lane…" - I have seen many empty lanes on Main St., Cannon St., Wilson St., and I also get annoyed wondering "What a waste. Why don't they turn one of those unused lanes into a bike lane so I don't have to risk my life and limb riding on them?" Your wish to save a couple of minutes commuting apparently trumps cyclists right to survival. This is not hyperbole.

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I also drive a car when I cannot ride my bike (which I paid tax on as well as my income but I do not lord it over others more or less fortunate than myself nor use it as a hammer to impose my will). However, I try to ride as often as possible, knowing that my bike puts much less wear and tear on the roads compared to cars so it benefits everyone, including car drivers and cyclists. My bike also pollutes less (read: none) so it benefits everyone, both car drivers and cyclists. My bike frees up a space in a lane of traffic so you can get to work faster. Riding also improves my health (if I don't get hit by a distracted driver) which lowers health care cost for the province (hence, lower taxes for you). Multiply my cost savings to taxpayers (that would be you AND me brother) by thousands of cyclists and you can see how this works to the benefit of all. Regardless of your other arguments about pipes and water, democracy etc., you have tipped your hand in this one paragraph. Your attitude seems to be one of "Me first". I suggest you try to broaden your concern past your own steering wheel. Better yet, get on a bike and see for yourself the other side of the argument. Those who cycle and drive cars may have a better overview of the situation.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2013 at 14:45:28

Blogs are difficult places to argue. As I said I am new here and I was reluctant to post the reply above for two reasons mainly. Firstly, the Editor has asked people to keep articles brief. Sometimes you just can’t be brief because in the interest of brevity, choosing words is difficult and misunderstandings arise. Also, Jason raised a lot of issues above.

Secondly, reading the posts I have read, things seem to get really personal around here – like the response to my points by “wow (anonymous).”

I tried not to personalize my reply because it is about the argument. However, since you raise it, I am an avid cyclist. I own 3 bikes myself. My kids are competitive – I am not. I ride over 3000 k outdoors every year and about 2-3 k indoors on rollers. So I like biking a lot – maybe more than most. But I really don’t see how that is relevant. I try not to ride on the roads in Hamilton too much because they are poorly kept and dangerous as you say. But I do ride on the roads in off hours.

You are correct, I could have chosen some better words – or more accurate words - and I will try to do better if I keep posting here. I won’t reply to everything but here goes.

On taxes:

Most car owners pay income tax or have paid income tax. There is a huge range in annual costs for owning a car and you are correct it is not cheap. Let’s use a number of $5,000.00 a year for non-gas expenses including insurance. The car owner pays 13% of that in sales tax - $650.00. Then gas tax which according to Ontariogasprices.com is 39.281¢ a day in Ontario on average per litre. I use about 100 L a week. I don’t know if that is average but that’s $2,046.61 a year. I also pay property taxes both residential and commercial but not everyone does who drives a car. And like most, I pay sales tax on consumption. In total, just for using the car that is more tax than the average residential tax in Hamilton.

When you buy a car you pay numerous taxes including sales, tire, gas guzzler tax if you have to, etc. Then there are environmental fees and taxes on top on oil changes etc.

There is a lot of debate, I have seen it on this blog, about whether and to what degree roads are subsidized out of general revenue. The lion’s share of direct road costs is paid out of direct taxation on automobiles and driving. If it is not all, drivers then additionally pay their share out of the other taxes they pay which is often overlooked in the arguments.

On efficiency:

That depends on who you are. There are economies of scale in car use. A person who lives in a condo in downtown Toronto who has no children would likely get very little efficiencies out of a car. A mother of 6 children living in Ancaster and commuting to downtown Hamilton certainly does get efficiencies out of car use. I am not a car guy. I only own a car because I have to. I like driving but I could take it or leave it. I own a car because for me in my circumstances and where I need to travel it is by far the cheapest mode of transportation for me bar none. (I don’t drive to Toronto for business any more because it is cheaper to take the Go Train all things considered – but I don’t go there that often.) I could give you lots of breakdowns but my guess is that most, not all, people drive in Canada because it is the cheapest available alternative. Once you have to invest in the fixed or capital cost, and then the annual non-operating costs, using public transit except when you have to only increases costs overall. As I said that is not true for everybody, but my guess is that averaged out it is true overall. Keep in mind that time is a factor in the equation. Many people forget that. Time is money, so they say. So all in all, yes I would say automobile travel remains the cheapest overall alternative to travel in Canada. That is probably why most people I Canada have or have use of a car.

On pollution:

Cars pollute. But they pollute more in stop and go traffic and when they idle. I said “minimize” pollution. I would like to see an environmental impact study done on this point specifically for Hamilton. I have always wondered how much four way stops increase pollution. They certainly increase wear and tear on a car.

You are correct; speed limits are too high on non-through streets in Hamilton. I have blogged about this at http://supporthamilton.wordpress.com/. There are many things to be done. I would like to see train service to Collingwood, north of Barrie and to Buffalo. I wish the Radial line was never eliminated in Hamilton so we could travel from Niagara to Brantford. I would like a lot of things.

All I tried to say above was that we should be careful and considerate before we go around drastically changing traffic on the major arteries of the City. I also tried to answer for Lloyd the issues raised by Jason. (I am not sure about God, but I only use a car because it makes sense.)

Sorry again for the long post.

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 09:43:13 in reply to Comment 95714

I wanted to let you know that I value a good debate, and I'm going to wade in once I can poke my head out from the crazy amount of work I have to do, but I'll address your first point in your original rebuttal really fast.

Bike Shares ARE an amazing investment. Yes, we're putting $1.6 Million into the capital infrastructure at the onset, but your arguments about it being a "black hole" are completely and utterly erroneous. Let me break it down for you: We're spending $1.6 Million on a capital investment for a new transit project (that's what bike share is: transit). That would normally buy 2 new buses, if you're lucky. Those 2 buses then require operators - 3 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) each to run. So that's 6 FTEs - likely about $350,000 a year. And who pays that? HSR fares pay some of it, but a lot of it comes out of the operating subsidies given to the HSR by, you guessed it, taxpayers. (on a side note, I hate that term. We're citizens. Our taxes pay for things that are required to run a city.) So if we spent that $1.6 Million on, say, buses, we'd have spent $1.6 Million on capital costs, then about $1.75 Million just in staffing costs to run them, again coming out of the municipal coffers. Sure, we'd employ 6 more FTEs, but at a pretty significant ongoing cost. Now let's compare that to Bike Share.

We've spent $1.6 Million to buy the capital. As a requirement of us spending that money on their capital infrastructure, Social Bicycles has agreed to establish a not-for-profit operating system here in the city. That will likely employ 5-10 FTEs to manage the system, recruit sponsors, balance bikes etc. And guess who pays for that? User fees. Not the municipality. So there's 5-10 jobs created just in the operating side without another dime of municipal money spent. I'll reiterate that. Not Another Dime.

When it comes to "black holes of money", please give me an example? Yes, the Bixi system in Toronto had to be bailed out, but that's because rather than having Toronto put up the full capital costs of the system, it was a capital loan. Remove the interest and the loan payments, and Bixi was profitable. Bixi itself is actually a poor example because of its base structure and how closely intertwined it is with the municipal government in Montreal. A better example would be south of the border, where dozens of Bike Share programs are taking off, from New York to San Fransisco, and into smaller centres like Madison, Wisconsin and Tampa, Florida. But the best example of where these are truly economically viable comes from Washington, DC, where the great stats published regarding Capital Bike Share basically tears down your entire argument that they're not economically viable. You can find the info here: http://mobilitylab.org/2012/06/18/2011-c... But I'll sum up the big points for you.

4 in 10 users of bike share significantly decreased the use of their car. The average user drove 523 miles (~800 km) less annually after joining bike share Bike share saved the average user $819 in transportation costs annually - resulting in a total savings of more than $15 Million across the system. Guess where money goes when it doesn't go into the gas tank? It stays in the local economy, and boosts local spending.

Check out this article: http://blog.viacycle.com/post/4519300712... Read the links, take your time and go through the numbers and you'll see very clearly just how wrong your stance on bike share is. This has the potential to be a game changer for our city, and at $1.6 Million it is an absolute bargain. I'll get to more of your points later today if I have the time.

Permalink | Context

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 10:45:43 in reply to Comment 95730

Thanks for your work on this - great info as always!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 16:40:04

So I had a good phone conversation with Lloyd, and we agree, as always, to disagree on this. Lloyd's main points are that interest in the North End will come back, and we'll see traffic counts go back up getting people and goods to and from the busy harbour lands and new potential employment opportunities there. I can't argue those points - they're very valid. What I CAN argue is that when they do need to get those goods there, they don't need to be driving through the middle of neighbourhoods to get there. I raised the point about how in Toronto you wouldn't drive a truck loaded with sugar from the Redpath factory on the lake up to the 401 via Yonge Street - you'd divert the extra 10-11 km to take the Don Valley, because that's what those types of roads are for. He argued that the lower city ring-road option was killed, so that's not an option, I told him that from where most of the factories are it's a 10-11 km detour to take Burlington St. to the QEW and go from there.

The hardest point to counter, in my mind, is that we're not talking about reducing lane capacity downtown. Nowhere in the conversation about 1-way to 2-way are we talking about removing lanes, unless it's for something like an LRT - we're talking about making the lanes that are there more flexible, making the pedestrian environment friendlier and fostering increased development along the routes that should be the heart of our downtown economy.

Interestingly, I also told him that a parade of experts have come to Hamilton, and not one has said that it's a good thing to have our streets the way they're built. Lloyd argues that perhaps we haven't looked for those experts, which I actually have to agree with. We do tend to have a selection bias when choosing speakers to come to Hamilton and give us inspiration, so I put the challenge to him to find someone that thinks that they're a good thing to come and present us with an argument as to why. I'd be interested to actually see this as a debate rather than the 2-way side constantly just telling the 1-way side that they're wrong. (for the record, I think that they are)

As it was bound to, Cannon came up. I want to let everyone know that with a cycle track on Cannon, a 2-way option is pretty much off the table. The blocks are too short and there are too many potential movement conflicts, so if Cannon goes ahead as it's looking like it's going to (protected south side 2-way cycle track), then Cannon, to my mind, gets take out of the 2-way conversion discussion. With all-day parking on the North side, the cycle track on the South and 2 narrower lanes of traffic, Cannon will be much more complete than any other arterial in the lower city. This might not sit well with some folks, but it's the reality of the situation, and it's a much better option, to my mind, than trying to make it 2-way and just installing plain old bike lanes.

My opinion about 1-ways and 2-ways is that it's never been about which direction the traffic flows, it's always been about how it flows. When we have high-speed, 5 lane wide, narrow sidewalked thoroughfares running through our downtown, that's a problem. Switching Main and King to 2-way would solve a lot of those problems, but there's other treatments that could work as well. Those other treatments are too expensive and too outside the norm to be instituted, however, so I'll continue to push Councillors on this and to provide evidence, logic and respectful dialogue as we keep trying to move forward.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2013 at 17:29:26 in reply to Comment 95751

I put the challenge to him to find someone that thinks that they're a good thing to come and present us with an argument as to why.

Cue Randal O'Toole in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds