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.
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.
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.
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.
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