Mayor not sold on converting streets for LRT TheSpec.com - Local - Mayor not sold on converting streets for LRT
Emma Reilly, The Hamilton Spectator, (Feb 13, 2010)
The city needs to convert King and Main streets to two-way traffic to get the most out of rapid transit, according to a Metrolinx report released yesterday.
But Mayor Fred Eisenberger is reluctant to endorse the move -- even though the plans presented yesterday are contingent on traffic running both east and west on Main and King.
Metrolinx, the authority that oversees transportation in the Hamilton and Toronto area, released a report yesterday detailing three options for rapid transit. Each one assumes both Main Street and King Street would be converted to two-way streets with two-way rapid transit running down the median of King.
"(Two-way) conversion is considered a positive move from a city-building perspective that will create a more pedestrian and transit-friendly environment," the report reads.
Eisenberger said it's "premature to talk about those kinds of assumptions at this point" and more traffic studies need to be finished before council makes a decision.
"Clearly there is going to be a need to look at how the transportation flows in our inner city," he said.
"And that has yet to be done in thoroughness."
Rob Prichard, president and CEO of Metrolinx, said it's ultimately up to the city to decide whether to convert its streets to accommodate two-way traffic.
"It's simply an assumption. If the city remained with one-way streets, we would have to change that assumption and adapt our analysis," he said.
Initially, the city expected yesterday's report to include a firm recommendation about whether Hamilton should receive light rail or dedicated bus lanes.
Instead, the report outlined all three options -- buses, light rail or a phased-in light rail system that integrates buses on the route's east end -- without any endorsement.
"Clearly the province is now going to be the agency that we're going to have to work with," Eisenberger said.
For all three options, the report calls for construction to begin in 2011, finish in 2014 and for rapid transit to be up and running by 2015, in time for the Pan Am Games.
That timeline will depend on when the province makes a decision about funding.
While visiting Hamilton last week, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he sees Pan Am and rapid transit as "separate things" and the games won't necessarily influence Hamilton's chances of getting light rail.
The report also notes Hamilton's traffic lights will have to give priority to rapid transit, which could make waits longer on north-south at intersections.
Jill Stephen, director of strategic planning for the city, said city staff will make a presentation to council in April detailing its work over the past year and present options for the future.
"We'll confirm that we're on the right course moving forward with rapid transit," she said.
What kinds of savings in travel time will rapid transit bring?
It's expected that current bus riders, new transit riders and auto users will all see travel times improve. Metrolinx calculated that in money terms at $13 an hour. For LRT, the total savings is $647 million for a full line and $553 million for a phased line. The savings for bus rapid transit are significantly lower at $269 million.
Will it link to GO?
No. Metrolinx researchers studied the impacts of moving the LRT route so it would connect with the GO station on Hunter Street. The analysis showed slightly higher peak ridership, but an increase in travel time that hurt overall benefits. The report did say a convenient connection to GO will become more important as GO train service to Hamilton improves.
*"A recent study reviewed pedestrian motor vehicle injuries to children up to 14 years of age in the City of Hamilton from 1978 to 1994. The child pedestrian injury rate was 2.5 times higher on one-way streets than on two-way streets (46 vs.20 per 1000,000 children per 100 km of street per year). Children living in the poorest Hamilton neighbourhoods were three times more likely to be injured than those living in the wealthiest neighbourhoods (33 vs. 12 per 100,000 per 100 km of street per year). " Health Issues Report 2000, prepared by the Social & Public Health Services Division of the City of Hamilton & Region of Hamilton-Wentworth.