Friday, January 22, 2010

Disappointing Dundas TMP

Transportation for Liveable Communities Hamilton

PO Box 19, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton ON L8S 1C0

905-525-9140 ext. 26026

Ms. Diana Morreale,
Ms. Christine Lee-Morrison
Public Works Dept.
City of Hamilton

January 22, 2010

RE: Comments on the Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan, Class EA report

Dear Ms Morreale and Ms Lee-Morrison,

I am writing on behalf of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) to comment about the class EA for the Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan (DDTMP).

TLC members have followed closely the long process of the Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan, attended the public open houses and commented on the process over the past two years.

We found it extremely frustrating that the recommendations included in the DDTMP are not in keeping with the Vision 2020, GRIDS and Hamilton TMP principles that supposedly guide the process."expand transportation options that encourage travel by foot, bike, and transit and enhance efficient inter-regional transportation connections" Rather, we see changes that would increase the volume and speed of automobile travel in Dundas are prioritized over the stated goal of "[a] better choice of integrated travel modes, emphasizing active transportation and public transit." (Dec. 9, 2009

TLC feels that the plan, with its current emphasis, places pedestrians, cyclists, and the small town character of Dundas, in jeopardy.

Importantly, the DDTMP bluntly violates the 2007 city wide Transportation Master Plan's calls for identifying policies that reduce automobile trips, promote walking and cycling, and encourage use of public transit and ride sharing.

Our concern is based on the fact that all the outlined short term action plans in the DDTMP include road changes like widening that promote increased automobile trips and speed and that not one of the short term projects address the immediate needs of pedestrian, cycling and transit improvements. Indeed, the alternative transportation components that are included in the DDTMP are presented as vague suggestions for future studies, and, at best, minor tweaking and subtle dismissal of residents’ expressed desires and concerns.

We focus here on three key issues.

First, the DDTMP fails to develop a transportation vision which recognizes and enhances Dundas' strengths, such as natural features and a compact and walkable heritage core. By prioritizing automobile "improvements" like road widening and adding vehicle lanes, not only are pedestrians and cyclists further endangered, the Valley Town risks losing its unique identity which sets it apart from surrounding suburban sprawl. The plan should closely examine the origins and destinations of current automobile, pedestrian, bike and bus trips, and then delineate the desired modal split for the area following city guidelines (e.g. Vision 2020 and the citywide TMP). Where Dundas deserves a clear and distinctive vision for achieving such goals, the plan takes a passive, reactive attitude, against city policy, by obsessively focusing on, assuming, and providing for, increased automobile traffic.

Second, we are disappointed that the DDTMP further delays the promise of the visionary “Urban Design Study for Hatt Street in Dundas”. The 2005 study, which was supposed to guide future development of the Hatt St area, highlighted the need for strengthening pedestrian connectivity and accessibility. Unfortunately, the DDTMP fails to accommodate that practical need and leaves it to a still future study. Moreover, the DDTMP dismissed resident calls for improved pedestrian crossing along the Hatt St section between Ogilvie St and Market St. This ~1500 m stretch of six city blocks currently provides no protected pedestrian crossings. The DDTMP notes that the stretch does not “warrant” a protected pedestrian crossing, but we find this conclusion misleading. First, the DDTMP is supposed to provide for increased pedestrian traffic into the downtown core rather than observe current traffic and then conclude that it does not warrant safe pedestrian crossing. Second, a perceptive look at the character of the Hatt St area, including the 600 new housing units at the newly developed Creekside area and the newly developed commercial area just west of the new development, would indicate that there is a substantial opportunity for diverting automobile trips by creating opportunities to support an increase in pedestrian traffic in this area.

Finally, the DDTMP does not provide the necessary global vision for pedestrian traffic issues on King St. Currently, King St is optimized for serving as a highway even though it is the commercial and social heart of the Valley town. The DDTMP must consider it and provide explicit immediate plans for improving safe pedestrian movements along and between the north and south side of King St. Although two new pedestrian traffic lights were installed recently at Ogilvie St and Foundry St, they were rendered ineffective by programming the signal response times to prioritize automobiles movement over the need of pedestrians. Compare this ill advised approach to the visionary leadership of neighbouring councillor Brian McHattie and responsive city public works dept staff, who optimized the pedestrian operated traffic light at Cootes Drive near McMaster. While the light is synchronized with the nearby light at Main St and is slow to respond to pedestrian needs during rush hours, it provides almost instantaneous green pedestrian light on demand at off peak hours. Hence pedestrian can cross the street always safely and quickly much of the time. This compromise approach, which is also used widely in other Canadian cities, should be adopted in downtown Dundas as well.

There are many more specifics we could include, but suffice to say we think that the DDTMP requires substantial revision and intend to take immediate further actions to ensure that the Valley town receives the transportation master plan it deserves.

Sincerely yours,

Reuven Dukas

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