Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, January 23, 2015
The city is asking motorists to stay out of the doomed bus-only lane on King Street until the signs come down – even if Hamilton police have already stopped handing out tickets.
City council voted 9-7 to axe the contentious two-kilometre experiment Wednesday night to the disappointment of a raucous crowd of largely pro-bus lane advocates.
But the city sent out a public warning Thursday morning that bus priority remains in force until all of the overhead signs are removed from Mary to Dundurn streets. Staff will meet this week “to develop a strategy” to reconvert the lane, including scrubbing lane markings and amending the actual bylaw.
Hamilton police, however, tweeted at virtually the same time that they “would no longer conduct enforcement” on the dedicated transit lane.
It is expected to cost about $100,000 to axe the bus-only lane and return street parking spots to pre-experiment locations. Much of that money won’t be spent until spring, when it’s warm enough to repaint the street.
Council’s decision appears to be just the start of an increasingly passionate battle over rapid transit in the city.
More than 100 people — many wearing yellow T-shirts and armbands to show bus lane solidarity — packed City Hall Wednesday in a rowdy, last-ditch show of support for the two-kilometre priority transit experiment.
The “disappointing” decision won’t stop newly awakened bus advocates from pushing for more transit improvements along the corridor, said Lindsay Godard, who helped organize a fledging transit user coalition that drummed up support for the meeting.
“We’re going to make sure the voice of the transit user is here the next time something like this comes up,” said Godard, noting council is about to consider a 10-year transit plan and the 2015 HSR budget pitch.
“We’ve learned there are obviously a lot of (residents) who are very passionate about transit.”
Godard said the group has signed up more than 200 members, including some angry residents who yelled “shame!” and “dinosaurs!” at councillors as they left council chambers after the vote.
The city is also still waiting to see if the province and rapid transit planning agency Metrolinx will approve Hamilton’s request for an $811-million light rail transit line.
The bus-only lane was meant to test-drive the city’s ability to deal with rapid transit in the B-line corridor. The city’s decision shows council has “imploded” on rapid transit planning, said Coun. Sam Merulla, who warned that Hamilton has effectively given its LRT cash to some other city.
Coun. Lloyd Ferguson — who was taunted by frustrated bus lane fans for a perceived conflict over his ownership of taxi plates — argued the bus-only lane served its purpose. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)