LRTPerhaps the most notable feature of the Transportation Master Plan Review submitted to Hamilton Council last month was what it scarcely mentioned—LRT. Instead the plan looked ahead to 2031 and tried to address where the biggest congestion problems would occur and recommend measures to address the bottlenecks. The plan points out that the motor vehicle will still be the primary travel mode in 2031 and that, no matter what we do with transit; there will have to be solutions that involve creating more road capacity—something the late Wynne government had shunned.
The preferred approach to area highways recommended in the plan is to first widen the 403 through Hamilton and then widen the Red Hill-Linc freeway system. The local freeways cannot be widened until the 403 is widened because doing so would only exacerbate what is already a daily traffic jam at the west end of the Linc where it meets the 403. The document says the 403 widening is already in the Ministry of Transportation’s five year plan. Within the city, the plan recommends increasing active transportation (walking cycling) but more importantly, introducing transit enhancements that are already on the books such as Rapid Ready and BLAST—both bus-based systems that serve the entire community as opposed to LRT which is limited to five lower city wards.
With regard to connections between the lower city and the mountain, the report suggests improvements to the Sherman Access and the conversion of one upbound lane on the Claremont Access to accommodate cycling and walking. The lane would be reconfigured to a step path with a channel for bicycles.
The report says there are opportunities to install traffic signal control along the BLAST network where it intersects with LINC, the escarpment crossings and through the downtown. The report does not recommend converting the James Street Mountain Road for transit, walking and cycling exclusively– as had been previously suggested.
While the report recommends continuing a number of one-way street conversions to two-way, it rejects the idea of converting Main Street to two-way; partly because such a move would require re-building then 403 ramp, which would require cooperation for the Ministry of Transportation; and partly because such a move doesn’t “provide any benefit from a system perspective,” and is “not realistic for the foreseeable future.”
With regard to transit the report recommends planning for Rapid Transit, which to the authors consists of the BLAST network—the bulk of which is bus-based, and in its original conception, also meant Bus Rapid Transit on the Main-King Route. The only reference to the LRT project in the document is an acknowledgement that the government has set aside $1 Billion for LRT along the B line route.
Overall the report takes a pragmatic approach; recognizing the need to do as much as possible to expand bike lanes and create more liveable, walkable streets. But it also acknowledges the reality that motor vehicle congestion will get worse as the city’s population increases to 660,000 by 2031 and that the master plan must include road-based solutions as well as pedestrian friendly ones. Most significantly the report deftly sidesteps the LRT debate, laying out a plan that can accommodate LRT—or not.