City Life

Engagement Announcement: Hamilton Citizens Accept Proposal from Sassy Stairs

Please share your ideas for what Wentworth Stairs needs to serve Hamiltonians even better.

By Wentworth Stairs, Esq.
Published November 09, 2015

I am the Wentworth Stairs. I run from the intersection of Wentworth and Charlton at the border of Ward 2 and 3 up the Escarpment across the Sherman Access and up to Mountain Park Avenue and Upper Wentworth in Ward 7.

Wentworth Stairs, looking down from Sherman Access (RTH file photo)
Wentworth Stairs, looking down from Sherman Access (RTH file photo)

Wentworth Stairs from bottom, Autumn 2015 (RTH file photo)
Wentworth Stairs from bottom, Autumn 2015 (RTH file photo)

Looking across Sherman Access to upper section (RTH file photo)
Looking across Sherman Access to upper section (RTH file photo)

Looking down from Mountain Park Avenue (RTH file photo)
Looking down from Mountain Park Avenue (RTH file photo)

On November 5, I was contacted by @__Ronin and encouraged to engage my users on initiatives to improve Wentworth Stairs. The feedback would be provided to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr.

So the first thing I did was publish the following tweet:

From there, I listened to you, Hamilton, and this is what you had to say:

There were a lot of responses, but this ain't no picture book. I received feedback about: exercise equipment, a safe crossing at Sherman Access, regular maintenance, bicycle gutters and water fountains.

I even received feedback from local property management company Yoke Group Inc:

The thing is, I'm already doing my thing. I'm there for you, day in and day out, rain or sunshine, when the going gets toughand when the tough get going, up and down the stairs, 365 days a year.

Short Survey

What I need from you, Hamilton, is to vote. Fill in this short survey, generously created by the folks at Raise the Hammer, and share it with your friends.

I trust the good people at Raise the Hammer will be more than happy to share this information with Councillor Farr and Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green to get this party started.

My sole goal in life is to be there for you, and if the good citizens of Hamilton, Ontario want to contribute to making me the best when it comes to the Hamilton Stairs beauty contest, consider me game!

Before I sign off, I want to give a shout-out to Kenny (https://twitter.com/KenilworthStair), Chucky (https://twitter.com/Chedoke_Stairs), Jimmy (https://twitter.com/JamesStStairs) and all the other Hamilton stairs out there. Without your fiery retorts, Hamilton Twitter would not be nearly so much fun. (P.S. Kenny, call me!)

Yours truly,

Wentworth Stairs, Esq.

Born in 1903, Wentworth Stairs has seen a number of advancements over the past century. From its original wooden steps, the stairs were improved in 1983 by replacing the original material with metal. Beginning with 570 steps, Wentworth Stairs now boasts a mighty and efficient 498 steps, and even has its own independently run Twitter account @WentworthStairs. This quirky, upbeat staircase loves to champion your activity and wants to see you invest some time in sharing what you think its next improvement should be. After all, what's good for the citizen is good for the city.

29 Comments

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By WwS Esq (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 14:42:11

Oh hi, I jotted some things down. Now go forth and engage, #HamOnt!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 09, 2015 at 14:44:59

Escarpment stairs are wonderful social connective tissue. They deserve lots of love for their role in bringing Hamiltonians together!

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By Ronin (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 15:07:18

The wentworth stairs signature is classic! Great job all around wentworth stairs!

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By Roseatta (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 16:02:10

A safe place to cross and yes to a fountain

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 16:28:23

safe, signalized crossing and a 2nd set to allow people to easily pass each other. Also, bike gutter.

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By heh (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 18:30:03

Replace stairs with an escalator ;-)

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By walter_hbd (registered) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 18:33:57

a gondola lift alternative

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:12:28 in reply to Comment 114755

I want to become an advocate of the GagePark-MountainPark gondola in due time. I probably will wait until when LRT shovels are safely in ground. (ala 2019-2020)

I contacted GondolaProject and asked if it could be done for well under 10 million dollars, perhaps as low as 2-3 million dollars. The environmental assessment could easily be crowdfunded/community raised, presented to Metrolinx for Quick Wins, and a bit of (ugh) area-rating chip in from both lower/upper wards, involve engagement from OttawaSt BIA / Concession BIA.

It could be built by mid-2020s giving Mountain an easy connection to the upcoming LRT too, and we can easily enjoy Concession Street up there, visit each other's events. Fares could, say, be 3 dollars, maybe free transfers to bus/transit, and it should pay for its operating costs easily that way.

This is not a luxury gondola, this is just a short 500 meter basic 4 person open-bucket gondola that saves almost an hour of public transit time!

It is much easier to build and cheaper to operate than an inclinator (which we used to have), and doesn't modify/damage the escarpment as much, and can flyover the road behind GagePark, for a direct park-to-park gondola.

If any gondola advocate wants to push GagePark-MountainPark Gondola early before 2019, contact me for my due diligence. For now, my hands are full with the Hamilton LRT advocacy.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 09:33:59

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:30:58 in reply to Comment 114762

Do you propose a gondola over the tracks and Lawrence road on to Gage Park? Because I don't believe CP rail would want anything to do with pedestrians crossing their tracks to get to a gondola platform. The tracks are already fenced along Lawrence with plenty of warning signs posted.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:38:01 in reply to Comment 114766

Yes, it would flyover above treetops, above road, above tracks.. It would need to be factored into the EA, air rights, and negotiations would be needed, much like stringing hydro lines above tracks...

It would be a direct park-to-park gondola.

Look on Google Maps. The MountainPark is just right above GagePark. The gondola would connect the park corners. The landing area perhaps possibly would be near the new Gage bike pump track. A small gondola station only consumes a small plot. I'm talking of the type of gondola even more basic than the Mount Tremblant ski gondola. Just four staff can operate (two at top and two at bottom -- two for operation and two for safety, helping old ladies on and off.

The ultra-mini 4 person gondola capsule crawls slowly (off-cable) at top/bottom (much slower and easier to step on than an escalator) then latches back on the cable, for the ride. Due to the short run, it can run slow, keeping wear-and-tear down, keeping maintenance low, and much easier and safer to ride than an escalator. Even the disabled can ride it! There is room for 1 wheelchair (they can pause the gondola for embark/dismbark). Modern basic gondolas have level boarding, you just wheel your stroller on.

What amazing scenery too, as a bonus...that's not the raison d'etre, but a bonus!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 09:52:36

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:50:18 in reply to Comment 114767

If anything, i'd rather see another set of stairs at that location rather than a gondola. Double wide with a bike trough so kids from mountain park have easy access to the Gage Park bike track.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 11:13:22 in reply to Comment 114769

I think at least one of the escarpment stairs should have something for people with physical disabilities. Currently no one that is wheelchair bound or even with an ailment that prevents physical exertion can use the stairs.

I imagine that kind of retrofit would be pretty expensive though.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 11:55:33 in reply to Comment 114777

I heard that the capital cost of a properly weather-resistant wheelchair lift for an escarpment-length stairs would cost more than a 2-person ski chairlift! Given the escarpment hostility (rain, snow, leaves gumming and rusting the lift mechanism) and the need for regular maintenance, you can't just go for a simple breakdown-prone mechanism, and the stairs will probably need to be redesigned for the lift mechanism, which could cost extra.

Also, it would probably have to be staffed for liability reasons (+$$) lest people get stranded when the lift jams mid-way (This can happen too with gondolas, but very rare with a modern gondola, especially with backup power). Also, any lift will tend to also be used by the non-disabled too, adding wear and tear. Witness able-bodied people using door-openers. At this point, you begin to reach the operating costs of a gondola for something that doesn't generate revenue.

At that point it would cost almost as much as a very basic entry-level open-air gondola, At that point, we might as well go for a basic mini-gondola that would be far easier for a wheelchair user to use.

If more capital cost is raised, we can upgrade to an 8-person miniature fully-enclosed gondola exactly like the one at Mount Tremblant. But we don't even need to go that fancy or pretentious.

We're talking of more basic utilitarian open-air gondolas one level above a chairlift.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 13:07:42

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 12:32:18 in reply to Comment 114780

An example of an inexpensive 4-person open-air gondola at Blue Mountain:

  • This gondola is wheelchair accessible!
  • Costs only as much as 3 or 4 city buses; but will serve more people
  • 100% farebox recovery.

Imgur

They operate pretty slowly (roughly twice walking speed), have rudimentary non-luxurious stations, with minimal wear and tear on cable, very low operating costs; in some locations are staffed with only 2 people (above/below).

With low power consumption, even a batch of car batteries (UPS) is enough to power it in an emergency for 3 minutes to empty the lift during an electric power outage -- the motors are really tiny for short lengths (less than 10 kilowatts -- the electric power needed to start a car)!

This isn't luxury stuff or overkill, just a cheap open bucket lift, with space big enough for 1 wheelchair, and a super-short length of approximately 500 or 750 meters connecting the corners of two parks above/below in a short 3-minute ride.

It will undoubtedly increase #HamOntStairs traffic, by the sheer increase of cross-escarpment pedestrian traffic, and stairs are available if you can't afford the fare both ways. And there are people like going down the stairs, but often hate going up the stairs. (Older people, families, etc). It is a great public transit enhancement, community enhancement, and brings more people outdoors in general, given the walking needed to gondola stations anyway; and the great opportunities to connect the upper/lower BIAs, etc.

Now you can bring your baby stroller, family, enjoy the parks (a "Family Destination"), and live up to being a great place for families. The talking points are a no-brainer for a lot of us, considering the cost of this gondola is barely 4 city buses (if that), but will serve a far greater public transit good -- including Mountain residents visiting TiCats games, reach the future B-Line LRT, etc.

GagePark-MountainPark is an ideal place for a gondola because it's very far away from access roads (it's right in between two major access roads), and Google Transit shows almost a 1-hour public transit ride between Mountain Park and Gage Park, including the far longer waiting time for a bus.

Nothing pretentious, just utilitarian, purely Hamiltonian, something everybody can use, and actually pays for itself operationally far better than a bus (full farebox recovery + funds reserve fund for future maintenance/cable replacement), while providing really cheap fares that could perhaps integrate with existing transit options at the time (HSR/LRT/SoBi/etc)

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 13:55:47

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 14:46:27 in reply to Comment 114781

Context: Optimized for lowest cost, while being an attraction, while helping transit (but doesn't depend on transit to be economically feasible)

The brow is changing too, interest is both directons: Concession Street BIA is installing those fancy sidewalks (same as James Street North), and is only about a 5 minute walk west of the proposed Mountain gondola station.

Imgur

Apologies for hijacking the #HamOntStairs topic, but it is related; and will improve stairs traffic, especially with families / iffy weather later in day / older people who can walk downstairs / unable to walk upstairs / people who want to save money (pay for gondola one-way) / people reluctant to try the stairs not having an alternative back upstairs / etc.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 15:52:56

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 11, 2015 at 01:17:08 in reply to Comment 114783

Sherman Hub appears absolutely thrilled about the gondola idea: https://www.facebook.com/groups/11756620...

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:56:02 in reply to Comment 114769

Both can happen. The stairs could be maintenance/emergency access under the gondola. (Access across tracks is another matter altogether, so probably needs to be a pedestrian underpass at that stage).

Also, bike hooks are a feature of mini gondolas too. Hang your bike on the side for the ride back up...

Walk down the freebie stairs, but you will be tempted to pay the gondola 3 dollars for the ride back up especially if it starts raining? ;-)

Kids would ride free. This will help families out.

It won't hurt the stairs because it just increases cross-escarpment traffic. Also there are many Families who do not bother walking down stairs because the kids will refuse to go back up.. With the gondola as a backup option, even more people can be willing to use the stairs. It is far more efficient than catching a bus. And the gondola capital cost is very similiar to maybe four city buses (but lasts much longer than them), and even more effective than them for the Concession-to-Gage itinerary.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 10:09:26

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By Let's improve the stairs (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 21:21:28

Love the Wentworth stairs! I think widening the stairs so that when people are passing each other they can do so with ease would be ideal. I feel that currently there is a divide between people who live on the escarpment and people below so maybe a Dicrectory at the bottom showing what business's are in the concession street area with a map and vice versa for at the top of the stairs. Lastly, there is no way a parent with a child in a stroller would be able to use the stairs. I'm not sure if there's a way to remedy that? Maybe similar to how a bike would be taken up escarpment?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 09:48:25 in reply to Comment 114759

Really, the only solution for strollers barrierless paths like ramps and sidewalks along our existing road accesses. For example, the John street path is almost completely barrier free, and the Clairmont easily has room for a lane to be converted into a multi-use pedestrian/cyclist path.

The pedestrian access along the Jolley requires stairs, doesn't it?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-11-10 10:48:59

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:24:25 in reply to Comment 114759

Due to liability reasons, no city in North America can entertain stoller-friendly stairs. Widening is more workable, or more landing areas (for passing).

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:23:31

More large passing/resting landing areas / pads. This makes it easier to pass people going up/down stairs.

I suggest this as a possible interim alternative because it may be too expensive to widen stairs quickly but additional large landings can be added for resting and passing.

And, definitely, a bike gutter where possible (whenever refurbishing/widening)

P.S. ....

Obligatory hashtag: #HamOntStairs

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 09:30:16

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 15:06:18 in reply to Comment 114764

Oh wait, the stairs zigzag back and fourth at intervals. The intervals could be the landing pad locations. Making those pads larger (e.g. wider) to facilitate resting and passing (especially when carrying stuff). Some people actually try to carry bikes upstairs and it is inconvenient to pass those.

You see people coming downstairs, then one can wait for them to come downstairs past you before you start walking upstairs to the next landing area. There'd be only a few dozen steps between the slightly-enlarged landing areas.

Now if budget is available, then widening the entire stairs and adding bike gutters, I agree with everyone's idea of that!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 16:06:48

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 10, 2015 at 15:09:15

Fountain please, too. Both at top and bottom.

I want one of those new all-in-one city fountains (3-spout: dogbowl, bottlefiller, and traditional) at the intersection of Rail Trail + Wentworth Stairs + Wentworth Street, as I've ridden past (on Rail Trail) that location feeling extremely thirsty. It's the first bikeable Lower City exit on Rail Trail after starting riding from the top of the Mountain, so it hits two birds with one stone (thirsty bike riders and thirsty stairs users).

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-10 16:10:43

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By Regular stair climber (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 15:38:12

The stairs are fine exactly the way they are, the last things they need are bike gutters and exercise stations. Where would exercise stations go? And there are already bike gutters at the ladies' stairs at Chedoke. Leave the men's stairs just the way they are.

Thank you

p.s. There is a water fountain at the top already, or don't people see it? It is fairly large.

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By Wtfstairs (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 20:52:10 in reply to Comment 114786

Summary: I wouldn't use it so no one should have it.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 15:55:48 in reply to Comment 114786

The 'ladies' stairs? Are those the ones that are accessible through the time machine set to 1952?

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By GlenDoe (registered) | Posted November 12, 2015 at 09:49:57

I'm glad to see comments about an automated lift between the lower and upper city.

2 comments: 1. If considered to difficult to cross the road install a standard pedestrian crossing (like Toronto's). That would have the least impact on traffic and provide the right to safely cross. 2. Incline Railway. Bring back an incline railway, automated. A platform that people, bikes and strollers can go on, at no cost to 'level' the city; to boost bike traffic between the upper and lower city.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 12, 2015 at 12:16:04 in reply to Comment 114813

That's a great idea to have some form of a lift of some kind!

A gondola would be much cheaper to build and lower cost to operate. The basic gondola pictured above is bike/wheelchair/stroller accessible. It would do less environmental damage to the escarpment, considering the stairs has been installed on the old dynamited railway right-of-way.

So we'd have to blow up a new incline railway through the escarpment rock!

Dynamite going boom, noise, environment damage, etc.

Doing a basic 4-person accessible gondola would avoid that, cost a lot less.

Far less waiting time as the gondolas go by every few seconds, rather than waiting a few minutes for the incline railway lift. There is usually only 1 or 2 lifts in an incline railway. Costs are much lower for short gondolas. Gondolas will have shorter lineups at top of mountain during TiCats games (only 10 minutes walk from the Gage Gondola station!)

I like the incline railway, but if we're doing this at the best bang-for-buck, it's a basic 4-person gondola -- those are really inexpensive and use very small stations.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-12 13:25:21

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By Jon (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2016 at 09:54:34

hi I love the stairs. would really like if there was a two-way bike route from the cannon street bike lane.

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