Car versus bus: The King Street bus lane race
Councillors will debate the controversial dedicated lane this week
The fate of Hamilton’s downtown bus-only lane is set to be decided Wednesday.
While a staff report set for debate at city hall on Wednesday says the lane moves transit faster and city should keep the dedicated lane, some councillors have already declared it a failure.
Some say the lane backs up traffic considerably – that same city report says the lane does slow down car traffic through the King Street corridor from Mary to Dundurn Streets, with the longest delay being five minutes during the afternoon rush hour.
So if you’re going that way, what does it look like to travel the route by bus or car? Is it faster to drive or take the bus? CBC Hamilton reporters Adam Carter and John Rieti decided to test it out. At 5 p.m. on a Friday evening, Carter jumped in a car and drove down King, while Rieti hopped on the bus.
You can watch a time lapse of their respective journeys from Wellington to Dundurn in the player above. Rieti was the victor, making the trip to Dundurn Street in eight minutes and 27 seconds, while Carter crossed the finish line almost two minutes later.
So is the lane worthwhile or not? Councillors Chad Collins and Terry Whitehead have already denounced it, and many businesses along the line complained. Mayor Fred Eisenberger and city staff, however, call the lane an important step in the city’s development.
"I think the perception around the bus lane is quite different from the reality," Eisenberger said.
The numbers indicate the bus lane moves as many people during rush hour as do cars in the other lanes of traffic.
"It was a pretty impressive pilot project. I’m hopeful, personally, that with some adjustments, council will consider continuing on. But hopefulness doesn’t mean it’s going to happen."
Some drivers appear to have already given up on the lane – when Carter and Rieti had their “race,” several cars and taxis were using it as if it wasn’t saved for buses at all.
The project was meant to be a one-year pilot, running from October 2013 to October 2014. Its end was delayed by the Oct. 27 election.