The motion is a jumble of narrow, mean-spirited, divisive noise that presumes its own conclusions, pits different parts of the city against each other and does nothing to move the city forward.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 09, 2016
At last week's City Council meeting, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead was so angry about a housekeeping motion to formalize a directive Council had already approved to look at interim safety measures on Aberdeen Avenue that he blurted out a notice of motion to close the Beckett Drive and James Mountain Road accesses.
The next City Council meeting is this Wednesday, May 11 at 5:00 PM, and Councillor Whitehead has revised the text of his motion to make it even more ridiculous. We can't link directly to the motion since the city's meeting website is unusable-by-design, but you will find the text on the meeting agenda as item 7.1 under Motions.
Following, for your reading convenience, is an annotated text of the motion.
Implications of Lower City Traffic Changes that have Put Additional Pressures on Mountain Road Networks
So already we're editorializing in the title of the motion.
WHEREAS, there has been an aggressive urbanist movement
Catch that? Wanting to reduce dangerous traffic speeds to make streets safer is "aggressive". I wonder if Councillor Whitehead blames the Rolston Neighbourhood Action Plan on an "aggressive urbanist movement" and not on people living in his own ward who simply want their streets to be safer and more inclusive.
to reconfigure city road networks and reduce traffic lanes on arterial roads in the name of "safety";
Note the scare quotes around "safety".
WHEREAS, there is an aggressive movement
Again with the "aggressive" business.
to create a higher levels [sic] of congestion;
This is more unsupported editorializing based on a false claim. The goal of traffic calming is not to create congestion, but to reduce dangerous speeding and create more safe options to get around without needing to use a car for every trip.
In the case Garth/Beckett/Aberdeen network, the main traffic constraint during afternoon rush hour is the delay introduced by downbound motor vehicles making a left turn onto Aberdeen at the intersection of Queen and Aberdeen.
The reason most through traffic is forced to turn left at Aberdeen is that Queen Street switches from two-way to one-way southbound at Herkimer. If Queen was two-way, not as many cars would be forced to turn left onto Aberdeen and the intersection would not back up during rush hour.
Even with most vehicles forced onto Aberdeen, the street is still overbuilt for the volume of traffic with two lanes in each direction. It is entirely possible to introduce traffic calming to reduce dangerous speeding and provide better walking and biking connectivity without causing vehicle traffic to back up.
WHEREAS, there is a request that has been submitted to reduce traffic on Aberdeen to two lanes,
More editorializing. The actual request, which Councill approved, directs staff to "undertake a full review" of Aberdeen "with a focus on improvements to meet the request for a more complete street- and pedestrian-friendly design, including consideration for a road diet" once the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) review is complete.
It will be up to staff to come back with some recommendations on how to achieve that, given the outcome of their study. It is certainly possible that the recommendation will be to redeploy some excess lane capacity to more effective use, but the motion does not specifically call for this, and nowhere does it call for Aberdeen to be reduced to two lanes.
which would further restrict and negatively impact flow of traffic on Garth, Scenic, Fennel [sic] and West 5th;
That is an unsupported assertion. Aberdeen has excess lane capacity for the traffic volume that it carries, which means some of that lane capacity can be redeployed without impacting traffic flow.
In addition, the evidence does not indicate significant restriction of traffic flow on Garth, Scenic, Fennell and West today. Other than modest delays at intersections during rush hour (i.e. having to stop for a red light), these streets enjoy free-flowing traffic unless there is a delay caused by a collision. And higher-speed, higher-capacity street design makes such collisions more likely, not less.
WHEREAS, the construction of LRT and the elimination of King Street as an arterial road,
Actually, King Street will still be an arterial road for people travelling via public transit. The problem is that Whitehead does not regard transit as a viable transportation choice.
may drive more traffic onto the Red Hill Expressway, Lincoln Alexander Parkway, Mohawk Road, Stone Church Road, Garth Street and West 5th, etc., which further exacerbates the traffic loads in our neighbourhoods;
That's a big "may". The traffic impact analysis has not yet been completed and will not be completed until later this summer. That, in turn, will feed into the TMP review.
When Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson introduced his notice of motion to ask staff to look at traffic calming on Aberdeen, Whitehead insisted that the study should wait until after that TMP review process was completed. Now he wants to jump the queue and direct staff to undertake a big study on changing how the Beckett and James Mountain Road accesses work while the results of that review are still outstanding.
WHEREAS, the Lincoln Alexander Parkway is already at capacity at peak hours already resulting in drive through traffic through our local neighbourhoods; and,
Apparently "drive through traffic" in neighbourhoods is only a problem when those neighbourhoods are in Whitehead's ward.
WHEREAS, the Highway 403 does not have the capacity to absorb the traffic volumes on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway;
He's referring to the fact that the exit from the Linc onto the eastbound Highway 403 slows down during morning rush hour as traffic from the Linc merges with existing eastbound traffic. Well, yes, that will happen on a highway access during rush hour.
As you can see from the following animation of typical Google Traffic at this ramp for morning rush hour, the delay is mainly where the Linc connects to the 403:
Animated GIF: Typical Traffic at Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway and Highway 403 exit between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM (Image Credit: Google Maps)
The slowdown is already abating before the highway gets down the Escarpment, though traffic speeds are still reduced during rush hour.
Thanks to the Law of Induced Demand, even if more lanes were added to the Linc and the 403, any respite from rush-hour slowdowns would be only temporary. Any additional supply of lane capacity will only increase the demand for that lane capacity, attracting more vehicle trips and filling up the spare capacity.
What's interesting here is that Whitehead advocates driving more vehicle traffic through neighbourhood streets in the lower city in order to avoid driving more vehicle traffic through neighbourhood streets in his own ward.
This is profoundly parochial, divisive and spiteful, especially given that the Kirkendall residents who advocated traffic calming on Aberdeen have not called for it to be eliminated as an arterial road but simply to find a better balance between convenience for through traffic and the legitimate needs of local residents to use their own streets safely.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
(a) That staff be directed to conduct a study on the implications of lower city traffic changes that have put additional pressures on mountain road networks that have or will result in the reduction of lane traffic, road reconfiguration or growth related such as Scenic Drive, Garth Street, West 5th and Fennel Avenue and report back to the Public Works Committee; and,
This 60-word tossed salad is a barely comprehensible jumble of clumsy editorializing and unsupported assertions. It also almost certainly falls within the context of the TMP review that is already taking place, which is to say that staff are already studying the implications of planned changes to the city's transportation system.
(b) That staff be directed to provide recommendations in that report to address the increased traffic loads, including a feasibility study on reverse lane control with 2 lanes down-bound in the morning rush hour and 2 lanes up-bound in the evening rush hour on both the Queen Street Hill and West 5th and/or shutting one or both accesses down.
Instead of simply fixing Queen Street so it functions as a two-way street again and allows northbound traffic to stay on Queen instead of being diverted left onto Aberdeen, Whitehead would rather look at turning Beckett Drive into a one-way street: a reverse lane control essentially makes the access into a one-way street in alternating directions by time of day.
Since the main pinch point is the left turn from Queen onto Aberdeen, doubling Beckett's downbound capacity during afternoon rush-hour would increase the volume of traffic trying to turn left and likely exacerbate the rush-hour delay through that intersection. I don't even know how southbound traffic on Queen would be diverted if Beckett was one-way northbound during afternoon rush-hour.
In addition, a reverse lane control ignores the fact that there is traffic moving in both directions at all hours of the day on Beckett Drive. And I can't imagine what the purpose of closing the access entirely might be, other than sheer petulance.
On top of that, missing entirely from Whitehead's motion is any consideration of transportation demand management, which means looking at opportunities to provide viable alternatives to driving for some trips.
One of the benefits of a complete streets approach to Aberdeen is that it would make the street much more accessible for people choosing to choose walking or biking. Every time someone walks or rides a bike instead of driving, they are reducing the total volume of motor vehicle traffic, reducing wear-and-tear on the road, reducing air pollution, reducing noise, and reducing the danger of a collision.
And just as the Law of Induced Demand applies to motor vehicle lane capacity, it also applies to every other mode, too. When it becomes easier, safer and more enjoyable to walk, more people choose to walk. Of course, this also applies to cycling and transit.
With a better citywide transit system, more people currently driving between the west mountain and downtown or west Hamilton would choose to take transit, taking more cars off the road and alleviating congestion.
But Whitehead fundamentally doesn't believe that transit can serve as a legitimate way to travel. It is painfully clear that he regards it as at best a social service for people who can't afford cars. But as cities all over the world demonstrate, when transit is funded and operated as a legitimate way to get around, people use it that way.
When the Red Hill Valley Parkway was being built, Council was advised that peak rush-hour service levels would quickly become poor if the City did not increase transit service to accommodate some of the additional trips being generated by all the new suburban development that the highway's completion enabled on the east mountain.
Yet in close to a decade since the highway opened, the City has invested almost no money whatsoever in increasing transit service anywhere, let alone the mountain.
In fact, we have stagnated or declined in transit funding and service continuously for the past thirty years, during a time when many other cities have increased transit service - and ridership - dramatically.
Councillor Whitehead's motion is a jumble of narrow, mean-spirited, parochial, divisive noise that presumes its own conclusions, pits different parts of the city against each other and does nothing to move the city forward. Hamilton deserves better from its leaders.
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