Bratina on One-Way Streets

By RTH Staff
Published September 11, 2012

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has weighed in on the one-way streets issue in a recent post on his blog.

Mayor Bratina argues, "Traffic planning in the 21st Century can't be compared to the conditions in 1956, when the one-way system was implemented in Hamilton," and pointing out that more families now own two cars and fewer people ride biycles or take transit to work.

"That was then," he writes, "and now the picture has changed completely, so decisions on traffic management have to respond to current conditions."

Using the example of paired east-west one-ways Charlton and Herkimer, the Mayor suggests that two-way conversion "would seem to require removal of all parking along Charlton and on the north side of Herkimer" and that it could impact seniors, "who say they had an easier time with the larger and more predictable gap provided when one-way traffic was stopped at the Charlton and Young stoplights."

He concludes, "we will have to plan carefully as we move away from the one-way system of the 1950′s, which I believe is why Council wants to move cautiously with further changes to traffic management."


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 09:49:54

I was disappointed to learn that Bob Bratina has essentially come out against two-way conversions, even though as a former Ward 2 Councillor he knows that the neighbourhood associations strongly support this change.

In fact, the Durand Neighbourhood Association was constantly trying to get Bob's help in moving forward on two-way conversion, and he was supportive at the time.

Of course, we need to examine each street individually, but Bratina points out only road-blocks and disadvantages (based on anecdote). He does not mention the strong resident support, years of study and expert opinion supporting two-way conversion. Or the fact that the city's own planners supported two-way conversion back in 2001 in the Downtown Transportation Master Plan whose goal was to "Put People First" (not cars).

As former Ward 2 councillor, Bob should also know that the 2002 Durand Traffic Study found that over 40% of vehicles travel at over 50km/h on minor arterial streets in the neighbourhood (such as Bay, Herkimer and Charlton, ...) and more than 200 vehicles a day travel at >65 km/h. These high speeds are not only illegal, but dangerous for residents. The Durand Traffic Study also showed that these streets are way under-capacity, and this excess capacity means that two-way conversion should not be a problem. Two-way conversion addresses directly this issue of high speed on residential streets.

Regarding his specific examples of Charlton and Herkimer, I am surprised by the claim that two-way conversion would require removing all parking! I live on Charlton and there are currently two lanes for traffic and curb-side parking. Two-way conversion would simply mean switching direction on one of the lanes! The only possible reason to remove the parking would be if we wanted to maintain the (planned) bike lane. In that case, we would need to make a trade-off: bike-lane or two-way conversion or reduce parking.

Removing all parking on Charlton and Herkimer would be extreme, but we need to stop putting parking at the top of the priority list. I was appalled back in 2002 that no recommendation in the Durand Study for pedestrian improvements was allowed that would decrease parking, even just locally. This was a very strange rule in a study that was supposed to be focused on improvements for pedestrians!

Regarding seniors, this is again anecdote. I know seniors who find the high speed waves encouraged by one-way traffic very scary since it makes it difficult to judge how much time they need to get through the gap, so I guess we're even on what seniors think. The solution here is clearly to provide safe pedestrian crossings at each intersection, not to gamble on which sort of street is easier for seniors to dodge traffic on.

Opponents of two-way conversion keep talking about "going slow" or "being careful", but what they really seem to mean is to avoid making any changes at all. After all, it has been 11 years since the "Putting People First" plan was officially adopted, and we still haven't implemented the conversions that were recommended in the plan.

Being careful with two-way conversion would mean converting a few streets each year, monitoring the effect of the conversions, learning how to correct any problems, and implementing what we learned in the next round of conversions. This is careful and evidence based, but keeps the project moving forward.

Not being careful would be converting all one-way streets overnight to two-way, as they did in reverse back in 1956. But then no one is actually proposing this!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-09-11 10:30:39

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:42:47

The city is confusing. Sometimes they crack down on jaywalkers, then other times cite jaywalkers as a reason for no more street conversions?? Downtown streets need more stoplights IMO. It's not Upper James, even thought city staff want it to be. Glad to see one going in at John/Augusta.

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By Alternative Myrcurial (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 12:14:17

I often wonder if the Mayor lives in the same Hamilton as the rest of us.

There is no reasonable way to suggest that there is not an excess of traffic movement capability. Not when the city routinely reduces the number of travel lanes for arbitrarily long periods of time without any reasonable cause. There's something very wrong when all we hear about is how constricted things are and yet no one seems to experience it - like on Main and King where lanes have been "disappeared" to private construction -- and there's no backup. Like when they were repaving King with traffic down to two lanes and traffic was backed up from Sherman to almost Garfield!

I think it's high time that we implemented more one way streets to improve traffic flow on similarly congested streets - like Mohawk and Fennel or Upper James and Upper Wellington.

Oh, right... they don't need it, just like lower city streets don't need it.

Does the Mayor really believe that if you take the streets and put them back to two way that we somehow magically lose traffic handling? THE SAME AMOUNT OF PAVEMENT = THE SAME AMOUNT OF PAVEMENT.

Oh, and I agree with the comments about the fetishistic desire for on-street parking. I think that if it's so important to have on-street parking, it can be paid for by the people who want it so badly. The most recent numbers I can remember seeing peg the cost of paved city street at something like $20k/km. That's a ton of investment (in terms of public dollars) for the exclusive and private use of individuals. Since there seems to be a common desire to yammer about the subsidy for transit, can we talk about the subsidy for parking? You want the spot on the street by your house, you pay. Toronto charges on a sliding scale from $13.70 (if you have no property parking) to $47.98 if you just want the convenience (those are monthly costs). If you're like most of my neighbours in the lower city, you've got parking for at least one vehicle on your own property and you are using the street because your driveway has a second (or third) car / your parking is off of the laneway and you like just pulling up out front.

Why can't we just have a simple rule:

"All streets must permit two way traffic unless a street is narrower than the suggested[1] 8.5m minimum roadway width then a single direction of traffic is permissible."

There. Wasn't that easy?

[1] MTO Geometric Design Standards - this seems to be a common reference, but the book is $169 and I'm not buying it.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 12:38:58 in reply to Comment 80827

Since there seems to be a common desire to yammer about the subsidy for transit, can we talk about the subsidy for parking?

I assume you are referring strictly to residential streets. Well-priced on-street parking is crucial for the success of street retail, so I would argue it is a public good from that standpoint.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 14:18:41

The concern he raises re: the removal of north side parking on Herkimer to allow for conversion and the adverse reaction of residents.......

I don't believe the residents would mind too much, however I am sure there will be howls of protest from the staff of St. Joe's since they fill the street for the entirety of their 12 hour shifts.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2012 at 14:29:07 in reply to Comment 80837

Are there no bylaw officers there? Here in Westdale the meter-maids are quite possibly the most efficient and ruthless public employees I've ever seen. If you let a meter go over or go over the time-limit on residential parking, you will get a ticket in Westdale.

I used to live in Durand and relied on street-side residential parking whenever I had guests over, so I'm always hesitant to treat it as expendable.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 15:33:39 in reply to Comment 80838

Residents are already unable to park on either side of Herkimer from 2 am to 7 am and the north side of Herkimer from 7 am to 9 am.

It won't be the residents that are adversely affected.

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By JM (registered) | Posted September 11, 2012 at 16:30:54 in reply to Comment 80838

simple - MAC students...

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 12, 2012 at 00:10:31

It was indeed a different world back in 1956. There was no LINC, Red Hill expressway, 403 or skyway bridge. Now we have all of those plus a highway on most of Burlington Street.

Is Bratina claiming we need more car infrastructure now because transit is worse? Transit ridership peaked around 1988 if I had my facts straight. It seems to me the argument there is for better transit, independently of one or two way. Increased transit ridership is part of our TMP goals after all. As is cycling. Bratina seems defeated to the fact that cars rule today and cycling and transit died after the 50's.

Perhaps we are more car dependent today, but as evidenced by our own goals and objectives as a city, we recognize the need to change the patterns. Car use overall has recently peaked, transit and cycling are on the rise, and there is a growing trend to seek alternatives to the car. This has all been well documented on this site. The city already has the program, it just needs to get with it.

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By Bismarck (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2012 at 09:40:45 in reply to Comment 80820

It''s all about budgets.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2012 at 10:16:01 in reply to Comment 80842

A meter maid in Westdale once asked me to put more money in or get a ticket - WHILE I WAS CHANGING A FLAT TIRE.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 12, 2012 at 10:46:14 in reply to Comment 80866


I once got a ticket running in to pick up a food order at 8:30 at night! Wasn't gone more than 5 minutes. I swear they have super powers.

However, when cars in the driveways of student houses are overhanging the sidewalk forcing kids and parents with strollers onto the street, or when they're parked too close to intersections blocking sightlines for pedestrians, or blocking bikelanes, etc., they are all over it. No one does that shit twice. I try to remember that every time I get a ticket for being two minutes over the time limit. Grrr...

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-09-12 10:49:38

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2012 at 20:37:11

He's an idiot

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 12, 2012 at 21:03:25 in reply to Comment 80815

Just as a p.s. to my comment, I realized today that there is an simple counter example to the claim that all parking would need to be removed on Charlton if it reverted to two-way.

Hess and Caroline were converted to two-way a few years ago, and they still have parking on one side, just like Charlton. And the roadway is roughly 1m narrower than Charlton where they intersect! (Hess is also a bus route, in case that was going to be an issue on Charlton.)

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-09-12 21:06:00

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By voice of reason (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2012 at 19:12:49

Everyone take a breath and be honest. Clark's amendment will not slow down process. He was right, council's resolution must be consistent with the environmental laws. At Council, he wanted to know why the approved street conversions still have not been done. Council directed the conversions, why did staff not proceed?

Here is what I heard Clark and allies say. they do not oppose conversions of the residential streets. Actually, clark said the approved conversions should be expedited! They simply wanted to ensure that a study group completes a legitimate EA on cannon and queen. Watch the GIC and council debates. What has been attacked as opponents' comments were actually arguments for study.

Given this fact, the hyperbole is not council's, and the selective listening is this blog's! Considering the supposed intellectual capacity of the participants, I would have expected a slighty more reasoned response

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