Light Rail for Dummies

Quote: “……..scrapping bike lanes to make way for diverted car traffic defeats the purpose of LRT

Exactly! To reduce congestion, one must reduce road space, but provide an attractive and affordable transit alternative.

LRT has proven to be that attractive and affordable alternative, something that TransLink and the Metro mayors have yet to learn.

LRT advocates torn over ‘extremely frustrating’ plan to eliminate bike lanes

Hamilton urbanists say scrapping bike lanes to make way for diverted car traffic defeats the purpose of LRT

By Samantha Craggs, CBC News Posted: Jan 30, 2017 5:44 PM ET

 

The city says LRT may require eliminating bike lanes along Dundurn Street North, and York Boulevard from Queen to Dundurn, as well as planned bike lanes along Main Street West. The green lines indicate alternate routes.

 

It’s a new frustration for Hamilton urbanists. After years of rallying, they’re finally getting their $1 billion light rail transit (LRT) system. But now the project is threatening their other prize — some of the lower city’s hard-won bicycle lanes.

‘It doesn’t make sense.’ - Dave Heidebrecht, chair, Cycle HamiltonCycling enthusiasts will speak up this month on a list of proposed bike lane losses to allow for LRT.

The current plan jeopardizes existing bike lanes along Dundurn Street North, and York Boulevard from Queen to Dundurn, as well as proposed bike lanes along Main Street West from Macklin to Cootes.

“It’s frustrating,” says Dave Heidebrecht, chair of Cycle Hamilton. (Courtesy of Dave Heidebrecht)

“It’s frustrating,” said Dave Heidebrecht, LRT supporter and chair of Cycle Hamilton. LRT and bike lanes are supposed to work together to encourage people to leave their cars at home. So removing bike lanes “doesn’t make sense.”

Ryan McGreal, editor of the urbanist blog Raise the Hammer, called the bike lane loss “extremely frustrating.” The traffic issues would be solved, he said, if the city made Main Street two way. (LRT traffic planners have said that’s not necessary.)

Cycle Hamilton is encouraging cyclists to make their voices heard. The city and Metrolinx will take feedback until Feb. 3.

‘This is not about throwing bike lanes out. What we said was we need to be up front. We need more lanes of traffic.’ - Paul Johnson, the city’s head of the LRT projectEven if some bike lanes disappear, Coun. Jason Farr said the city would try to replace them — on parallel side streets.

For Heidebrecht, it depends on how the city does that. The replacements would have to be at least as useful as the bike lanes are now. And he doesn’t want them to take years.

Paul Johnson, the city’s head of the LRT project, said the main portion in question is the York Boulevard and Dundurn area. Hamilton’s B-line LRT plan is primarily modeled on an environmental assessment from 2011, he said. The lanes deviate from that design.

‘We need more lanes for traffic’

“This is not about throwing bike lanes out,” he said. “What we said was we need to be up front. We need more lanes of traffic. We’re saying we need what it was in 2011.”

There are no plans to remove the Cannon bike lanes, implemented to much fanfare in 2014. “The current plan is we’re not recommending they need to come out for any traffic related to the LRT,” Johnson said.

City council’s LRT subcommittee voted Monday to add a stop at Bay Street, which will add about 50 seconds to the B-line route from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle.

Johnson isn’t sure what the additional stop will cost, or how it’ll fit into Metrolinx’s $1 billion budget. Construction will cost at least $2.5 million. That’s not including property acquisition.

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce asked for a Bay Street stop. City council still has to approve the ask, and Metrolinx has to agree to it too.

Comments

One Response to “Light Rail for Dummies”
  1. Haveacow says:

    For the sake of honesty I have to admit that I may be working with one of the groups in this article and therefore can’t really give full opinions on this story.

    As much as I am against any city reducing bicycle infrastructure because relatively, bike infrastructure is very cheap to put down (compared to road and rapid transit), considering the absolutely hostile treatment of anything other than cars on roads that has existed in Hamilton for a very long time by a large minority of the city council in Hamilton, the residents really should be happy there getting LRT at all.

    This may sound like a harsh assessment but you have to really understand the history and situation faced by transit advocates there. Hamilton’s economy long dominated by steel and other industrial production has been in decline for some time, there is only one steel plant left and its barely limping along. The city centre of Hamilton has been largely hollowed out and only now is receiving attention by developers interested in developing the area mainly due to the high cost of land in the rest of Toronto and most other Greater Golden Horseshoe communities as well as the new B-Line LRT project. Not that the city hasn’t tried in the past but most of the efforts just couldn’t ignite interest beyond a few special oversized government projects like a NHL sized hockey arena, a major now failing downtown mall/city market facility, a concert hall and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

    While most cities in Canada are desperate to figure out how to pay for and build more local and rapid transit service, Hamilton’s transit spending has been flat for 2-3 decades and if you consider inflation, its actually been declining. Hamilton’s Transit Service, The Hamilton Street Railway or HSR has had mostly stagnant ridership while other Ontario cities around it who started at much lower levels of ridership are now blowing past them. Last year Hamilton’s only existing bus lane was eliminated even though it was successful, mostly by suburban politicians on Hamilton’s City Council who said it was bad for businesses. Most of the opposition to LRT in Hamilton is also by these same suburban politicians.

    The reason that there is so much anti-transit feelings here in Hamilton’s suburbs is that, the Ontario government forced and end to the regional government model (lower and upper tier municipal structure) so prevalent in Ontario. This system favored severely suburban development over city centre development and a lot of new ideas. The new united City of Hamilton formed from the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth, forced together into a single city structure, communities that had been somewhat independent, although they desperately relied on the regional government, the upper tier municipality for many services, the local cities and towns didn’t want to pay for. This type of local government amalgamation was similar to both what happened in Ottawa and Toronto.

    The second reason for Hamilton’s suburban feelings is that, transit service is area rated. This means different areas of the built up city, usually on a city ward basis pay different amounts on their tax bills for transit. Most Ontario cities have a single transit bill rate for their urban and suburban wards, while if the city has them inside their boundaries, rural wards usually pay a much lower rate or don’t pay at all. In Hamilton downtown residents pay the full amount while residents outside downtown in the inner suburbs pay a lot less. The wards on the suburban fringe pay even lower levels, while the rural wards pay nothing. That means as you go out further from the centre of the city the amount of transit service sharply declines till it disappears entirely only a few km from the central city. If you want to destroy a transit that’s how you do it. The suburban domination of the council means that, even in the new city, even moderate improvements to transit face a tough time and forget about ending the area rating system any time soon.

    Then the province came in and surprised everyone and Hamilton’s downtown residents got something they had been lobbying for a long time, an LRT line on a long overcrowded main line route. Suburban councilors liked the destructive system of one way streets (a network that has existed since the 1950′s and heavily favors suburban through traffic leading out of town towards Toronto) that have turned many of downtown Hamilton’s streets into suedo expressways that have helped to kill off a lot of small businesses that rely on pedestrian access, street life in general as well as most pedestrian and cycling activities. The LRT will kill a few of these one way streets.

    Yet, the city has soldiered on and even has slowly received some cycling lanes and cycle tracks usually, with suburban politicians complaining all the way through the process. The new emphasis on urban based development in favored in the rest of Ontario has caused much division on Hamilton’s council and residents, usually older residents but not entirely, who don’t like the new emphasis away from the suburbs into the urban core. Still many don’t feel that this current trend will continue and that those Millennials and some of those crazy Gen Xers before them, will come to their senses and move back to the burbs. While the evidence is much to the contrary, the growth rate of city centre development and the rate of repurposing, the older first generation post war suburban communities into higher density urban ones is continuing and is increasing. This fundamental shift is at the core of the current stresses going on in the city of Hamilton and explains the main feelings in the article Zwei has provided.

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