We can do a better job of balancing the understandable desire for cut-through drivers to save a bit of time with the equally-understandable desire of local residents to have a safer, more inclusive street for all uses.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published August 26, 2016
This article has been updated.
This past week, the Beckett Drive escarpment access (also known as the Queen Street Hill) has been closed for rock scaling and preventative maintenance work. That has given us an important insight into the character of the normal traffic on this busy arterial.
Aberdeen at Dundurn looking east during AM rush hour, August 26, 2016 (Image Credit: Nicholas Kevlahan)
I have been astonished each morning, when waiting at the traffic signal at Dundurn and Aberdeen during morning rush hour, to see absolutely no vehicle traffic on Aberdeen travelling westbound toward Highway 403!
There have been literally no cars waiting at the red light.
This shows clearly and concretely that essentially all the morning rush hour traffic on Aberdeen consists of mountain residents trying to get to Highway 403.
Aberdeen just west of Queen looking west during AM rush hour, August 25, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Beckett Drive and Aberdeen is clearly serving as a slight shortcut for mountain residents. But is it even a shortcut?
According to Google maps, someone living at Bendamere and Upper Paradise in the middle of the west mountain should actually be taking the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway (Linc) as the fastest route to the Highway 403/Aberdeen interchange (eight minutes with no traffic).
Google doesn't even propose Beckett Drive as an option!
Queen just south of Aberdeen looking north during AM rush hour, August 25, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Even for someone living right at the top of Beckett Drive at Fennell and Garth, Google says it is six minutes via Aberdeen and nine minutes via Linc/403 to the 403/Aberdeen interchange (without traffic).
That is, the biggest time savings based on starting location is just three minutes (assuming relative travel times are similar with traffic).
This problem is not exclusive to Aberdeen, either. One of my colleagues who lives in the west end of Dundas made a similar observation about his neighbours preferring to use Main Street to get to east Hamilton, even though Google maps actually advises taking the Linc/Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP) as the fastest route.
We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Highway 403/Linc/RHVP/QEW ring highway system precisely in order to provide regional driving connections around the various parts of the city so that neighbourhood streets can provide a better balance between cut-through traffic and local transportation needs.
Aberdeen is four lanes wide - two in each direction - with very narrow sidewalks right next to the outside driving lanes for most of its length between Queen and Longwood. It has no bike lanes, even though it serves as a connection for bike trips using the Rail Trail connection with west Hamilton next to the CP railyard.
A few years ago, a cyclist was seriously injured on Aberdeen taking this very route home from work at McMaster when he was struck from behind by a driver.
Aberdeen looking west from Sprucecide in late morning on August 22, 2016 (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
I believe we can do a better job of balancing the understandable desire for cut-through drivers to save a bit of time with the equally-understandable desire of local residents to have a safer, more inclusive street for all uses.
Through drivers have alternatives to short-cutting through Kirkendall, whereas people living in the neighbourhood have no alternative but to brave the street. As such, the street should accommodate local active transportation as well as through traffic, instead of sacrificing the former to facilitate the latter.
Update, August 29, 2016: I have discovered that you can get typical travel times at different times of day from Google Maps.
Leaving at 8:00 AM, the typical travel times from Bendamere and Upper Paradise to to Highway 403 and Longwood is 10-14 minutes (average 12 minutes) via Highway 403.
The Garth/Beckett/Aberdeen alternative is not given as an option, but if we force that route we find 9-14 minutes (average 11.5 minutes) - although I couldn't get it to go via Aberdeen to the actual Highway, so I stopped at Longwood!
Earlier, at 7:20 AM, the route via Highway 403 takes 13 minutes on average (10-16 minutes) and Aberdeen takes 11.5 minutes (9-14 minutes). By 9:00 AM, the estimated times are exactly the same.
Overall, the expected times are the same within a minute or two for the morning rush hour. Taking Abderdeen is not a reliable shortcut for someone coming from the central west mountain - it must just feel like one.
Even for someone living at the top of Beckett Drive at Fennell and Garth at 8:00 AM, the times are 8-14 minutes (average 11 minutes) via Aberdeen and 10-16 minutes (average 13 minutes) via the Linc/403.
Again, the times are essentially the same, even for someone living right at the top of Beckett Drive.
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