Comment 63937

By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2011 at 16:25:57

Aside from the matter of street directions, the rise of automobile ownership was also something that might have fuelled change and played a decisive role in the evolution of the core. In 1939, around 15% of Canadians owned a car. By 1960, that had increased to 29.2% – basically doubling even as the city's population grew by 40%, from 155,276 to 258,576. By 2002, a whopping 83% of Canadians owned or leased a car (per Waiting for the Weekend, Witold Rybczynski; Vehicle Ownership and Income Growth, Worldwide: 1960-2030 by Joyce Dargay, Dermot Gately and Martin Sommer; Canadians and Cars by Leger Marketing) – basically an inversion of the 1939 driver-to-pedestrian ratio, even before factoring in a population growth in excess of 300%, 1939-2002.

Applying these national ownership figures on the local level gives you an idea of the relative volume of vehicles on Hamilton streets.

1939: 15% of 155,276 pop'n = 23,291
1960: 29.2% of 258,576 pop'n = 75,504
2002: 83% of 490,268 pop'n = 406,922

Right there, you're looking at around five times as many cars on local streets since the one-way conversion of 1957. Looked at another way, the population of non-drivers (which you could argue is the baseline population of those inclined to transit use) shifts dramatically as well:

1939: 85% of 155,276 pop'n = 131,985
1960: 70.8% of 258,576 pop'n = 183,072
2002: 17% of 490,268 pop'n = 83,345

There's also the change in the normative working week as industrialization took hold. In absolute terms, the manufacturing workweek dropped from close to 60 hours a week at the dawn of the 20th century to around 40 in 1957 – and it has remained virtually unchanged in the half-century since. What has changed, of course, is the advent of two-income households, which tends to reconfigure leisure hours and activity – so rather than having one partner working a 40-hour week, you might have husband and wife both working 40-hour weeks. Although impossible to quantify, I would imagine that those realities would have a pronounced impact on the socioeconomic development of Hamilton, inside and outside of its core.

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