You're a "whiner" if you acknowledge the problems with the bus lane and advocate fixing them, but not if you advocate scrapping the bus lane altogether.
By Ryan McGreal
Published December 10, 2014
This morning I sent the following letter to Mayor Eisenberger and City Council:
Dear Mayor Eisenberger and Council,
The bus lane was a good idea that was executed in a manner that ignored community feedback and created unneccesary problems. The solution is to start listening and fix the problems, not to scrap the project.
The underlying issue was simply that minimal public consultation was done before the bus lane was implemented. If staff had engaged with stakeholders, they would have learned, for example, that removing curbside parking on the north curb west of Bay was a bad idea.
Even with the bus lane, King Street remains a dangerous, inhospitable thoroughfare. As one business owner put it: "I have customers who tried parking across the street and then risked their lives to cross the road and just said, 'we aren't coming back.'"
That's not the fault of the bus lane, and removing it won't fix the problem. The city needs to restore curbside parking to the north curb west of Bay Street whether or not the bus lane is retained.
We can also mitigate the automobile traffic backups through the International Village with some modest adjustments to improve traffic flow. Here are a couple of suggestions that have been raised multiple times over the past year and a half:
- Adjust the timing of the green lights on King between Wellington and James.
- Provide an advance turn signal for buses turning left at James and MacNab.
I would also add that the bus lane should allow cyclists to share the lanes. Many other cities do this and it works well. It astonishes me that our Cycling Master Plan has been used to justify not expanding cycling facilities on an important east-west corridor.
We had a chance to do all of these things when the bus lane was repainted earlier this year, but staff continued to ignore all of the suggestions that engaged residents had put forward and re-implemented the bus lane with no substantial changes.
We need to do better at engagement. Citizens are not the enemy: with meaningful (rather than token) consultation, we end up with better designs that serve a wider set of needs and enjoy broader support.
The bus lane pilot is an important opportunity to learn and improve. Please don't squander that opportunity by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead quickly sent the following reply:
There are intersection lights that allow people to cross th street safely. What do you mean that it is unsafe to cross. Is it because the lights do not allow adequate time to cross?
Here is my response:
Dear Councillor Whitehead,
Thank you for your reply. That quote was from Diego Almonte, a business owner quoted in this Spectator article:
If customers aren't willing to cross the street to go to a business, there is something wrong with the street.
My suggestion to you is to walk along and across King Street between Bay Street and Queen Street. Pay attention to whether you feel comfortable or nervous. Note whether the street feels safe or dangerous. Observe whether you feel that you are welcome or that you don't belong.
Then do the same thing on some of our other downtown business districts: Concession Street, King Street in Dundas, Wilson Street in Ancaster, James Street North, Locke Street South, Ottawa Street North.
My hunch is that you will experience in a direct, visceral way why people don't like to walk around on King Street in downtown Hamilton, and why street retail businesses struggle to attract and retain customers.
Most businesses are on the north side. At least with curbside parking on that side, the sidewalk was somewhat buffered from automobile traffic and someone driving to a store didn't have to walk across five lanes to get there.
The bus lane is not what's wrong with King Street. Unfortunately, the way it was implemented exacerbated the problems the street already had. The good news is that they won't be that difficult to fix.
As for reducing King to two lanes west of Mary, I'll note that King was already two lanes east of Mary and that did not cause significant backups. Again, this can be fixed with some modest design tweaks.
Later this morning, Councillor Whitehead went on the Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML to complain:
Urbanists believe we've all kinds of money to spend in one area of the city. Tired of these whiners, quite frankly!
So according to Councillor Whitehead, you're a "whiner" if you acknowledge problems with the bus lane and call for them to be fixed so the street meets everyone's needs, but not if you call for it to be scrapped entirely.
It should be an interesting four years.
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