Transit-only lane launches along King Street

Hamilton's transit-only lane along King Street debuted Wednesday morning with slower traffic and some drivers slipping into the lane to move ahead in traffic. A $65 fine will be imposed for vehicle traffic, including cyclists, driving in the lane.
The transit-only lane debuted on King Street East Wednesday morning. It's a one-year pilot project that runs from Mary to New streets and is for buses only. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Hamilton's transit-only lane along King Street debuted Wednesday morning to mixed reviews.

As soon as bus service began for the day around 5 a.m., the right lane became exclusive to bus traffic.

"We thought traffic was a little slower than usual, but it will take a while for drivers to adjust," said Christine Lee-Morrison, manager in the city's public works department who observed traffic for about an hour this morning.

For day one, Lee-Morrison said this was absolutely what she expected.

A CBC reporter observed traffic along King Street Wednesday morning around 8:00 a.m., reporting traffic was congested and some drivers and cyclists were taking advantage of the open lane, jumping into the lane to move ahead in traffic.

They be able to get away with that for now. If cars or cyclists are caught in the transit-only lane, a $65 fine is imposed and enforced by Hamilton Police, Lee-Morrison said. But that fine is not currently enforced – there will be about week of education and adjusting before police will start crack down, she said.

Entering into the transit-only lane isn't entirely prohibited, she said.

"You can enter into the lane to make a right hand turn, to access a driveway, to enter a parking spot," Lee-Morrison said.

Councillor Chad Collins said he received mainly negative feedback after a call-out on social media.

"Those who have responded claim it’s cost them between 15 and 20 minutes of commute time. Some claimed that the lane markings are confusing, and the new system is bound to cause accidents," Collins told CBC Hamilton via email. He expects other councillors will provide feedback at today's council meeting.

The King Street transit lane is a $300,000, one-year pilot project to "test the waters on moving forward with a full rapid transit system," she said, which would require a lane to be exclusive to public transit.

The transit-only lane runs through downtown along King Street East from Mary, and continues along King West  to New street, one block east of Dundurn. From Mary to Bay streets, the lane is the second lane from the right, leaving the curbside lane for parking stalls, deliveries and bus stops. The bus exclusive lane jumps to the far right, curbside, from Bay to New streets, said Lee-Morrison.

When the buses are driving away from the curb, she said drivers will pull into the curbside lane to let passengers on and off for safety.

Some cyclists have raised the issue of bikes not being allowed in the lane and being forced to drive their bikes away from the curb. Lee-Morrison said she was aware of the concerns but emphasized that this is just a pilot project and the lane on King Street East might not stay.

"There are alternate routes for cyclists," she said.

Over the course of the year, the city will asses the lane's effectiveness by collecting transit data and complaints and comments from the public and bus drivers.

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