Macnab Street North city's latest to host two-way traffic

Macnab Street formally joined James Street and John Street as Hamilton's newest two-way street conversion Monday afternoon.
Macnab Street officially became hosted two-way traffic on Tuesday afternoon. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Macnab Street formally joined James Street and John Street as Hamilton's newest two-way street conversion Monday afternoon.

So far, things are going just fine, says Steve Molloy, project manager for the city's Transportation Master Plan implementation. "It seems to be met with fairly good reviews so far with residents," Molloy said. "Now, once real change starts affecting people, I'm sure we'll hear about it."

The permanent conversion on Macnab from Cannon to Burlington Street was identified in both the 2001 Downtown Transportation Master Plan and the more recently completed North End Traffic Management Plan. Molloy says the conversion is a traffic calming measure that provides better accessibility for residents on the street and will help people feel safer when they're walking.

"I'm glad to see it happening," said Ryan McGreal, editor of local blog Raise the Hammer and two-way streets advocate.

McGreal has long been pushing for two-way and more "complete" streets in Hamilton, and sees Macnab's conversion as a step in the right direction. "Two way streets are inherently more flexible," he said. "If a route is closed, you have another one to take."

Closing divisions?

Opinions on one-way versus two-way streets have long been a sign of division in the city, McGreal says. But the perception that only people living downtown want two-way streets and only people living in the suburbs want one-way streets is changing, he added.

According to a survey of 400 Hamiltonians conducted by the CAA, there is a 50/50 divide in the city between people who support and do not support street conversions. "The majority of reasons for not supporting changes are emotional, not safety or financially founded," the 2013 report on the survey results read.

According to the report, the overwhelming reason people didn't want one-way streets converted to two-way is because they're simply used to one-way streets. The next most common answers were the conversion would cause too much confusion and one-way streets make for faster traffic flow.

McGreal himself found the conversion of James Street to two-way back in 2002 a little jarring, he readily admits. It took some time to start using it both ways, just because he was so used to one-way traffic flow.

Molloy says from feedback he's received from the public, there's a definite difference in opinion on two-way conversions. "If people use the street as a commuting corridor, they might not like it as much as someone who lives downtown and uses the street."

That's especially true on James Street, he says. "South of King, people still aren't convinced."

McGreal, who lives downtown, says people need to remember that downtown isn't just a way to get from point A to point B — it's also a place where people live and work.

"Imagine if you had a huge volume of cars and transport trucks barreling down your street at sixty miles per hour," he said. "It would be intolerable to you."

A $50,000 change

Molloy says he expects an "adjustment period" while people get used to the changes on Macnab. "Things always look good on paper, but you really need to get out on the street and look at some details."

Those changes were pretty straightforward on Macnab — trimming some trees for visibility and adjusting parking.  City crews also installed a new traffic light.

The whole thing was "fairly inexpensive," Molloy said, coming in at around $50,000. That's much cheaper than the John Street or James Street conversions, he says. That's because there weren't too many new traffic lights — and because there were no adjustments needed for rainwater catch basins underground.

"It's a whole other world under the asphalt," Molloy said.

"Every street has its own nuances."