The Proposed Hamilton Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS)
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. 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:
As crossing the escarpment was the most difficult portion of the ICTS from an engineering point of view, 12 different routes were examined:
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:
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.
Detailed analysis of these routes was performed with an eye on the following:
The detailed analysis resulted in the following routes being eliminated:
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.
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:
The Four Routes
From the analysis 4 routes were created, which were approved by the Region 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 along Upper James. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)
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, 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. (From Hamilton-Wentworth Rapid Transit Project, Functional Plans, Metro Canada Limited, October 1981)
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. (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. (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. (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. (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.
Task A-1: Rapid Transit Rationale. Marshall Macklin Monaghan Limited, Hatch Associates, Barton Myers Associates. December 1980