By Ryan McGreal
Published May 15, 2012
On September 30, 2002, in the middle of a storm of controversy, the City of Hamilton converted James Street North and John Street North back to two-way traffic. The plan had been on the books since 1999, but skittish councillors and skeptical residents had held it up until then.
Here are a smattering of opinion pieces and letters to the editor published in the Hamilton Spectator from 1999 through 2002 that predicted chaos and failure when James and John were converted.
It doesn't matter that the roads aren't wide enough. The idea is to bring traffic to a standstill and then shopping will flourish. Dream on.
-- Letter, January 2, 1999
Reverting to two-way traffic on John and James streets will result in drivers using Bay Street, Victoria Avenue and Wellington Street for north or south travel, thereby avoiding downtown altogether.
I'm unsure how this will benefit businesses in the area.
-- Letter, November 9, 2000
The theory, of course, is that two-way streets will calm traffic and improve access to stores - as if it's traffic flow and not the scarcity of shopping destinations that's challenging retail activity in parts of the core.
Although at some point there may be an argument to be made that converting James North to two-way will help the evolution of the harbour, it's bogus to suggest that it will boost business activity in the area.
-- Andrew Dreschel, "City should say no way to two-way street switch", March 6, 2000
I asked a city planner how making pedestrians cross two-way traffic, increasing the number of left turns, slowing traffic and increasing in exhaust gases is going to help downtown Hamilton. The only response was that, yes, there will be more danger spots but they won't be a problem because traffic will now be moving slowly. That's not good enough, either.
-- Letter, March 9, 2002
With two-way movement, the core would be reduced to a stalled, honking traffic jam, as has already happened at the recently narrowed section of King Street , west of Wellington. Pollution would rise and there would likely be more accidents as drivers attempted left turns across busy streets. ...
Sure, traffic flow is fast downtown and intimidating to pedestrians. But the answer to that is increased law enforcement, more red-light cameras and increased police patrols to catch speeders and stop-sign runners.
-- Letter, March 15, 2002
It is astounding, given the facts, that there is a plan to abandon one-way streets in a back-to-the-future move that defies logic. ...
I walk a great deal downtown and I believe one-way systems are twice as safe. It's logical that facing only one flow at an intersection instead of two is safer. A perusal of the results of introducing one-way over a four-year period, before and after, shows that.
Even if the facts were not enough to discourage this move, council would do well to heed the wise counsel of [Councillor] Larry DiIanni and shelve the proposal.
-- Jack MacDonald, "Two-way streets will drive us crazy", May 7, 2002
Until intelligence prevails and efficient traffic flow is restored on core streets, the downtown has seen the last of me.
I will miss eating in the ethnic restaurants on James Street North, shopping at Jackson Square and going to Copps Coliseum, the cinemas and Hamilton Place. But it is a sacrifice that I am more than willing to make to emphasize my point.
Slowing down traffic has nothing to do with attracting business. The keys to business success are easy access, interesting goods, good value, and friendly, helpful staff.
-- Letter, October 1, 2002
Of course, we know how that those predictions turned out. Within days, people were already acknowledging that their fears were unfounded and that James and John really did feel better with calmer, two-way traffic. By 2003, observers were already detecting a new "buzz" on James ... and the rest is (very recent) history.