Wednesday, January 16, 2008

half way busing

"a high school student in the public board has to live 3.2 km from school to qualify for busing. In the Catholic board, that distance is 1.6 km"

That's an interesting stat; 1.6 km is not very far to walk. Joint busing is one of the strategies for Governor's Road, but it looks as though this, and many of the ideas to improve traffic, are still a long ways from becoming reality.
Talks stalled on joint school busing policy

The Hamilton Spectator, (Jan 16, 2008)

Talks between Hamilton's public and Catholic board chairs are still stalled over the touchy business of forming a joint agency for busing city students.

Public board chair Judith Bishop said talks haven't gone anywhere on combining Catholic and public bus routes, a plan she says would save taxpayers money.

She said Hamilton is one of only three Ontario school districts without joint busing -- and she says it boils down to the Catholic board using generous busing to draw students, and thus funding, to its schools.

For example, a high school student in the public board has to live 3.2 km from school to quality for busing. In the Catholic board, that distance is 1.6 km.

"The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board believes in one bus, one policy, one route, and we haven't got anywhere," Bishop said.

"There's a difference in philosophy."

The province wants public and Catholic boards across Ontario to form joint entities to save costs by sharing bus routes and using good routing and management practices.

The Halton public and Catholic school boards this week launched a joint consortium -- not controlled by or located at either board -- with 372 vehicles to transport 25,000 kids to school.

General manager Karen Lacroix said Halton has, since 1996, had joint busing in its public, Catholic and French Catholic boards, predating recent provincial instructions that boards bus together.

This week they launched a new consortium with all four Halton boards -- public, Catholic and two French boards -- with a separate office, phone number and focus on zones, not board districts.

"Any amalgamation has its issues, but the fact that three boards had an integrated transportation service for so many years... made (it) easier than for boards that hadn't been sharing services," Lacroix said.

In Hamilton, no such progress. Bishop said without universal standards for busing, boards differ in their policies. She feels the Hamilton Catholic board is unwilling to give up its generous busing policies, in the interests of saving taxpayer money.

But Hamilton Catholic school board chair Pat Daly denies the stumbling block is about the distance at which students are bused. He says talks never reached that level of detail.

He said it's about governance.

"Just in terms of autonomy and control over policy, that's one of the issues," said Daly. He said he hopes it doesn't come to focus on details like busing distances. "It's important to note that, while we don't have the full consortia in place, we have been co-operating for years (in Flamborough)."

Daly said his board has one of the most efficient bus systems in Ontario and doesn't want to jeopardize that in a joint effort that may not bring savings.

At a provincial level, Catholic trustees have raised concern that a one-policy model may risk Catholic autonomy.

In Halton, however, Lacroix said that the boards have begun to lease a neutral office location and since 1996 have been realizing more than $1 million in annual savings from joint busing.


Friday, January 11, 2008

from 50 to 40 in a flash?

Craig Campbell and the Dundas Star continue to provide excellent follow-up reportage on local traffic issues.

Governor's Road awaits safety improvements
Group calls for further safety improvements
Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News, Published on Jan 11, 2008

Long discussed improvements to Governor's Road traffic control should be on their way, as city staff prepare to install a new reduced speed zone along a three school stretch of the road. City of Hamilton traffic technologist Sue Russell couldn't say when the system would be operational, as there may be some bugs to work out.

"It's new equipment and a new program. There could be some unforeseen problems, as with any new product," Ms. Russell said. "I don't want to make any promises I can't keep."

The reduced speed school zone was approved by city council in April 2007. One of eight such school zones across the city, the Governor's Road zone will stretch from Moss Boulevard to 75 metres east of Huntingwood.

Flashing lights will warn drivers the regular 50 km/h speed drops to 40 km/h during morning, mid-day and afternoon rush hours.

The flashing light speed zone will be in effect for just over five hours each day, between 7:50 a.m. and 4 p.m. The part-time school zone was anticipated to be in place by September 2007, when the new Sir William Osler School was scheduled to open. Delays in the school's completion coincided with an apparent delay in receiving equipment from a supplier.

Osler School opened in November 2007 without the school speed zone in place. Ms. Russell said this week an expected start date for the new system is not set. She said staff will need training before the equipment is installed.

The idea of a school speed zone, along with a roundabout on Governor's Road, was raised while former councillor Art Samson represented Dundas. Mr. Samson wanted to see safety improvements made to the less than one kilometre stretch of road that includes St. Bernadette Catholic Elementary School, Highland Secondary School, and Sir William Osler Elementary.

Start times for the schools range from 8:15 a.m. at Highland, to 9 a.m. at St. Bernadette to 9:10 a.m. at Osler.

When the reduced speed zone is operational, it is planned to be in use from 7:50 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., then from 10:59 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., and finally from 2:45 to 4 p.m.

The new elementary school's morning bell time coincides exactly with the end of the morning reduced speed, at which time it will return to 50 km/h from 40 km/h.

Ron Gallo of the city's traffic department said a consultant will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment of a roundabout in area of Governor's Road and Davidson Boulevard.

Mr. Gallo said the budget is in place and he hopes the assessment will be completed in 2008, allowing the design to be done in the first quarter of 2009 and construction by the end of next year.

"That's a best case scenario for me," Mr. Gallo said, noting he'd been involved in discussions about a Governor's Road roundabout for more than two years, and would like to see it done.

Transportation for Liveable Communities sent an e-mail this week to all members of Hamilton's city council, supporting a new reduced speed zone and a roundabout at Davidson Boulevard, along with several other recommendations.

The local pedestrian, cyclist and transit interest group also called for a comprehensive traffic audit of Governor's Road --with results released to the public -- additional school crossing guards, and improved public transit service on Governor's Road. Among the changes supported by TLC are new traffic calming measures - in particular bicycle lanes that were proposed in the city's May 2007 Cycling Network Strategy.

Monday, January 07, 2008

TLC for Governor's Road

Local sustainable transportation activists at Transportation for Liveable Communities have sent a letter to Ward 13/Dundas Councillor Russ Powers regarding Governor's Road - the following is lifted from their letter, dealing with specifics of the suggestions put forward by Powers: for the full letter, go to the TLC site here.

Councillor Powers

Transportation for Liveable Communities

Add an advanced left turn signal to the traffic lights at the Governors Road/Creighton Road intersection for eastbound/westbound traffic along Governors Road.

  • Await result of traffic audit to determine need

  • Immediately change the walk/don't walk signal at Creighton to always go to "walk" on the green signal – currently the "walk" signal only appears after a pedestrian has activated the crossing button. The default is "don't walk" which creates confusion for all users by prioritizing cars over pedestrians, and makes crossing more uncertain, thus more dangerous.

Widen Governors Road to accommodate an identified left turn/holding lane from Creighton Road to at least Davidson Boulevard.

Adding an extra lane makes crossings for pedestrians more difficult and dangerous by increasing crossing distance and adding an extra lane of traffic to contend with. Road widening also contributes to a driving environment that induces speed. Therefore TLC strongly opposes a general widening, but supports limited , site specific widening to create turning lanes if required at St. Bernadette's school, and Highland Secondary school.

Install traffic lights or a roundabout (includes a pedestrian-activated crossing signal) at Davidson Boulevard.

A roundabout is the preferred option for safety and efficiency reasons, which TLC fully supports.

Install a pedestrian-activated crossing signal at the corner of Governors Road/Huntingwood Drive.

TLC supports this as a possible solution, but only in a context of accompanying traffic calming measures such as (but not limited to) a raised crosswalk and a median island. An alternative solution might include another roundabout at this location in the long term.

Post school crossing guards at the Huntingwood, Castlewood/Bridlewood and Davidson pedestrian crossings.

TLC supports

Extend the sidewalk on the north side of Governors Road from Davidson Boulevard to Pirie Drive.

TLC supports

Install a flashing "Speed Reduced to 40 kph" for the area bounded by the east/west boundaries of the three schools. This is programmed to be activated during morning and late afternoon/evening rush hours.

Evidence suggests that signs are not enough to influence driver behaviour, thus TLC supports physical traffic calming measures to slow traffic speeds: examples include lane narrowing, bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, a traffic median, to enhance safety in the school zone.

Continue to lobby for a crossing guard at the Governors Road/Bridlewood /Castlewood Drive intersection.

TLC supports

Conduct a comprehensive traffic audit to identify contributing factors.

TLC supports, and requests a copy of the final report

Enhance public transit frequency along Governors Road during rush hours on weekdays.

TLC supports, with the following considerations:

  • there is currently no bus service provided on Governor's Road on weekends – adding rush hour buses to alleviate traffic fails to address the demand for transit mobility for residents on weekends. TLC requests weekend bus service for Governor's Road.

  • Current levels of transit service are poor in the entire ward, with one hour wait times much of the day on both Governors, and King..TLC therefore requests a comprehensive review of transit operations in Dundas with the goal of improving the level of service.

Review signal synchronization for eastbound/westbound traffic at Main Street, Oglivie Street and Creighton Road.

TLC supports synchronization that discourages speeding and takes into account the requirements of pedestrians for prompt crossing service.

For all the points noted, TLC requests a full update from the councillor/city of Hamilton on actions taken or decisions made.

Further: since our original letter, the Transportation Master Plan for the city has been approved by council – in that document there are plans specific to the area in question, but not addressed in councillor Powers' initial list of proposed solutions. The TMP refers to bike lanes for Governor's Road "Dundas Street-Governor's Road [from] Cootes Drive [to] Castlewood Blvd BL [2.9km at a cost of $166,750, to be done in the Medium term ( ).

Therefore, TLC strongly recommends action on bike lanes be fully integrated with any road work to be done on Governor's Road. Bike lanes would assist in creating safer and more pleasant conditions for pedestrians and help improve the roadside atmosphere while giving more options to sustainable transportation users.

In conclusion, TLC would like to reiterate that users of Governor's Road include cyclists, pedestrians, transit and drivers. The current city wide transportation master plan, and the city's Vision 2020 planning documents all emphasize supporting sustainable modes of transportation. As a result, TLC expects any changes on Governor's Road to reflect this emphasis.


We'll keep in ear to the ground to see what is in store, and post it here.