Category Archives: transportation

More bike lanes for St Catharines

As reported in The Standard, Welland Avenue between Grantham and Bunting will be reduced from four lanes to two, and gain a centre turning lane and bike lanes. The same will be applied to Vine Street between Lakeshore and Carlton.

It has been my experience that biking across the city (as opposed to within one’s neighbourhood) is difficult outside some isolated corridors, like the Welland Canal Trail. We are getting closer to a complete system of bicycle lanes in the north end that will make meaningful bicycle travel safer and simpler.

But we shouldn’t let these accomplishments go to our heads. There are still stretches of road that are off-limits to cautious (prudent?) bicyclists, like the crossings of highway 406 and the QEW. Many intersections, even with bike lanes, remain terrifying (try making a left turn).

A quick two-way story

I was biking south on Queen Street when I got to the newly two-directional King Street and realized I could turn in whichever direction I felt like. It was a feeling of liberation – no more biking the long way around a block to get to my destination! Two-way traffic makes navigating downtown so much simpler.

GO finally goes to St Catharines

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

It would be an uncharacteristic omission for this blog if I did not note that today the first four weekend trains between Toronto and Niagara Falls stopped in St Catharines. Apparently more than 150 people got on the first Union-bound train this morning.

I happened (by design) to be in the neighbourhood this evening when a train roared in from the east. It was ten cars long, which seemed to me like overkill, but maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth to rearrange the cars. There didn’t appear to be 150 people getting boarding this train, though there were probably as many as usually ride the weekday morning VIA.

There were also a number of train geeks there, and I mean no offence (as a transit nerd myself), but I did not want to pull my camera out and have all the other people there think I care about the serial number on the locomotive or whatever it is train geeks obsess over. Since I was on my bike, I made it out to where the tracks sever Ridley Street before the train pulled out and I took the above photo to prove that I’m not making this up.

I am glad that GO has finally extended service to St Catharines, even if the trains are seasonal and even then only on the weekends, and the buses don’t begin until autumn. It is a solid start (although I do have some concerns about the location of our local GO bus stop).

At this point, I am required by the rules of transit advocacy to point out that now the Region has to get its act together and create an intermunicipal transit system.

More on the GO bus

Two areas of concern – one minor, one major – from the Standard article:

Construction of the first station — at Casablanca Boulevard and the QEW in Grimsby — will start in June, with service to St. Catharines and possibly two locations in Niagara Falls by September, said Peter Smith, GO Transit’s chairman.

This seems a little optimistic, don’t you think? Planning for the Grimsby station has been underway for some time now; certainly more than the five months expected to plan and construct something in St. Catharines.

The locations of the new GO stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls still have to be determined, said Bradley, the provincial transportation minister, but GO always wants its stations to be close to a major highway, so they will be somewhere along the QEW corridor.

A GO station at Lake and the QEW (or whatever interchange they choose) would squander some of the potential of the GO connection. I recognize that GO tends to favour the park-and-ride model, but it doesn’t need to be that way and it puts the people who cannot afford to drive in the first place at a disadvantage. Downtown is highly accessible by public transportation and it is right on highway 406. Having a comfortable, regular, public connection to Burlington and points beyond would have a far greater positive impact on downtown than the north end. (And its a designated urban growth centre, which ought to settle the matter without question.)

This blog briefly returns to life with exciting news

MARLENE BERGSMA

Standard Staff

GO Transit is coming to Niagara.

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley and St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra announced

Sunday $2.5 million in federal and provincial infrastructure funding to

build four new park and ride GO bus stations in Niagara.

Construction on the first station at Casablanca Boulevard and the QEW in

Grimsby will start in June, with service to St. Catharines and possibly two

locations in Niagara Falls by September.

A new New Burgoyne High Level Bridge?

Niagara Region may, in a few years, have to replace the Burgoyne Bridge which carries St. Paul Street over Twelve Mile Creek. The bridge was opened in 1914 to replace a swing bridge over the Second Welland Canal in the valley below. Before the new bridge, St. Catharines had no fixed link to its train station.

Here’s a Google Map. Here’s a little history.

I hope this new bridge (or a renovation of the current bridge) makes access to downtown a little easier on foot and bike. Today, some of the most uncomfortable places to travel without a car are the bridges across Highway 406. In particular, I’m thinking of Welland/Fourth, Ontario/Westchester, and Geneva. These bridges are straight and wide, and consequently cars race across them as if they are a part of the highway below.

There will be a temptation to add more lanes if a new bridge is built, but I’m not sure that would be necessary. Cars have to move fairly slowly on either side of this bridge because its an old part of the city and the road is narrow. They shouldn’t be encouraged to zoom ahead for the thirty seconds (or so) it takes to cross. Instead, I’d like to see wider sidewalks and the addition of bicycle lanes. West St Catharines is within walking and biking distance of downtown; more people might opt to access downtown this way if it were less unpleasant to cross Twelve Mile Creek.

Take a look at the postcard above. That beautiful bridge was replaced by a harsh concrete overpass over the 406. Right now it is quite impressive to pass under the Burgoyne Bridge on your way into the city; let’s keep it that way, even if it is a new bridge.

Both photos are from the Niagara Falls Public Library. You can find thousands more at their website.

Brian McMullan is my favourite

Said a local resident to city council:

“If we are serious about a zero per cent increase, we absolutely have to put services on the table,” he said, “and I don’t buy that we have an efficient system. Why are we running a Cadillac program in a Chevrolet system. As far as I am concerned, you are buying too many buses.”

First of all, this man obviously does not ride the bus. Yes, service is pretty good during weekdays, but there are serious gaps in service after dark and on weekends. It is by no stretch of the imagination a “Cadillac” transit service. And I don’t see why we shouldn’t strive to be Cadillac in all things anyway.

This puzzling Chevy-Cadillac talk aside, the mayor confirmed the faith I have in him and council:

“We are looking at service cuts,” he protested. The fact that nothing has been cut yet doesn’t mean the city hasn’t considered cuts, he said. “We are just going another route. ” And despite Petrowski’s and Bedwell’s calls for cuts, McMullan said they’re in the minority.

“Ninety-five per cent of the calls I get are for increased levels of service, not decreased,” McMullan said. “Yours is not a sentiment that is shared by the public.”

(In the end, council decided to cut next year’s bus purchases from five to three, which is less damaging to transit in the short-term than service cuts, though it’s not a sustainable place to find savings.)

407 East extension

Word is out the province intends to extend the 407 toll highway through Durham Region toward Peterborough, but the new segment will not be owned or operated by the much-reviled ETR consortium.

I can’t say the prospect of a road connecting greenfield to exurbs fills me with joy, but I am delighted it will be tolled. Say what you will about the high price of driving on the 407; those tolls do a pretty good job of keeping the highway moving.

Hopefully all new highways (and there will be new highways) will be tolled roads. Tolls are a good idea not just for discouraging unnecessary traffic, but also make expensive roads financially sustainable.

The future sounds computer-generated

I had noticed lately some of the new buses in St Catharines came equipped with LED boards up front for announcing stops. I thought it would be some time before they had all the buses upgraded to implement audio and visual announcements of bus stops, as mandated by the OHRC [pdf]. Either the transit commission upgraded all the buses very quickly this afternoon or they’re taking a gradual approach.

Whatever the case may be, I can tell you from personal experience that at least one bus in St Catharines now speaks and displays the name of each upcoming stop. Hooray for progress!

Even for someone with myself with decent hearing and vision, it proved to be handy because the bus was crowded and from my standing position I couldn’t really see where we were at. But I could hear it!

Pickering Airport back from the dead?

From the Pickering Airport Draft Plan Report

From the Pickering Airport Draft Plan Report [pdf]

John Barber wrote in the Globe and Mail today that the Pickering Airport, on hold for decades, may be resurrected in the next budget.

If we’re going to spend billions of dollars on useless endeavours that would have been fashionable decades ago, why not upgrade the Trans Canada Highway to a freeway, or build our own atomic bomb with home-grown technology?

It never ceases to amaze me how backwards the Tories are.

A while back, Spacing.ca took a tour of the Pickering Airport lands. One of the commenters suggested it would make a good National Park; it couldn’t be any worse (and it would certainly be cheaper) than a Mirabel-West.