Comment 34738

By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 14:38:04

Both Main street and King street from the East end (Centennial) to the West end (Cootes/Univ Plaza) --across its entire length-- varies dramatically in size, volume of traffic, density and its urban feel viz. architecture/landscape and retail character - not to mention the existing/proposed diversity in zoning (building heights) across their entire lengths.

By not factoring this spatial variability in our discussion and planning initiatives, we dramatically constrain our abilities to develop innovative solutions to many economic development and environmental challenges in the core.

In the case of current LRT alternatives - we have restricted many viable design ideas by: not factoring in mobility issues of seniors who are a key user group of city services and streets; and loosing an opportunity to link critical community nodal points in the lower city - which if connected through LRT, would dramatically enhance the quality of life and the urban look-and-feel of the downtown core, and provide the rational for LRT expansion along the east-west and the north-south axes of our city.

The existing LRT alternatives are primarily about connecting East Gate Mall to McMaster and subsequently the waterfront to the airport. All public consultations and discussions on this are essentially driven by this design criterion.

The micro-routing issues in the core being debated here -- also are based on this criteria which assumes that once these two nodes are connected, automatically a few things will happen: sustained ridership for this system will show up; larger property development will commence on the few vacant lots in the core; stronger street-front retail would develop in the core; and automobile usage in the core would drop.

Taking a closer look at the various alternatives in play, one thing that stands out is that the reason for suggesting the LRT lines on King and/or Main is primarily because of the prevailing abundance of available real-estate – the wide inner-city highways!

However our many dispersed but highly critical community nodal points, in the lower city and the core, which in fact generates all the local traffic (both foot and vehicular) – are visibly missed from the advantages of proximity to this new transit network.

As a result the rider base, especially seniors, and most in inclement weather would continue to depend on either cars or buses to get to many high traffic generating community nodal points. This is the LRT rider base that we already have in our community which if captured would immediately lend the entire network the financial viability that some are questioning.

A pattern in the shape of a loose ‘8’ if drawn on the city map: between Dundurn & Gage and King & Main and crisscrossing over on James and Victoria – is a good starting point in really discovering what the LRT can do for our downtown and city.

Now if an overlapping loose ‘U’ pattern is drawn on top of this ‘8’: from James North (Pier 8- recreational) running south to St. Joes, turning east on Charlton and north on John and then turning east on Main and North again on Victoria, going back to the waterfront (Industrial).

What we have is a single direction loop pattern that connects a large percentage of our critical assets – the community nodal points that generates the bulk of inner city traffic, by allowing critical east-west/north-south transfer points in the system – and reducing walkable distance from the LRT line routes to the many frequently visited destinations. This pattern if implemented on the right side of streets as against the center of the street would facilitate vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic to co-exist without stress.

This pattern in contrast to the bold linear east-west pattern, (which only replaces fast moving cars with gently-fast moving LRT on the same ‘quick get-away routes) – allows for spatial and cultural variability to survive and thrive in our urban context. The end goal of reducing auto ridership in the lower city is also much better served by enhancing variability.

The resulting net effect from this urban insertion is a more appropriately scaled, equitable and aesthetically refined urban texture that we all want so much. And more importantly, we will not have to wait for an increase in the city population to sustain the LRT, as we would be seeing the many existing home & car bodies spilling out into the streets from the LRT going about their daily lives around the city core.

This approach allows for many more innovative developments and transit solutions to arise in and around the network – by connecting our waterfront, city core, Gage park, two hospitals, regional court, three major grocery outlets, the mall, and numerous community centers – into a seamless urban experience. Besides, it also allows for system expansion on Barton/Wilson (BRT/HSR) and Main Street (LRT) between Centennial & McMaster, and James & Mohawk/Airport – as the system evolves.

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