DRESCHEL: Coming to grips with LRT’s traffic impacts

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Visually the most spectacular feature of Hamilton's LRT system is sure to be the new bridge which will connect the Main West section of the route to King Street by spanning the Chedoke Expressway.

The latest design shows the flyover starting east of Macklin Street on Main and touching down near Breadalbane Street on King, a block west of Dundurn.

But for all its visual impact, the new bridge may be the most straightforward piece of the $1-billion LRT puzzle.

That's because the only vehicles using it will be the light rail trains, meaning no existing traffic will be disrupted or displaced.

The same can't be said for the rest of the 11-kilometre route from McMaster University to the Queenston Traffic Circle, or for the northern spur to the James Street GO station.

As the scale of the project sinks in, it's increasingly clear LRT is going to radically rattle, shift and shape travel patterns and habits in the lower city. Not only during the five-year construction period starting in 2019, but permanently once the trains are running in 2024.

We'll get a comprehensive picture of the size of the fallout in September when a staff study on full traffic impacts is released.

According to Paul Johnson, the city's LRT co-ordinator, the study will look at LRT's impacts on roads and vehicle movement due to shifting capacities and all the other side effects, as well as how best to manage the changes.

But Hamiltonians will probably get an early inkling of what's coming down the pike when the design recommendations for LRT are unveiled for political and public feedback in May.

Briefly, if the new Transit First option, which places priority on the right-of-way of trains, prevails, LRT will run on two centre lanes throughout the corridor with traffic alongside for most of the route.

The plans for Main West show two lanes of eastbound traffic and two or three westbound lanes, while King is mostly shown as two way with a single lane of traffic in each direction.

Additionally, downtown's International Village could be closed to all through traffic except for LRT and pedestrians. And left turns along the corridor will be severely restricted in order to minimize vehicles crossing the tracks and slowing down trains.

Naturally all this creates major consequences for traffic flow.

According to recent planning documents, traffic circulation will have to be changed to accommodate right in, right out turns at side street intersections and private entrances.

If International Village is turned into a Transit Mall new delivery and loading arrangements will need to be made.

With limited left turns and the potential closure of some intersections on Main West, alternative driving routes in and out of Westdale Village will need to be considered.

On top of that, the Transit First option apparently assumes the city's existing truck routes will be "generally unchanged," and westbound sections of King currently designated a truck route will remain so where it's converted to two-way traffic.

That alone could have a huge, rippling impact on motorists and the movement of goods.

King currently is a truck route from Queen Street to Highway 403 and from Wellington Street to Centennial Parkway, well past LRT's eastern terminus.

As a 2010 staff study noted, virtually all industrial, commercial and consumer goods and materials in Hamilton reach their destination by truck. The report figured about 2,300 trucks a day use the truck routes between Victoria Avenue and Dundurn.

Obviously, there are routes other than King in play.

But LRT's reduced traffic lanes could mean cars and trucks will be seeing more of each other in tighter quarters — especially if Main East is converted to two-way traffic as some transit advocates argue it should be.

Officially, the big debate over converting Main has yet to take place.

But it's coming. As surely as LRT is creating both excitement and anxiety, it's coming.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495

DRESCHEL: Coming to grips with LRT’s traffic impacts

Transit First option assumes existing truck routes will be ‘generally unchanged’

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Visually the most spectacular feature of Hamilton's LRT system is sure to be the new bridge which will connect the Main West section of the route to King Street by spanning the Chedoke Expressway.

The latest design shows the flyover starting east of Macklin Street on Main and touching down near Breadalbane Street on King, a block west of Dundurn.

But for all its visual impact, the new bridge may be the most straightforward piece of the $1-billion LRT puzzle.

That's because the only vehicles using it will be the light rail trains, meaning no existing traffic will be disrupted or displaced.

The same can't be said for the rest of the 11-kilometre route from McMaster University to the Queenston Traffic Circle, or for the northern spur to the James Street GO station.

As the scale of the project sinks in, it's increasingly clear LRT is going to radically rattle, shift and shape travel patterns and habits in the lower city. Not only during the five-year construction period starting in 2019, but permanently once the trains are running in 2024.

We'll get a comprehensive picture of the size of the fallout in September when a staff study on full traffic impacts is released.

According to Paul Johnson, the city's LRT co-ordinator, the study will look at LRT's impacts on roads and vehicle movement due to shifting capacities and all the other side effects, as well as how best to manage the changes.

But Hamiltonians will probably get an early inkling of what's coming down the pike when the design recommendations for LRT are unveiled for political and public feedback in May.

Briefly, if the new Transit First option, which places priority on the right-of-way of trains, prevails, LRT will run on two centre lanes throughout the corridor with traffic alongside for most of the route.

The plans for Main West show two lanes of eastbound traffic and two or three westbound lanes, while King is mostly shown as two way with a single lane of traffic in each direction.

Additionally, downtown's International Village could be closed to all through traffic except for LRT and pedestrians. And left turns along the corridor will be severely restricted in order to minimize vehicles crossing the tracks and slowing down trains.

Naturally all this creates major consequences for traffic flow.

According to recent planning documents, traffic circulation will have to be changed to accommodate right in, right out turns at side street intersections and private entrances.

If International Village is turned into a Transit Mall new delivery and loading arrangements will need to be made.

With limited left turns and the potential closure of some intersections on Main West, alternative driving routes in and out of Westdale Village will need to be considered.

On top of that, the Transit First option apparently assumes the city's existing truck routes will be "generally unchanged," and westbound sections of King currently designated a truck route will remain so where it's converted to two-way traffic.

That alone could have a huge, rippling impact on motorists and the movement of goods.

King currently is a truck route from Queen Street to Highway 403 and from Wellington Street to Centennial Parkway, well past LRT's eastern terminus.

As a 2010 staff study noted, virtually all industrial, commercial and consumer goods and materials in Hamilton reach their destination by truck. The report figured about 2,300 trucks a day use the truck routes between Victoria Avenue and Dundurn.

Obviously, there are routes other than King in play.

But LRT's reduced traffic lanes could mean cars and trucks will be seeing more of each other in tighter quarters — especially if Main East is converted to two-way traffic as some transit advocates argue it should be.

Officially, the big debate over converting Main has yet to take place.

But it's coming. As surely as LRT is creating both excitement and anxiety, it's coming.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495

DRESCHEL: Coming to grips with LRT’s traffic impacts

Transit First option assumes existing truck routes will be ‘generally unchanged’

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Visually the most spectacular feature of Hamilton's LRT system is sure to be the new bridge which will connect the Main West section of the route to King Street by spanning the Chedoke Expressway.

The latest design shows the flyover starting east of Macklin Street on Main and touching down near Breadalbane Street on King, a block west of Dundurn.

But for all its visual impact, the new bridge may be the most straightforward piece of the $1-billion LRT puzzle.

That's because the only vehicles using it will be the light rail trains, meaning no existing traffic will be disrupted or displaced.

The same can't be said for the rest of the 11-kilometre route from McMaster University to the Queenston Traffic Circle, or for the northern spur to the James Street GO station.

As the scale of the project sinks in, it's increasingly clear LRT is going to radically rattle, shift and shape travel patterns and habits in the lower city. Not only during the five-year construction period starting in 2019, but permanently once the trains are running in 2024.

We'll get a comprehensive picture of the size of the fallout in September when a staff study on full traffic impacts is released.

According to Paul Johnson, the city's LRT co-ordinator, the study will look at LRT's impacts on roads and vehicle movement due to shifting capacities and all the other side effects, as well as how best to manage the changes.

But Hamiltonians will probably get an early inkling of what's coming down the pike when the design recommendations for LRT are unveiled for political and public feedback in May.

Briefly, if the new Transit First option, which places priority on the right-of-way of trains, prevails, LRT will run on two centre lanes throughout the corridor with traffic alongside for most of the route.

The plans for Main West show two lanes of eastbound traffic and two or three westbound lanes, while King is mostly shown as two way with a single lane of traffic in each direction.

Additionally, downtown's International Village could be closed to all through traffic except for LRT and pedestrians. And left turns along the corridor will be severely restricted in order to minimize vehicles crossing the tracks and slowing down trains.

Naturally all this creates major consequences for traffic flow.

According to recent planning documents, traffic circulation will have to be changed to accommodate right in, right out turns at side street intersections and private entrances.

If International Village is turned into a Transit Mall new delivery and loading arrangements will need to be made.

With limited left turns and the potential closure of some intersections on Main West, alternative driving routes in and out of Westdale Village will need to be considered.

On top of that, the Transit First option apparently assumes the city's existing truck routes will be "generally unchanged," and westbound sections of King currently designated a truck route will remain so where it's converted to two-way traffic.

That alone could have a huge, rippling impact on motorists and the movement of goods.

King currently is a truck route from Queen Street to Highway 403 and from Wellington Street to Centennial Parkway, well past LRT's eastern terminus.

As a 2010 staff study noted, virtually all industrial, commercial and consumer goods and materials in Hamilton reach their destination by truck. The report figured about 2,300 trucks a day use the truck routes between Victoria Avenue and Dundurn.

Obviously, there are routes other than King in play.

But LRT's reduced traffic lanes could mean cars and trucks will be seeing more of each other in tighter quarters — especially if Main East is converted to two-way traffic as some transit advocates argue it should be.

Officially, the big debate over converting Main has yet to take place.

But it's coming. As surely as LRT is creating both excitement and anxiety, it's coming.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495