Special Report: Bus Lane

Debating the Bus Lane with Councillor Whitehead

We've had the goal of doubling per capita transit use for years and have done nothing about it.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published January 21, 2015

On January 8, I sent an email to City Council, urging them to keep the bus lane on King Street. An adaption of my letter was published on RTH.

This morning, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead sent me the following reply, repeated here verbatim:

One minute gain for transit users five minutes delay for car commuters. Hardly an argument to justify maintaining a bus lane.

The same staff that wrote the report will not support one conversions to two way even thought others would argue it creates a more livable community. That is because transit moves,more efficiently on a one way system.

When I asked public transit staff about all the other factors,it was stated that we are public transit advocates this really is a "council policy decision‎". So you see my remarks where not critical of the staff's integrity or professionalism it was on objectivity. They wrote that report through a narrow public transit lense.

The facts are accidents are up, cars are delayed 5 minutes longer, parking revenue is down by 60%, majority of business on that corridor do not support it,,staff have stated that we are just over half of what is needed to justify a bus lane according to best practices,( 1180 people per peak out vrs 2000 per peak hr).

The positives are one minute gained and better adherence to schedule along that two kilometers stretch and staff support it because city is already in place.

Do we now throw the book out on applying best practices on everything we do? Many of our residents are being inconvenienced by another five minutes in their car. That equates to over 30 hours a year more spent in their car‎. Should we not understand who they are and make an attempt o improve transit that would make it a viable alternative to their car. Clearly that is not the case now.

We just came out of the election it was clearly understood that a majority of residents did not support the bus lane. A recent poll reaffirms that the majority of the population of Hamilton does not support the bus lane at this time.

My position was to take a step back understanding the divide in our community, suspend or park the bus lane and plug it into the master transportation study. This study would be informed by the Rapid ready report, data from the bus lane experiences. The study would take a year and would provide a forum and opportunity for citizens to participate from all geographic areas of the city.

At the end of this process people will have a better understanding of our needs and we will have a plan that will address public transit,car commuters and the movement of goods and services. This would be a plan that truly would address our transportation needs today tomorrow and into the future. I believe the community will come together on such a plan.

Implementing something at a time that it really is not justified without providing a greater opportunity for or community is a way to divide this community not bring it together.

So you see this is not a simple discussion.

Respectfully,

Terry Whitehead

In response, I sent him the following email:

I appreciate your response, but I respectfully disagree.

The staff report showed that as many Hamiltonians take the bus lane in HSR as motorists in all three other traffic lanes. If they had counted GO, Burlington and Coach Canada riders, there would clearly be significantly more transit users than motorists on the road at rush hour! Basic fairness means that these Hamiltonians deserve at one lane.

And the improvement to transit users is not just the one minute improvement in speed. It seems you don't take the bus much if you don't understand that reliability and sticking to schedules (so buses don't bunch with long gaps between) is also very important. And, as others have pointed out, a 2km bus lane is not really much to work with. It needs to be extended to see a larger benefit.

If you want to work to improve the bus lane, that's great (extend it, improve signalling optimize parking). But you know that if it is suspended now it will cost tax payers $100K to remove and it is not coming back.

You contacted me for your phone survey you use to justify lack of support, and I must say I was dismayed at the leading questions, the fact that non-transit users were asked their opinion on whether it had improved bus service and that you didn't report undecideds!

The responses to two of the questions were self contradictory: a majority both wanted to scrap the lanes and keep them in place while further consulting was done! Are you going to vote with the majority who want to keep the lanes while "further consulting is done"?

Going back for more studies seems to be a Hamilton specialty. We've had the goal of doubling per capita transit use for years and have done nothing about it! The 2010 IBI operational review recommended many bus lanes and other improvements. Similarly for Rapid Ready from 2013. When is council actually going to start acting on all these recommendations?

If you don't want the bus lane, will you vote a big boost to HSR's budget to support the transit improvements you actually do want? With worst in class transit growth in Hamilton, we must do better!

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Kevlahan


Please add your voice to the Support Hamilton Transit campaign to keep the bus lane.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

9 Comments

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By lurkalicious (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 12:33:49

I can't believe Whitehead makes more money than me.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:01:01

Gold plated earnings too.

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By core-b (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:44:05

Excellent letter and response. You were very clear and made a lot of sense I read Whiteheads letter twice and am still not sure what he said.

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By Ogre (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:50:55

Re. Whitehead, the man can hardly put together a sentence without spelling/grammar mistakes. In any case, at least he responded, even if ignoring the facts, again. I don't know what's worse, to respond while not really responding, or not responding at all.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 14:00:30

This guy is just a placeholder. He essentially ran unopposed last election (the other guy had basically the same policies). This is what we get when smart people don't run against dummies like Whitehead.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 14:01:50

Unbelievable. So, takng a dead-basic spatial approach - delaying 2 people (in two cars) 5 minutes outweighs the benefit of 70 people gaining 1 minute (and a pile of reliability)?

I'm no mathematician, but that doesn't sound right to me.

Simple reasoning aside, Terry et al.'s style of surveying really frustrates me. I'm all for democratic participation and involvement - but as an Ancaster resident, there is no way my opinion should hold the same value as a public transit user and/or someone who lives in a downtown neighbourhood. I'm quite sure that if Terry called us out-skirters up and asked questions like "Do you believe in more sustainable development?", "Would you like to see growth in our urban core?", "Would you like to see greater tax revenues from our downtown wards?","Do you believe in better, more efficient mobility within our downtown?", etc., my neighbours would giving a resounding "Hell yeah!" to all of those.

The bus lane is simply the tool to achieve those goals.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2015-01-21 14:03:04

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By Righton (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 14:32:55 in reply to Comment 108116

Whitehead is more of mathmagician than a mathmatician.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 21, 2015 at 15:53:51

I received the exact same response from him to my letter, and I sent the following: . . . . . . .

Where do I even start?

"One minute gain for transit users five minutes delay for car commuters. Hardly an argument to justify maintaining a bus lane."

Translation, transit users are not important, you want to take away even this tiny improvement rather than try to enhance it.

"The same staff that wrote the report will not support one conversions to two way"

Red herring - has nothing to do with this discussion.

"So you see my remarks where not critical of the staff's integrity or professionalism it was on objectivity."

Meaning you don't believe that they took all evidence into acccount, meaning you accuse them of not doing their job properly. Why ask transit staff to do anything at all if you aren't going to trust their work? You might as well fire them then.

"The facts are accidents are up"

Wrong. THe long term stats show they are not higher than average and the 2014 jump was mirrored on other streets and likely due to the insanely bad winter. How many buses caused an accident in the TOL? SHow us the data.

"cars are delayed 5 minutes longer"

Only partially true - only durinng a short window on weekdays and a situation easily fixed by installing one traffic signal.

"parking revenue is down by 60%"

Only on one small stretch, staff report said it might be due to payment terminals, and besides also easily fixed by reinstalling north curb parking.

"majority of business on that corridor do not support it"

Evidence please, I have seen letters of support from businesses but no official letters against it

"staff have stated that we are just over half of what is needed to justify a bus lane according to best practices,( 1180 people per peak out vrs 2000 per peak hr)"

Staff says the lane is working and needs to be longer. So you only listen to the parts you want to hear?

"clearly understood that a majority of residents did not support the bus lane"

Evidence please?

"A recent poll reaffirms that the majority of the population of Hamilton does not support the bus lane at this time. "

Not true. Flawed numbers. See analysis here

"My position was to take a step back"

This is the problem Your position is always to take a step back. We need to take a step forward

Why in any sane universe we would spend 100 grand to remove these lanes to think about it and then spend money again to install them correctly?? Fix them now! You would have us throw away the 300 grand on installation and throw anbother 100 grand step back, study more and then spend another 400-500 grand later to do it again "the right way"?

All for a 5 minute delay - that can be solved with one traffic signal.

This is insanity.

Comment edited by seancb on 2015-01-21 15:55:14

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 17:57:58

"Many of our residents are being inconvenienced by another five minutes in their car."

Kevin's comment:

Being dead is also somewhat inconvenient. 93 of our residents are poisoned and killed by drivers every year.

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