Monday, January 28, 2008

countdown on Cootes

Councilor Brian McHattie
City of Hamilton

January 28, 2008

Dear Brian,

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 appreciate your work to secure improved pedestrian safety on roads surrounding McMaster University.

In our recent meeting, we discussed councilor Powers’ desire to increase the speed limit on Cootes Dr near McMaster. We perceive this as an irresponsible, ignorant move because it places a few seconds of drivers’ time above basic, sensible safety needs.

In fact, we suggest that the section of Cootes Dr between Main St and the exit to McMaster’s west campus be designated as a residential street given its exceptionally high volume of pedestrian traffic.

We can, however, imagine a compromise involving the typical speed limit of 50 km/h along that section if it includes the following simultaneous modifications:

1. Reduction of the speed limit on Main St between McMaster and Osler Dr to 50 km/h. As we noted in our letter to you from Nov. 2007, there is no justification whatsoever for the current speed limit of 60 Km/h in this section. The change to 50 km/h speed limit on Main St should be accompanied with a proper timing adjustment of the traffic lights to discourage drivers from speeding (i.e. by having a green lane calibrated to 50 km/h).

2. Adjustments to the Cootes pedestrian light to eliminate extensive wait by pedestrians during rush hour traffic. The current wait of up to 1 min and 20 sec is far too long and does not present a proper balance between the preferred traffic modes of walking and cycling and the least desired option of driving. In fact, car drivers are the only ones accommodated during rush hour, perhaps because city staff have failed to recognize that walkers and cyclists share the very same rush hour.

3. TLC has requested last year that the city installs a pedestrian countdown signal but, for unknown reason, city staff objected to this idea. We ask that our proposal would receive another, more thorough consideration given that pedestrian countdown signals have been proven to be effective throughout North America, have been adopted by major Canadian cities including neighboring Toronto, and have been unequivocally endorsed by the Transportation Association of Canada (see TAC News, volume 32, spring 2006).

4. A possible future speed limit of 50 km/h along the Cootes section, where the current speed limit is 40 km/h, must be accompanied with physical measures of traffic calming and speed enforcement. Such traffic calming procedures are increasingly employed throughout North America and have been shown to be highly successful in achieving their goals. An informative web site is

We appreciate you ongoing fruitful work on traffic safety and look forward to discussing with you an acceptable compromise.

Sincerely yours,

Reuven Dukas


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

car habit

Hamiltonians like their cars

(Jan 23, 2008)
When it comes to car travel, Hamilton's a medium city that acts like a car-happy small town.
A new Statistics Canada study looked at the prevalence of car travel in cities across Canada, for trips such as commuting and running errands.
The study, Dependence on Cars in Urban Neighbourhoods, revealed the percentage of adults who used a car for all of their trips on a survey day in 2005 varied widely by city.
In Toronto (66 per cent), Montreal (65 per cent) and Vancouver (69 per cent) rates were low. In medium-size census metropolitan areas, like Hamilton, it averaged 75 per cent. In smaller CMAs, the rate was 81 per cent.
But the Hamilton rate was 80 per cent -- well above big cities, above cities our size, and just shy of smaller burgs such as Sudbury, Kingston and Thunder Bay.
"We're not acting like a grown-up city," said sustainable transportation activist Randy Kay of Transportation for Liveable Communities.
We're not alone. "What's going on in Hamilton, the relationship between neighbourhood density and use of cars, is going on everywhere," study author Martin Turcotte said.
He said the rise of suburbs is one reason we see a contradiction: Canadians are increasingly living in cities, but they also drive more. The percentage of adults going everywhere by car rose from 68 per cent in 1992 to 74 per cent in 2005.
Of big cities, Calgary and Edmonton relied more on their cars, and Montreal, a city with denser neighbourhoods and a layout designed before the car arrived, drove least.
The big city-small town divide in car use, the study says, is due to factors such as big cities' having better transit, less parking and a higher density that makes walking or cycling attractive.
Conversely, people who lived far from a city centre, who tended to live in low-density single-family homes are more likely to make all trips by car.
Kay said it's "depressingly accurate" to depict Hamilton as a city of car drivers. The city's design focuses on moving cars efficiently, with little attention to pedestrians and cyclists, he said.
"In Hamilton we have to do politically scary things. You have to take things away from cars and give it to cyclists and pedestrians. You can't just have huge roadways funnelling cars around, like a hangover from the 1930s road-building craze."
Bill Jannsen, acting director of strategic services in the city's planning department, said Hamilton's size and the escarpment can make it hard to get around without a car.
Hamilton has large low-density suburban areas but "the whole planning philosophy is changing toward increasing density and more mixed use neighbourhoods," he said. 905-526-2468
Who is most likely to drive?
* On the survey day in 2005, 81 per cent of Canadian male adults made at least one car trip; for women, the rate was just 66 per cent. * With all other things kept constant, the odds that a baby boomer drove a car on all his or her trips was 2.5 times higher than the odds for 18- to 24-year-olds. * People with children aged five to 12 had odds 1.6 times higher than people without kids that age to drive for at least one of their trips that day. Who is most likely to drive?

Friday, January 11, 2008

new flash on governor's road

News on Governor's Road from the Dundas Star News

Governor's Road awaits safety improvements

Group calls for further safety improvements

Craig Campbell
Published on Jan 11, 2008

Long discussed improvements to Governor's Road traffic control should be on their way, as city staff prepare to install a new reduced speed zone along a three school stretch of the road. City of Hamilton traffic technologist Sue Russell couldn't say when the system would be operational, as there may be some bugs to work out.

"It's new equipment and a new program. There could be some unforeseen problems, as with any new product," Ms. Russell said. "I don't want to make any promises I can't keep."

The reduced speed school zone was approved by city council in April 2007. One of eight such school zones across the city, the Governor's Road zone will stretch from Moss Boulevard to 75 metres east of Huntingwood.

Flashing lights will warn drivers the regular 50 km/h speed drops to 40 km/h during morning, mid-day and afternoon rush hours.

The flashing light speed zone will be in effect for just over five hours each day, between 7:50 a.m. and 4 p.m. The part-time school zone was anticipated to be in place by September 2007, when the new Sir William Osler School was scheduled to open. Delays in the school's completion coincided with an apparent delay in receiving equipment from a supplier.

Osler School opened in November 2007 without the school speed zone in place. Ms. Russell said this week an expected start date for the new system is not set. She said staff will need training before the equipment is installed.

The idea of a school speed zone, along with a roundabout on Governor's Road, was raised while former councillor Art Samson represented Dundas. Mr. Samson wanted to see safety improvements made to the less than one kilometre stretch of road that includes St. Bernadette Catholic Elementary School, Highland Secondary School, and Sir William Osler Elementary.

Start times for the schools range from 8:15 a.m. at Highland, to 9 a.m. at St. Bernadette to 9:10 a.m. at Osler.

When the reduced speed zone is operational, it is planned to be in use from 7:50 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., then from 10:59 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., and finally from 2:45 to 4 p.m.

The new elementary school's morning bell time coincides exactly with the end of the morning reduced speed, at which time it will return to 50 km/h from 40 km/h.

Ron Gallo of the city's traffic department said a consultant will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment of a roundabout in area of Governor's Road and Davidson Boulevard.

Mr. Gallo said the budget is in place and he hopes the assessment will be completed in 2008, allowing the design to be done in the first quarter of 2009 and construction by the end of next year.

"That's a best case scenario for me," Mr. Gallo said, noting he'd been involved in discussions about a Governor's Road roundabout for more than two years, and would like to see it done.

Transportation for Liveable Communities sent an e-mail this week to all members of Hamilton's city council, supporting a new reduced speed zone and a roundabout at Davidson Boulevard, along with several other recommendations.

The local pedestrian, cyclist and transit interest group also called for a comprehensive traffic audit of Governor's Road --with results released to the public -- additional school crossing guards, and improved public transit service on Governor's Road. Among the changes supported by TLC are new traffic calming measures - in particular bicycle lanes that were proposed in the city's May 2007 Cycling Network Strategy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Meeting the need

TLC will meet on Thursday, January 24, at 5:30 pm in the McMaster University Student Centre room 214. All are welcome to attend.

A prime topic on the agenda will be the Cootes Pedestrian Crossing, as TLC seeks ways to ensure the speed limit remains low (40 km/h) on Cootes Drive as it passes through the pedestrian crossing.

Other issues will include the McMaster Innovation Park, Governor's Road (see below), and other sustainable transportation issues in the city, all of which you, and like minded individuals, can have a say on, and more importantly, take action on.

[Photo of Cootes crossing before installation of pedestrian activated traffic lights. Speeding remains an unresolved issue here.]

Monday, January 07, 2008

Governing Governor's

TLC follow-up on the traffic situation on Governor's Road in Dundas ON, with recommendations aimed at making walking and cycling safer options:

January 7, 2008

Dear Councillor Powers,

This letter is a follow-up to Transportation for Liveable Communities' December 18, 2006 letter regarding Governor's Road. We are seeking updated information on plans relating to traffic considerations for this area: specifically, TLC is interested in ensuring full attention is paid to improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and the many young people attending the three schools in the one kilometer section of Governor's between Creighton and Castlewood Drive.

Last January (2007) Councillor Powers wrote in the Dundas Star that within the year there would be a "detailed study of all aspects of this transportation link" and that "participation will be solicited and very much appreciated as the decisions reached will determine how things are improved.." (Dundas Star News, Friday, January 26, 2007)

TLC would like to know how our original concerns are being addressed since we have not had any follow-up correspondence from the councilor's office since our original communication on December 18, 2006.

Turning to the specifics as originally presented on Councillor Powers' ward web site, TLC requests that the results of the comprehensive traffic audit (mentioned as the first point under "General" considerations) should be made available to the public before final decisions are made.

In the interim, TLC has made comments on points made by Mr. Powers that need to be addressed further:

Councillor Powers

Transportation for Liveable Communities

Add an advanced left turn signal to the traffic lights at the Governors Road/Creighton Road intersection for eastbound/westbound traffic along Governors Road.

  • Await result of traffic audit to determine need

  • Immediately change the walk/don't walk signal at Creighton to always go to "walk" on the green signal – currently the "walk" signal only appears after a pedestrian has activated the crossing button. The default is "don't walk" which creates confusion for all users by prioritizing cars over pedestrians, and makes crossing more uncertain, thus more dangerous.

Widen Governors Road to accommodate an identified left turn/holding lane from Creighton Road to at least Davidson Boulevard.

Adding an extra lane makes crossings for pedestrians more difficult and dangerous by increasing crossing distance and adding an extra lane of traffic to contend with. Road widening also contributes to a driving environment that induces speed. Therefore TLC strongly opposes a general widening, but supports limited , site specific widening to create turning lanes if required at St. Bernadette's school, and Highland Secondary school.

Install traffic lights or a roundabout (includes a pedestrian-activated crossing signal) at Davidson Boulevard.

A roundabout is the preferred option for safety and efficiency reasons, which TLC fully supports.

Install a pedestrian-activated crossing signal at the corner of Governors Road/Huntingwood Drive.

TLC supports this as a possible solution, but only in a context of accompanying traffic calming measures such as (but not limited to) a raised crosswalk and a median island. An alternative solution might include another roundabout at this location in the long term.

Post school crossing guards at the Huntingwood, Castlewood/Bridlewood and Davidson pedestrian crossings.

TLC supports

Extend the sidewalk on the north side of Governors Road from Davidson Boulevard to Pirie Drive.

TLC supports

Install a flashing "Speed Reduced to 40 kph" for the area bounded by the east/west boundaries of the three schools. This is programmed to be activated during morning and late afternoon/evening rush hours.

Evidence suggests that signs are not enough to influence driver behaviour, thus TLC supports physical traffic calming measures to slow traffic speeds: examples include lane narrowing, bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, a traffic median, to enhance safety in the school zone.

Continue to lobby for a crossing guard at the Governors Road/Bridlewood /Castlewood Drive intersection.

TLC supports

Conduct a comprehensive traffic audit to identify contributing factors.

TLC supports, and requests a copy of the final report

Enhance public transit frequency along Governors Road during rush hours on weekdays.

TLC supports, with the following considerations:

  • there is currently no bus service provided on Governor's Road on weekends – adding rush hour buses to alleviate traffic fails to address the demand for transit mobility for residents on weekends. TLC requests weekend bus service for Governor's Road.

  • Current levels of transit service are poor in the entire ward, with one hour wait times much of the day on both Governors, and King..TLC therefore requests a comprehensive review of transit operations in Dundas with the goal of improving the level of service.

Review signal synchronization for eastbound/westbound traffic at Main Street, Oglivie Street and Creighton Road.

TLC supports synchronization that discourages speeding and takes into account the requirements of pedestrians for prompt crossing service.

For all the points noted, TLC requests a full update from the councillor/city of Hamilton on actions taken or decisions made.

Further: since our original letter, the Transportation Master Plan for the city has been approved by council – in that document there are plans specific to the area in question, but not addressed in councillor Powers' initial list of proposed solutions. The TMP refers to bike lanes for Governor's Road "Dundas Street-Governor's Road [from] Cootes Drive [to] Castlewood Blvd BL [2.9km at a cost of $166,750, to be done in the Medium term ( ).

Therefore, TLC strongly recommends action on bike lanes be fully integrated with any road work to be done on Governor's Road. Bike lanes would assist in creating safer and more pleasant conditions for pedestrians and help improve the roadside atmosphere while giving more options to sustainable transportation users.

In conclusion, TLC would like to reiterate that users of Governor's Road include cyclists, pedestrians, transit and drivers. The current city wide transportation master plan, and the city's Vision 2020 planning documents all emphasize supporting sustainable modes of transportation. As a result, TLC expects any changes on Governor's Road to reflect this emphasis.

Thank you for your help in addressing our concerns,

Randy Kay

for TLC

1.2 The Importance of Walking and Bicycling

In healthy communities walking, cycling and other kinds of non-motorized transportation (e.g. roller blades, scooters, skateboards, etc.) are a normal, routine part of daily life. These active modes contribute to the quality of life and public health, provide options for getting around, and are important elements of the integrated transportation solution the City of Hamilton wants to achieve.

Specifically, walking and cycling are directly related to the following GRIDS strategic directions:

Four: Design Neighbourhoods to improve access to community life.

Six: Expand transportation options that encourage travel by foot, bicycle and transit and enhance efficient inter-regional transportation connections.

Promoting and encouraging walking and cycling through the provision of facilities and programs helps build active communities, and reduces the dependence on automobile transportation and the associated infrastructure costs, air quality, safety and congestion problems. With the increasing focus on the health costs of our sedentary lifestyles, daily walking and cycling are seen as essential components of a healthy lifestyle. Many communities are attempting to redesign themselves to facilitate non-motorized travel by: Providing walkways and bikeways that accommodate and encourage non-motorized travel, rather than only designing communities around the automobile; Managing traffic and road design to allow pedestrians, cyclists and other travelers as well as motorists to use the roads. Features that facilitate automobile use such as wide roads and intersections, large parking lots, drive-through businesses can create an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for non-motorists; Encouraging walking and cycling within and between communities by managing the shape of urban growth and promoting more compact development.

Within transportation plans, policies that affect walking and cycling involve the planning, design, implementation, operation and maintenance of linear facilities (sidewalks, crosswalks, trails, bikeways, and bicycles on transit) and other amenities (benches, shelters, bicycle parking, etc.), and may also complement policies in other City programs that encourage cycling and walking (safety and education programs, bikeway maps, etc.).

City of Hamilton

[Copy of original TLC letter attached]

Friday, January 04, 2008

back-up? Cootes Speed...

TLC representatives have been invited by Ward One councillor Brian McHattie to attend a January 30, 2008 meeting to discuss safety issues relating to the pedestrian crossing on Cootes Drive.

Specifically, the pedestrian crossing's safety is being threatened by Ward 13 councillor Russ Powers' call for increasing the speed limit through the crossing to 60km/h, from the current 40 km/h. [read TLC's letter to Powers here]

The 40 km/h limit was put in place after calls to calm the rampant speeding through this area, busy as it is with pedestrian and cycling traffic crossing the road. A fatality in the vicinity (February 13, 2006) involving a McMaster Student heightened the need for action to ensure a safer environment.

You can check out a City of Hamilton link to the original data, including the October 2004 recommendations by the firm Synectics, who were hired by the City of Hamilton to study the situation on Cootes Drive at the level crossing, and make recommendations.

The full Synectics report, as a large pdf, can be downloaded here.


In January 2004, TLC wrote to the city:
We think that the only alternative that can allow for a safe Cootes crossing is a pedestrian/cyclist activated traffic signal and physical traffic-calming measures to slow traffic (ex. raised table).
TLC letter re: class EA for the proposed
Ainslie Wood/Westdale neighbourhoods transportation master plan
Later that year, in October 2004, the Synectics report for the city came to the same conclusion:
"To address the high pedestrian-cyclist crossing volumes:
Install a midblock pedestrian signal, providing operation that would coordinate the signal with the existing traffic signal at Main and Cootes."
The report also made recommendations to address excessive vehicle speeds, with no apparent follow-up or action by the city:
"Excessive speed – Despite the presence of a posted 60 km/h speed limit, the ATR speed data recorded in the vicinity of the crosswalk indicate that vehicles are for the most part traveling at excessive speeds. The combination of excessive speed and the high pedestrian-bicycle crossing volume create a particularly hazardous situation."
"To address excessive vehicle speeds on Cootes Drive:
  • Provision of horizontal deflection, in the form of lane narrowing;
  • Provide increased police speed enforcement or use of a speed trailer; and
  • Changing the roadside environment to discourage high vehicle operating speeds."
Rather than do what is required to reduce speeding, Councillor Powers is suggesting that, since speeding continues, we should simply raise the speed limit. TLC is adamant that this not happen, for obvious reasons of safety, and to fulfil the initial recommendations that came with the need for the pedestrian signal.

Indeed, as reported in the Dundas Star News (May 11, 2007), TLC's position on the 40km/h limit was that signs aren't enough:

"TLC has requested the two lane road be narrowed to one, then widen out again where Cootes meets Main Street West to maintain traffic capacity.

[TLC} believes that's a better way to slow down traffic because drivers will ignore new posted speed limits."

[excerpt from Synectics report:]

Speed data

Speed data was collected at two locations: Station 1 (north of the Westaway Road overpass) and Station 2 (immediately north of the study site). Based on a review of the speed data, it was determined that a majority of vehicles at Station 1 are traveling above the posted speed limit (80 km/h). The 85th percentile speeds in the northbound lanes were observed to be higher than speeds in the southbound lanes (100 and 93 km/h compared to 90 and 87 km/h). The relatively high speeds are not surprising, given the roadway environment [emphasis added].

At Station 2, a very high percentage of vehicles were observed traveling above the lower speed limit (60 km/h). Overall, though, speeds are lower than at Station 1. The 85th percentile speeds in the northbound lanes were observed to be slightly higher than speed in the southbound lanes (84 and 76 km/h compared to 75 and 73 km/h).