Commentary

Routing Changes to Locke, York Buses Canceled

When we take modest steps toward a more connected system now, we should remember that the ways we do that will serve as models for even bigger changes in the future.

By Stephen Barath
Published June 24, 2014

The summer schedule of the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) was implemented on Sunday. With it, thousands of riders must adapt their lives to reduced levels of services on their routes. In Strathcona and Kirkendall, one relatively minor change was planned to be implemented, which would improve service and allow for better transit connectivity. That change has been cancelled.

Currently, the 6-Aberdeen, 7-Locke and 8-York bus routes have eccentric routings that are less than intuitive:

Current routing on Aberdeen, Locke and York routes
Current routing on Aberdeen, Locke and York routes

It's no wonder that, in the 2007 HSR Operational Review, these three routes are among the worst in the city in terms of passenger boardings, and the very worst by this measure in the lower city.

They nevertheless serve some large trip generators and are important in terms of serving the Strathcona and Kirkendall neighbourhoods, and connecting them to downtown.

Improving Route Usefulness

One specific comment that the two neighbourhoods have had for a number of years is that Dundurn Street should be served by one bus running its entire length. Currently, residents along Dundurn cannot access amenities by transit, even when they are located on the very same street.

Someone living in Kirkendall South cannot hop on a bus to make a connection to the Go Bus or the B-Line at Dundurn and King. Nor can someone in Strathcona get by bus to Fortino's or to a business on Dundurn South.

In September, HSR held consultation meetings with transit users and residents to consider the possibility of realigning the 8 York to continue along Dundurn south all the way to the Hillcrest loop, allowing connections between that route and the B Line; and allowing direct travel between Dundurn North and South.

This was a continuation of a process undertaken by the HSR and members of the community, and the goal of the meeting in September was to gauge community support for various options.

Three options were proposed, and this was selected based on input from respondents:

Proposed Locke route
Proposed Locke route

Proposed York route
Proposed York route

7-Locke would terminate at Charlton and Dundurn, but its routing would remain otherwise unchanged. From downtown, 8-York would travel through the Strathcona neighbourhood before taking Dundurn south to the end of the street at the Hillcrest loop. The reason for it traveling through Strathcona was due to of comments at the public meeting that seniors living in buildings on Strathcona Avenue should have bus service as close as possible.

To accommodate the changes, nine new bus stops would be required; and six bus stops would be removed. In April, residents were informed that the changes would be implemented on June 22 with the new summer schedule. The installation of temporary bus stops began, in order to get residents used to the change and inform them of the new routing.

Change Canceled

Today, Dundurn North and South remain divided to users of transit. On the HSR web site is the message, "Route 7 - Locke & 8 - York: will not be implemented on June 22nd as previously advertised." That much we can tell for ourselves. The questions remaining are "why" that is the case, and "whether" and "when" the change actually will take place.

HSR informs that Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie "has determined that this change will not take place as scheduled," and suggests contacting his office. As reported on hamiltontransit.ca in late May, the change was either cancelled or delayed due to concerns from residents about stop eliminations on Dundurn between Lamoreaux and York. McHattie said he hopes the process to settle on a satisfactory rerouting can be begun again soon.

The concern that stretches of Dundurn and York will no longer be served by transit is of course legitimate. For people who may have rearranged work schedules and personal habits around that bus service, it is an inconvenience to have to now walk instead to Strathcona Avenue to catch the bus. Other riders on other parts of the route will be impacted as well.

However, opportunity was given to these users to offer their feedback at the meeting in September. In fact, the reason HSR decided against the route that traveled all the way to York along Dundurn - which HSR had presented as option one - was that the people who attended the meeting preferred a routing that used Strathcona over one that used Dundurn.

It's hard not to feel now that the consultation process was a waste. Citizens were invited to take the time to provide their thoughts at a community meeting, and the ward councillor has now overruled the outcome of their input.

Worse, he has done that after a date had already been set by the HSR for implementation, and city workers used time and resources to install temporary bus stops to alert people to the change.

Transit users were beginning to plan their lives in part around the new service that they believed would be implemented yesterday. The change back to status quo was not effectively communicated.

What this Might Mean for Rapid Transit

Part of the reason this is important is because changes like this will need to be made on a much larger scale if rapid transit along the B-Line is to thrive. We should be taking the time now to improve connectivity between local routes and the 10 and other B-Line routes to prepare for connections with higher-order transit when that time comes.

Dundurn is one obvious place where it is a relatively easy fix that provides connection to the B-Line, along with a lot of other benefits to neighbourhood mobility. It's frustrating that we cannot get this right, and does not inspire a lot of hope for our ability to one day do it on a larger scale.

Waterloo Region, along with many other transit systems, is moving toward this model. There, the Ion LRT will serve the region's central corridor, with local routes meeting it at intervals. It has meant having to realign often-circuitous local routes, inconveniencing those riders. But, in the end, it will mean a much more efficient system that can connect more people with more destinations more quickly.

Rapid transit will be hampered if each time a relatively simple proposal to improve a local route is slated for implementation by the HSR, the local councillor cancels the change after it has been announced, ignoring the results of consultation.

When we take modest steps toward a more connected system now, we should remember that the ways we do that will serve as models for even bigger changes in the future.

Stephen Barath works at the CanmetMATERIALS laboratory on the McMaster Innovation Park campus, and lives in Kirkendall North. He is a newcomer to Hamilton, having moved here with his wife Jen from Kitchener in 2012.

27 Comments

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By menrvasofia (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 07:51:29

I live on Dundurn and consider myself an informed resident especially about the HSR, but this change caught me by surprise. I didn't know until I saw the sign for a new stop that changes were coming.

I'm not sure how consultation worked, or how the information was shared, but it doesn't seem to be working effectively.

I don't have a problem with it, just commenting on the contain process.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 08:55:23 in reply to Comment 102823

It would be well worth contacting the councillor to express that thought. Part of the reason the change was announced, and then cancelled, was that some people when they saw the new stops claimed not to have been made aware of their invitation to input in the autumn. It sounds from your experience that that might be a legitimate concern.

I’m told that the process will be undertaken again to make sure everyone is satisfied with any rerouting- your feedback on how consultation is communicated could be part of the difference between more wasted time, and a change that can be implemented with the perception of broad support.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 08:03:00

IIRC, the Ion routing (phase 1 & 2) travels through just under half of the wards in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge. By comparison, Hamilton's A and B-line, when complete, will travel through 8 of 15 city wards (possibly 7 of 15 if three wards are created by revising the boundaries of Wards 7 and 8, which currently meet along Upper James. I wonder if we would have made greater progress on rapid transit if the City had consistently promoted the two lines as two phases of a single route?

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By JasonAAllen (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 09:51:30

I spoke to several people at HSR about this change, and the impact it had on them, their drivers, and public perception. In Hamilton, unfortunately, route changes and the like within a Ward, are mostly at the discretion of the councillor. The means that HSR is constantly being pulled in multiple directions over routes and schedule issues. It's ineffecient, and leads to a patchwork approach across the city. One thing I'm exploring during my election campaign is the possibility of an HSR Commission - a governance body on which some councillors sit but aren't the only representatives, to encourage good decision making and a bit of an arm's length from council.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 11:35:29 in reply to Comment 102827

Please for the love of God yes. HSR needs real governance. LRT would change the entire HSR lower-city system map, and that kind of work should be happening now, and I think the public has zero confidence in the HSR to handle this task.

Honestly, now that we have the bus lane and LRT plans, we should be moving to a B-line-oriented route map today. Eliminate the "drive to/from downtown" segment of every route and replace it with a "drive to the nearest B-line stop". That would tell the province "we want LRT - let us drop-in replace the B-line with an LRT train since we've got every route rendezvousing with it".

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2014 at 07:57:03 in reply to Comment 102830

HSR is getting a new director: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:39:17 in reply to Comment 102830

I was under the impression that the 10 was supposed to be a kind of “dry run” for rapid transit. To do that, routes would need to be aligned to feed it, which has not happened yet in many places. It would function better, and riders would be better-served, if that were done. And the city’s case for LRT would be substantially strengthened, I think, if it could just be “dropped in” in place of the 10.

It would be better if the HSR had such a board as Jason suggests. I understand that the local councillors are put in a difficult position, and it would be more efficient and maybe easier on them if they could credibly say that route changes come about after a professional- not political- process that tries to maximize service to all riders. We seem to treat transit service as purely a social service that should be afforded exclusively to those who depend on it most and are most able to make noise to keep it.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 13:00:25 in reply to Comment 102832

No, the 10 has always been there for people who want an express route across town. LRT would convert it into the primary east-west route, so yes the city should be increasing its importance in route planning.

And do keep in mind that Mr. Allen's suggestion isn't purely hypothetical. He's running for office in Ward 1*, so this is a council electoral candidate making a policy proposal.

*He and Aidan Johnson have already launched their campaigns here in Ward 1 - Aidan came out of the local Liberal Riding Association leadership, while Jason worked closer with Councilor-cum-mayoral-candidate McHattie. Aidan's an old classmate of mine so he's got a lot of support in my social circle - should be quite a race.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-06-24 13:00:47

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 22:07:15 in reply to Comment 102835

"...the 10 has always been there for people who want an express route across town. LRT would convert it into the primary east-west route, so yes the city should be increasing its importance in route planning."

The 10 currently operates weekdays from 6am to 8pm. It's frustrating that in the seven years since MoveOntario 2020 was rolled out, and the six since Hamilton's first LRT feasibility study was conducted, that the HSR has not moved to introduce weekend service for the B-Line.

Points for consistency, however: The 10’s daily service frequency in the 2014 summer schedule is only two buses shy of where it stood in the school year.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 14:18:50 in reply to Comment 102835

Sorry, yes, I am aware that the 10 has been around for donkey’s years. Given that it’s routing closely resembles the LRT proposal, I think it’s the perfect way to demonstrate the benefits that LRT would bring- if we plan transit around its effectiveness.

(LRT or no LRT, we ought to plan a system that makes an express route such as the 10 as effective and relevant as possible.)

Not sure I fully understand your other comment… Jason said he was exploring that possibility “during his election campaign.” I think he’s right that it would be better, so I guess I’m saying it is a good policy proposal. Mostly I just think he’s right, though.

Comment edited by StephenBarath on 2014-06-24 14:20:56

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 14:54:03 in reply to Comment 102839

I fail at reading.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:23:26

I predicted this exact pushback when the last public meeting with largely attended by residents of the Strathcona Gardens seniors building who opposed a linear routing along Dundurn. The most logical transit route option in my opinion is all the way north/south on Dundurn from the loop to York.

Turning left off York onto Locke meant the entire NW section of Strathcona had no transit service. It also meant running large buses through residential side streets around Victoria Park and Strathcona School.

Other cities are working to eliminate circuitous routes. Why are we trying to add more local, side-street meandering?

In my opinion this is the real problem: city hall won't install a pedestrian crosswalk at York/Strathcona. I remember meeting one of the public works big wigs there a few years ago with Councillor McHattie. They went on and on about how the entire city's signal system would have to be changed if we added a pedestrian crossing. As if we were morons.

A neighbour in that area paced this out, and I recently paced it for myself to verify his numbers: It is a shorter walking distance from the north side of York at Strathcona to the seniors building then it is from the Vic Park bus loop to the seniors building. Right now all the passengers who use this bus get off at the park and walk to the building. Many of them actually walk from the building to the park to catch the bus. We need to remember - these are mobile folks. They are headed to the market, Jackson Square etc.... in fact, in order to catch the return #8 back home, they need to walk over to Bay St, south of York.

This problem could be solved overnight with a pedestrian crossing at York. We already have the ramps across the median. It would be a tremendous boost to local safety to slow down the nonsense on York Blvd. Dundurn Castle and destinations such as the Mustard Seed are on the north side of York and would be easier accessed by residents south of York. For years one of the big complaints from Strathcona residents is the lack of connectivity between sections of our hood due to the dangerous freeways.

I would suggest a west/south routing using York and Dundurn. The return route could do the same or perhaps still maintain it's Head/Strathcona route. Personally I would prefer a full length run on Dundurn and York. Transit makes sense in it's most linear fashion.

I suppose one final option which hasn't yet been discussed to my knowledge, and may not work due to turning radii could be to have the bus run all the way north on Dundurn, go right on York, then right on Strathcona and turnaround in the Strthcona Gardens drop-off loop in front of the building.
But again, these folks using the bus are mobile, and the one block walk to the south side of York shouldn't pose this big of a problem.

The pedestrian signal is the real issue here.

EDIT: here is the Google Streetview from the front of the seniors building. The corner at York is right there, 8 narrow homes away.

http://goo.gl/BBfsxd

Comment edited by jason on 2014-06-24 10:28:36

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:20:21 in reply to Comment 102829

I don't see how they'd have to change anything with light synchronization. There's no left turn there and Strathcona is blocked by the median, so the eastbound and westbound flows are unrelated. It could be two fully independent lights that synchronize to the flow of their individual direction - that is, the westbound light could be synced for westbound traffic and the eastbound light could be synced for eastbound traffic. It would have zero effect on traffic flow. It would be annoying for pedestrians, but better than the current accommodation (which is nil).

If you're going to build highways in the city, then the normal spacings of crossings that assume that pedestrians are going to scramble through the gaps don't work. Pedestrians can manage the widely-spaced lights on slow, careful traffic streets like James where drivers are already so close to stopped that they will make allowances for pedestrians. Not on York.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-06-24 12:22:58

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:50:14 in reply to Comment 102831

yes, pedestrian lights can and should be accommodated easily here. It was just another mind-numbing attempt by a city hall car-staffer to fight for the horrible status quo.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 16:39:15 in reply to Comment 102834

Proof please.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 13:18:38 in reply to Comment 102834

Participatory Budget 2015?

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 08:19:46 in reply to Comment 102837

I think we can get it done sooner. Especially if we get the folks at the seniors building on board. That is the only obstacle to this route being done in it's most logical fashion.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:43:43

A big "Yes" to eliminating bizarre circuitous routes. One that affects me is the absurd deviation of the Barton Street bus at Parkdale. A big "Huh?" is the usual reaction to newcomers experiencing that insane routing for the first time.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 13:17:55 in reply to Comment 102833

Google'd it.... I've never ridden the 2 that far.

That's... odd. I'm sure there's a story there about something or somebody on Melvin with a lot of pull.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2014 at 13:34:54 in reply to Comment 102836

It's more of a legacy. The 2-Barton used to split at numerous points in the route, one of the splits had the bus turnaround on Melvin just past the fire hall, and turn back downtown at Talbot. Melvin was a thought street to Barton and Pottruff prior to the building of the Red Hill, the Barton bus used to cross the Red Hill on Melvin.

Barton is sparsely populated along this stretch, another reason Melvin was the preferred routing.

This was also an electrified route with the trolley buses.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 17:30:36

"But, in the end, it will mean a much more efficient system that can connect more people with more destinations more quickly."

Does that mean that many of the lower city "local" routes would end at an LRT station (or currently, at a B-Line stop)? If so, many more people would have to transfer from one route to another than is the case now.

Comment edited by beancounter on 2014-06-24 17:32:07

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 08:17:47 in reply to Comment 102842

Not necessarily ending at a B Line stop, but including a stop at one to allow riders to access the rest of the system. It’s not so much that people would have to make a connection as that they would have the ability to make a connection to another, faster route that traverses more destinations in more parts of the city. Mobility.

We have a general aversion to having to make connections between buses to get where we’re going, but it is often more efficient. And, if stops were more modern, cleaner and more comfortable, it might seem a bit more palatable.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2014 at 07:56:16 in reply to Comment 102852

...and if the route timing was planned better. Waiting a few minutes is worth it for getting an express. Waiting 29 minutes because the transfer was missed by one minute is NOT

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 21:52:48 in reply to Comment 102842

Yes. This is how most modern transit systems work.

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By Mike Leech (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 21:58:25

Look if you're taking away my bus stop on a busy downtown street like York
when I've got six bags from Nations Fresh or the farmers mkt I have a big problem with it. When you leave me bedraggled walking home in the sleet or snowstorm in winter through unshoveled sidewalks, i HAVE A BIG PROBLEM WITH IT. AND IF YOU RELIED ON THE BUS EVERYDAY YOU WOULD TOO, social engineers.

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 19:51:50

I thoughts the changes to the york bus were ok, now one can go south on Dundurn when before you could not. Not sure I understand what the writer's issues are.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2014 at 09:42:55

Related to this and the Don Hull story, there's a comment on CBC Hamilton that discusses the complete failure of management in the HSR:

pointing to the complete mismanagement of the HSR under Hull (who is getting a golden-parachute of a zero-responsibility high-paying job at City Hall in spite of his catastrophic failure):

Schmedly

A director that allows his managerial staff to continually pull the wool over his eyes, without ever validating their lies, - is completely out to lunch and needs to go.

NO - Harassment and Discrimination in the workplace is not OK. To males or females. NO - the schedules are not OK. You are the Director and you don't even know this - the basics?

We do not get breaks, we do not have toilet breaks, we do not have a meal break and there is never anytime at the end of the line because we never make it there on time as we are always late - (yes - there are a few gravy jobs - that actually see time at the end of the line - but as I said - they are a few, and none that the majority of us can hold)

OR better yet a schedule that our passengers can depend on so they don"t yell at us when we show up late to them, but doing the best we can within our means.

Your planning manager is afraid to see the reality of his creations. He knows he has created a Frankenstein and hides daily from it. Its time to move on and make room for someone who knows what they are doing - someone who lives in the 21st century.

Harassment and Discrimination against females has been considered unacceptable for a long time now. Its unfortunate we are still just trying to learn this message in 2014 at the HSR with apparent senior leaders.

As I recall, when these allegations first arose, with Amy, Bonnie and Jen, and then "Employee A", Don Hull did not have 2 portfolios until 2011 or 2012. Using this as an excuse for Don allows him to continue to hide Its just an excuse for Don, that all of us operators know did not exist. We, unlike Don, will not allow someone to pull the wool over our eyes, not even Chris Murray. We know what really went on and we live it every day

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-06-27 09:44:01

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