Wild weather over the past two months has destroyed trees, downed power lines and shattered Hamiltonians’ hopes for a mild winter.
And now the harsh conditions have claimed another set of victims: markings on the months-old King Street bus lane that identify it as a transit-only thoroughfare.
Brandon Aubie, a research assistant at McMaster University, drives on King Street regularly. He said the paint inside the bus lane has been fading for at least two months — to the point that some of the markings have become almost invisible.
The sight prompted him to post a thread on Friday to the online social forum Reddit asking about the fate of the project.
“The paint has faded, it's full of non-bus vehicles, and I've never seen police pull someone over for driving in it,” he wrote. “Clearly it's an experiment that just fizzled out.”
Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie insists the bus lane — which was installed in October as a one-year trial at a cost of $300,000 — is still active.
“It’s a bit frustrating right now,” said McHattie, who pushed council to implement the project.
The problem, he said, stems from provincial rules on what types of traffic paint municipalities can use on city roads.
“As a result, the paint that we’re using doesn’t stay as long. You’ll see the same thing with bike lanes.”
City crews will have to repaint the lanes in the spring, said McHattie, a candidate in next October’s mayoral election. But he said he didn’t know how much the effort would cost.
“I don’t expect it to be an extraordinary number,” he said.
Lane rules 'still enforced,' police say
HSR officials could not be reached on Saturday. However, Hamilton police Staff Sergeant George Narozniak said that drivers generally respect the bus lane, even if the lane markings aren't clearly visible.
“Although it is newer, there is a quite a bit of compliance, from what I understand.”
The street-side signs are still in place, Narozniak said, signalling to motorists to stay out of the lane unless they need to cross it momentarily to make a right-hand turn.
Drivers can still expect a $65 fine if police officers catch them violating the bylaw, he noted.
“If you’re on it, it’s still enforced as the law.”
Council voted in May to implement the bus lane — which runs from Mary Street in the east to Dundurn Street in the west — as a one-year trial.
City staff are studying the project to "test the waters on moving forward with a full rapid-transit system," Christine Lee-Morrison, a manager in the city's public works department, said in October.
But the trial is “pointless” if the non-transit vehicles encroach into the bus lane, Aubie told CBC Hamilton.
“The point is to see what happens when you reduce the lanes downtown,” he said.
“I’m not exactly sure how the experiment is going to work if cars are driving in the lane.”