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 The Proposed Hamilton Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS)

The Proposed Hamilton Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS)

Background

During the late 1960s, Hamilton city planners realized that a serious transportation bottleneck was in danger of forming. The rising population living in the new subdivisions on top of the escarpment (known to locals as Hamilton Mountain) would eventually overwhelm the limited number of routes connecting the southern part of the city with the downtown core. The completion of the Claremont Access in the early 1970s delayed this, but with only limited additional improvements and road widening possible due to the terrain, predictions showed all routes crossing the escarpment reaching maximum capacity in the early 1990s. As well, the bus routes crossing the escarpment would reach maximum practical capacity at around the same time. As the 1970s wore on, city planners began looking at mass transit options to prevent this gridlock. They recommended the creation of a high volume transit corridor crossing the escarpment, connecting the downtown core with a suburban centre on the mountain.

In the early 1970’s, the Province of Ontario began work on a new type of transit system, the Intermediate Capacity Transit System, or ICTS. The ICTS was envisioned both as a method of filling in the capacity gap between low capacity buses and high capacity subways, and as a way to create a new industry in Ontario. Originally designed as a maglev on an elevated track, it evolved into married pairs (two cars permanently coupled together and sharing equipment, rather than each car being totally self-contained) of steel wheeled vehicles joined together in trains, with linear induction motors instead of the more traditional electric motors powered by an electrified third rail or overhead wire. The vehicles are driverless, and are controlled from a central facility. Testing, construction and sales of the ICTS was managed by the crown corporation Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (OTDC), later renamed UTDC (U standing for Urban).

This four car train of the Toronto Transit Commission's Scarborough RT line shows what the Hamilton ICTS would have looked like.

This four car train of the Toronto Transit Commission's Scarborough RT line shows what the Hamilton ICTS would have looked like. One major difference is the driver's cab, as the TTC did not want vehicles without drivers. (Photo by Alex Lee, used with permission)

By the late 1970s, UTDC and the province of Ontario had reached the point that a functioning large scale demonstration of the new technology was required in order to sell the ICTS to potential clients. (A prototype track had been built near Kingston in 1978) With the backing of the province, UTDC offered several large cities in Ontario the opportunity to be the home of the first ICTS, cities such as Hamilton and Toronto. UTDC took an early interest in Hamilton, because of the challenge of crossing the Niagara Escarpment. Studies undertaken in the mid 1970s by UTDC confirmed that ICTS was capable of crossing the escarpment.

In September 1978, the Provincial government proposed that an ICTS system be built in Hamilton. Funding was initially proposed to be split between the three levels of government, with the provincial and federal governments each paying 45%, and the region of Hamilton-Wentworth paying the remaining 10%. The proposal was endorsed by the regional and city councils. In January 1980 the Province agreed to fully fund the $3.5 Million required for a pre-implementation study (as the Federal government had not yet responded to the province's offer) and on August 21, 1980, the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth entered into an agreement with Metro Canada Limited, a subsidiary of UTDC, to begin pre-implementation planning of a rapid transit system, connecting the downtown core with Hamilton Mountain.

Possible Route Options

As part of the pre-liminary planning, studies on ambient background noise, vibration, economic impacts, air pollutants, and transit use were conducted. Perhaps most interesting to the modern urban planner was a study comparing transit modes, to confirm the ICTS was the best one. A comparison was made between the proposed ICTS, an ICTS Subway, a Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) in both mixed traffic and on a semi-exclusive right-of-way, regular buses in mixed and with rush hour bus priority lanes, trolley buses, and articulated buses. (As this study was done by a company attempting to sell their own product, the fact that the proposed ICTS was ranked the best of all transit modes by the study should be taken with a grain of salt).

It was decided early on that Limeridge Mall would be the southern terminus for the ICTS. At the time, Limeridge Mall was fairly close to the east-west '50-50' line, with 50% of Hamilton Mountain's population living to the west of it, and 50% to the east. Hamilton's Official plan had placed the HSR's then future bus terminal at Limeridge Mall, in order to act as a regional centre for the existing neighbourhoods, as well as the future subdivisions to the south. As well, a proposed football stadium was to be placed nearby at Upper Wentworth and Limeridge.

The initial phase of the planning study involved the creation of possible routes between downtown Hamilton and Limeridge Mall which was limited by the presence of the Niagara Escarpment. This resulted in the alignment options being split into three sections: Central, Escarpment and Mountain, with the boundaries being the TH&B tracks and the brow of the escarpment. Possible routes in one section would be joined with other possibilities in the other sections to form a complete route, but due to location not all combinations were possible.

All North-South routes on the mountain followed major roads, as there were no other possible routes that would not have major impacts on residential areas (i.e. expropriation, construction). There were four Mountain routes originally proposed:

  • Route M1-West 5th St
  • Route M2-Upper James
  • Route M3-Upper Wentworth
  • Route M4-Upper Wellington

As crossing the escarpment was the most difficult portion of the ICTS from an engineering point of view, 12 different routes were examined:

  • Route E1-James Mountain Rd.
  • Route E2-James St. S. to Upper James St.
  • Route E3-Arkeldun/Claremont Hill Dr.
  • Route E4-Arkeldun/Jolley Cut
  • Route E5-TH&B tracks to Upper Wentworth St.
  • Route E6-Ferguson to Upper Wellington St.
  • Route E7-Ferguson to Claremont Hill Dr.
  • Route E8-Arkeldun to Upper Wellington St.
  • Route E9-Catherine to Upper Wellington St.
  • Route E10-Wellington St. S. to Upper Wellington St.
  • Route E11-Victoria Ave to Upper Wellington St.
  • Route E12-Victoria Ave to Upper Wentworth St.

Routes E1, E7 and E10 were all eliminated before the selection process began: E1 had a maximum grade that was too steep, preliminary soil testing revealed that E7 passed through a section of the escarpment with poor soil conditions that would have made construction expensive, and E10 would have required a very long and expensive tunnel.

In the central Business District, emphasis was put on identifying potential station sites, rather than on route alignments. Using exisiting and planned land use patterns, commercial, residential and institutional uses, six locations were decided on in the CBD:

  • 1) Jackson Square/King & James/Gore Park
  • 2) King & Catharine
  • 3) King & Wellington
  • 4) Hughson & Augusta/St. Joseph's
  • 5) King & Hess
  • 6) James & Colbourne

It was realized early on that it was not feasible for all of these locations to be serviced. Therefore it was decided to concentrate on the first four locations. The Jackson Sq/Gore Park area was selected as the priority, with all route options serving at least two of the four locations. The presence of large buildings and narrow streets limited the potential routes, resulting in 13 routes segments for the CBD.

  • Route C1-Main & Wellington to King & James via Main, Catharine & King.
  • Route C2-TH&B tracks to MacNab Terminal, via Walnut, Main & MacNab
  • Route C3-Main & Wellington to Main & Catharine, with a one-way loop running Main, MacNab, over Jackson Sq, King William, Catharine
  • Route C4-John & St. Joseph's to Catharine & Main via John, across land between Young & Augusta, Catharine with a loop running Main, MacNab, King, Catharine
  • Route C5-A one-way loop from Main & Wellington, running Main, Bay, King, Wellington
  • Route C6-A one-way loop from Main & Ferguson, running Main, James, King, Ferguson
  • Route C7-TH&B tracks to Hughson & King, via Hughson
  • Route C8-Hughson St
  • Route C9-Catharine & Forest to Catharine & Hunter, with a one-way loop running Hunter, MacNab, over Jackson Sq, King William, Catharine
  • Route C10-John & St Joseph's to Gore Park, via John, King
  • Route C11-James & St Joseph's to King & Wellington, via James, Jackson, MacNab, King
  • Route C12-James & St Joseph's to King & Walnut, via James, King
  • Route C13-James & St Joseph's to James & Jackson, with a one-way loop running James, King William, Catharine, Jackson

Detailed analysis of these routes was performed with an eye on the following:

  • Support of Regional Planning Policies

  • Support of Goals and Objectives

  • Development Criteria-minimize impact on heritage areas, pedestrians, support development goals

  • Transportation Criteria-integration with existing bus and trolley routes, and with intercity buses and trains

  • Physical Criteria-not to exceed maximum slopes or minimum curve sizes, etc.

  • Engineering Criteria-costs, will the structures fit between existing buildings

  • Environmental Criteria-minimize impact on Niagara Escarpment, trees, groundwater, etc

The detailed analysis resulted in the following routes being eliminated:

  • Route M1-West 5th St
  • Upper James St south of Mohawk
  • Limeridge Road
  • Fennell Ave

It was hoped that the detailed analysis would reduce the number of routes down to approximately 12, but this was not to be. Instead, a network of major alignment segments with multiple paths was created. In January 1981 the region of Hamilton-Wentworth accepted these generated routes. For further analysis, the routes were broken down into segments, in order for direct comparisons between one another. The segments were renamed, with no relation to the previous route labels. Segments L1 and L2 were added as a request from regional council due to public pressure, even though routes along Fennell had been eliminated at the initial stage.

  • A1-Mohawk Road and Upper Wentworth Street south to Limeridge Mall.
  • A2-Mohawk Road from Upper Wentworth Street east to Mall Street and south to Limeridge Mall.
  • B1-Mohawk Road and Upper Wellington Street south to proposed East-West arterial (now the Linc) then east to Upper Wentworth Street and north along Upper Wentworth Street to Limeridge Mall.
  • B2-Mohawk Road and Upper Wellington Street east to Upper Wentworth Street to combine with Segment A.
  • C1-Intersection of Upper Wellington Street and Concession Street, south on Wellington Street to intersection of Mohawk Road and Wellington Street.
  • C2-Intersection of Upper Wellington Street and Concession Street, east on Concession Street to intersection of Concession and Upper Wentworth, south on Upper Wentworth Street to the intersection of Upper Wentworth Street and Fennell Avenue.
  • D1A-Intersection of Claremont Access Road and Jolley Cut via guideway to a portal, then southeast via tunnel to a station just south of Inverness Avenue East and Upper Wellington Street.
  • D1B-Intersection of Claremont Access Road and Jolley Cut via guideway to a portal, then southeast via tunnel to Concession Street and 13th Street East.
  • D2A-Intersection of Claremont Access Road and Jolley Cut ascending Jolley Cut to the intersection of a station just south ofInverness Avenue East and Upper Wellington Street.
  • D2B-Intersection of Claremont Access Road and Jolley Cut ascending the Jolley Cut to Concession Street, then east to 15th Street East.
  • D2C-Modification of D2A and D2B proposing a tunnel/cut and cover section just before the first ascent curve on the Jolley Cut to Concession Street and 15th Street East.
  • E1A-From James Street South and St. Joseph's Drive to Freeman Place (approximately), then by tunnel to Queensdale Avenue East and Upper James Street, then elevated to Fennell Avenue and Upper James Street.
  • E1B-Similar to E1A but proposes extending the tunnel to Fennell Avenue and Upper James Street.
  • E2-From the intersection of James Street South and St. Joseph's Drive, along St. Joseph's Drive and Arkledun Avenue/Jolley Cut to Claremont Access Road, then along Claremont Access Road to Upper James Street and Fennell Avenue.
  • F1A-Commences from Ferguson Avenue/TH&B and goes south along Ferguson Avenue and enters a tunnel, then via tunnel to approximately Queensdale Avenue and Upper Wellington.
  • F1B-Same as F1A except tunnel section goes eastward to emerge at Concession Street and 16th Street East.
  • F2A-Commences from the intersection of King/Wellington and goes south along Wellington Street onto Claremont Access Road and then veers southward of this access to enter a tunnel portal. This tunnel emerges at Inverness and Upper Wellington.
  • F2B-Similar to F2A but the tunnel goes eastward to emerge at Concession Street and 26th Street East.
  • G1-From intersection of James Street South and St. Joseph's Drive, north to intersection of James Street and Charlton Street and then down either James Street, Hughson Street or John Street or via St. Joseph's Drive to John Street.
  • G2-From intersection of James Street South and St. Joseph's Drive to John Street and Charlton Street and then down John Street, Hughson Street or James Street, or via St. Joseph's Drive to James Street.
  • H-Utilizes the TH&B railway right-of-way between MacNab Street and Claremont Access Road.
  • I1-Intersection of King Street West and Mary Street, east to Ferguson Avenue, then south on Ferguson Avenue to TH&B railway.
  • I2-From intersection of King Street West and Walnut Street, south on Walnut Street to the TH&B railway.
  • I3-Intersection of King Street West and Mary Street, south to TH&B railway, then southeast along the railway to Ferguson Avenue.
  • J1-Intersection of John Street North and Charlton Avenue East, east to Catharine Street, then southeast to a tunnel portal just south of the Claremont/Jolley Cut intersection.
  • J2-Intersection of John Street North and Charlton Avenue East, south to Arkledun Avenue, then east to Jolley Cut/Claremont Access Road intersection.
  • J3-Intersection of John Street and St. Joseph's Drive, east along St. Joseph's Drive to portal on north side of Jolly Cut/Claremont Access Road intersection and then southeast via tunnel to the Concession Street/Upper Wellington Street intersection.
  • K-From intersection of Fennell Avenue and Upper James Street, south to Mohawk Road, then east on Mohawk to intersection at Mohawk and Upper Wellington.
  • L1-Upper Wellington from Fennell Avenue to Mohawk Road, then east to Upper Wentworth.
  • L2-Fennell Avenue from Upper Wellington to Upper Wentworth, then south to Mohawk Road.
  • CBD1-East-West corridor along King or Main from Wellington to MacNab (with option to use King William east of Catharine)
  • CBD2-North South corridor between TH&B tracks and King along James, John, or Hughson
  • CBD3-North South corridor between TH&B tracks and Charlton along Catharine, James, John, or Hughson
  • CBD4-one-way loop Catharine-Jackson-MacNab-Jackson sq-King William-Catharine (with option to use TH&B tracks instead of Jackson)
Map of Analyzed Segments

Map of Analyzed Segments. The white circles indicate attachment points between segments. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Draft Environmental Assessment, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

The segments were analyzed using 4 major criteria: Transportation, land use and environment, capital costs, and staging. The detailed analysis selected the following segments:

  • A1
  • B1
  • C1
  • D1A-For alignments on Upper Wellington St
  • D1B-For alignments on Concession St
  • E1B-for James St/Upper James St alignments
  • F2A-For alignments on Upper Wellington St
  • F2B-For alignments on Concession St
  • H
  • I3 (with I2 as an acceptable alternative)
  • J3
  • K
  • L2
  • CBD1 along King, with the option to use King William east of Catharine
  • CBD 2 & 3 both recommended John and Hughson
  • CBD4 one-way loop along the TH&B tracks-MacNab-King-Catharine

The Four Routes

From the analysis 4 routes were created, which were approved by the Region in March 1981:

  • Route W-Limeridge Mall-Upper Wentworth-Mohawk-Upper James-James-Charlton-Hughson or John-CBD loop
  • Route X-Limeridge Mall-Upper Wentworth-Mohawk or Fennell-Upper Wellington-escarpment-John-CBD loop
  • Route Y-Limeridge Mall-Upper Wentworth-Mohawk or Fennell-Upper Wellington-Claremont access-TH&B-CBD loop
  • Route Z-Limeridge Mall-Upper Wentworth-Mohawk or Fennell-Upper Wellington-Claremont access-Victoria-Wellington-King William-Catharine-CBD loop
The 4 proposed routes, as approved in March 1981.

The 4 proposed routes, as approved in March 1981. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Draft Environmental Assessment, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

In all cases the CBD loop ran counter-clockwise, running along either John (routes W & X) or Catharine (routes Y & Z), and then King, MacNab and along the TH&B tracks back to the start point. Construction was proposed in two stages: The CBD one-way loop and escarpment crossing south as far as either Fennel or Mohawk, followed by an extension to Limeridge Mall.

A series of open houses was held in Hamilton in mid-March to display the four options to the public and to gauge support. 57% of participants supported the ICTS project, with 26% opposed and 13% undecided. Of those who listed a preference for a route, 32% were in favour of W, 9% in favour of X, 20% in favour of Y, and 17% in favour of Z, with 22% having no preference or illegible.

By May, further analysis had recommended that Route W be run along Hughson, and that routes X, Y and Z run along Mohawk. These recommendations did not eliminate the other options from selection. As well, the CBD one-way loop was routed over the city hall parking lot and over Jackson Sq to King William, and then south on Catharine in all cases. A followup series of open houses was held in late June 1981 to gather additional public opinion. At both the open houses and through a flyer mailed out to 50 000 homes, residents were asked to vote on their 1st and 2nd choice for preferred route, or on none of the above. Of 725 usable replies, 46% voted none of the above, 17% voted for W, 5% for X, 10% for Y, 14% for Z, and 8% gave no reply for their first choice. For their second choice, 47% voted for none of the above, 3% for W, 8% for X, 11% for Y, 10% for Z, and 21% gave no reply.

The Final Choice

In July of 1981, Metro Canada made its final recommendation; that the ICTS be built along route W, and that the first stage of the construction end at Mohawk Ave. Route W was found to be the cheapest, have the lowest social impact on the mountain, and the only one to service the St Joseph's hospital/south James St Area. However, there were some construction impacts on the escarpment and the lower city that would have to be resolved. Total cost (land, construction, vehicles, etc) was estimated to be $111.1 million (approx. $260.8 million in 2010 dollars), with completion in late 1985/early 1986. The Hamilton regional Council accepted this recommendation on July 21, 1981.

Proposed Route Description

The ICTS line would have begun at the corner of Upper James and Mohawk, with Mohawk station on the northeast corner elevated above Mohawk Plaza. The line would head north on Upper James along the centre of the roadway, and then swing onto the side of the roadway, gradually descending until passing underground near the intersection of Upper James and Monarch Rd, on the parking lot of Mountain Plaza. Fennell Station would be located underground on the southeast corner of the intersection of Upper James and Fennell. North of Fennell station the ICTS would continue to descend until it emerged from the side of the Niagara Escarpment at the site of the old James St Incline, where the James St stairs are today.

View of ICTS route along Upper James

View of ICTS along Upper James. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

Artist's rendition of Mohawk Station

Artist's rendition of Mohawk Station. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

The intersection of Mohawk and Upper James

The intersection of Mohawk and Upper James, showing the station and the bus terminal in relation to the neighbourhood. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

East Elevation View of Mohawk Station

East Elevation View of Mohawk Station. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

Plan of Mohawk Station at Ground Floor

Plan of Mohawk Station at Ground Floor. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

Plan of Mohawk Station at Platform and Roof Level

Plan of Mohawk Station at Platform and Roof Level. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

Now again on an elevated track, the line would have swung slightly east, to parallel James St South on the east side. The elevated line would have jumped from James to Hughson Street, either by cutting across the St. Joseph’s Hospital parking lot, or by making a sharp turn from James onto Charlton, and then another sharp turn from Charlton onto Hughson. St. Joseph’s station would have been located either on the southeast corner of James St and Charlton, or above Hughson Street at Charlton. These two sets of options were presented as St. Joseph’s hospital had not decided whether or not to allow the ICTS to cut across the property. At Hughson and Haymarket, right behind the TH&B station on Hunter St, the ICTS would have its maintenance facilities and storage yard, oriented east-west. This is also the location where the downtown one-way loop would begin.

View of ICTS route in downtown core

View of ICTS route in downtown core. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

Turning east, the one-way line would turn from Hughson, follow and pass over the TH&B tracks, and would head down Catherine St. It would turn onto King William St, and would run along King William to John St, where King William Station would be located. This first loop station was intended to serve the then Hamilton intercity bus terminal at John and Rebecca streets, and the east side of the downtown core. The line would continue on King William to James, where it would make a sharp turn to the south, running down James St on top of Jackson Square. It would turn sharply west at King, and then leave Jackson Square with another sharp turn onto MacNab and enter MacNab Station. MacNab station would be placed above the existing bus platforms at MacNab and Main, and would serve as the transfer point between the ICTS and the buses coming from the West end, as well as serving City Hall, Jackson Square, Copps Coliseum, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Heading south, then line would curve around Whitehern by passing over the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the City Hall parking lots where it would turn east, cross over the TH&B tracks, and head up Hughson heading for St Joseph’s station.

Artist's rendition of MacNab Station

Artist's rendition of MacNab Station. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

The maintenance facilities and storage yard would be a two-storey affair, located right behind the TH&B Hunter St station. Heavy maintenance and vehicle delivery would occur at ground level, and at track level would be the storage yard and light maintenance (cleaning). A huge elevator, capable of moving a pair of ICTS cars, would lift or lower cars between the two levels. (As a side note, the presence of the ICTS yard would have meant that the Hamilton intercity bus terminal could not have been relocated behind the Hunter St station as it was in the 1990s)

Map of ICTS Yard

Map of ICTS Yard. (ASL stands for Above Sea Level) (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)

The creation of the ICTS would have altered the bus network on Hamilton Mountain dramatically, with most buses being routed towards an ICTS station, rather than the downtown core. Mohawk station would have had the largest bus station, with 7 routes redirected to the Mohawk station bus terminal. These would have included 27B UPPER JAMES, 32 GARTH, 33 SANATORIUM, 41 MOHAWK, and 45 LIMERIDGE, as well as a new STONECHURCH EAST route. Fennell Station would see the 27A UPPER JAMES, 31 FENNELL, 34 UPPER PARADISE, and 35 COLLEGE being rerouted to the new station, as well as new QUEENSDALE, UPPER WENTWORTH, and UPPER WELLINGTON routes created. St. Joseph station would have had no bus platforms, and MacNab station would have served all the routes that passed by Main & MacNab. King William station would see the 4 BAYFRONT rerouted via Wellington.

Future updates to this page will detail political and public reaction to the ICTS project, leading up to the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council's rejection of the ICTS on December 15, 1981, and a look back 30 years analyzing what really happened to traffic levels along the escarpment and commentary on what the effects of having or not having a mass transit system have been on Hamilton.

Sources

Reports
Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project

Task A-1: Rapid Transit Rationale. Marshall Macklin Monaghan Limited, Hatch Associates, Barton Myers Associates. December 1980
Analysis of Public Comments, Initial Open house Connor Development Services Limited, March 12, 1981
Task A-2: Generation of Feasible Alignments. Marshall Macklin Monaghan Limited, Hatch Associates, Barton Myers Associates. December 1980
Generation of Feasible Alignments, Cole Sherman & Associates. March 1981
Alignment Generation Criteria and the Generated Alignments, Metro Canada Limited March 13 1981
Alignment Evaluation Methods and Criteria for Shortlisting Alignments, M.M. Dillon Lmt, March 12 1981
Analysis of Public Comments and Ranking of Evaluation factors Connor Development Services Limited, March 12, 1981
Recommended Alignments and Summary Evaluation, Metro Canada Limited February 13 1981
Analysis of Public Ranking of Selected Alignments, Metro Canada Limited October 1981
Summary Evaluation of Rapid Transit Routes and Recommendation of Preferred Route, Metro Canada Limited, July 10 1981
Comparison of Alternate Modes. Marshall Macklin Monaghan Limited. November 5, 1981
Draft Environmental Assessment, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981
Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981