Monday, February 4, 2013

Thoughts on Transit Comments at Public Works Meeting

On Monday local Hamilton resident Alex Sears made a presentation before the public works committee outlining a number of issues he has and sees with various things in the city. His fairly detailed report included several HSR items, which I've included below.

Two way streets converted from one way streets still do not have a bus route going the other way. For example there is no north bound bus on John and no south bound bus on James.

Part of the reasoning for the lack of bus service on the contra-flow portions of James Street is due to the fact that the northbound direction is narrower (single lane in portions) and includes curb side parking in sections. Adding buses on this road would require the removal of multiple parking spaces to make space for bus areas.

Another reason I think is that the buses have been travelling to and from the escarpment for such an extended history that changing this would ultimately, and perhaps needlessly, confuse transit users.

Having said that I feel that upper routes that use the Jolley Cut (22 Upper Ottawa, 23 Upper Gage, 24 Upper Sherman, 25 Upper Wentworth and 26 Upper Wellington) should use John Street in both directions. Routes that use James Mountain Road (20 A-Line Express, 21 Upper Kenilworth, 33 Sanatorium and 35 College) should use James Street in both directions. This would free up a lot of 'bus congestion' on James and John streets.

The "King at John" bus stop for '10 B-Line Express,' '1A King' and '5 Delaware' would need to be relocated to the east side of John Street to facilitate this change.

New Downtown Bus Terminal clock (MacNab and Main, near Hamilton Place and Family Court House) needs to be corrected regularly to the proper time.

Agreed. I have personally seen this clock either displaying the wrong time or not functioning at all. From my personal observations this clock has been 'off' more than 50% of the time.

HSR - Extend all bus hours to 2:20am (add one hour Monday through Saturday) to allow bar staff and drunk patrons an option of getting home other then the expensive taxi or driving drunk if they cannot get a designated driver.

Buses right now operate from approximately 4:30am in the morning until about 1:30am in the evening for most routes. Extension of service hours by one hour would require additional funding for the department as it would add 23 additional hours to each service day. Through the course of the year this is akin to running one extra bus, 24 hours a day, for 299 straight days.

This doesn't include the handful of routes that are either rush hour only (12,18,20,52A), have limited service hours (10,16,43,56) or are seasonal routes (9,51,99). If those routes that do not run until end of service were extended it would dramatically increase service hours and cost.

It would be welcome, especially for users who work late or are out late, but it will come down to money and funding. With Public Works already proposing a budget increase as it is, I'm not sure how welcome the change would be.

HSR - Change Deleware, King, Barton and Upper James bus routes to 24 hours. Hamilton is potentially the 9th biggest city in Canada. I think we should recognize that we don't really shut down.

According to the 2011 Canadian censue Hamilton is the 10th largest municipality in Canada. The city virtually does have a 24 hour system with the first trip of the day at leaving at about 4:30am and the last trip leaving at 1:30am. Some of the more frequented routes  could be extended a few hours into the overnight period as well but to be effective there would need to be a grid set up to include extended areas. The suggested routes of '1 King,' '2 Barton,' '5 Delaware/52 Dundas' and '27 Upper James' are a good starting point, but should be complemented with '21 Upper Kenilworth,' '23/24 Upper Gage/Sherman,' and '41 Mohawk' to complete the system.

It all comes down to funding again as this will add a minimum of three extra hours of service per route. Over the course of seven days this really adds up.

HSR - add B-line stop at Gage and Wellington.

It's an abnormality that '10 B-Line Express' stops neither at Wellington Street or Gage Avenue in either direction. It's also interesting to note that the proposed LRT service, which would replace the bus route, does include stops near both locations.

The LRT B-Line includes a stop 'First Place' at Wellington as well as two additional stops between Sherman and Ottawa. These stops are on either side of Gage and are 'Scott Park' and 'Delta.' Though I can't say for sure, I wouldn't be surprised as the city moves towards LRT that these stops were added to the current bus route.

HSR - Eliminate charge for presto pass. Why do people have to pay for a card now? You don't have to pay for a ticket or pass. the city gets the money to invest right away without middle retailers.

There $6 charge for Presto cards. This cost is due to the fact that the card is not simply a piece of plastic but has components inside the card which allow it to communicate to the Presto system wirelessly. The fee is set by Metrolinx and is standard across all municipal transit agencies using the farecard. Occasionally some systems 'wave' the fee as a promotion to spur new users to adopt the card.

Another thing that was mentioned but not included in the letter to the city was that the fact that the '5E Delaware' branch of the Delaware route doesn't actually travel on Delaware Avenue at all. He also requested that the route be looked at as it's very confusing. I previously wrote a piece called Figuring Out the Delaware Bus which breaks down the route. The gentleman suggest renaming the branch '5E Greenhill' as this is the destination of the route. In older 'rollsign' buses the route was actually called '5E Delaware-Greenhill' with the 5A branch called '5A Delaware-Rosedale.'

Note that I don't work for the HSR in any official capacity. The suggestions and commentary above are my own personal opinion and don't reflect the motives or plans of the city or the HSR.

The Public Works Committee received the report and sent it to city staff for investigation.


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