Transport Trucks Do Not Belong in the City

At around 9:30 this morning, I was standing on the southwest corner of Main Street West and James Street South, waiting for the traffic signals to change so I could cross Main northbound. As the traffic signals on Main turned amber, a flatbed transport truck in the second lane on Main Street suddenly hung an abrupt hard right turn onto James.A woman driving in the curb lane on Main slammed her brakes to avoid getting creamed and laid into her horn. The truck driver cleared the curb where I was standing by inches and just barely missed clobbering a northbound car on James that was stopped at the red light, but somehow managed to complete the turn.This absurd near-miss won’t be recorded in any collision statistics (not that the City shares its traffic collision data anyway) or factor into any road safety design decisions, but shit like this happens all. The. Freaking. Time.A few weeks ago, I was walking on Pearl Street across Main.

The traffic signals had turned red for Main and I had a Walk signal, but it’s a good thing I didn’t just stride out onto the crosswalk. A transport truck going east on Main blew right through the crosswalk and came to a stop entirely blocking it. The driver studiously avoided making eye contact as I slunk in front of the huge grille.Just to be clear, the traffic signal at Main and Pearl has been there for four years. It is synchronized with the rest of the Green Wave of traffic signals along Main, and, like every other traffic signal, it cycles through a normal amber phase before turning red. There was absolutely no reason it should come as a surprise to the truck driver.But like the white-knuckle right hook today at Main and James, this sort of thing happens all. The. Freaking. Time.Transport trucks are a blight on lower-city Hamilton. We have allowed city streets to serve as arterials for cut-through transport trucks that should be on the ring highway system that completely surrounds the city and was built for that purpose.Transport trucks entering and leaving the industrial waterfront should not be driving down Cannon, Queen and King to get to the highway. They should be taking the industrial highway, Nikola Tesla Boulevard, that was built specifically to accommodate heavy truck traffic.

Truck Route vs. Safe Communities When Council voted to convert Queen Street to two-way this month, many residents rightly decried the fact that the conversion only applied to the section of Queen between Herkimer and Main (Queen is already two-way south of Herkimer).The City staff excuse for not wanting to touch Queen Street North is that it’s part of the City’s offical Truck Route. So Strathcona and Central Neighbourhoods must continue to be traumatized by a multi-lane one-way thoroughfare and a steady parade of heavy transport trucks because the City is willing to let transport truck drivers use city streets as a shortcut instead of taking the highway.Remember, this is not local truck traffic but through truck traffic – trucks that are just using Hamilton city streets as a way to get somewhere else. Truck drivers are allowed to use designated city streets as thoroughfares under the City’s Truck Routes Master Plan.Council last updated the Truck Route in 2010. The plan makes no distinction between cube vans and 18-wheelers and discards social and environmental considerations in favour of a narrow business interest in letting transport trucks take the most direct route across town – even if that route blasts through urban neighbourhoods.Bowing to organized community pressure, Council agreed to take a few streets off the Truck Route: Dundurn Street North, the Kenilworth Access, Upper Ottawa Street and Concession Street. But other than these tweaks, nothing substantive about the underlying structure of the Truck Route was changed.

So here we are, seven years later, and transport trucks are still blasting through the city: creating ear-splitting noise, spewing air pollution, blowing through crosswalks, roaring through dangerous turns, and generally provoking the legitimate fear of disastrous collisions.This is not normal. We should not be deforming our communities and denying the potential for traffic calming, just so that a transport truck driver can save a couple of minutes shortcutting through the heart of the city instead of bypassing it on our ring highway network.This is a fundamental quality of life issue: transport trucks simply do not belong in neighbourhoods where people are trying to live their lives. Enough is enough – if we want to reclaim our streets as safe, inclusive public spaces, we need to remove these enormous, ongoing sources of danger. Our urban neighbourhoods have spent enough decades in purgatory as a sacrifice zone to the convenience of people just passing through on their way somewhere else.

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