Transportation

A Beeline to Better Bus Service

By Thom Oommen
Published July 21, 2006

HSR can improve its Beeline service significantly by adding a stop at either Wellington or Victoria and creating a Mountain Beeline route.

Add a Stop to the Beeline

The #10 Beeline route travels from one end of the city to the other: from the McMaster University Medical Centre in the west to the Stoney Creek Municipal Services Centre in the far east.

Its speed makes it a reasonable alternative to driving and parking as compared with other HSR routes in Hamilton, as it only stops at major intersections on King and Main. Many workers with the option to drive currently make use of this route to get to jobs downtown and back home at the end of the day.

However, there is currently a major gap in the route. The Beeline doesn't stop anywhere between John St. and Wentworth St. There is a hugely disproportionate distance between John and Wentworth compared, for example, with the distance between Wentworth St. and Sherman Ave.

If you've ever caught the Beeline from McMaster, you'll know that it stops in front of the hospital, then in front of Divinity College, then in front of Shopper's Drug Mart in Westdale, and then in front of Westdale Secondary School.

One could argue that these frequent stops with small distances between benefit a wealthier part of town over comparatively lower income Corktown or Beasley. Also, isn't the point of the Beeline to move people quickly to and from downtown to the east or west? If so, then another stop closer to downtown shops and services makes sense.

I feel a Beeline stop at either Victoria or Wellington, two major Hamilton streets ignored by the Beeline, would be a brilliant move for the following reasons:

  1. One of the major complaints against taking the bus to the General Hospital is that there isn't a Beeline stop at Victoria or Wellington, from which people could walk down to the hospital. Given the high price of parking, many hospital employees and patients would gladly catch a convenient and fast bus to their workplace or appointments. In the absence of one, they continue to drive.

  2. A lot of people in Beasley and Corktown are on the bus and should have access to rapid bus service like veryone else without having to catch another bus or walk a long while to meet the Beeline.

  3. The seniors in First Place (Wellington and King) are also on the bus more than other Hamiltonians and would benefit from better Beeline service. I met an old man on the Main East route once who speculated that the absence of a Beeline stop at Victoria or Wellington was because of seniors. He thought that the HSR didn't want them slowing down the Beeline because they move a bit slower getting on and off.

  4. Finally, as we all know, people on social assistance, if they're lucky enough to have some money left over for the fare, are on the bus. The main Hamilton welfare office is at Wellington and Main. Facilitating getting these people to the office quickly would give them more time to look for work instead of spending it walking or on the bus. The city would appreciate that result.

Making this reasonable change happen would be a piece of cake! All you would have to do would be to put up some new signs to note the change and advertise on the Beeline buses themselves. Get it on television and in the media and tell the drivers. A small change like this would have a great effect.

A Mountain Beeline

But why stop there? The main street on the mountain running east to west is Mohawk Road. Interestingly, the current bus route #41 Mohawk can take you from Ancaster to the industrial area at the top of Ottawa and Kenilworth, with all stops in between.

Unfortunately, this service is anything but quick so isn't a serious option for steelworkers or other downtown workers coming in from the Mountain. If you've ever traveled it you'll know what I'm talking about.

Therefore I propose that a mountain beeline service be added to increase the number of buses running along this route. It would only make major stops along the way like its downtown cousin and run at the same times and on the same days.

The Beeline service should extend the current Mohawk route by connecting via Ancaster to McMaster University. McMaster is a major destination and should have direct, rapid access from the mountain. The route I envision goes from Mohawk onto Golf Links then down Wilson to meet Main West en route to McMaster.

It seems to me there are several advantages of this proposed mountain beeline route:

  1. It would become an alternative to passing through downtown to McMaster University and would reduce the rampant overcrowding on buses running from downtown to Mac

  2. It would make the Meadowlands more accessible to shoppers who don't have cars

  3. It would complete a rapid transit ring road around Hamilton

  4. It would connect rapid transit users with Chedoke Hospital and Mohawk College reasonably close to the current 41 Mohawk route

  5. It would fit with the City of Hamilton's proposed GRIDS solution of nodes and corridors with transit hubs at Limeridge Mall, Meadowlands and McMaster University

  6. Related to GRIDS, Mohawk Road could be opened up to increased high density development to complement the buildings already present (James to Wentworth) if potential tenants had access to a rapid bus service

  7. Ancaster would be connected to rest of Hamilton through reliable, rapid transit not the current abysmal system, albeit only certain hours of the day

Right now, people on the Mountain are sick and tired of waiting for buses that rarely come and when they do take forever to get you anywhere fast because of all those stops. I grew up at the top of the Jolley Cut so I had literally dozens of buses to choose from, but most mountain dwellers have only one option. Quite reasonably they choose to take their cars to get around.

A direct effect of this decision is that Hamilton has to spend millions on highways and roads to provide for all these vehicles. The Red Hill Creek Expressway is only one recent example and there will be more to come.

A comparatively small investment in the HSR would yield a better return on investment than decades of building and maintaining expensive highways. Remember that a full bus can take 40 cars off the road.

Conclusion

I'm sure that well-meaning HSR staff have considered these two proposals in their planning; if they haven't that would bode ill for the future of transit in Hamilton. My first simple proposal should be implemented as soon as possible and would have absolutely no impact, either financial or logistical, on the Beeline route.

The second, more ambitious, proposal should be a long-term goal of the HSR. Though not too long because, much like transit users at King and Wellington, we're all sick and tired of waiting.

Thom Oommen is passionate about building truly sustainable communities. But far from technological solutions and other flights of fancy, he believes that the only way to build a just and ecologically responsible community is to embrace frugality and simplicity. He is currently focusing on actively learning the skills that will enable him and his community to face an unknown future with a measure of confidence. Check out his blog.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 21, 2006 at 16:17:51

good piece here. a couple of corrections though. the Beeline stops at Wellington, between John and Wentworth. The big gap is (funny enough, at my place of employment) between Sherman and Ottawa. No stop at Gage, despite the huge park, many businesses on Main (like mine!) and a huge residential population. How hard would it be to stop at Gage Avenue??

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2006 at 21:42:16

I guess suggested some transit reforms to the McMaster Students Union. The MSU controls 3 buses at 8hrs of service a day that they could allocate anyway they want.

here is my presentation:

http://www.joeycoleman.ca/msu/HSR.pdf

Sadly, it was voted down by the SRA for political reasons. Nothing more is being done on it, the MSU will not even form a transit task force to look into improving service to McMaster.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2006 at 21:59:18

Correct, I just not I guess

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