By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2012
Despite the fact that the sky didn't fall when James and John North were converted to two-way traffic in 2002, all the same dire predictions resurfaced when James and John South were converted to two-way traffic in 2005.
Following is a sampling of letters and opinion pieces published in the Hamilton Spectator in 2005 and 2006 - but first, an article from 2005 reminding people about the non-catastrophe in 2002:
This time it's not as historic as 2002: Phase one was the first time in nearly 50 years people drove cars north on James and south on John. This time, it seems, the devil is in the details.
Traffic chaos predictions in 2002 didn't happen. City traffic staffers didn't get a complaint. And retail chaos? A survey by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area found foot traffic increased for shops on two-way James and John.
"I expect the same will happen wherever two-way conversion is created," says BIA executive director Kathy Drewitt, who opposes the two-way conversion on Cannon and Main.
-- Rob Faulkner, "One-way streets going two-way", June 21, 2005
But never mind that: on with the doom!
I don't know if you will be able to smell the roses (what roses?) with all the extra pollution in the air as cars stop at almost every street corner. Our city fathers of old designed these streets to expedite traffic.
If I am going from point A to point B, I am not going to stop and shop along the way. All it is going to do is frustrate drivers and add to more road rage.
I, for one, will ignore the core completely.
-- Letter, July 9, 2005
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Downtown Hamilton's one-way streets have worked efficiently for 49 years. Leave them alone. ...
[A] Smart Moves plan was dreamed up in 1998, "to make downtown more inviting for pedestrians and slow traffic so that motorists would stop and shop."
The miracle to achieve this is a two-way street system. The plan approved by council envisions Cannon and Wilson streets , and King and Main from Paradise to the Delta, as two-way streets . The plan did not recommend John and James be changed to two-way, but that is where the city has already begun this dramatic changeover. ...
We have only two main arterial streets below the Mountain that go all the way from east to west. Create a bottleneck in the centre and motorists will avoid the downtown like the plague.
-- Anne Jones, "Council should leave downtown one-way streets as is", July 16, 2005
Council has spent countless millions trying to [rejuvenate the core], and so far they have failed. Given the previous track record, and millions wasted, why would this be any different. ...
In the end, we will be no better off than we are now, except that the city will be $1 million poorer and taxpayers will have to endure long traffic lines while traveling up and down the hill. Is this really the best use of $1 million?
-- Paul Roney, "Exploding some myths on two-way streets", July 30, 2005
Just like London, Tokyo or New York City, we now have traffic jams, gridlock, slow-moving vehicles and a lot of very angry drivers who are vowing never to come downtown again if it means using John or James streets. ...
At various times, various councils have come up with some pretty stupid ideas, but this road conversion has got to be right up at the top.
-- Letter, November 12, 2005
Hamilton is making a big mistake turning James Street and John Street into two-way streets. ... I definitely will not use those accesses.
-- Letter, November 22, 2005
Now some bright folks at City Hall have decided to take a step back into the past. Yesterday I had occasion to visit St. Joseph's Hospital. By the time I got there, my blood pressure had gone through the roof.
It is a mistake to think that two-way traffic will flow better in a city the size of Hamilton.
-- Letter, November 28, 2005
It's always nice to sit back and reflect on the good old days, isn't it? As when John and James streets were one way and traffic flowed smoothly.
-- Letter, May 25, 2006
If there is one thing I hope the new city council does quickly, it is to put to rest the ridiculous notion that Hamilton's one-way streets are to blame for its downtown woes.
Two-way streets and lane reductions that will most certainly cause a drastic increase in downtown traffic congestion is not going to encourage people to come downtown and it will definitely not reduce smog.
-- Letter, December 1, 2006
The conversion of James and John South was more turbulent than the conversions of James and John North, at least at first, but drivers quickly adjusted and the City's traffic department tweaked the street design over the next few weeks and months.
Since then, the streets have made steady, incremental progress, with new restaurants and cafes like Bistro Parisien, Boo's Bistro, One Duke, WASS Ethiopian, Radius Cafe, Rapscallion, Incognito, Affinity, the London Tap House, and a growing plethora of restaurants and pubs on Augusta.