Monday, June 06, 2005

Frontal Letter

6 June 2005
Dr. Peter George,
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West,
Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4L8
Re: Safety concerns associated with McMaster's new vehicle entrance.

Dear Dr. George,

I am writing on behalf of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC), a working group of McMaster's chapter of OPIRG (Ontario Public Research Interest Group).

In the interest of improved sustainability and safety we write to you during the Commuter Challenge week. TLC members believe that McMaster University has not properly addressed several safety and transportation issues related to the new front entrance. We outline these problems along with suggestions for improvements below.
  1. The "Front Entrance Design" document states that: "Permit holders for Zone 3 will not be permitted to use the new road. Only HSR and GO buses, occasional visitors to campus, and service vehicles will use it. Projected volume is very low - similar to that of a local street" (page 14 of The Draft Report, April 2004). We have heard, however, a few rumours that this clear promise by several McMaster administrators will not be kept. Given the persistency of these rumours, we wish to receive an explicit plan outlining how Physical Plant intends to enforce usage of the entrance only by HSR buses and occasional visitors and service vehicles (GO buses are already diverted from the central campus, an arrangement that should represent a positive and permanent change).
  2. We suggest the following: 
    1. The Welcome Booth should have a stop sign and a large sign informing ALL Vehicles (with the exception of buses, bikes and emergency vehicles) to stop and check in. This Welcome Booth must be staffed from 7:30 AM until 10:00 PM to prevent reckless cruising of vehicles into the heart of McMaster.
    2. Only Visitors who pay the parking fee should be allowed to drive past the booth. This restriction must apply to drop-offs if there is to be limited traffic on campus.
    3. The staff working at the Welcome Booth should alert Campus Security if vehicles drive through without stopping and Security should respond quickly and ticket violators. Campus security must also closely monitor the entrance when the Welcome Booth will not be staffed.
    4. McMaster University is formally committed to integrating with its surrounding community. Unfortunately, McMaster's administration has not bothered to insist upon the most basic pedestrian need, which is one-stage crossing of Main St, as part of the new front entrance design. This is in spite of the fact that this is a main thoroughfare of pedestrian traffic between the neighbourhoods south of Main St. and McMaster and the hospital. It is telling that a few hundred meters west of McMaster, the new Fortinos store has shown better care of its customers and managed to negotiate with the city of Hamilton two favourable traffic lights that stop simultaneously the two-way traffic on Main St for extended periods. The two-way traffic is also stopped simultaneously in two other intersections just east of McMaster. Arranging a single-stage crossing at Main street by working with city stuff will show necessary commitment to the safety of pedestrians and improved community atmosphere.

The intersection next to the A.N. Bournes Building is expected to become busy because drivers parking in parking lot zone 3 will have to use the Cootes Drive entrance. Unfortunately, the intersection is poorly designed and extremely dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists using the official alternative transportation route, which goes through McMaster and across Cootes Drive. The problem with this intersection is that alternative transportation users travel along an east-west route while automobiles travel along an east-north route AND north-south route, hence creating a dangerous conflict within a giant asphalt zone.

We urge you to take immediate steps for changing this intersection. To avoid health and safety risks to students and staff, temporary alterations will be necessary by the start of the next school year in September 2005. We suggest that the currently much too wide and ambiguous intersection will be changed into a full 4-way intersection with 4-way stop signs. The intersection would consist of three narrow roads from the east, north (the Cootes entrance) and south (the parking lot) and the alternative transportation route from the west. A temporary solution may involve stop signs and bollards.

McMaster University has worsened the situation at the Cootes crossing by creating a hazardous "temporary truck entrance". For safety reasons this entrance needs to be closed permanently by September 8th, 2005 and we suggest the removal of the asphalt and landscaping in the summer of 2006.

To show some commitment towards alternative transportation concerns the University must take this opportunity to enhance cycling and walking on campus and downplay the domination of automobiles. Even though the section of University Avenue north of the front entrance is supposed to be a pedestrian-priority area, pedestrian traffic is currently very restricted with two narrow sidewalks while the limited vehicular traffic enjoys unnecessarily ultra-wide lanes. If there is any real commitment to pedestrians on campus the sidewalks must be widened into the area that is currently roadway. The roadway should be reduced to the minimum 7 m necessary for two vehicular lanes. We assume that the wide roadway that is just being completed in the first phase of the front entrance construction is necessary to negotiate the curve. The opportunity to narrow the roadway for the remaining section heading North towards Gilmore Hall will enhance quality of life on campus.

We are pleased that raised pedestrian crossings have been implemented in the new road design. We wish to ensure that the two busy intersections northeast and northwest of the Psychology Building would have the necessary 3-way stop signs. Furthermore a sufficient number of signs must indicate the posted 20 k/h speed limit and warn drivers that they travel in pedestrian-priority area. Finally, official "no entry" traffic signs (buses, bikes and service vehicles excluded) will be necessary at prominent locations leading north into the limited access portion of University Avenue. Both the limited access and speed limited should be strictly enforced.

We understand that McMaster's administration wishes to make the campus more automobile friendly in order to increase the university's visibility to potential donors. However, many of the talented academics you wish to attract to and retain at McMaster place great value on the quality of life on campus. It is thus unfortunate that McMaster officials fail to understand and provide for the emotional and safety needs of its students, staff and employees. This failure reduces McMaster's competitiveness among Canadian Universities. TLC members look forward to receiving a detailed reply to our requests soon.

Sincerely yours,


James S. Quinn, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
For Transportation for Liveable Communities.
CC Mr. Tommy Piribauer, President, MSU.
Dr. Betty Ann Levy, President, MUFA
Councillor Brian McHattie
Ms. Nancy Wilk (to be distributed to the Central Joint Health and Safety Committee and to the various faculty or building Joint Health and Safety committees)

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