Hamilton Councillors claim to value transit, multi-modal transportation and livable urban neighbourhoods, but they refuse to put those values into practice in any meaningful way.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2013
this article has been updated
Hamilton's Public Works Committee just rejected a proposal to establish a King Street Bus Only Lane [PDF] pilot project.
Under the one-year pilot project, the City would establish a bus-only lane on the north side of King Street from Mary Street to one block east of Dundurn Street. Where curbside parking is currently on the north side of King, it would move to the south side.
This initiative would help to improve bus service on the busy B-Line express route by reducing travel times and boosting ridership. It would also help Hamilton to get ready for the B-Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) line that the City has been planning since 2008.
According to the recommendation:
On February 27, 2013 Council approved recommendations related to Rapid Ready – Expanding Mobility Choices in Hamilton (PW 13014). The Rapid Ready report sets out actions and investments Hamilton will have to make if it is going to realize its approved transportation strategy. The Quick Wins projects are included in the Rapid Ready 2013 Work Plan and are an integral component to the Rapid Ready strategy. Furthermore, the Quick Wins projects capitalize on funding received by the Provincial government, which is to be spent by 2013.
Further, it has been clear for some time based on the City's own traffic volume data that Hamilton's lower city streets - including Main, King and Cannon - have significant excess lane capacity. Extended lane closures on Main, King and Cannon over the past two years have had negligible impacts on traffic.
In other words, there is no good reason for the Public Works Committee not to approve this. Nevertheless, according to Councillor Brian McHattie, members of the Committee raised objections over potential loss of leading areas for local businesses and worry about taxis not being able to drop riders off on the north side of King.
If those sound like limp excuses rather than insurmountable obstacles, it's because they are. A distressing number of Hamilton Councillors fundamentally do not value transit, multi-modal transportation or livable urban neighbourhoods, despite having endorsed these principles at a broad policy level since the 1990s.
The problem is that they refuse to put those values into practice in any meaningful way. As a result, the Public Works Committee remains the place where progressive transportation initiatives - even cost-free, low-risk no-brainer pilot projects that are subject to review - go to die.
The committee voted to sever the original motion into two parts - one to establish the bus-only lane and one to establish A- and B-Line passenger amenities: shelters, benches, waste receptacles, bike locking facilities, location maps and transit information at key strategic locations.
The sub-motion to establish rapid transit amenities was carried with five members of the Public Works Committee voting in favour (Ferguson, Duvall, Merulla, Collins and McHattie) and no one voting against. (Powers, Pasuta, Whitehead and Jackson were absent.)
The sub-motion to establish the bus-only lane was defeated, with only McHattie and Merulla voting in favour, and Collins, Duvall and Ferguson voting against.
Councillors will have a chance to overturn the Committee decision and approve the pilot at the next Council meeting on Wednesday, May 22. Please contact Council and let them know you support this initiative.
Update: updated to add the recorded votes from the draft minutes, provided courtesy of the City Clerks' office. You can jump to the added section.
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