By Jason Leach
Published February 22, 2008
Terry Cooke's recent Hamilton Spectator column on the need for Hamilton to convert downtown streets to two-way has generated some letters to the editor.
This letter in today's Spec makes some interesting points worth reprinting here and highlighting.
First, the letter writer states that he now avoids driving to work on James or John Streets since their two-way conversion. This is exactly the point: to cut down on pass-through traffic.
This is why I was hoping the city would just do a straight conversion of those streets instead of this crazy three-lanes-southbound, one-lane-northbound thing, which attempted to preserve the one-way dynamic. Had they done a simple, proper conversion we'd probably have even fewer people driving these streets to work.
Second, the letter writer doesn't seem to indicate a change or loss of job as a result of the conversion, so I'm going to assume he found a new way to drive to work.
Again, the city needs to put this higher on the list of importance when looking into two-way conversions. There are plenty of route choices in Hamilton. I still see a barren and empty Claremont Access everyday. Perhaps more people should follow the lead of this writer and find another route to work.
Finally, business has improved on these streets and many new restaurants, galleries and shops have opened since their conversion. Having fewer cars zipping through the area has helped create a more pedestrian-friendly feel, which is great for business.
Someone going straight from their driveway to their work parking lot isn't doing a thing to help the merchants on these downtown streets.
People walking the neighbourhood, living in the area and now feeling more safe and comfortable to cycle or stroll are helping the merchants and now drawing new merchants to set up shop on once-dying streets.
I hope the city will fast-track the conversion of other downtown streets, and listen to the experience of drivers who are easily finding alternate routes to continue their daily lives.
Drastic improvements to the HSR would further allow for lane reduction and less cars on downtown streets. Downtown is not a highway or thruway. It is the heart and soul of our city.
Terry Cooke is bang-on in his suggestion to bring life back downtown, and street conversions are undoubtedly the single greatest step the city could take to see that happen.
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