Thursday, September 06, 2012

Suburbs crushing downtown with car-bias

City councillors have put the brakes on a plan to convert Hamilton’s one-way streets to two-way traffic.
Councillor Brian McHattie introduced a motion at Thursday’s general issues committee meeting to create a “one-way to two-way street implementation team” charged with planning and implementing conversions.
McHattie’s motion identified Queen and Cannon as the first streets that would be targeted.
However, councillors from the Mountain and the suburbs balked at the idea of speedier two-way street conversions.
After lengthy debate, councillors approved a watered-down version of McHattie’s motion that included much less aggressive language. “Implementation team” was changed to “study group,” while the group’s mandate to “systematically plan and implement” two-way streets was softened to “study and report on possible one-way conversions in the downtown area.
“I was surprised at the vehemence of the opposition and how councillors took it to the nth extent — that life was going to end if two-way streets occurred,” McHattie said after the meeting. “I thought it was entirely overplayed. So I was surprised by that, but such is politics in Hamilton.”
Still, McHattie says he thinks the intent of his motion has been preserved.
“The main goal we had was to engage the community at a very grassroots level — walk Cannon, walk Queen Street, walk other streets, identify the issues we’re going to have to clean up before making them two-way,” he said. “So I think we can achieve that with the motion that was passed by council today.”
Tuesday’s debate drew a clear line between councillors from the lower city who supported two-way street conversions and their colleagues from the Mountain and the suburbs who opposed them.
Councillors on the opposing end of the issue argued these conversions will affect the whole city — not just downtown — and they’re concerned they will make life harder for their constituents.
“Every time I support one-way to two-way conversions, I have people in my ward asking me if I’ve lost my marbles,” said Councillor Tom Jackson.
The conversion opponents also argued that Hamilton’s one-way streets are good for business.
“I can tell you that office CEOs don’t like two-way streets,” said Councillor Brad Clark.
McHattie’s amended motion still faces ratification at next Wednesday night’s council meeting.

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