Special Report: Light Rail

Three Key Shortfalls of the Proposed Hamilton LRT Designs

The current LRT designs have wide curb radii and added slip lanes, involve removing bike lanes, and propose adding vehicle lanes to accommodate more automobile traffic.

By Matt Pinder
Published February 02, 2017

This feedback was submitted through the City's Light Rail Transit (LRT) project feedback portal. If you support any of the following arguments, please submit your concerns to the City by Feb 3.

1. Curb Radii and Slip Lanes

The LRT public presentation boards [PDF] (Page 18) call for "pedestrian-oriented intersections and crossings" where "curb radii are tightened where possible".

By contrast, the current plans across the project are actually calling for larger curb radii in numerous intersections, as well as slip lanes in many places where they did not exist before.

How does this prioritize pedestrians? At the very least, existing radii sizes should be kept. The proposed design will allow vehicles to round corners quickly, creating a dangerous crossing environment for pedestrians.

Figure 1: Proposed
Figure 1: Proposed "Slip Lane" at NW corner of King/Dundurn

Figure 2: Larger curb radii proposed for Main/Cline intersection
Figure 2: Larger curb radii proposed for Main/Cline intersection

2. Removal of Bike Lanes

Cycling is a complementary mode to transit and should be supported above driving within the scope of the project. At the very least, the current specified road width can be modified to accommodate bike lanes by reducing the lane widths from 3.3 m to 2.8 m on eastbound Main Street West and from 3.5 m to 2.8 m on westbound Main Street West.

The City of Toronto's road width guidelines [PDF] allow for an arterial road width to be a minimum of 2.8 m.

Surely we can also do this in Hamilton! A simple design change could allow accommodation of cycling without costing any vehicle lanes.

Figure 3: Vehicle lane width could be reduced to accommodate bike lanes without taking away traffic lanes
Figure 3: Vehicle lane width could be reduced to accommodate bike lanes without taking away traffic lanes

3. Accommodation of Auto Traffic

Successful urban cores prioritize other modes over automobiles, and Hamilton should not be an exception. The proposal to maintain existing traffic volumes and travel times is costly, environmentally unwise, and undermines the potential of the LRT.

By making driving in the core just a little bit harder, we can make other travel modes more appealing, which can create benefits like reduced parking demand, intensification, and of course higher LRT ridership.

In addition, the proposal to widen Dundurn Street North to five lanes is blatantly disrespectful and destructive to the surrounding community and should be avoided at all costs.

Figure 4: Proposed widening of Dundurn St N from 2 lanes to 5, and a new mega intersection at York/Dundurn
Figure 4: Proposed widening of Dundurn St N from 2 lanes to 5, and a new mega intersection at York/Dundurn

Matt Pinder is a recent graduate of Mechanical Engineering and Management from McMaster University. He is a passionate believer in https://mattpinderblog.wordpress.com/ and currently lives car-free in Hamilton, where he has quickly become an avid SoBi rider.

8 Comments

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 09:09:25

I agree with these criticisms, which also go directly against the recommendations of the 2010 Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis that specifically pointed out that things like extremely cheap parking, wide fast one way streets and a hostile pedestrian environment would stop LRT from reaching its potential. The BCA specifically recommended two-way conversion of Main Street to make it easier for motorists to navigate around downtown and to improve the pedestrian environment by slowing traffic. Anything that is aimed at speeding up motor vehicles (especially through traffic) is detrimental to LRT since it makes conditions worse for pedestrians (i.e. transit users).

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 02, 2017 at 10:16:09

Holy crap. When they said widen Dundurn, I assumed they'd just be removing the bike lanes and making an additional Southbound lane so it's 2 south and 1 north. That "Figure 4" is monstrous. Is there even room on those tiny front lawns for that? The sidewalks there are already precarious and narrow.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 11:51:51

No chance that Dundurn/York monstrosity is happening. That's ridiculous.
Convert Main to 2-way and slightly adjust the 403 ramps and none of this is needed. We need a modal shift in Hamilton. Not the same old dangerous car culture + LRT.

I don't see slip lanes like this being added along Eglington or St Clair in Toronto. Who at Hamilton City Hall is interfering with these plans and adding in such horrible street designs? This is like our 1970's playbook being used all over again.

Glad you mentioned the wide travel lanes too. Even suburban Burlington has done this on Brant near the 403 to accommodate bike lanes.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 17:50:03

Leave it to an engineer to write the best article on LRT shortcomings I've read yet. Thanks for this Matt. I'm just happy that someone out there understands the futility of adding car capacity and reducing bike lanes in an effort to fit this train in. I'd be all for the train if it were the other way around: more bikes, fewer cars. After all, isn't that the point? You take the train; not your car. This is defeatist thinking from the start.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 23:04:20 in reply to Comment 120684

LRT isn't the problem here at all. It's the car-addicted culture at city hall. You don't see Toronto adding 7 car lanes in order to have 2 LRT lanes. This city has a problem and it's bankrupting us, destroying our quality of life, and making this a dangerous place to live.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 02, 2017 at 17:54:42

Thinking it further, I think the slip lane on Dundurn->King exists to provide a pedestrian refuge so they can have crossing on the west side.

I mean, from a driving perspective the slip is actually a bad idea. You'd want two right turn lanes on dundurn to King, when the slip blocks the 2nd.

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 20:53:45

I agree in every respect. On point 3, I brought up the absurdity of the five lanes shown for Dundurn at the public meeting, speaking for some time with City staff and traffic engineering consultants about it. They said the drawing was in error, and they were looking for two lanes southbound and one lane northbound over the majority of Dundurn North. At the intersection they had indicated five lanes (two southbound, two left turns, and one right turn slip lane), and the illustration erroneously showed those lane definitions for the intersection drawn down the street too far. Nevertheless, in my submitted comments I have let them know that any expansion of the road width on Dundurn cannot happen and will be loudly opposed, as the sidewalks and yards are narrow enough already.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 02, 2017 at 23:05:17 in reply to Comment 120687

until I see traffic modelling, I'm flat out opposing all of these ideas.

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