The McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL) last week released a research study report intended to contribute to long-term transportation planning and implementation in Hamilton. It presents a picture of 21st century streets that are a more productive element of the overall built environment and capable of generating positive social, environmental and economic outcomes. This contemporary mindset challenges past thinking that favoured city streets designed for efficient vehicular throughput.
The study, titled “Shaping Hamilton with Complete Streets,” was commissioned by the City of Hamilton and carried out over the past two years in cooperation with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and others.
The goal was to help determine how the principles of complete streets (people-oriented streets designed to accommodate a full range of mobility options from walking and cycling to motorized vehicles and public transit) can be more broadly applied in Hamilton.
An objective going forward is to kick start work to develop a business case for complete streets in Hamilton – i.e., a cost-benefit analysis based on different scenarios. Such an analysis is a critical part of assessing the value of complete streets in the context of myriad investment choices competing for limited resources.
The report cites a lack of global academic research on the question of how complete streets directly contribute to economic outcomes. Moreover, the MITL principal researchers, Dr. Mark Ferguson and Chris Higgins, acknowledge that it is difficult to draw a straight line between the implementation of a particular complete street design and localized economic impacts. That said, the MITL report does point to a number of more general ways complete streets can provide tangible returns on investment. Again, outcomes from complete streets are the product of numerous interdependent factors – no two cases are the same.
EIGHT ECONOMIC BENEFITS COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH COMPLETE STREETS
The report also highlights the potential for significant economic uplift by combining two assets: complete streets and light rail transit. The LRT line coming to lower city Hamilton in the next decade will provide a “transportation spine” that will spur enhanced commercial activity, particularly at key hubs and intersections. Complete streets are shown to feed people into more densely populated neighbourhoods and boost the performance of LRT-enabled development. “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” says Keanin Loomis, president and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “We will continue to promote this economic storyline as work on LRT planning and implementation ramps up.”
A number of local organizations are committed to using the MITL report and other studies to develop a business case for complete streets in Hamilton. These organizations include the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, W Booth School of Engineering Practice, McMaster University Network for Community-Campus Partnerships and the Hamilton Sustainability Professionals Network. Work is expected to begin in September 2015. The McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics will also continue to conduct research related to complete streets in Hamilton and beyond.
Keith Robson and Keanin Loomis Introduction
Dr. Mark Ferguson Presents Research Findings
Chris Higgins Presents Research Findings
Dr. Pavlos Kanaroglou Concluding Remarks