In which Jeremy reflects on the wonders of inner city living, one-way streets, timed lights, transit, and the imagination of Brad Clark.
By Jeremy Wilkins
Published October 20, 2014
Warning: Deep Sarcasm Ahead. If you are allergic to sarcasm, you should probably stop reading.
We're lucky in inner city Hamilton. We get perks that people in the other parts of the city don't have. Whether we want them or not.
We have one-way streets. They do not have one-way streets on the Mountain, or in Ancaster, or in Flamboro, or in Stoney Creek, or in Glanbrook. But we do! Traffic goes faster on one-way streets. That's why highways are separated into two, one-way streets. It is neat to have faster traffic in your neighbourhood.
One time a friend who was visiting said King Street East was "a little 'Nascar'." He'd never tried to get into his car in Nascar traffic before. It was very exciting, but it was only a Sunday afternoon. He should have seen Main East during rush hour.
People around here don't always appreciate our one-way streets. Perhaps they are churlish. The local shopkeepers don't like them. They keep asking the City to change them. They've been asking for fifty years, and they are still asking.
Sometimes the City agrees to change a block or two. Like, when a big business asks for it. Not for a little business, though. Or even a whole association of little businesses.
People who live in my neighbourhood don't like the one-way streets, either. They are not nice to walk on. They are not safe for our kids. They are not safe for bicycles. They are a pain for local users. You have to drive in circles.
On our little neighbourhood street - a two-way street surrounded by one-way streets! - a lot of people park facing the wrong way. We got a ticket for that once. We still do it. It's just a lot easier than doing a three point turn. Or going around the block. Actually, going around three blocks. You can't just go around the block, because Wentworth goes the wrong way.
Our little street doesn't go anywhere. It is three blocks long. On one end is the escarpment. On the other end is King Street. It is a narrow street. No one has a driveway. Everyone parks on the street. We love it. Drivers like it, too. It's a good way to get where they're going. They can't use Wentworth. It goes the wrong way. So they come down our street.
Speaking of Wentworth, my son Thomas just turned twelve. Before he was even born, City Council resolved to make Wentworth a two-way street. I told him this on his birthday. I didn't want him to get too big for his britches. I said, "Twelve years is nothing. Wentworth has been approved for two-way conversion for your entire life!"
He said, "Seriously?"
I said, "Yes! Hamilton is The Ambitious City." He had never heard Ambition used that way. Now he knows. Hamilton may not be The Best Place to Raise a Child, but it is a good place to teach the meaning of Ambition.
We used to live on the Mountain. On the Mountain, only neighbourhood users used neighbourhood streets. Through traffic used the through streets-in both directions! Kids played ball hockey in the neighbourhood streets.
It's not like that down here. Here, the through streets only go one direction. The neighbourhood streets go the other direction. There are trucks and cabs and commuters cruising by. It is way too busy for ball hockey, even on a street that doesn't go anywhere, like ours. Luckily the children can hide between the parked cars and be safe.
It is Sunday morning and traffic is motoring past my front window. Five cars in the last minute. No, six. Okay, seven. A truck just trundled by. The traffic is almost always headed North. They could use Wentworth to go South. They can't use it to go North, because it needs three lanes to go South. Why? Tradition! I like traditions when they have reasons attached.
The cars on our street don't usually get up to full speed, though. I am told full speed is 50 km/h. I learned this from a driver. I thought he was speeding on my street. He turned the corner and accelerated hard.
I flagged him down. I was angry. I said, "You're going way too fast for this little street."
He was angry, too. "Nonsense! The speed limit is fifty!"
"Oh," I said. "I didn't know that. Seems kinda fast for this little street lined with parked cars and little children, don'tcha think?" He didn't think so. He zipped down to King Street. I think he likes the one-ways.
With one-way streets you can have timed lights. You don't get that on Upper James, and it is busier than Main East and King Everywhere. I bet they wish they could have timed lights on the Mountain.
Timed lights are cool. Cars race by in great, speeding clumps. Just like Nascar. On Main East, there are five lanes! Three would do it. There are two bonus lanes. When the slowpokes are clogging up the middle lanes at 50 km/h, the people who know how to drive can use the outside lanes to get around them.
It's a blast for pedestrians. Literally a blast. You can really feel the air rushing by when buses and trucks and cars pass a foot from your shoulder. Those sidewalks are for single file anyway, so you don't get interrupted.
There used to be trees lining Main Street. I saw it on a postcard. It was lovely. But you can't stop progress. They cut them down to have five lanes. Much faster to get home to the tree-lined streets in the suburbs.
The other day I was driving in Stoney Creek. The streets are two-way. The lights are not timed. You have to stop at a lot more red lights. Stop and go. It really slows things down, in Stoney Creek.
What are they doing? I thought Brad Clark was their Councillor. Clark is a big fan of the one-way streets going through my neighbourhood. I'm surprised he hasn't been able to get them in his.
Clark knows The Change We Need. It is not LRT. That was a Change We Needed in May, when the goal was Efficiency. Now, it is October and the goal is Divide and Conquer. The Change We Need in October is to beef up BRT. We don't have BRT, but Clark wants to beef it up anyway.
He also wants more frequent bus service in suburban and rural parts of Hamilton. That would be good. If the Province built LRT in Hamilton, we could afford that. We would have a lot of available drivers. We would have a lot of available buses. We would have lower operating costs. We would have higher tax revenues. We would almost certainly have higher ridership.
But Clark says we don't want LRT. We have one-way streets. Well, not in Stoney Creek. But we have them in my neighbourhood.
Brad Clark used to work for Mike Harris. Harris made the Cities pay for the Province's responsibilities. Then he sold Highway 407 for 99 years. Now Clark wants to make the Province pay for Hamilton's parkways. The Province says he can keep dreaming. Maybe we should just sell them to the people who run the 407. Then we could dream about beefing up the BRT, which we don't have.
Lloyd Ferguson says people in Ancaster are asking him why they should pay for bike lanes on Cannon Street. They don't plan on using them. I guess he didn't tell them we pay higher taxes down here.
We have a higher Area Rating. Lucky us! We get extra treats, like one-way streets and timed lights and trucks trundling through our side streets. Now we have a bike lane, too. We paid for it ourselves.
But it got me wondering. I hear Wilson Street in Ancaster is a Complete Street, with trees and everything. It even has a stone gateway. I wouldn't know, I don't go up there very often. No offence to Ancaster; it's just an awfully big city. I'll never use that stone gateway they have on Wilson Street in Ancaster. I bet it's nice, though.
Speaking of things I would probably never use, Mississauga is asking for LRT. They want the Province to pay for it. The Province says it just might. Let them. We don't want that filthy lucre spent on transit in Hamilton. Brad Clark will tell the Province where they can stick it. Somewhere else, that's where. I don't know where the Province gets its money, but they can keep it!
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