Special Report: Bus Lane

Council's Bus Lane Choice: Fear or Vision

Council's choice is between retreating into a status quo we know we cannot afford to sustain or taking a small but meaningful step toward achieving its own vision for the city.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 13, 2015

The bus lane is an important milestone on the road from an unsustainable status quo to a future in which Hamilton has made real progress toward its stated vision and goals.

Almost 14 years ago, Council approved a Transportation Master Plan that called for transit to increase as a share of total trips from 6% in 2001 to 10% in 2011 and 15% by 2021.

Almost five years ago, Council approved the HSR Operational Review, which called for multiple dedicated transit lanes, advanced turn signals for buses, transit priority at intersections, new crosstown routes and a commitment to reliable express service. The improvements were supposed to be in place by this year.

Two years ago, Council approved the Rapid Ready transit plan, which called for the city to engage riders, develop a multi-modal active transportation network, reorient local routes to feed into rapid transit corridor and establish a dedicated rapid transit line along the Queenston-King-Main corridor.

The two-kilometre bus lane, a one-year pilot project, is almost the only thing we have to show for 14 years of repeated commitments to high-quality transit in Hamilton, and some councillors have said they want to abandon it.

We have failed as a city to do the things we said we were going to do. We have failed to act on the commitments made and repeated to make transit "viable and attractive" to a growing share of the city's population.

We have failed to contain the growth in our infrastructure lifecycle obligations by planning and designing for more productive use of our existing infrastructure.

As a result, we have failed to increase our transit mode share. Meanwhile, competing municipalities are roaring past us in creating viable and attractive high quality transit networks for their residents to choose.

We can continue to put off - or actively oppose - doing what every expert consistently tells us we need to do to thrive as a financially sustainable city. We can play political games that sacrifice the city's long-term viability to score short-term points. We can pander to a narrow and self-defeating resentment to the growing pains of change.

Or we can show some leadership and give this fragile bud of a rapid transit network a fighting chance to live, grow and thrive.

Staff have laid out a strong evidence-based case for the bus lane:

The bus lane is not perfect, but staff have identified tangible changes that will alleviate the main concerns that have been raised, particularly the concerns of business owners on King about the loss of curbside parking.

We don't even have to pay for the changes out of our own purse. The cost to implement those changes will come from unspent money in the Metrolinx Quick Wins capital budget.

Alternately, we could use that money to dismantle the bus lane and slam the door on Hamilton's vision of a viable and attractive transit system.

Council's choice is between retreating into a status quo we know we cannot afford to sustain or taking a small but meaningful step toward achieving its own vision for the city.

Council's choice is between pandering to fear or following the evidence.

I hope and trust that Council will muster the political courage to do the right thing.

This article is adapted from a letter to Council.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 15:41:57

Yup. We have vision, but do we have follow through ... still not sure why the bus lanes are so controversial. Are we worried more about moving people or cars? And shouldn't it matter more that one approach is part of longer-term strategy to increase (rather than harm) the potential of lower-city streets to be more than thru-ways and traffic sewers?

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 16:06:15

great letter. Expect massive pushback from those of us who live along King if it is reverted to a full-fledged dangerous freeway again. The couple councillors suggesting such a move wouldn't dream of allowing such a dangerous speedway in their hoods. Enough of the classism

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 18:06:20 in reply to Comment 107794

What massive pushback did you have in mind?

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 20:14:44 in reply to Comment 107796

Let's give council a chance to do the right thing first.

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By Goin'Downtown (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 21:11:49

I know the answer to this is out there amongst the hundreds of blogs/posts/articles already, and I apologize for not remembering, but - why, again, is King Street preferred over Main Street?

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By Goin'Downtown (registered) | Posted January 13, 2015 at 23:54:08 in reply to Comment 107798

Or York/Wilson/Cannon? That would be kind of mid way between King/Main and Barton. I guess it's been so long in discussions, I'm forgetting the early stages.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2015 at 12:56:19

Terry Whitehead's 2014-18 nickname should be Yellowcake.

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