Transportation

Two-Way Conversion Survey Shows We Have Work to Do

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 26, 2013

CAA South Central Ontario has just released the results of a survey on Hamiltonians' feelings about two-way conversion.

Of the 400 people surveyed between November 14 and December 10, 2012, 57.8% said they do not support the two-way conversion of major east-west streets, while 37% support conversion and 5.3% are undecided.

Support for converting secondary north-south streets and downtown side streets was stronger, with only 38% and 40.5% opposed, respectively.

The survey indicates that we need to have a broader and more evidence-based discussion about two-way conversion. Half the people surveyed did not even know the city is considering converting streets back to two-way.

The most common reason not to support conversion, with 30.8% of respondents, was being "used to the one-way". Another 27.9% believe that conversion would cause "too much confusion".

Similar sentiments were widespread before converting James and John North to two-way in 2002, and again before converting James and John South to two-way in 2005. In both cases, the fears were proven to be unfounded. Drivers quickly learned how to drive on a two-way street, and the predictions of "gridlock" and "chaos" did not materialize.

It's clear that the CAA is correct in its assessment that the opposition to two-way conversion is mostly "emotional, not safety or financially founded".

It's worth noting that less than 20% said their reason for opposing two-way conversion was that one-way streets allow for "faster flow" of traffic. One of the major benefits of two-way conversion is that it balances traffic flow with safety and comfort for pedestrians, cyclists and local traffic.

Done correctly, two-way conversion does reduce high-speed traffic - but this is a good thing. Given the recent study from Toronto finding that traffic passing through a neighbourhood is a higher risk for pedestrian collisions than local traffic, it is particularly important that we re-tune our streets so that they are safer and more welcoming for their communities.

Other reasons not to support conversion were: "waste of taxpayers money" (9.6%), "greater chance of accidents" (5.8%), "roads are too narrow" (3.8%), and "one-way is safer" (3.8%).

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:22:24

If this is an 'across Hamilton' survey, this isn't much surprise. My guess would be that my fellow 'burbanites have little understanding of one way vs. two way. So, their only interaction is the convenience of speeding through the city. To them, the status quo is fine.

All but those in downtown/ lower city neighbourhoods may widely hold this opinion...since, the topic is a bit outside their usual scope of interests - generally speaking, anyway.

Personally, I think this is more of a decision that should be made at the neighbourhood level. I don't really see how asking someone in Ancaster or Flamborough, (even 'city-of' moutainers, for that matter) should have an equal say on this matter...the way, I assume, a survey would have done.

I generally assume I'm one of the rare members of Lloyd Ferguson-land who sees the merits/ benefits of making downtown more liveable and walkable.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:26:42

I don`t recall the CAA came and aske me that question ... and after alll the CAA are looking to make more money with one-ways

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 19:25:24 in reply to Comment 86809

How does the CAA possibly make more money off one way streets?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:29:41

Oh and the CAA come and aske that survey in the neyborhoods of wards 1 to 4

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 15:19:50

Wow...so only 9% of the reasons opposing the two-way conversions are safety-based. The rest are pure hilarity. My favourite is the 31% who are 'used to the one-ways'. If 31% of these 400 people live AND work AND shop AND do all of their living 365 days a year exclusively on one-way streets, then this is a valid answer. If any of them live, or shop, walk or work on two-way streets, these results should be voided, because apparently they are also "used to" two-way streets.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 19:30:30 in reply to Comment 86826

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2013 at 08:47:54 in reply to Comment 86833

Actually, the survey finds that a slight majority of Hamiltonians currently favour keeping our east-west thoroughfares one-way, but that their reasons are based on fear of change, not evidence.

It also finds that a majority of Hamiltonians already support converting north-south streets and secondary east-west streets to two-way, which is a change from ten years ago and indicates that most people are capable of changing their minds based on new information.

I'm actually encouraged by this survey. It tells me the challenge of convincing Hamiltonians to support a positive change in our road system is not as unlikely as it might seem to someone who remains entrenched in the status quo.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 10:18:38 in reply to Comment 86851

I was encouraged by this survey too. Not just the numbers, but the fact that what is essentially a lobby group for motorists, is stressing the fact that the objections to two-way on the east/west arteries are largely emotional and therefore open to change.

It may be that the CAA realizes that two-way streets can benefit motorists as well. Either way, it's nice to see them getting involved on this issue and taking a relatively progressive stance.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-02-27 10:20:37

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By Megan (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 13:28:31 in reply to Comment 86862

The CAA are interested in reducing accidents too, as an insurance company, less risk is better for business, and as experience has illustrated, two-way streets tend to be safer with fewer accidents.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2013 at 03:14:08 in reply to Comment 86898

Hamilton has a terrific accident rate. One of the best in Canada. I believe that this is in a great part due to our one way street network. With one way streets there is traffic from one direction only making it easier to see what is happening for both drivers and pedestrians. Reducing the directions of traffic at any intersection has to make decision making easier for everybody involved.

If safety is the basis of your desire to change to a two way network I believe you are way off base.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 19:43:22 in reply to Comment 86833

it has nothing to do with my point of view, and everything to do with making decisions based on facts, not someone's preference. We're holding up an awful lot of potential new business, investment, tax assessment, population growth, tourism, quality of life, safety, liveability, vibrancy and revitalization for some people's "personal preference".

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2013 at 03:31:45 in reply to Comment 86835

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 18:15:01 in reply to Comment 87036

You are so out of touch it's not even funny.

In every successful city, there is a price premium on downtown detached homes. In fact, the land is so valuable, that their very existence is sparse.

Hamilton is the exception to the rule. The fact that our downtown streets make for totally unlivable neighbourhoods is a huge part of the problem.

No one is saying that two way conversions are the single silver bullet solution to the problems facing our core, but creating livable streets and neighbouhoods is the number-one thing we need to do in order to bring people back downtown. And re-thinking our one way through streets is the first step to livability.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 19:41:41

Some digging deeper into the numbers has some great info for us. 64% of those 18-24 support converting our east/west streets. 63% of those over 65 don't. The city would be wise to prepare for the future.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 02:29:43 in reply to Comment 86834

See my comment above and that might throw some light why many of the village elders know that converting our roads to 2 way just will not accomplish what you want.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By father time (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 18:15:55 in reply to Comment 87063

When your generation dies off, Hamilton will have a chance at success again.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 05:47:29 in reply to Comment 86834

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By conradSix6Sicks (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 18:18:03 in reply to Comment 86844

aye kan cee awl uv thum comming aout uv thuh would werks two

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 07:58:57

I don't care if they put in roundabouts in Ancaster, why would someone in Ancaster care if Herkimer is one way? This is a strange survey to not break down further than the city level.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 11:41:35 in reply to Comment 86847

My point exactly.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2013-02-27 11:52:23

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2013 at 08:15:26

Survey article in today's Spectator:

The main take-away from the survey, Ennis says, is that respondents who completely opposed all two-way conversions based their answers on emotions rather than concerns about safety or finances.

"The main reason is because they are used to one-way streets, which tells me that perhaps the opposition to one-way conversions is not as strong," Ennis said. "People's emotions change as things change."

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2013 at 08:43:00

Survey article on CBC Hamilton:

John Ennis said the reasons for opposition to conversion will be useful in political discussions.

"We found the reasons for non-support are largely emotional," Ennis said.

He said people who opposed the conversion to two-way streets said things such as "'it has been this way for as long as I can remember, so it should stay this way.'"

Ennis said it's obvious city council has a "tough decision" to make when it comes to making changes, but added emotions can be swayed.

Emotional responses are "less entrenched than financial or safety concerns," Ennis said. "So it may be a little easier to change opinion than previously thought."

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:21:35 in reply to Comment 86850

clearly this guy isn't from Hamilton, or doesn't follow our political scene. Almost every decision is made based on emotional responses and not financial or safety concerns.

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By Megan (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 13:29:55 in reply to Comment 86860

John is actually the chair of the Chamber's transportation committee and the joint LRT task force.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:10:10 in reply to Comment 86850

Easier to change opinion than previously thought. City council simply has to craft policy that privileges facts, logic and reason over emotion.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 10:12:17 in reply to Comment 86855

Craft it, and then follow up with votes to support it. We have lots of sound, progressive policies on the books, but falter when it comes time to muster the political will to implement them.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 13:06:49

Surprising results on the admittedly unscientific Spec poll too.

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