I'm sure you've heard about the constant theme from the HiveX conference this past the weekend - walkable, complete streets. This isn't just a fad. It's reality for now and the future.
There is a growing sense of urgency among many of the HiveX generation that Hamilton needs to get on the ball now or risk losing the next generation as we have the past couple generations to other, more progressive cities.
Our current momentum is great, but hardly a guarantee of future success.
I wrote last week on RTH about making Cannon a complete street. The traffic data is in, and it can easily handle being a two-lane street 24-7 with a two-way bike path and tree/plants installed all along its length on the curb portion of the sidewalks.
What a difference this would make in the life of the city. Suddenly an ugly freeway is an enjoyable, green street that even contains much of its own stormwater run-off in the new bioswale style planters.
I have a meeting next week with a couple of engineers in the wastewater department about these bioswales on urban streets. I'm hopeful we'll see Hamilton move quickly on this.
This brings me to the point of this post: Main Street. The status quo simply isn't acceptable. I realize we're 'studying LRT' and keep using that as our excuse not to touch Main or King, but we need to come up with some simple solutions that can benefit the street until LRT actually happens.
My humble suggestion:
Main is 50-60 feet and five lanes wide. Right now there is daytime curb parking on the north curb. The south curb has no parking until you get east of Wentworth.
On the north side, mark off the first five feet with planter boxes and use the next five feet for bike lanes, with a two foot buffer zone.
Blocking a lane with planter boxes (Image Credit: Blogger
Alternately, these three components could be switched around so that the bike lanes are next to the curb and the planter boxes are between the bikes and car traffic.
The next thirty feet could accommodate three ten-foot travel lanes, with the last eight feet used for all-day curbside parking (except at bus stops).
At the same time, we can de-time the lights and add a few extra stoplights where needed.
This involves no reconstruction of curbs or sidewalks and still leaves three travel lanes, which is the maximum any city street should have in one direction.
East of Sherman, Main is reduced to four lanes so I would simply suggest we leave everything the same except have two traffic lanes instead of three.
We can't wait another decade. It's embarrassing to have people come visit Hamilton who haven't been here in 20 years and say, "wow, nothing has changed".
We know that walkable streets are good for everyone - business, residents, pedestrians, even drivers. They're better for safety and better for healthy living.
Down the road, perhaps we can make a permanent change to Main, but we can't wait until then.
Main and Cannon are the worst thoroughfares in Hamilton. If redeveloped in such a manner, they would go a long way toward enhacing the quality of life and business in our urban core neighbourhoods.