Monday, June 30, 2008

downtown dundas

Submission to the Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan, by Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) Hamilton, Monday, June 30, 2008

Dundas is a liveable community that has grown in population, without a matching growth in support for sustainable transportation. The last improvements to cycling infrastructure were made in the early 1990's, outside of the downtown area.

A cross-section of current problems facing transportation in Dundas:

  • Transit riders face long waits and often unreliable service from the HSR; new residential growth at the west end of Governor's Road have no weekend bus service and only minimal service during the week. In order to provide hourly service during weekdays for Governor's Road residents, the transit service along the main business district of King Street was robbed of service; this sort of patched together transit doesn't serve residents or business needs and requires major improvement.
  • Too many single occupancy vehicles pass three schools on Governor's Road while pedestrians and cyclists are forced to share narrow sidewalks, creating conflict between these modes of sustainable transportation.
  • Besides a few new, poorly located bike parking racks, cyclists have not seen any new infrastructure in Dundas since 1992.
  • The 1998 Shifting Gears Cycling Plan and the Transportation Master Plan for the city identifies Hatt Street, York Road, Dundas Street, Governor's Road/Dundas Street for cycling improvements, i.e bike lanes or paved shoulders, but there has been no effort to implement these important routes to date.
  • A busy and key pedestrian intersection at Hatt and Ogilvie has crosswalks that do not line up with sidewalk ramps, making for a difficult and dangerous crossing for people using mobility aids - this at the site of a large development nearing completion that will serve seniors.
Action on sustainable transportation is absolutely necessary to deal with social and environmental decline: obesity and other health issues can be linked to lack of opportunity for physical activity in daily life; removing barriers to using active modes leads to healthier, more fit citizens.
With rising oil prices and global climate change, transportation is one of the areas where we can have direct impact, with great benefits to both the environment, health, economy and our pocketbooks.

In And Around the Project Area

Dundas is for the most part, built in a compact form that lens itself to walkability, recognized in the Dundas Downtown Transportation Master Plan:
"It is the intention of the City that downtown Dundas will continue to serve as the primary commercial shopping area for the Town, with special attention focused on the maintenance and enhancement of its economic vitality, its attractive heritage character, and its strong pedestrian orientation."

TLC notes that most of the residential areas of Dundas are within a 2 kilometre radius of the downtown core, an easy walking distance.
This study must, to ensure access to a high quality of life, give priority to walking, cycling, and transit if the emphasis on active modes in to be maintained and enhanced.
  • Hatt Street - TLC supports the Hatt Street Urban Design Study in general for it's attention to improved pedestrian connectivity and recognition of Hatt Street as a vital link in the East- West cycling route, also noted in the Shifting Gears Cycling Policy.
  • Necessary traffic calming to address speeding should be undertaken as part of any changes to the road design, and done in a way that will enhance the pedestrian and cycling amenities. To be avoided are design changes that disrupt the cycling amenity on Hatt (i.e. The Transportation Master Plan notes the example of "Barton Street is designated as on-street cautionary but this road is not suitable for cycling in some areas due to the presence of curb extensions.")
  • The Hamilton TMP identifies Hatt Street between Main Street and Bond Street for Bicycle Lanes in the short term, which TLC sees as long overdue. This should be a priority with implementation as soon as possible to strengthen the larger Hamilton Cycling network, while making a safe and visible route to support current and new cyclists. The Hamilton TMP notes that added cycling infrastructure is positively linked to an increase in users.
  • There need to be more pedestrian crossing points on Hatt Street between the traffic lights at Ogilvie, and the all way stop at Market/Creighton, a distance of approximately 743.m. - TLC recommends at least a responsive pedestrian activated crossing light at McMurray Street, which is almost exactly mid point between existing crossings. A location in the study area should be reviewed for a pedestrian crossing is the section of King Street between Main and York Road. To legally cross this section pedestrians currently have to walk a great distance to a signalized intersection.
  • TLC recommends looking at the potential for Ogilvie Street between King Street and Hatt as a pedestrian priority area, given the "artists' way" designation that recognizes the Carnegie Gallery and the Dundas Valley School of Art; these cultural institutions are buoyed by the presence of the Dundas Public Library making this section of the street an excellent space for cultural gatherings and as a car-free space. The current state of sidewalks on this street is sub par and an impediment to mobility: i.e. narrow, obstructed by parking meters. In the short term, wider, barrier-free sidewalks are necessary if pedestrian mobility is to be well served.
  • Transit - Dundas is poorly served by public transit with hour long waits outside of peak hours and poor circulation for residents within the former town limits; TLC supports improvements to transit within the former town that would better connect people between homes and business/commercial areas, with the possibility of creating a transit hub that would allow convenient (protected from weather) and efficient (no long waits between buses) transfer to Hamilton-bound HSR buses like the Bee Line or Delaware.
  • Consideration should be given to Dundas transit users' needs when the Bus Rapid Transit and/or Light Rail Transit is planned. Ease of transfer between local buses and higher-order express service, including integration with GO transit terminal at McMaster, should be a priority for the HSR/TMP.
  • The Spencer Creek Trail exists as a valuable pedestrian footpath bisecting the town in an east/west direction, linking residents with shopping, business, and recreation, while providing an escape from busy roads; as such, the path should be maintained and enhanced as a walkable spine along the creek, in tandem with any improvements to naturalizing the creek. Where feasible, i.e. where disruption of the natural environment is minimal, improvements to allow access for disabled should be pursued. TLC believes the footpath requires attention to enhance sections where the trail currently is forced to the sidewalks. To improve the integrity of the trail as a footpath along the creek synonymous with the trail, bridges and new paths need to be installed in these missing sections. In TLC's opinion, the south side (generally) of the creek should be maintained as a continuous footpath between the South Shore trails of the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Bruce Trail at the Spencer Gorge. Multi-Use path development could generally focus on the north side of the creek, where existing parking lots (Dundas Arena/Pool) and a long stretch of open space adjacent to Mill Street present opportunities for cycling and walking as well as mobility-aided access.
  • TLC strongly supports the use of roundabouts at key intersections to serve as an effective traffic calming and traffic safety measure, specifically at Governor's Road and Davidson; TLC also suggests a roundabout to replace the current traffic lights at Governor's and Creighton, and another roundabout at Ogilvie/South/Old Ancaster. Having roundabouts on the periphery of the downtown (i.e. just outside the study area) will make important contributions to the feel of the transportation system for people entering the study area.
  • The Governor's Road has need for such traffic calming, and more (wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, etc) in the vicinity of the three schools between Creighton and Castlewood/Bridlewood. to encourage active routes to school and to deal with excessive traffic speed.
  • To ensure year round walkability, a sidewalk clearing strategy must be in place to remove snow and ice in a timely manner after snowfalls. Routes must be clear and direct, and not left to individual homeowners and businesses when that results in long periods of inaction and obstructed routes. The emphasis should be on pro-active pedestrian mobility, and not on by-law enforcement of non-compliant snow removers.
  • To support pedestrian activity, attention to making walking routes comfortable and attractive should be a priority. For instance, future planned bridge-work at Governor's Road and Ogilvie should address the lack of bicycle lanes and the existing narrow sidewalks while seeking to improve the natural and aesthetic features that could serve to enhance the state of this currently marginalized section of Spencer Creek beneath the intersection. This is in keeping with a key determinant of walking activity outlined in the Hamilton TMP which acknowledges the relationship between the likelihood of choosing walking with
    "The pleasantness of the walk, which is affected by pedestrian amenities (e.g.,benches, street trees, natural areas, trellises, etc.), weather, and noise levels."
    Spencer Creek should be made a focus for the community, and treated with more respect when it comes in contact with the built form. Community access to the creek should be enhanced in design considerations at this location, and others.
  • Attention to intersection turning radii are important so that crossing distances for pedestrians are not unduly increased to allow ease of turning movements for vehicles. Ease of turning for motor vehicles also means more danger for pedestrians crossing at intersections since drivers do not have to pay as much attention to making their turn. Main Street at Governor's/Dundas Street is an example of a car-centric design at the expense of pedestrian comfort and safety, especially the west side of the intersection; or the west side of the Governor's Road and Huntingwood intersection. Tight turning radii should be the norm for new intersections and retrofit to existing overbuilt intersections.
  • Further, pedestrian crossing signals at several intersections require a pedestrian to activate the crossing button and wait, often for a full cycling of the lights, before the walk signal activates. This alienates pedestrians in the transportation hierarchy, in direct contravention of stated goals to encourage active transportation. The argument that the increase in wait times for traffic queued at a secondary street results in an increase in idling with resultant pollution is not strong enough to override the needs of pedestrians, and indeed, marginalizes pedestrian activity. TLC wants this signal policy altered to better serve pedestrian needs, with the full cycling of walk signal as a default for intersections, in particular the Creighton at Governor's and the Castlewood/Bridlewood at Governor's intersections.
  • TLC supports the use of pedestrian signals with digital countdowns at intersections of multi-lane roadways in order to provide pedestrian support in making safe crossings.
  • TLC opposes the so-called "roadway improvements" identified previously in the City of Hamilton Road Network Strategy that would see "two-way left turn lanes along Grovernor’s [sic] Road between Creighton Drive and Bridlewood Drive and widening Grovernor’s [sic] Road from Creighton Drive to Osler Drive." After consulting with stakeholders with an interest in traffic safety on Governor's Road TLC would prioritize cycling and walking amenities identified in the Hamilton TMP (bike lanes) and traffic calming with no road widening. Road widening would not benefit active modes on this stretch of road with three schools (two primary/middle and one secondary schools), and the Road Network Strategy's emphasis on auto-mobilty detracts from the DDTMP's goal of increasing active modes. We also point to the Hamilton TMP for their recognition of the need for bicycle lanes extending from the current terminus of the Cootes Drive Bicycle Path, "Dundas Street-Governor's Road" from Cootes Drive to Castlewood Blvd as a medium term objective. Thus, the two objectives are at odds, with only the TMP serving the interests of active modes along Governor's Road, which positively contributes to cycling connectivity, directness, continuity and enhances safety and comfort.
  • Bicycle Parking in the downtown is currently inadequate due to poor location (i.e. out of sight) and inadequate supply. Where necessary, on street car parking should be re-designated to supply bicycle parking (i.e. where there is inadequate sidewalk width, for example, a car-parking space would be upgraded to bicycle parking)
  • Hamilton TMP notes that for Dundas "many of the local streets, particularly in the residential areas south of Governor’s Road, do not have sidewalks;" The TMP also suggests "Sidewalks on both sides of urban arterials and residential collectors, on one or both sides of residential local streets (with possible exceptions for cul-de-sacs) and, where required, on both sides of industrial/commercial streets." McMurray Street, between King at Hatt and south of Hatt is just one example of poorly executed sidewalk infrastructure within the study area; the north side of Cootes Drive lacks sidewalks east of York Road to East Street: TLC wants these, and other examples of poor or non-existent pedestrian infrastructure addressed to enable pedestrians direct, continuous, safe and comfortable connectivity to the community. Incremental additions to incomplete sidewalk infrastructure should be identified in the TMP with timelines for action.
  • Traffic calming should be part of any road changes to support shifts from automotive to sustainable modes. Speed limits through business districts, school zones, and residential areas should reflect the needs of pedestrians and cyclists for safety and comfort.
  • The existence of front-mounted bike racks on HSR transit buses is a welcome addition to the sustainable transportation nexus, and gives cyclists added range of options; this infrastructure should be kept in place year round.
  • A review of bus shelters should be done to ensure adequate shelter for transit users (i.e. size and missing locations)
  • Cycling improvements identified for Dundas in the Hamilton TMP should be priority items for implementation: these include in the short term Bond Street between Hatt Street and King Street (Bike Lane) and Hatt Street between Main Street and Bond Street (bike lanes). In the medium term, Dundas Street and Governor's Road from Cootes Drive to Castlewood Blvd (bike lanes); King Street/Hwy 8 from Bond Street to Brock Road (bike lanes); and Olympic Drive-York Road from Cootes Drive to Maryvale Avenue (paved shoulders).

TRANSPORTATION FOR LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES (TLC) is a volunteer working group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster since 2000. TLC takes action on issues of sustainable transportation in Hamilton Ontario and surrounding area, encouraging walking, cycling, transit and other options to single occupancy automobile use.

TLC is at
905-525-9140 ext. 26026
PO Box 19, 1280 Main Street West
Hamilton ON L8S 1C0

1 comment:

Martin Cassini said...

Excellent article and analysis, although in my observation in England, the optimum interaction between different road-users takes place when traffic lights are out of action. In the absence of priority rules, people are free to do what comes naturally: approach slowly and filter in turn. For more on this (it has much in common with shared space, see and the blog