Main Street Just Two Lanes at Bay - No Gridlock

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 27, 2013

Another data point in the argument that downtown Hamilton streets have way too much lane capacity: yesterday mid-afternoon, Main Street was reduced to just two lanes east of Bay Street for some work on the new McMaster healthcare campus.

Despite the lane capacity being reduced by 60 percent unexpectedly, the traffic on Main continued to flow smoothly, albeit at a lower and less dangerous speed.

The street has been reduced by a lane between Caroline and Bay for several months and it has had negligible effect on traffic. Likewise, King Street has been down one lane at Hess with minimal impact. At worst, the lane closure produces some mild congestion at afternoon rush hour with free-flowing traffic the rest of the day.

If When we reconfigure Main, King and Cannon Streets as complete, two-way streets, they will operate just fine for cars and be vastly better for pedestrians, cyclists, local residents, businesses and visitors.

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. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted March 27, 2013 at 14:19:13

I was on Hunter approaching Catharine this morning during 'rush hour' and it was down to 1-lane. There was a sign warning of 'LONG DELAYS'. We had to slow aaaaall the way down to 42km/hr. The horror.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted March 27, 2013 at 23:48:47

I drove through that gridlock. Minor delay. I had to wait for one additional light sequence and that was after I let a tractor trailer in! Hamilton gridlock. What a Joke.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:45:29

Be warned: I am hormonal and jet-lagged after returning from a trip to China which included several days in Beijing, Chongquin, and Shanghai. I cannot be held responsible for my actions should anyone use the word 'gridlock' to describe Hamilton traffic in my presence.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2013 at 14:17:22

Examples of proof of overbuilt lanes abound.

King East over Kenilworth - down to one lane in each direction for at least 7 months now with no detrimental effect. Meanwhile they are working on rebuilding that overpass. Here's an idea - regrade it and get rid of that unnecessary infrastructure cost. We need to minimize the number of bridges to maintain. While we're at it, King East could be one lane in each direction with center turning lane and bike lanes or at least wide enough lanes to accommodate bikes. This would make it more pleasant for residents and make it easier to turn in and out of driveways.

King East near SHerman - this was down to two lanes for months and sometimes down to one lane with minimal effect on traffic. Why did we pay to repave the full width and assume the ongoing costs of mainenance for lanes we don't need? WHen we talk about 2-way conversions or bike lanes on King, we are told that we can't do anything until LRT moves forward - but somehow it's ok to spend hundreds of thousands on repaving of the very same stretch?

Claremont Access - perhaps the most overbuilt road in the city. Go down to Stinson and Victoria, look up and get a load of that infrastructure. It is an enormous overpass - something that puts LA's car culture to shame. It's 7 lanes at its widest point (compared to the 403's 4 lanes). We've been down a lane for over a year, and we could stand to lose 3 or 4 more with no impact to traffic.

Victoria - construction by General had it down to two lanes, and the backup was rarely more than one or two light cycles.

King West at Hess - down a lane for years now, and commuting life goes on with one light cycle delay at the worst of times.

King West at Ray - one lane down for the duration of construction with zero traffic impact. Even when the hess and ray closures were happening at the same time, the delay was minimal.

Main West at HMP - down a lane for over a year, no impact

Then we have the Hamilton-specific concept of "magically appearing traffic", where streets widen at random locations where there is no source for additional traffic to justify the widening:

York Eastbound at Dundurn... We go from one lane at RBG, to 2 lanes at the 403, to 3 lanes at dundurn. Are we to assume that people turn right from Dundurn onto York at such volumes that they need a dedicated lane?

Main Eastbound at McMaster - 2 lanes from the West become 3 lanes at Mac, to 4 lanes at Paradise, to 5 lanes at the 403

King leaving downtown - 2 lanes at John, 3 at James, 4 at Bay, 5 at Locke - I assume the widening at Bay is to accommodate staff and council coming from city hall so they can get the hell out of the city and back to their houses in brantford as fast as is humanly possible. But what about locke? Is the post-coffee-and-antique rush so heavy that a new lane needs to appear for those turning left onto King?

I am sure you can all think of other examples.

Every square foot of unnecessary lane capacity costs us a huge amount to install, replace, keep up, plough, etc... our roads budget is out of control and a large chunk of it is being spent on unnecessary infrastructure. We can't afford this anymore.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted March 28, 2013 at 19:34:21

To Bikehounds:

I agree with all of your comments with one minor exception. That being re-paving King at Sherman. That road was in terrible shape and waiting for LRT would seem to me to be problematic. And further on King street, I was hugely disappointed that there were no bike lanes installed when they did the resurfacing. I emailed my councillor but it wasn't worthy of a reply. It constantly irritates me that there are no bike lanes on Main and King where there are bIke riders everywhere, all the time, every season. And then there is Stone church Road where they have awesome bike lanes but I almost never see them being used

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