Special Report: Truck Routes

Open Letter to Council: 54 Years Is Long Enough

The power to take through trucks off city streets is in Council's hands. Will you become part of the solution, or continue to hold our city back?

By Jason Leach
Published June 08, 2010

Dear Council,

Sound familiar? These quotes are taken from a 1950s page of the Hamilton Spectator and were uttered by business owners along King, James and York in opposition to the downtown-killing one-way street plan implemented in 1956.

As a proud Hamiltonian, I've never felt more let down or more disgusted to live here upon reading a recent news report outlining the continued refusal from City Hall to make the necessary changes to our truck route system that will help breath life into our downtown business districts and neighbourhoods.

Many in my neighbourhood chatted about this yesterday and were disappointed, yet unsurprised by the sad fact that we are paying people to hold our neighbourhood and downtown core back.

Every consultant that has been brought into our city for the past number of decades has said the same thing that business owners were saying in the '50s and still saying last week - our downtown streets need to be fixed!

There is a groundswell of associations and business groups aiming to make this a major issue in the upcoming election. Enough is enough. If council is satisfied with using downtown Hamilton as a shortcut to somewhere else, then I recommend we convert King St in Dundas or Wilson St in Ancaster to four-lane, one-way highways.

If it's such great policy for my neighbourhood, surely it's great policy for yours.

Every excuse Hamilton has ever had to maintain this outdated, antiquated network of one-way highways and truck routes is gone. Highways now ring our city and industrial jobs in the north end have almost all but disappeared.

I regularly follow transport trucks to and from my neighbourhood in the York/Locke area and have never seen one pull into Fortinos or any local destination.

I know it's a random sampling, but all of them have originated or headed to the northeast industrial district within spitting distance of Burlington St or the QEW.

Several years ago, I began voting in municipal elections based on this single issue, and have encouraged every person I've spoken with to do the same. Market renovations, Lister renovations, tree planting and park improvements are all nice and welcome investments in our city, but won't make up for this fundamental failure to turn downtown streets back into hubs of commerce, life, employment and vibrancy.

Who wants to raise kids on the shoulder of the QEW?

When you vote to maintain a truck route system that was already anti-business in the '50s, you're simply becoming part of the problem - five decades later.

I humbly ask that each of you think of your role as a public official and the potential to leave a legacy for decades to come that will result in a massive revitalization of downtown Hamilton.

The power is in your hands. Will you become part of the solution, or continue to hold our city back?

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

23 Comments

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:05:53

Great letter, Jason. I think this part really cuts to the chase:

If it's such great policy for my neighbourhood, surely it's great policy for yours.

Our administration simply doesn't accept that the downtown core is a neighbourhood - just like Locke Street, just like Westdale, people live here.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2010-06-08 09:07:20

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:15:50

Just read a GEM of an article on the Speculator's website! Talk about hype! LOL

http://www.thespec.com/Opinions/article/...

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By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:36:53

Wasn't there some plan that was in the works at that time called the "Perimeter Road"?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:46:40

^The perimeter highway didn't take trucks off our downtown streets. So let's build another one!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:10:00

the perimeter road was to be an expressway through the heart of the north end. thank goodness we didn't do that. Don't EVER believe them when they say "we promise we'll get the trucks out of the city after we build this highway". Been there. Done that.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:22:28

When truckers want to protest, say the price of fuel, they organize convoys of trucks to hold up traffic to make their point.

Could we organize convoys of cars, bicycles, pedestrians, whatever, or all of the preceding, to protest the truck invasion in our downtown or our neighbourhoods?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:24:23

^beancounter that's an awesome idea!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 16:45:41

Wow.If somebody told me about that Spec article, I'd have trouble believing them. Tell us the truth, Jason, you made up a fake Chamber of Commerce article and sent it into the Spec, right? Please?

That article is exactly like decades of crap I've read before, in my hours-long sojourns to Special Collections at the Library. The Spectator promised us for decades that we'd leave Toronto in the dust as the most economically vibrant city in Southern ontario. Most of this was based on shipping facts, since we were (and may still be) receiving a lot more through our ports than any other inland city (certainly a fair bit more than Toronto or Chicago). Decades of "goods movement" studies carved up the town with highways and other "business-friendly" policies only managed to get us used up and thrown away like an Indonesian Export Processing Zone. We're in exactly the same boat as most of the American Rust Belt, and while everyone's always quick to point out that health care and other "high-tech government jobs" (WSIB, pollution remediation at Randall Reef, etc) are now our major employers, nobody seems to want to admit how truly unhealthy it is. Cleaning up toxified industrial sites and treating cancer are crucially important, but they're no more a sign of real progress than an addict going into rehab. It's certainly a step up (and very necessary), but it neither creates a vibrant community nor economy. And it costs enormous amounts of money (the Randall Reef cleanup now looks like it'll cost over $100 million, without a penny of Stelco), which COULD be helping us build a better city.

The Chamber of Commerce, and all the other business lobby groups can rattle off as many numbers as they like. If anybody here has any doubt that industrial toxicity affecting quality of life here is a main factor in our city's piss-poor image, take a bus to Toronto and ask anyone on the street.

How many decades of work is it going to take to clean up our city's industrial legacy? And why are the victims stuck with the bill?

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By Lessone (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 17:04:34

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 17:38:43

Isn't ironic that some of the worst Red Hill Parkway critics now have it to thank for maybe getting trucks out of the downtown....about time I say!

I appreciate the Spectator-like spin, but I've been consistent all along in calling out the city and the Red Hill proponents for the various lies that were used to win support for the highway. One of them was that trucks could be diverted out of downtown and residential neighbourhoods where they don't belong. Another one was that the highway wouldn't lead to any residential sprawl growth, but instead would be acres and acres of great paying jobs and new industry.

You see, lies like these are very well placed by those who perpetrated them. Who in Hamilton could say no to new jobs after the hallowing out of our industry over the past decades? Who in the lower city could say no to the prospect of having a normal downtown neighbourhood instead of a truck freeway at the their front doors?

I personally don't think it has anything to do with whether someone supported or was against the highway. It is incumbent upon us all to hold our politicians accountable. You may be the biggest Red Hill supporter to ever live - that doesn't mean you should just stick your head in the sand and pretend that the thousands of new sprawl homes don't exist up there or that trucks continue to be the only thing to have the red carpet rolled out for them at city hall. Surely you aren't happy with one Canada Bread factory announcement in the first 3 years of the highways existence? If Hamilton ever gets an LRT system I'll be the first one to ask 'what went wrong' if only one condo development takes place along it's route in the first 3 years.

Red Hill is built. Deal with it. Now it's time to use it for some of it's intended purpose. Apparently that's what the 'majority' of citizens wanted, after all.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 18:06:09

The wards that encompass downtown have HIGH poverty levels, thus, they ignore the voices.

It is like the poster on HAVE YOUR SAY, who stated that those who live in suburbs, pay the most in taxes, thus they should be ones that make the decisions.

Beancounter is right, hold a rally, get other groups invovled as well, like social justice groups, anti poverty groups, neighbourhood goups, church groups.

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-06-08 17:07:18

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 20:52:53

That was an excellent letter, Jason, and let's hope council responds to it positively.

Such a problem is a direct result of the poor planning decisions that have lead to unsustainable nodal development that favours cars and trucks over more efficient and ecologically sound forms of transportation. We need to tackle both problems at once: two-way conversion now and smart planning in the future.

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By If pigs could fly! (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 20:58:03

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 22:23:58

By if pigs could fly: I was blaming the working class, that is a stretch. The topic is about trucks, which many others in the community, who are working people seem to be upset about.

It is all about organizing, so, why not get other groups involved or do you fear that the majority of the people downtown do not agree with your stance.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 00:36:06

I've spent enough time on municipal political campaigns to know that the working class north of this city is virtually ignored by politicians, even progressive ones. Suburbanites vote more often, so that's where they focus their efforts. And since progressive topics don't often go over quite as well in the suburbs (though strangely, it's hard to find blue signs in most of the lower city's more educated wealthy areas), they often lose. And thus, the north end keeps getting neglected, and people there continue to not vote, since nobody's giving them much of a reason to.

Here's an idea, find a way to dig up all the local residents who are concerned about the nuts-and-bolts issues of urban governance and design (eg street planning, truck routes, speed limits etc). Invite them all in to contribute their concerns, thoughts and ideas, then piss all over them in public ("NIMBYs"!!!) and base all of those decisions on input of elite groups like the Chamber of Commerce. That Spectator forum piece was an insult to everyone who cared enough to contribute input. In this way, you can demonstrate first hand to everyone who cares that their input is not wanted, needed, or particularly cared about in any way.

Wanna know why people like this stop caring to vote, or participate in community "input" sessions? This is why.

At the end of the day, I very much doubt that the economists, geographers and technocrats have factored into the equations simple facts that everyone who lives on the street knows, like the fact that every sunday afternoon kids from the neighbourhood set out nets and play hockey. And no real economist or geographer worth his paycheck would neglect to ask them about it.

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 07:16:00

The Core property tax area rating is the highest in all the areas, and it's denser too, so the City receives more money from the Core than from Ancaster, Flamborough etc.

I think the problem is that the Core area residents tend not to vote.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 10:03:28

Some of the NIMBY things actually startle me. There was a plan for a bike-trail across Churchill Park in behind George R Allan school in Westdale. This would mean that families and children would be able to avoid king and main all the way from the Rail Trail (rail-trail -> Binkley neighborhood -> McMaster -> Westdale -> this bike trail -> Glen -> the bridge) all the way to Fortinos Plaza.

Obviously, being a resident of Westdale with small children and an avid cyclist, that excited me. Sadly, when I contacted the city to ask about it, I got "Yes, that planned trail was cancelled about five years ago - perhaps 2003 or 04..? The plan met with significant opposition form some area residents".

Somebody seriously thinks a bike-path through a park is a terrible idea? Because it happens to pass close to a playground or something?

A bike path. Seriously.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 11:26:00

Regarding the proposed Churchill Fields path - I think that that one has fallen through twice. Both times due to worries of near-neighbours of the park worried about increased crime and loitering teenagers, as I recall.

In years past, neighbours in the same houses fought (unsuccessfully) the addition of playing fields to Churchill Fields. Even the Timmy's (no. 4 - now perhaps the second oldest) at King and South Oval was opposed by residents when it was planned*.

Westdale's reputation for stick-in-the-muddery is not without ground.

* There were fears that the Tim Hortons would attract "a rough element." As anyone who has walked by that Timmie's can tell you, they were in fact quite right :)

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-06-09 10:29:27

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 12:11:22

Yes, I could see where they're coming from. Nothing like getting to the playground and finding vodka bottles waiting for you when you arrive. A bike path would make it easier for the students (and, let's be honest, local teenagers) to get to the playground and abuse it.

You know what else would find it easier to get to that playground with a paved path?

Strollers.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-06-09 11:27:56

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 12:27:07

TO: Public Works Committee, City of Hamilton S. Merulla T. Jackson B. Bratina C. Collins L. Ferguson M. McCarthy D. Mitchell R. Powers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am a resident of the lower city and a former longtime resident of the downtown core. I have lived in many of the downtown areas most affected by the heavy use by transport trucks of Hamilton's downtown streets (Strathcona and York Street especially, as well as the Durand) and for a long time worked at Main and James where the nonstop rumble of transport trucks passing through the city became an ever-increasing annoyance to my workday.

It is clear - I think indisputable - from the studies done and the representations of the Downtown BIA and the various residents' associations, that transport trucks passing THROUGH the city (i.e. with no business purpose in the downtown or lower city itself) are a major blight on quality of life and business in the city. It makes me utterly furious to see that nothing significant is being done to ease this obvious burden. We have recently come through a very painful and divisive experience in building the Red Hill Creek Expressway on the express promise that it would end the use of the lower city as a thruway for transport trucks. Sadly, this can now be seen as a complete lie.

I urge you to reconsider the decision immediately and adopt the requests of the Downtown BIA for an immediate moratorium on transport trucks on Main Street between Wellington and Dundurn, and of the Fruitland Road residents to lift the truck route designation from Fruitland Road, and to further encourage the full Council to approve such decisions immediately.

Please consider the health and safety of our citizens and the health of our downtown and its businesses as a matter of importance. I do and I think all those with an interest in Hamilton's return to greatness feel the same.

Yours sincerely,

[Tybalt]

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 12:33:42

Anyone who wants to lift any portion of that, feel free. The Public Works Committee are all named in the piece and their addresses are all firstinitiallastname@hamilton.ca. So smerulla@hamilton.ca, tjackson@hamilton.ca, etc.

Let them know directly what you are thinking!

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 12:38:09

Kenneth, great post. I am a frequent user of Churchill Park... I coach U4 soccer in the lawn bowling fields area, and I take my kids to that park on a lot of Saturdays. There is a problem right now with the park being used by teens at night to drink, break glass, and cause minor trouble. I can't see what the issue would be with a bike path, though. Not for the life of me!

Since I like to drop into Westdale for a coffee of a warm summer evening, I've been known to stroll through Churchill and more than once I have happened upon teens engaging in various degrees of illegal behaviour (illegal by teens in public, anyway). The thing is, it's so easy for residents of the area concerned about the park to take an occasional walk there in the evening - and help keep it clean!

As for the Timmie's at the foot of Westdale Village, Westdalers might think of that cast of colourful characters there as a "rough element" but you'd have to be a complete wimp to think so! I tire of the occasional panhandling, true... but it's an awfully nice bunch of folks, just not in competition for the Upper Class Twit of the Year like some of our neighbours... :) I didn't know it attracted opposition, that's fascinating.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 15:44:07

... just not in competition for the Upper Class Twit of the Year like some of our neighbours... :) - Tybalt

That gave me a good chuckle : )

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