Special Report: Light Rail

Whitehead Rejects LRT Traffic Modelling Report

Far from his claim of trying to ensure that LRT is successful, the West Mountain councillor actually seems to be trying to ensure that it fails.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published August 04, 2016

So, the preliminary Light Rail Transit (LRT) traffic modelling report is in and it projects minimal effects, even before making any modifications to the street system to optimize traffic flow - like dedicated turn lanes, two-way conversion and so on.

It is a bit of an anti-climax, given all the predictions of gridlock by LRT opponents. The biggest change to the east-west traffic corridor in the lower city will not affect traffic much, but will generate big economic, social and transportation benefits. Sounds like good news.

As I mentioned in a recent article, high level transit linking the lower city with GO will also be a big draw for businesses looking to attract millennials, who want to work downtown and not rely on a car to get around.

Rejecting the Results

But, of course, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead's immediate response is to reject the results, implicitly disparaging the expertise of city staff and transportation consultants Steer Davies Gleave, and portray the conclusions in sinister terms as a real threat to our quality of life.

Terry Whitehead, Ward 8 councillor, is skeptical of the report's findings. He's looked at numerous LRT systems across North America, he said. He's found that LRT does increase congestion.

In other words, Whitehead's vague claim to having investigated "other LRT systems" is more important than an analysis of, you know, the actual LRT we are building in our actual city.

And he never misses a chance to disparage staff if they reach conclusions he has already decided he opposes - for example, the transit-only lane and the Bay Street cycle track.

He also persists in assuming that LRT will fail in attracting riders, and then reaches the obvious conclusion that LRT will be a failure:

"People aren't going to jump out of their cars and into a half-baked LRT system," he said.

"Expect to spend more time in your cars and away from your families."

Since Whitehead is so worried about the impact on traffic, will he at least support tweaks to the street network to minimize even the insignificant increase in congestion?

The CBC report notes that the traffic models didn't include any such changes and they may not even be necessary.

Hoping For Failure?

I predict that Whitehead will simultaneously portray the insignificant increase in congestion as apocalyptic, but also oppose any changes to mitigate it, like the two-way conversion of Main.

Why? Because, as his thoroughly-discredited LRT report [PDF] showed, he is only interested in trying to find reasons to oppose LRT, not ways of ensuring we get the maximum benefit from a $1 billion provincial investment.

In other words, Whitehead himself is the one trying his best to make sure Hamilton's LRT is "half-baked".

His constant questioning of LRT makes it difficult to settle down and solve problems as they arise, or calmly make evidence-based decisions about alternatives. Business owners on King East are begging the City to make it absolutely clear that LRT is going ahead so they can plan appropriately.

I'm beginning to think that Councillor Whitehead is hoping for failure - because success, and the changes it would entail, would be just to scary for him to contemplate.

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.

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By stone (registered) | Posted August 04, 2016 at 10:02:05

Water's wet, sky is blue, Terry hates LRT.

From the sounds of Graham Crawford's recent podcast the LRT is going to pass 12-4 or 11-5 so Terry is really just tilting at windmills.

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2016 at 10:03:28

Fear of losing influence, I suspect. He's refusing to see the bigger picture, because his wallet-sized portrait of Hamilton from the Escarpment brow is the only view he's comfortable with.

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By stone (registered) | Posted August 04, 2016 at 10:23:44 in reply to Comment 119765

For sure, The Mountain™ has been the place to be for the last 40 years but not anymore. The concept of people embracing downtown is unthinkable to most people in Hamilton over the age of 50. He really should be getting his ward ready for phase 3 of LRT. Make sure the route to the airport is clear and zoned correctly, make sure the Chedoke lands are redone in a positive and beneficial way to the city etc.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 04, 2016 at 17:26:06

Oh no! Terry Whitehead is worried that there may be traffic congestion downtown! No doubt this means that he will be 100% in favor of eliminating congestion by making downtown Hamilton car-free. Just like Utrecht has been since 1965.

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By sbwoodside (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2016 at 20:56:10

After listening to the Graham Crawford podcast, I think it's evident that Whitehead is playing US-style politics with this one. Deny and ignore facts, and pay to manufacture false data that supports his viewpoint. He's getting lots of quotes in the media, lots of attention and making a name for himself. I think this is pure politics for him.

I was living in Philadelphia for 3 months recently and this kind of politics was common there.

Does that lead to a different response? Maybe the solution is to call him out as a grandstander and try to neutralize him from the debate.

simon

http://www.grahamcrawfordshow.com/#!shows/c10g1

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 04, 2016 at 23:17:50 in reply to Comment 119771

After listening to the Graham Crawford podcast, I think it's evident that Whitehead is playing US-style politics with this one. Deny and ignore facts, and pay to manufacture false data that supports his viewpoint.

THIS

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By sbwoodside (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2016 at 21:41:19 in reply to Comment 119772

Whitehead actually had to reject the traffic report, to maintain consistency, because his own "report" already said congestion will get worse: "Travel times will be heavily impacted by the loss of these westbound lanes and will likely create congestion." (p54 of PDF)

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By stone (registered) | Posted August 05, 2016 at 13:25:33

There actually is no debate here, the city and most of it's residents want the LRT. The best thing to do with Terry is stop engaging him.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted August 06, 2016 at 20:21:18 in reply to Comment 119776

I think the process has moved beyond Terry Whitehead and his antics and into more professional territory.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2016 at 07:26:19 in reply to Comment 119776

Interesting. I was unaware of any polling data that showed Hamiltonians supported LRT. Can you please provide a link? Googling turned up nothing.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 06, 2016 at 23:35:33 in reply to Comment 119779

Also interesting. I was unaware of any polling data that showed Hamiltonians don't support LRT. Can you please provide a link? Googling turned up nothing.

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