June 21st–We set up at the Hamilton General Hospital cafeteria to get a better sense of the barriers that employees of this fine establishment face, when it comes to getting to work by bike, walking and on transit.
We also wanted to get direct input from the staff concerning how they feel about the neighbourhood they work in, when it comes to perceived and actual safety.
One man said he wanted to cycle to work but he was afraid of coming down the mountain (we suggested he check out the new City of Hamilton’s new pilot project, the Mountain Climber program, where you can ride up and down the mountain for free, putting your bike on the racks.
One lady said it was too stressful to come on transit in the morning (she has to take two buses); “easier to drive.” Then at night, when it is late, the same issues occur.
Other comments include:
“Carpooling is sometimes difficult with shifts.”
“Protected bike lanes to get to work would be good.”
There was a sense of unease about the area: “It’s sketchy. I get hit on.” “The area is okay. A bit sketchy.” Most folks said they “got in and out,” no lingering: “I just figured there was a new La Luna.”
“Decades ago, Barton used to be a lively, bustling street with places to go. It’s not safe now.”
“I could walk around on my lunch break but I don’t feel safe,” said one woman. “I sometimes walk to shoppers though. I like it when there is police presence.”
This lady mentioned that the hospital has a program called Shine Wellness that could do more walkabouts at lunch time, with more walking lunch buddies. “It needs someone to coordinate it. This is a big place.”
One person said she would love to build in walking into her daily routine. She would appreciate more trees (loves to walk around the Juravinski hospital on the mountain because of this).
One person said that he wanted to cycle but didn’t want to arrive sweaty. We let him know about the showers and lockers that the hospital has put in place for this purpose, thanks to the efforts of superstar employee and Smart Commute liaison, Rebekah Jackson-Gravely, who has been working tirelessly to get more employees getting to and from work sustainably since 2005!!
Rebekah has also worked hard to set up carpooling and has recently learned that her carpooling spots at Juravinski are being threatened–looks like parking wants to see this initiative relegated to the third level, away from the first level of prime spots. Sounds kinda punitive doesn’t it?
One doctor and local active transportation activist gives a very clear picture of the challenges faced in attempting to get to work without your car. Here are his thoughts:
1. Walking and cycling aren’t potential transportation modalities only for people who live in the lower city neighbourhoods near HGH. There could also be a first-mile/last-mile solution for people coming from farther away by car or by transit. There is only so much on-site parking at HGH, and there are a number of major bus routes that come close to HGH but don’t go directly past it. Anything that makes it easier to walk or ride a bicycle (maybe a SoBi) from a bus route or a parking lot 500-1500 metres from HGH will make these modes of transportation more viable. Specifically, there is a lot of underused parking around Barton and Wentworth, and the B-line HSR corridor runs 1 km south of HGH. Right now very few people walk or cycle to HGH from the B-line corridor, probably because the north-south streets are so unpleasant.
2. The HSR connections to HGH leave a lot to be desired. The 2 Barton bus connects with the B-line downtown, but the 2 Barton is very slow leaving downtown and for anyone coming from the east it makes no sense to ride all the way west on the B line into downtown and then back east again (coming from the east and connecting to the 2 forces you to go west, north, and then back east again. Even coming from the west it would almost certainly make more sense to ride the relatively fast B-line corridor buses to Victoria and then transfer to a northbound bus than to transfer in the middle of the downtown). The 12 Wentworth bus inexplicably passes HGH northbound along Victoria but not on its southbound leg, which uses Wentworth rather than Wellington, and service on this route is infrequent.
3. There is no direct transit route from Hamilton Mountain. In particular, anyone travelling to/from HGH from the transit terminal at Mohawk College has to take a bus downtown and then transfer to the 2 Barton. If the HSR established a new route from HGH along Wellington/Victoria, the Claremont Access, Upper James, and Fennell to the Mohawk College Transit Terminal, it would provide a nice transit link both to the B-line corridor and to the mountain.
I have to travel fairly often between a number of hospital campuses (McMaster, St. Joe’s Charlton, West 5th, Juravinski, and HGH), and HGH is by far the least transit-accessible. It is also located in the most oppressive physical environment for people approaching on foot or by bicycle.
Clearly, we want employees to travel sans voiture, and many are eager to do so and cut back on parking expenses, but we need to have the best ever transit system in place so that they can do so!