Transportation

King William Street Closure Demonstrates Awkwardness of One-Way Streets

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 30, 2011

Starting next Wednesday, July 6, the City's Public Works Department will close King William Street between James and Hughson to install a new sanitary/storm sewer and water main. At the same time, workers will resurface the street and add some streetscaping. The work is expected to take two months.

Because King William and Hughson are both one-way streets (eastbound and northbound, respectively), Hughson will also be closed between King and King William during the work. However, King William between Hughson and John will be converted temporarily to two-way to provide access for vehicles to reach destinations 'downstream' of the closure.

City staff confirmed that King William will be converted back to one-way when the road work is completed, as it "was not identified in the plan for two-way conversion" under the Downtown Transportation Master Plan. The stretch of King William between John and Mary has been identified for conversion, but will be converted at some point in the future "as soon as the budget allows".

Despite a strong rhetorical emphasis on walkability, the Downtown Transportation Master Plan report, titled Putting People First, takes a tentative, go-slow approach to two-way conversion. Listed among the objectives is: "Over the long term, return the residential street system to a residential scale with opportunities for two-way traffic."

Significantly, the plan excludes major streets, like Main, King, Cannon and Bay, on the grounds that they are "Mobility Streets", primarily designed to accommodate "through-trips with the origin and destination of the trip outside the Downtown."

The City recently converted York/Wilson to two-way between Bay and Ferguson and is currently extending the two-way conversion of Wilson from Ferguson east to Victoria. However, the two-way conversion was completed in such a way as to preserve the existing, predominantly one-way flow of traffic.

For example, motor vehicles on James are not allowed to turn west onto York from either the north or the south. As a result of this bizarre, self-fulfilling design choice, the lonely westbound lane sits empty most of the time.

As well, in early 2009 the traffic department vetoed a proposal to add a pedestrian scramble at York and MacNab because it would be inefficient for automobiles. Chief traffic engineer Hart Solomon defended the decision on the basis that adding a scramble would have short-term impacts on traffic and the goal of diverting people out of their cars is long-term and needs to be undertaken in combination with other land-use and transportation changes, which will also happen at some point in the future.

The Downtown Transportation Master Plan Five Year Review from 2008 makes it clear that the York Boulevard two-way conversion remains subject to the overarching objective of maintaining traffic flow through the downtown.

The plan justifies maintaining two eastbound lanes on York so it can continue to serve as an eastbound through-traffic corridor, and recommends against converting Main Street to two-way because Main has to accommodate eastbound traffic diverted from a converted York Boulevard.

It does propose converting King Street to two-way, subject to traffic analysis under the Rapid Transit project, but last December, the two-way conversion was dropped from the Rapid Transit plan, again so that our east-west thoroughfares can continue to function as "the primary corridors of through traffic".

So much for "putting people first".

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also 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 Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:07:49

This kind of expert planning is going to leave me cross-eyed.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:14:40

Nicely put. Ryan, do you see value in any main intra-city thoroughfares maintaining one-way designation? (And apologies if I've asked this before...don't believe I have.) I get King and Main confused, so bear with me...If Main was maintained as a one-way inlet into the city's downtown - could this be seen as something that could enhance/ expedite the trip to downtown as the destination? Somewhat playing devils advocate here, but provided that (and I don't know this for a fact) that there are seemingly few surface-level residences, could this benefit the businesses that are on, and adjacent to, Main Street?

I definitely want to see downtown based on walkability (and scrambles seem like a no-brainer), but I would also like to ensure choking emissions don't result due to gridlock -- resulting in those from the nearby communities not wanting to participate in the downtown economy.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:28:05

The plan justifies maintaining two eastbound lanes on York so it can continue to serve as an eastbound through-traffic corridor, and recommends against converting Main Street to two-way because Main has to accommodate eastbound traffic diverted from a converted York Boulevard.

I love that circular reasoning.

Personally, I'd be satisfied with the compromise approach of providing a single one-way thoroughfare going through town (Main, the Cannon-Queen-King route, and Victoria/Wellington) and converting the rest to two way. It wouldn't be perfect, but I think it would preserve the things the traffic engineers desire while allowing the majority of the city to be rehabilitated. But the two way streets should be actually two way, not this ludicrous 1.5 approach.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:17:18

Can someone define "walkability" and/or "walkable". Once that is done, can some explain how conversion to two way makes something more walkable?

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:57:32 in reply to Comment 65401

SpaceMonkey: If you're serious about finding out about walkability this might help you wikipedia article on walkability

Comment edited by shabooga on 2011-06-30 15:00:04

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 15:01:27 in reply to Comment 65413

Thanks Shabooga. Are you able to provide real reasons why two way makes a street more walkable? It's simply not true that speeds are higher on one way than they are on two way in Hamilton.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:57:01 in reply to Comment 65401

Can those who down voted me explain why they did so to the above post?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 15:00:30 in reply to Comment 65412

If you can't even be bothered to look up "walkability" before knocking on it then you're obviously not serious about discussing it honestly.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 15:02:57 in reply to Comment 65415

I haven't knocked on it AT ALL! If you can't see that, you're obviously not giving me a fair chance.

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:25:10 in reply to Comment 65401

Take a walk down Main Street West during rush hour and use the un-sigalized school crossing at Pearl to cross Main Street traffic and what is not walkable will become clear. See streetview

Comment edited by shabooga on 2011-06-30 14:29:32

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:31:51 in reply to Comment 65404

I'm still waiting for a thoughtful defintion. But, to respond to Shabooga, can you explain how conversion to two way would make crossing at an un-signalized crossing on Main Street easier? I think it would be pretty easy to argue that it would be more difficult to cross if it was 2 way rather than 1 way.

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:40:35 in reply to Comment 65407

Traffic on two-way streets is generally slower than it is on one-way streets. On a two-way street the city could install an island in the middle of the street between directions allowing pedestrians to take the crossing in two chunks. I have lived and walked one regularly on one-way and two-way streets the width of Main Street and I would take crossing the two-way street over the one-way street any day. Main Street is just scary when you are using it as a pedestrian.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:55:29 in reply to Comment 65410

"Traffic on two-way streets is generally slower than it is on one-way streets". In the city of Hamilty, the above statement is false. I proved this with a video I posted several months ago.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 15:07:00 in reply to Comment 65411

Apparently RTH voters don't like facts? Seriously, why would anyone down vote me for providing accurate, specific to Hamilton information. I took the time to actually drive several one way and two way streets, filmed it, and posted it here. That is real, concrete, information and I get down voted? I think some of you really need to think about why you are down voting me.

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:18:37

I find that the lack of redundancy in our one-way system leaves our network vulnerable whenever a major blockage happens on one of these streets. You have fewer alternatives to travel in the direction you need to go when a tie-up happens. For instance when a major accident blocks many lanes on Main Street, the only other viable option to get you cross-town eastbound is Wilson Street which is blocks away. With two-way streets you would have many more options to get around the issue without going a long way out of your way. Also I have spoken to a few drivers who have a choice of getting to Burlington using the highway or cutting through downtown using our one-ways (one from the East Mountain and another from East Hamilton). They have told me that they prefer cutting through downtown due to traffic light synchronization. In rush hour, it saves them time to whip through downtown! I know these people will find alternate routes and avoid cutting through downtown if we change these roads to two-way or at least calm traffic somehow. We sometimes hear arguments saying there is no way to convert a street because it will not be able to handle current traffic volumes, however traffic patterns are influenced by the way a street is designed. The way you design a road can encourage or discourage the type of traffic that uses it.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:23:51 in reply to Comment 65402

The other possibility is that those same people may choose to live elsewhere, like in Burlington rather than in Hamilton. Count me in as one of the latter.

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:27:42 in reply to Comment 65403

I'm all for people choosing to live closer to where they work. It's better for your wallet, for the environment, and for downtown livability apparently!

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:29:22 in reply to Comment 65405

Just for the record, I work in Hamilton.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 14:59:25

Yup, nothing wrong with your voting system Ryan. On second thought, perhaps there really is nothing wrong with your voting system. Perhaps it's that your voting system is fine, but people blatantly abuse it with no repercussion from the moderators.

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By Tree (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2011 at 09:56:18

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-08-08 22:34:48

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted July 27, 2011 at 17:38:57

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/569969--hey-can-t-you-drive

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 26, 2011 at 13:19:55

Update: King William Street road construction

HAMILTON, ON – September 26th, 2011 – As the construction project on King William Street nears completion, the following roads will be converted back into one-way streets effective this Wednesday, September 28th:

• Hughson Street from King Street to Wilson Street
• Rebecca Street from John Street to James Street
• King William Street from Hughson Street to John Street

The roads were temporarily converted to two-way traffic in July to provide access to businesses and parking lots during construction. Two police officers will be posted at James and Rebecca and Hughson and Wilson Streets to help facilitate a smooth transition and ensure safety as motorists adjust to the conversion.

The project began in April and is expected to be completed by the end of October. The work involves the installation of a new sanitary/storm sewer, water main replacement, road resurfacing, construction of urban Braille sidewalk and streetscaping enhancements.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2011 at 15:28:38

Traffic restrictions on James and John Streets during road resurfacing

HAMILTON, ON – November 1st, 2011 – On Monday, November 7th, Hamilton’s Public Works Department will begin work to resurface James and John Streets. In order to facilitate this work, traffic restrictions will be required, as follows:

James Street South (Jackson Street to St. Joseph’s Drive)

• Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in the southbound direction only
• Northbound traffic movements from all side streets within the construction limits will not be permitted

John Street South (St. Joseph’s Drive to Augusta Street)

• Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in the northbound direction only
• Southbound traffic movements from all side streets within the construction limits will not be permitted

During construction, HSR transit service may experience delays on these routes. Access to all businesses on both James and John Streets will be maintained throughout construction, but on-street parking cannot be accommodated. Motorists and cyclists are encouraged to consider using alternate routes if possible. Pedestrian access will be maintained at all times.

The resurfacing project is expected to be completed in early December. Every effort will be made to complete this work in an expeditious manner and to keep any inconvenience to a minimum. The Public Works Department thanks the community for their patience and cooperation as we work proactively to enhance Hamilton’s infrastructure.

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