Special Report: Bus Lane

Hamilton Has an Auto-Immune Disorder

We need leaders who can lead. Last night, Council chose not to lead.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 22, 2015

Hamilton has an autoimmune disorder that attacks and destroys the connective tissue of civic engagement.

King Street bus lane looking west from James (RTH file photo)
King Street bus lane looking west from James (RTH file photo)

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla put his finger on it at last night's council meeting: "The negativity and the lack of belief and courage to make changes is almost innate in Hamiltonians. ... We are the proudest people in the world when we meet each other outside of Hamilton, but we become somewhat destructive and dysfunctional within our own cognitive process in the way we think about ourselves."

That negativity and lack of belief and courage was on full display last night, when Council voted 9-7 to dismantle and remove the bus lane on King Street between Mary and Dundurn.

Thanks to independent journalist Joey Coleman, you can watch the fiasco directly.

The bus lane debate starts at around the 1:11:00 mark.

Attack on Democracy

The Council vote is a direct attack on the large audience of engaged citizens who attended the meeting, filling the Council chamber gallery and making their support heard.

It is a direct attack against the more than 1,000 people who add their names and statements to the Support Hamilton Transit campaign in just a few days after it was launched.

It is also a direct attack against the large majority of Hamiltonians who support keeping the bus lane and making the staff-recommended changes to mitigate the lane's problems and improve traffic flow.

It's one thing to reject a policy because it is unpopular, but it takes a special kind of cynicism to reject a popular policy that might threaten to nudge the balance of power ever so slightly in a city whose governance structure is deliberately calibrated to marginalize and outflank the centre.

Council did not just vote to kill the bus lane. They also voted break the spine of the burgeoning citizen movement which arose to demand that we stop endlessly talking about the city's long-term strategic vision and start building it already.

I sincerely hope that the movement will survive this attack. I hope the people who have poured their scarce time and energy into trying to save the bus lane won't let the cynicism and negativity that command so many of our leaders dissuade them from organizing and advocating the change this city so desperately needs.

Bus lane supporters are mainly people who recognize that it is a small but important step in a larger, more comprehensive transformation.

We expect Council to make specific policy decisions based on how closely they align with Council's strategic vision and how clearly it can be demonstrated that they have community buy-in.

That simply reflects good governance. But it is not how decisions are made in Hamilton, the city that eats its own best chances of success.

Council votes to kill the bus lane and location of the bus lane (Image Credit: Alistair Morton)
Council votes to kill the bus lane and location of the bus lane (Image Credit: Alistair Morton)

Inspiring Leadership

It is important to remember that this was a very close vote and that many of our Councillors really do understand how to move the city forward. We need to acknowledge and celebrate those Councillors who showed vision and leadership last night.

Kudos to Aidan Johnson, who came out fast with a motion to save and modify the bus lane according to the staff-recommended changes: restoring the north curb lane west of Bay and making signal changes to improve flow through the corridor. He said making these changes will "respect the rights of car users on our roads" while simultaneously serving the needs of transit riders.

He delivered a spirited defence of the bus lane, ranging from the direct experience of transit riders through larger issues of equity, stronger neighbourhoods, environmental sustainability and economic development.

Yesterday was Lincoln Alexander's birthday and the first annual Lincoln Alexander Day. Johnson referenced this, calling Alexander "a man who was all about community and bringing people together" - and a regular transit user.

His speech was punctuated with enthusiastic applause from the packed gallery. He closed by saying, "We need to treat needs as needs and wants as wants. ... The bus lane, and the better public transportation of which it is a vital part, is not a mere want. This is a need."

Kudos to Jason Farr for bringing a courageous, strategic, evidence-based approach to the issue. "I cannot support quitting on this."

Noting that he has "been on the front line right from day one" through a "disastrous start", Farr described working through the issues, engaging with the business and neighbourhood groups and building consensus.

As a result, support has grown. "[T]his afternoon a poll shows that people are now getting on board the bus lane and getting in favour of what's here and not wanting to quit. Our citizens want to make it work, to make the staff-recommended adjustments work: staff-supported adjustments with alternative one and two. That's what we were debating right from the get-go, and six hours later. We can make the parking work, we can make the traffic flow work, we can decrease any real or perceived business disruptions, and we can engage to a greater extent."

Farr argued that the bus lane is about a lot more than just a two-kilometre stretch of paint and signage. "I hope we have come to the realization that this is no small or isolated issue as it relates to the growth and development of our beautiful city. What this decision does represent is forward thinking. It is the future, it is now."

He pointed out that the bus lane is not out of the blue but is deeply embedded in the city's transportation and land use plans going back to the Transportation Master Plan in 2001. It was recommended in the Rapid Ready report, which Council approved two years ago. It was recommended in the HSR Operational Review, which Council approved five years ago.

He reiterated the number of new business starts and facade improvement investments made along the bus lane corridor. 30 new business licences were granted along the bus lane in 2014, compared to 46 total in the two previous years.

Kudos to Matthew Green for pushing for the experiences and perspectives of transit riders to factor more strongly into the debate. It was Green's observation that transit riders were not being asked about the bus lane that inspired a group of volunteers to create a new organization of transit riders and supporters.

He argued against the "technical need" argument that we should only build a bus lane when there are more than 2,000 rush-hour passengers. (As it happens, there are already conservatively between 1,484 and 3,045 rush-hour passengers on the downtown bus lane corridor.)

He noted that Kitchener-Waterloo is going ahead with a full light rail transit plan despite having lower ridership than Hamilton. "When is a good time to lead?"

He asked what message the City sends to transit riders - of whom there are at least as many on King during rush hour as there are drivers - by failing to lead on this initiative.

Kudos to Sam Merulla for arguing that the biggest failure of the bus lane was that it was too small. "By killing this prematurely, we're in the situation that we're moving forward without any sort of idea of what the true impact is."

Like Johnson and Farr, he tied the bus lane back to the city's strategic transportation vision dating back to 2007. "We need to rewind and remember why we even went down this road."

He called opposition to the bus lane "change that people are resisting not because of the data, not because of inconvenience but just for the sake of change itself. And I can't endorse that."

Merulla traced a repeating history of Hamilton City Council failing to seize opportunities to transform the city through high quality transit through "lack of vision or lack of courage," right back to rejecting a proposed subway in 1959. (Hamilton City Council also rejected a proposed ALRT system in 1981, which ended up being installed in Vancouver as their hugely successful Skytrain.)

"We have a tradition of being a 'could have, would have, should have' city, and I think we need to be a 'we must' city." Merulla challenged his colleagues to "rise above personalities" and focus on what is really at stake.

Kudos to Maria Pearson, who voted to support the bus lane even though her own car commute from Stoney Creek to City Hall was impacted by the lane. To her credit, she was willing to put the best interest of the city ahead of narrow self-interest.

Kudos to Brenda Johnson, who struggled with how to vote before deciding against the motion to kill the lane. Johnson generally supports transit and wanted to see the bus lane made longer. "I'm not prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

However, she also opposed Councillor Aidan Johnson's motion to modify the bus lane, stating that she wanted to wait for the full transit report so Council could make a comprehensive decision about the entire corridor, not just the two-kilometre lane.

Kudos to Transit Director David Dixon, who clearly stated for the record: "This lane is good for transit." The audience erupted into cheers.

I wonder whether Dixon is regretting throwing his lot in with a city that has such an ugly propensity to sabotage its own revival.

Kudos to City Manager Chris Murray, who responded to a question from Farr about modal split by setting the context under which Council has to make transit decisions:

As you intensify and grow following the principles of smart growth, which is what we've done through our Official Plan, and which is certainly advanced in our Master Transportation Plan and further advanced in our Rapid Ready document, you want to try and ensure that you have a very healthy transit system to serve your community. Not just in terms of the land use development, but as I've pointed out in the past, with an aging population you also want to ensure that you have a modal split that is going to afford you more transit opportunities to serve that population of aging people who we want to live out their lives in their home and have a decent transit system so they can access all the points in the community they need to.

This speaks to the vulnerable constituencies Aidan Johnson and Matthew Green addressed, and it speaks to the strategic vision and execution that Jason Farr and Sam Merulla addressed.

Shameful Behaviour

Warning: council shaming ahead.

Shame, shame, shame on Chad Collins, the city's shadow mayor, for architecting and leading the campaign to kill the bus lane. He cynically sabotaged the city's strategic vision on the altar of raw political gamesmanship.

His rationale for killing the bus lane was ridiculous. He acknowledges that we need to extend it, but since we don't know how to extend it east of Mary, we should just shut it down.

Instead, the man who likes to run Council from behind the scenes thinks we should wait until we are in a transportation crisis before we try to improve B-Line service - at which point it will be vastly more expensive, difficult and disruptive than it would be today.

Shame on Fred Eisenberger. Yes, he voted for the bus lane, but he refused to spend any political capital marshalling support for it among his colleagues.

Did he learn nothing from his first term in council? Political capital is a renewable resource - you earn more of it by winning. Merulla said as much at last week's General Issues Committee meeting, where he argued that doing the right thing, even in the face of opposition, earns you credibility and respect over the long term.

Eisenberger may have wanted to avoid a direct confrontation with Collins, but his influence is diminished anyway.

Combined with his recent decision to abandon his promise to create a citizen jury tasked with evaluating Hamilton's rapid transit options, Eisenberger has staggered out of the gate already lame from self-inflicted wounds. What a disastrous start to a new term.

Shame on Tom Jackson, who was presumably so "exhausted" by the blistering pace of improvements to Hamilton's transit system that he couldn't bring himself to let the bus lane live.

Shame on Scott Duvall, who set the tone by splitting hairs over whether the staff report was an "information report" or a recommendation. He then burned through most of his time complaining about the cost of taking out the north curbside parking on King West of Bay only to put it back in again, while making nothing of the cost of putting in a transit-only lane only to take it back out again.

Like many Councillors who voted against it, he made lots of pro-transit noises. "I think we all want the bus lanes as we're going forward. It's a good vision for the city. But..." In Hamilton, there's always a "but", followed by a superficial rationalization for why decision after decision fails to reflect our strategic plans.

In Hamilton, vision is rarely allowed to bear on actual policy decisions about real initiatives. Like Collins, Duvall argued we should scrap the existing bus lane because we haven't yet figured out how to extend it farther east.

I really hope the New Democratic Party is paying careful attention, since Duvall seeks the party's nomination to run for Hamilton Mountain in this year's federal election and the NDP historically has taken a position in support of improved transit rather than against it.

Shame on Terry Whitehead, who thankfully spared us another ramble at last night's meeting but whose ongoing antics and shenanigans on this file since mid-December have brought embarrassment and discredit to Council and the City as a whole. At this point, the less written about Whitehead, the better.

Shame on Arlene VanderBeek, who made lots of noises during the recent election about improving transit and making Hamilton's transportation system more inclusive and multi-modal. Clearly she is more interested in continuing her mentor and former boss's campaign to kill LRT than she is in achieving meaningful improvements.

Shame on Lloyd Ferguson, who claims to support the city's LRT plan but insists that killing what is pretty much the only Rapid Ready initiative Council has actually undertaken somehow won't hurt the city's chance of getting provincial funding for LRT.

The province gave us $300,000 to build a two-kilometre bus lane. We botched the original instalation and then decided to spend the leftover money dismantling it rather than fixing it. Does anyone seriously think they will now turn around and give us a billion dollars to build a 14-kilometre LRT line?

Shame on Doug Conley, Judi Partridge and Rob Pasuta for ignoring the clear evidence and voting to shut down a modest transit project that has almost no impact on their ward residents.

Perennial Double Standard

During the meeting, Merulla pointed out that his practice is to support other councillors in projects that mainly impact their wards. He asked that they extend the same courtesy to the four downtown councillors who support the bus lane.

I never hear downtown councillors complaining about the tens of millions of dollars the city spends on expensive suburban infrastructure projects that will never come close to paying for themselves in net property tax assessment. Meanwhile, here was an initiative that had already been installed and would literally cost us nothing since the Province had paid to build it and leftover Provincial money would pay to fix the problems with it.

This is always the case. Council agonizes over the tiniest outlays of money for initiatives that support urban revitalization - even initiatives that are funded by other levels of government - while the unsustainable status-quo buildout of the suburban frontier continues unchallenged and unquestioned.

Everyone agrees that the way we have been doing things doesn't work, but we choke again and again on even small, modest changes to the way we have been doing things - let alone the kind of big, transformative changes that other, braver cities have embraced.

This city has been in a tailspin for decades. For the past 30 years, Council has been approving a steady series of Strategic Visions and Master Plans that acknowledge the need for change and provide a road map to take us to a different future.

But Council can't bring itself to make decisions based on its own road maps. The number of strategic projects that Council actually approved over the past two decades can be counted on one hand.

For every approved conversion from a multilane thoroughfare to an inclusive street, another five languish year after year without funding. For every sliver of bike lane we reluctantly add, we pour miles of new asphalt.

Our transit system has been in crisis since the 1980s, when systematic funding cuts gutted service levels and plummeted ridership. But introduce a modest delay for motorists through the downtown core during rush hour and we pull the plug rather than making staff-suggested changes to reduce the delay.

The hypocritical councillors saying we can't let the bus lane continue until we consider the next transit report ignore the fact that they already approved a string of transit reports - the Transportation Master Plan in 2001, the Transportation Master Plan review in 2007, the HSR Operational Review in 2010, the Rapid Ready report in 2013 - and haven't done the things they promised to do in those plans.

One of those things was the bus lane. They ran it as a pilot and then killed it, despite the fact that it was working. This is Hamilton's autoimmune disorder at work.

Vulnerable Recovery

Hamilton is in a very fragile state right now. A little over a decade after our daily newspaper was publishing its Lament for a Downtown series, we finally have some momentum again - much of it thinks to the modest investments previous Councils managed to bring themselves to approve, like the James and John conversions and the Downtown Residential Loan program.

There are new downtown developments under construction right now and more developments moving through the planning stage. It is easy to sit back and assume the momentum is self-sustaining, but that is very dangerous.

The economics of new development - especially idiosyncratic new urban developments for which financial institutions don't have cookie-cutter approval policies - happen at the margins, and a tiny change in economic conditions can result in a huge change in project viability.

Hamilton has momentum, but not liftoff. We need a transit system that can accommodate the new people who will move downtown without forcing all of them into cars.

We need streets that leverage the essential urban economies of density, diversity, association and agglomeration to bring people together and generate wealth.

We need leaders who can lead. Last night, Council chose not to lead. For the first major decision in a four-year term that will set the city's trajectory for the next 20 years, that is a very bad sign indeed.

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.

82 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:12:34

When was the last time we saw city hall move so quickly when implementing a new project or initiative?

10:00am this morning: https://twitter.com/cityofhamilton/statu...

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:17:52

Ryan, That pretty much sums it up. What more could be said other than let's live to fight another day. Hamilton was a great place to live yesterday and it has better days ahead of it. Too bad we have to drag a majority of council behind us like a millstone as we move to "the future that is not now".

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:24:43

Merulla traced a repeating history of Hamilton City Council failing to seize opportunities to transform the city through high quality transit through "lack of vision or lack of courage," right back to rejecting a proposed subway in 1959. (Hamilton City Council also rejected a proposed ALRT system in 1981, which ended up being installed in Vancouver as their hugely successful Skytrain.)

I did not know about the subway proposal in 1959. I would be suprised if the reasons for rejecting that proposal and other since didn't included 'now is not the time', and yet half a century later, councilors are saying such things about infrastructure that has already been built --- let alone the LRT. Hamilton will never be ready unless council decides to make it ready. Other cities have make it happen and found success, but this city has not. The only difference I can see is a paralyzing fear of motion. There is no other explanation for how any councilor could see the case for killing the bus lane as sensible.

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By Scandalous (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:25:59 in reply to Comment 108160

There has to be some other greater hidden interests standing in the way of this change. Maybe it has to do with steel industry, I don't know. No way there's not something else criminal going on here. Stupidity is no argument, really.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:35:27 in reply to Comment 108177

Look, it is totally believable that there is some scheme under the table that leads to this kind of bad decision making --- except that it has been happening for 60 years and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that such a think has happened.

So please, next time you want to bring conspiracy theories, bring some evidence!

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By Tommy (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:14:36 in reply to Comment 108200

To investigate the powerful corrupt would require power itself. We need lawyers, business owners, investors not in bed with counsellors to investigate.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:27:44 in reply to Comment 108160

they all know it's not sensible. Listen to their speeches. They said as much. The next time 'sensible' wins the day at Hamilton city hall will be the first time.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:38:00

"I sincerely hope that the movement will survive this attack."

We lost a battle. Let's go on to win the war to make our city a vibrant, liveable and prosperous Hamilton.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:45:12

This infographic by Alistair Morton says it all:

Infographic

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-01-22 11:48:59

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2015 at 09:11:44 in reply to Comment 108163

Great graphic. Every Councillor should get a copy ~ to make this CLEAR.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 17:09:10 in reply to Comment 108163

I could be wrong but judging by that map even a pre amalgamation vote looks like it would of have failed, Those people on the mountain really know how to run a city (into the ground).

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:49:39

Again, eggs at shameless Collins, nothing less.

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By Riseup (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:01:10 in reply to Comment 108164

Agreed.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 11:57:54

1-way convert Upper James and West 5th. If Whitehead thinks that Downtown is "everyone's" and that throughput is more important than the people living there, he should be reminded that the main commercial road and a totally residential street are a major connection to their precious airport/AEGD.

Upper James is Downtown Mountain. Let's give it the Downtown treatment.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:47:11 in reply to Comment 108165

let's stage an anti-two-way-street protest on upper james - divert all northbound traffic at the linc

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By Riseup (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 18:23:25 in reply to Comment 108182

I'm down.

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By Yes (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:00:42

Thank you thank you thank you Ryan for telling it how it is. Shame on those bastards, including Eisenberger. He was always suspect from the time be began running for mayor, essentially to undermine McHattie and sabotage/ kill LRT softly.

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:03:43

Wake up people! Logic, reason, facts, social justice and equity, environment, good of the masses, and ultimately truth, don't matter to these brazen criminals. Maybe eggs will though I doubt that even.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:05:25 in reply to Comment 108168

Seriously? Egging? Are you 14? I'm as angry as the next guy, but really?

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:18:58 in reply to Comment 108170

What else do the powerless have at their disposal? You don't understand oppression, though you got a taste of it yesterday watching that council meeting.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 20:57:23 in reply to Comment 108175

The powerless have their voice. Use your words. You learned that in kindergarten.

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2015 at 08:53:34 in reply to Comment 108244

Words were used. They didn't end up being useful, at all. Again you don't understand the way oppression works. Telling an oppressor xyz, doesn't make a difference because they don't care. When words don't matter to them you have to hit them where it hurts, with eggs.

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By Um (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:16:32 in reply to Comment 108170

It's not about anger, its about what makes a difference. Your angry article writing has no impact, nor does even showing up at council. 100 plus members of public were blatantly ignored yesterday, not even spoken to by Collins and friends. What greater sign of disrespect? Definitely deserves eggs.

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By rgelder@cogeco.ca (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:05:15

Unvbelievable. For what it's worth, I am attempting to keep the pressure on Arlene Vanderbeek moving forward. Transit matters.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 17:00:08 in reply to Comment 108169

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 23, 2015 at 17:58:40 in reply to Comment 108320

During peak times, King Street downtown carries around 1100 people an hour in cars and between 1500 and 3000 people on buses. If not for transit, King Street would somehow have to accommodate between 2600 and 4100 cars an hour. So even though you are too pathologically self-interested to respect the needs of people who use transit, maybe you can at least comprehend that you as a driver benefit directly from better transit.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:13:21 in reply to Comment 108169

Downtown dundas LRT stop. That's what the Dundas councilor should be fighting for, not fighting against transit.

The city's 2010 IBI report recommended that McMaster University should be a new hub for all buses west of McMaster. Right now, the western "hub" is University Plaza, which means the LRT would have to run through a residential neighborhood on Osler if you wanted to connect it into downtown Dundas, and that's probably not okay with the residents living along Osler.

The Dundas Councillor should be butting heads with staff for a Cootes Drive alignment that would deliver commuters directly to downtown Dundas at York/King. That would mean fighting with Ainsliewood/McMaster residents to see who gets the western LRT stops.

That's the fight we should be hearing from the Dundas councilor, not fighting against transit plans.

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By williammehlenbacher (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:14:59

I was all for the Bus Lanes, but not without more tweaking, I was shocked, that Aidan came back with the same motion, with the same tweaks, which was going to fail. What ever happened to negotiating , back room deals or what ever, to find out from those opposed, what could they do to bring them on board, such as only rush hour, no weekends, to name a couple, to help at least the Business People that were opposed to it. The Bus Lane side could of done more in my opinion, to bring at least two more on side. Sometimes one has to swallow their pride to move ahead. Sometimes being too aggressive, makes one put up a defence and then are not willing to give . Sad to see we are losing the Bus Lane, but I blame both sides. Just my opinion.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:01:01 in reply to Comment 108172

The motion was to ameliorate the exact problems identified by the King West BIA members. You're dreaming if you think a different proposal would generate different results, because there was NEVER a proposal to modify made by any of the nine who voted against the Johnson motion. Stop being silly.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:09:14 in reply to Comment 108245

You bring up an important point: the people who are opposed to improving transit in Hamilton will not be mollified by any amount of compromise, since their opposition is essentially unreasonable.

For example, the people who have been saying we should consider BRT instead of LRT are in many cases the same people who supported killing the bus lane. BRT was never a serious alternative; rather, it was a dodge to confuse the issue and undermine the case for any rapid transit.

I'm tired of the insulting false equivalence between people who have been bending over backwards to present the most fair and inclusive proposals that meet the widest set of needs, and people who shamelessly obstruct any attempt at a workable solution.

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By Tranny (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:29:03

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:38:20 in reply to Comment 108179

No insults here. These councilors actually said these things.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:53:08 in reply to Comment 108179

Where were all the 'anti-buslane' supporters yesterday? How come they didn't put together a petition, or show up in huge numbers at Council? Probably because they're outnumbered and realize their argument is invalid.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 17:43:11 in reply to Comment 108193

Nah, they just rant and rail on The Spec commenting forum. It's easy, it's cozy at home and they never drive to a downtown destination such as City Hall, they just drive through. Honk, Honk.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:39:48 in reply to Comment 108179

You already posted this same comment on another article.

Councillors needed to hear clearly that those in attendance strongly opposed what they were saying and doing.

Their actions both before and during the meeting were extremely disrespectful of those who took the time and effort to become engaged in the process. Many of those Councillors made up their minds weeks ago, before the staff report, before the 1000 strong petition by transit users, before the 100 supporters of the bus lane took two or three hours out of their day to attend the meeting. A councillor even claimed staff were biased and manipulating results to get the result they wanted. Compared to these forms of disrespect, shouting in protest at a public meeting is nothing.

This is democracy. In a democracy citizens do not just sit silently as an audience watching others decide their fate. They participate and, if they are outraged, they have a duty to make that outrage known directly to those they have elected.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-22 12:49:58

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:10:07 in reply to Comment 108180

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 19:13:59 in reply to Comment 108188

Both polls showed the majority of respondents supported keeping the bus lane with improvements. How about we 'move on' from this notion that you speak for a mythical 'silent majority' when you oppose progressive improvements in this town.

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By H1egger (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:42:35 in reply to Comment 108188

Majority has no voice apparently. This is no democracy. Screw you.

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:53:51 in reply to Comment 108180

applause

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:45:50

I am seriously considering a move to K-W or Guelph after this result. The worst part is that these nitwits barely represent their wards, considering how terrible the voter turnout was. They are strictly pandering to their misguided bases.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:49:15 in reply to Comment 108181

If you give up and move because of this, you're no better than the councilors who killed the bus lane. Progress was never made by quitters.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:05:37 in reply to Comment 108205

I've lived here my whole life. Progress is never made by Hamilton city hall either. All the greatest things that have come out of this city have been made in spite of city hall, not because of it.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:11:09 in reply to Comment 108181

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:20:19 in reply to Comment 108189

I ain't leaving without egging some people first.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:03:46 in reply to Comment 108191

Might I suggest Hamilton Food Share? They could use a few dozen eggs I imagine. Careful not to break them.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:58:27 in reply to Comment 108181

I did my undergrad in Guelph before moving home to Hamilton. It was actually a toss-up where my wife and I would settle, and job offers made the decision for us.

I really miss Guelph right now. Wonderful city, especially downtown.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:52:52 in reply to Comment 108181

me too. i was on guelph google maps last night

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:51:49

Sam called it. I've lived in Hamilton for virtually all of my 44 years, and I know how mock-proud this city can be. We love crowing about all things Hamiltonian, but can't bear to push for a future that would change our downtrodden image. Too many outer residents who can barely stand to pass through the downtown core for more than five minutes have no idea what real urban life is, and what urbanites need. The core is being deliberately kept on its knees by the outer boroughs, because they know that if we ever get back to our feet, we'll make them change their ways, which means they'll be forced to work harder than they ever have to make those changes stick, and the citizenry will finally wake up from its car fume-induced coma and choose leadership that actually helps Hamiltonians, instead of all this foot dragging, small town mentality we see being exerted upon us.

I had Collins figured all wrong. I had no idea he was such a reactionary king-maker, which shows what a fool I've been; I grew up in the far East End, but never under his stewardship. I should have been paying more attention. I'm going to change that. Whifflebat was uncharacteristically quiet last night, but given Jackson and Duvall's maneuvers, I guess he didn't feel the need to put his oar in. Conley turned out to be just as much of a block voting backbencher as I thought he'd be. Vanderbeek proved to be exactly what we all thought she'd be, which is bad, bad news for poor Dundas. Pasuta had no horse in this race, but voted against Hamilton anyway. Let's remember that. Meaning no disrespect, or harm, but I suspect Partridge is going to be sorry the next time Flamboro Downs is threatened; three words spring to mind: No Casinos... anywhere. And Ferguson should get used to hearing three little words that are going to be carved on his gravestone someday: "Conflict of Interest".

And I'm a little concerned about Merulla's last minute statements about ending Area Rating. I'm a PB guy, and yet I have little love for ARSCR as it exists today. But I'm nevertheless going to want to watch this development very closely for the next while, regardless.

Comment edited by LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle on 2015-01-22 12:56:11

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By williamMehlenbacher (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:42:41 in reply to Comment 108183

Lee Edward McLLmoyle, I did not like Sam's comment either area rating, threats are not good, time to move on Sam.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:54:21 in reply to Comment 108183

\*retweet\*

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By J (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 13:53:15

Unfair to shame Eisenberger on this. He voted for it. He doesn't want to make this an urban-exurban divide that will colour more important transit decisions, even if it does represent this divide. Eisenberger is giving these clowns a way back to redemption on LRT. This is good and necessary politicking and you're being a bit naive to miss it.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:42:34 in reply to Comment 108194

I think Eisenberg is waffling to balance opinion of himself. He says he supports the bus lane, but he would not use his influence as mayor to support it --- that means he is actually not supporting it. He's more than just another councillor, and yet he limited himself needlessly, because he is unwilling to take a strong leadership position on these issues. He has the same approach with the LRT.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 17:52:03 in reply to Comment 108202

Eisenberger has a long history of lacking leadership.

During the 2010 election we were having a BBQ and were joking if candidates were burgers which kind would they be, as in beef, chicken, veggie, etc.

Someone joked that Eisenberger would be a veggie burger. Then someone said - "Nah, he'd just be a bun with condiments, no meat."

We all cracked up laughing. And you know what, it was funny because it was true.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:03:48 in reply to Comment 108194

Except the same week he also cancelled plans to call his Citizen's panel on LRT, which was a key plank of his election platform (and the only part that really addressed LRT). He says that until we hear what the province will pay it is premature to form the panel, but everyone who understands this issue knows that the province will not say anything positive about Hamilton's LRT funding until they believe Hamilton actually wants it.

This stalemate has been going on for the past seven years. There is no reason to think it will change now, in Hamilton's favour, just by waiting passively for the Province to tell us they are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a project they are not sure we really want.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 17:53:07 in reply to Comment 108195

No need for a panel now. If we can't handle a short bus lane then LRT is dead, dead, dead.

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By Assberger (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:18:53 in reply to Comment 108195

As Obama is worse than Bush in his foreign policies smiling as he continues to take away people's right and engage in unjust wars, Eisenberger is worse than Bob Bratina in his two faced ways. Enemies on the inside are worse than those that make themselves known.

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By Ugh (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:07:57

The lack of accountability is sickening. All but one of the councillors that killed the lane are on the public works committee. These asshole represent no one but themselves.

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[ - ]

By H (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:18:41

Most motorists will happily give up room on the road in order to support transit only and bike only lanes. The problem comes when we try to add transit only and bike only lanes into an east/west road network that has already been cluttered with chicanes, island plantings, road narrowing, deviations and other artificial devices intended to create impediments to traffic. If we clear away the artificial obstructions, there will be plenty of room for everyone.

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By the real thing (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:13:52 in reply to Comment 108197

those aren't artificial obstructions they are REAL pedestrian amenities

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:23:52 in reply to Comment 108207

Not to mention street-side parking for local businesses. You can't shed crocodile tears over the King West strip while concurrently suggesting the parking be taken from King East.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 24, 2015 at 10:59:49 in reply to Comment 108249

Speaking of crocodile tears for local businesses:

Downtown will soon be a joy to drive through again.

Through, not to.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:20:48

"We need leaders who can lead. Last night, Council chose not to lead. For the first major decision in a four-year term that will set the city's trajectory for the next 20 years, that is a very bad sign indeed."

At the risk of being accused of sounding like a broken record...something I definitely don't have a problem with...I'm going to ask the same question as I did elsewhere on this blog recently:

Given that, over the past 40 years more than 90% of incumbents get returned to office (ironically just the other day I was looking at the very notes that I'd compiled two years ago at library), and given that this process is now three and a half years away anyway, what's the plan to 'get leaders who can lead'?

There are two (well, actually four, but I'll leave City Staff and Developers out of the discussion this time through) players at the governance table. Residents and the people they choose to manage things, the people they pay to do this. You know, as in 'employees'.

So.

You've already decided that you need better leaders at City Hall. These are not going to happen by way of the next election. What's your other option?

I'll give you a hint: It's a much, much, much bigger version of those who are visitors here to RTD.

Now, if you don't agree that the change has to come from us (but in a form that many have a real problem trying to imagine), please tell me how you plan to change the game.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 14:45:26

I hate to be the one to pile on here but, you guys lost a lot more than your LRT last night. Believe me, Metrolinx and the Premier's Office were watching this vote and for all those whom supported BRT instead, that's most likely gone too! You can't have a BRT system if you council can't pass a simple short bus lane. You need many bus lanes, over many kilometers to make even a simple BRT network work. You just lost most, if not all of your higher order provincial transit funding for many years to come, in one bad vote. I am sad for you guys, I was really pulling for you! Keep fighting, eventually you will win a transit vote or two. Tell the councilors who voted against this transit only lane, the people of every other city in Ontario that wants more money for their LRT or BRT projects, thanks you for giving up all that funding. People were debating on this site whether Hamilton would have the province cover 100%, 50% or 33% of the capital funding for Hamilton's LRT line well, you can guess what it will be now, Hamilton will get 0% in this round of rapid transit funding from the province.

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By charlesball (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:18:28

Many months ago I posted real times it took me to drive from Sanford to Dundurn and I was shouted down. People on King want people to drive on Cannon who want people to drive on King.

I reported that the major stumbling block appeared to be the buses crossing over between King North and McNab and that the run from McNab to Dundurn was largely unaffected. People actually called me a liar when all I did was report actual transit times.

Bus lanes are an absolute must for normal transit let alone BRT. Yet many here simply flip the bird at anyone who drives. Drivers vote and drivers pay taxes and drivers speak to their councilors.

If you look at Ryan's map above the dichotomy is palpable. People who have to drive (the red areas) have flipped the bird back at people who have options.

We just wasted $300,000.00 plus the remediation. Wasted it. Instead of admitting that the bottleneck had to be radically addressed, we flipped the bird.

There has to be an answer. One I think is unfortunately calling the McNab station a mistake and returning to what we used to have around Gore Park. Then putting in a dedicated bus lane all the way from the Delta to Dundurn. Eliminate parking on King between Wellington and Bay (an maybe while we're at it, on Main from Dundurn to Gage.)

Then see what happens.

Trouble is the opportunity has been squandered. If something like this is to happen, it has to happen BEFORE the city guts the bus lane.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 16:49:41 in reply to Comment 108209

"There has to be an answer. One I think is unfortunately calling the McNab station a mistake and returning to what we used to have around Gore Park."

So that transfers using those routes will have to cross King East rather than King West to make a transit connection?

Here's a thought: Save the wasted cost of mothballing a three-year old multi-million-dollar transit terminal and install transit signal priority at King & James.

Gather all buses travelling along King through the core and mandate their drivers to travel exclusively in the bus-only lane you have described, which simplifies traffic flow, gets buses out of mixed traffic to the delight of drivers, and demonstrates councillors' capacity for constructive problem-solving as well as optimizing the value and productivity of public assets.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:30:46 in reply to Comment 108209

We just wasted $300,000.00 plus the remediation. Wasted it. Instead of admitting that the bottleneck had to be radically addressed.

I'm afraid I need to call you a liar one last time, because you can find posts from a year ago discussing the merits of advanced signalling to solve the bottleneck issue.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/21...

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By nice (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 20:25:06 in reply to Comment 108214

methinks you just proved his point.

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By fake name (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2015 at 10:16:47 in reply to Comment 108328

So the fact that mr. Ball is wrong is immaterial to you?

facts don't matter. Gotcha.

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By whatwaswron (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2015 at 20:22:22 in reply to Comment 108337

Wherein is the lie;

That bus lanes are essential;
That $300,000 was spent and more will be spent;
That drivers are in the majority and influence council;
That there is a problem with the traffic between John and James;
That being irrational is counter-productive?

Please enlighten us as to what the lie was.

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By very nice (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 21:06:10 in reply to Comment 108328

Yup, lol

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 15:26:38

I am embarrassed by my council's total lack of insight, direction, etc. I have lived in Hamilton for 53 years, when I worked I regularly took the bus downtown, and even now though I don't work, I visit the market regularly and take the bus. Cars are not the future, buses, trains, and bike lanes are, especially if we are concerned about the environment.

Hamilton has grown extremely fast this past few years with people from Toronto moving here and we need to accommodate by improving transit not disabling it.

Hamilton Council has no vision, and unless we limit the terms that Councillors can serve, change will not happen. It has gotten to the point, I no longer want to live here. My husband and I will move in the next five years to a community where the city council works as one, not as complete independents.

On a side note: I did not vote Scott Duvall back in, will not vote for him in an election.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:26:52 in reply to Comment 108212

if we are concerned about the environment.

I think we all know the answer to that. Lip service is all you'll get from anyone. Nobody wants to accept that saving the world might occasionally involve slight inconvenience.

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By a (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 21:27:23

The slow rebirth of this city will continue in spite of Council. We simply can not trust nor rely upon this city's leaders to make decisions that are in the best interests of Hamilton. Period.

In spite of Council, we will continue to do our part.

We will continue to support the many brave, small business owners who have renovated and invested in properties throughout the core.

We will continue to support and value our talented arts community.

We will continue to frequent and recommend members of our burgeoning and increasingly diverse food and drink scene.

We will continue to educate both our urban and suburban friends, family members, and colleagues about the importance and benefits of public transit, heritage buildings, responsible development, and complete streets.

We will continue to value the input and fresh perspective of new Hamiltonians who see the potential in our urban form.

And we will continue to have this discussion knowing that we have the ability to create the change that we want to see in this city.

Thank-you, Ryan, editors, contributors and commenters for making such discussion possible on this site. Your tireless efforts to improve our city are very appreciated.





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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 22:31:06

I've lived here 12 years now. The ridiculous behaviour of council over a 2km bus lane is embarrassing and shameful.

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By Grampa Hammerton (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 08:25:22 in reply to Comment 108259

Only 12 years? You must be one of them New Hamilton types coming in here with your beards and your newfangled idears like you own the place. Didn't you know? Hamilton sucks and we want to keep it that way!! Now get offa my lawn.

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By Captain Poultry (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 10:00:01

Thank you, Ryan, for posting this. It was a depressing day to find out that we took 10 steps backwards with the cancellation of the bus lane. It's so disheartening to have active engagement on an issue and be completely ignored. Over and over again. You've articulated my outrage far better and more effectively than I ever could.

Thanks again to you and the rest of the RTH community for intellectual and respectful discussions on these issues.

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By proudofthemountain (registered) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 13:27:36

Isn't 'Attack on Democracy' a little far-fetched? This council vote was done in democratic way. You could have 10,000 sigs on that petition and it wouldn't matter. Council gets the vote. The council that we voted for democratically. And then they vote democratically on issues. Not us (unless there's a referendum).

This is not an attack on democracy just because you (or I) don't like the results. This is democracy at work, even if council goes against a perceived majority.

I would expect a little more level-headedness and intelligent phrasing from you, Ryan.

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By J (registered) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 13:40:26

two positives I see from this debacle:

  1. Sam Merulla shows his best qualities. He could be the leader of a strong progressive group. With Green, Johnson and Farr we have a core group that is brighter and stronger than I can remember. Johnson #1 is also a bright light but more difficult to unite. The goal now should be to get someone to replace Duvall who is not a stooge.

  2. Kill area rating? Kill area rating! Area rating gives the exurbs the false impression they are subsidizing downtown, when in fact our tax and DC structure is subsidizing them. We shouldn't be compromising with the poor amalgamated suburbs for all their travails - we should be demanding that they pay their share.

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 14:09:39 in reply to Comment 108296

I'm with you. Let area rating go. I live in Ward 7 in those suburbs. They're not dead, just twitching. I'm interested to see what happens to Duvall, too, and what he says to my question as to why he supported the bus-lane's end.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted January 23, 2015 at 18:59:03

With Councilor Ferguson having a taxi business, could his vote regarding the bus lane be considered a conflict of interest? While I was not in attendance Wednesday night I understand Mr. Butt applauded arguments for the abolition of the line. I would venture that the line has been less than favoured by cabbies.

Comment edited by Dylan on 2015-01-23 19:02:16

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By McFly (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2015 at 22:13:57

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 25, 2015 at 22:23:59 in reply to Comment 111087

But what if we like our councillor, just not the rest of council? Should we run in places we don't live?

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