Special Report: Bus Lane

Bus Lane Benefits Outweigh Inconveniences

I support a city where non-vehicle transit becomes an increasingly significant portion of this city.

By Steve Dykstra
Published January 16, 2015

I am writing this to express my support the bus lane, and specifically for the modified version of it suggested by City staff. I believe that maintaining this feature of public transit should be support by all Councillors for the following reasons:

Attractiveness

My partner and I are young urban professionals choosing to raise our family in the urban core, in the Keith neighbourhood.

We, and our peers, relocate to urban neighbourhoods because we value the freedom to access what we need and want without reliance on a vehicle.

Better transit infrastructure is attractive to young professionals living in the City. This in turn increases an urban tax base, and creates conditions for more disposal income to be sent in the city centre and faster urban renewal.

Equity

Many lower city neighbourhoods face significantly higher rates of poverty than their suburban counterparts. While I am able to afford a vehicle and bus tickets, this is not the case for many of my neighbours and friends.

It is important for me to live in a city where those experiencing poverty have access to as strong of a public transit system as this city can afford.

Hamilton's ambition is to become the "best city to raise a child." This transit lane, in making life a bit easier for those who rely on the bus, takes one small step towards achieving that aim.

Effectiveness

My reading of the most recent city staff report is that the bus lane is achieving its goals, creating quicker service for those going through town.

I believe that with the modifications suggested by the report and championed by Mayor Eisenberger, the lane can continue to be effective for transit users while minimizing disruption for vehicles.

Strategic Value

I support a city where non-vehicle transit becomes an increasingly significant portion of this city. It's my understanding based on the series of Transportation reports released over the past 10 years that this is the direction the City plans to go.

A move against the bus lane is a move against the strategic direction identified by the city in its own planning documents.

Concerns

I would also like to offer my own response to some of the concerns raised by other citizens and Councillors about the bus lane itself:

"I have heard from my constituents that we don't need a bus lane, we need more busses" (This was reported in the media as a sentiment shared by Clr. Collins).

I believe that both bus lanes and buses are required and essential to this city. To me, this is like saying that we can't buy apples at the grocery store because we already don't have enough bananas.

"As a City, we don't yet have the demand for bus lanes."

I believe that this is simply untrue. Even with the limitations that currently exist on our transit system, buses are full, particularly on the Barton and King lines.

Further, as transit experts would attest to, demand for a service is correlated with its actual availability. 30 years ago, the City may have argued there was no 'demand' for the Linc because Mud Street was a gravel road. However, building infrastructure out ahead of demand allowed for the massive new growth that exists on the east mountain.

I would suggest that building up downtown transit infrastructure will have the same effect.

"The bus lane is devastating for business."

First, it is worth noting that not all King Street businesses feel this way. Businesses such as Café Oranje and Gameopolis are in support of the bus lanes.

Second, as noted above, I believe the changes suggested by City staff and championed by Mayor Eisenberger - namely, limiting the bus lane to rush hour access, adding transit signals, and restoring parking to the north side of King - address the concerns raised by business owners.

"The bus lane causes undue delay for drivers."

As a driver, I have had no slowdowns driving down King Street East save during rush hour. The only time I faced significant delays were last summer when lanes were closed for construction. Minor delays on King Street simply have not affected the state of my drive in Hamilton in any significant way.

Further, I am also almost never slowed down driving westbound on Burlington Street. Barton Street, Cannon Street, Wilson Street, or Hunter Street. There remains ample space on our roads for cars.

Benefits Outweigh Inconveniences

Finally, to mention a fairly obvious fact: 'killing' the bus lane will benefit drivers at the expense of transit users. It benefits suburban drivers at the expense of urban transit users. It benefits those with the income to afford a car at the expense of those who cannot afford a car.

I recognize that suburban Councillors are responsible and responsive to suburban constituents, many of whom would prefer the convenience of a quicker commute, and either do not understand or care about the benefits of transit in the city.

However, for the reasons listed above, I hope that suburban Councillors opposed to the lane can see that the benefits of this lane outweigh its inconveniences. Please, let us be a place where we see a create ample space for all forms of transportation to thrive.

This article was adapted from a letter to [Council](/council).

14 Comments

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 15:45:25

Well said. Now If we could only get those suburban councillors to read this; maybe, just maybe, they'd be able to look outside of their box.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 16:10:51 in reply to Comment 107930

I don't think it matters. Whitehead introduced a motion to 'suspend' the lane after doing a phone poll and saying his constituents overwhelmingly supported that option.

The details from that poll was obtained by Joey Coleman today and the question about 'suspending' the lane saw 51% of respondents support "keep the lane open with continued feedback and consultation" and 49% support "suspending the lane".

As we knew all along, this is just playing politics with our city and quality of life once again by councillors who don't care about the city.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 16:20:23 in reply to Comment 107934

Do you have a link to the poll results?

On the Whitehead poll there was no option of improving and extending the bus lane.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2015 at 15:48:36

Still think that rush-hour-only business is over-complicating things, but otherwise? Spot-on.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:07:38 in reply to Comment 107931

Yeah, I understand this sounds good but it will make no difference at all since the only time period during which there is even a hint of a case for eliminating the lane is during rush hour (although to be clear I don't see a case for eliminating the lane, unless you ignore all the facts and consider only that some have complained about it).

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2015-01-16 17:13:01

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 17:44:41 in reply to Comment 107937

"the only time period during which there is even a hint of a case for eliminating the lane is during rush hour"

Ironically, the time when transit service is at its height.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 17, 2015 at 10:35:41 in reply to Comment 107944

It's almost like people use transit to do the same sorts of things that they might drive to do.

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By Raleigh1 (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 16:08:52

Brave and kudos Steve. Stunning work. I too have envisioned thousands of cyclists per hour going from one side of the city to the other and to Brantford and back. One day. One day. But only if suburban councillors read this and understand where our great city is heading.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted January 16, 2015 at 21:53:21

What is the bus lane situation in comparable cities like Ottawa, Kitchener, Quebec city, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 17, 2015 at 10:37:02 in reply to Comment 107952

I know Toronto isn't in your list but we have a hov lane on Bay street downtown.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 17, 2015 at 15:07:44 in reply to Comment 107965

Which is regularly abused by car drivers because the police do not enforce it.

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