Friday, January 19, 2007

Main (Entrance) Concern

Karen Belaire, VP Administration, McMaster University
Dear Karen:

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).

TLC members have been pleased to see some major improvements to pedestrian safety on campus, most notably, the additional pedestrian zebra-crossings.

We are, however, displeased to note that, a year and a half after our letter to Dr. George, and your reply to us (attached), the necessary major safety improvements have not been implemented and there are even hints of proposed changes that would actually DECREASE pedestrian safety on campus.

In spite of your explicit promises in your letter of August 22, 2005, there is little control over entry of vehicles via the Main St. entrance. In a few sample periods taken by TLC members, the majority of cars passed through without checking in with the attendant. Many of these cars also kept driving through the two stop signs at the intersections in front of the Psychology Building. We find this unacceptable and believe that the only sustainable solution is to erect stop signs AND bars at the welcome booth, which would allow only controlled entry to campus. Bars should also be installed at the two other entrances to campus at Sterling St. and Cootes Dr. This may be combined with the proposed change to electronically controlled entry to the parking lots.

We should also note that, as far as we know, your promise of August 22, 2005 to implement a safe passenger drop off location has not been materialized. Not unexpectedly, significant dangerous traffic on campus currently consists of cars racing through heavy pedestrian areas and even manoeuvring outrageous U-turns in intersections crowded with pedestrians in order to drop off a passenger and then leave as fast as possible.

Finally, TLC has again heard that your reinstated promise of August 22, 2005 for a regularly staffed 'welcome booth' may not materialise, and that McMaster’s Security and Parking Services intend to modernize parking technology and eliminate the staffed booths at the campus entrances. We certainly encourage the introduction of new technology, but request that such technology would be designed to increase rather than compromise pedestrian safety on campus. For example, the use of beacons and bars at entrances could be used to eliminate all but service and emergency vehicles on certain roads, and entry to parking lots only to cars with proper permits.

Regardless of changes to parking control, we think that the welcome booth at the front entrance must be staffed as promised to us on several occasions. We also urge you to promptly implement the old promises regarding limiting car entry to campus only to the bare minimum through proper measures such as the ones outlined above.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely yours,


James S. Quinn, Ph.D.
For Transportation for Liveable Communities.

Dr. James S. Quinn Professor Biology Department McMaster University Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1 (905) 525-9140 ext 23194


r said...

6 June 2005

Dr. Peter George,
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West,
Hamilton, Ontario
L8S 4L8

Re: Safety concerns associated with McMasters new vehicle entrance.

Dear Dr. George,

I am writing on behalf of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC), a working group of McMasters 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).

We suggest the following:

i) 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.

ii) 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.

iii) 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.

2. 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 8 th, 2005 and we suggest the removal of the asphalt and landscaping in the summer of 2006.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. McMaster University is formally committed to integrating with its surrounding community. Unfortunately, McMasters 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.

We understand that McMasters administration wishes to make the campus more automobile friendly in order to increase the universitys 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 McMasters 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)

rosemary said...

please give me explicit directions from the main entrance to the pool where my child is attending a swim meet today.