Red Hill Promise Fulfilled?

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 14, 2008

Red Hill Valley Parkway supporters are crowing about a new box store opening on Barton near Woodward as if this were a validation of their support and a repudiation of its opponents. A brilliantly incisive reply by "highwater", an RTH commenter, puts this view into sharp perspective:

The pro-expressway cabal promised us that the expressway would bring loads of high-quality employment, that there were all kinds of companies who would just love to locate here if only we had an expressway!

So what do we do? We smash the largest gash into the face of a UNESCO World Biosphere and destroy the last remaining natural link between the lake and the escarpment, and what do we get?

Crappy, low-wage, part-time jobs at a far lower job/hectare ratio than we were promised. That and subdivisions. Imagine that! And this is supposed to be some kind of triumph that proves the pro-expressway people right?

It's exactly the opposite. Expressway opponents warned that all we would get for the mountain of debt that our children have incurred is subdivisions and big box retail. It is they who have been proven right so far, not the expressway proponents. [paragraph breaks added]

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 Frank (registered) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 10:43:31

I supported some kind of up/down link on this side of the city OTHER than Highway 20. The traffic volumes on Centennial Parkway are noticeably less which makes the area I live in a whole heck of a lot safer. Not to mention the trip time being cut down by 1/3 to get up the mountain now which helps reduce GHG. What I am ticked about is the placement of box stores rather than the high quality jobs we were supposede to get. Also the "gash" actually will end up looking much less like one than you think. The creek is now cleaner, there's proper sewage management, less sedimentary problems, less smell, a cleaned up Rennie St. landfill. That all made up your killer biosphere. I still see deer... All in all, I tend to think the scale tipped pretty evenly.

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By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 12:44:53

From Catch:
Councillors want ads to toot city’s horn
May 12, 2008

"...Hamilton is becoming very attractive because of land prices, location, opportunity and growth.”

Everson shared his enthusiasm, reporting that 570 new jobs were created last year at Rona, Zellers, Canadian Tire and Lowe’s stores

Toot away!

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By trey (registered) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 13:23:17

"Also the "gash" actually will end up looking much less like one than you think. The creek is now cleaner, there's proper sewage management, less sedimentary problems, less smell, a cleaned up Rennie St. landfill."

So what was stopping the City from cleaning up the creek? Why did it have to take a highway before the City started to care about it?

So the options were. 1. leave the creek as a mess. or 2. build a highway and then clean up the creek.

No third option? Clean the creek and not build a highway.

It's the same argument pro-expressway people are offering. No-jobs vs. Retail/box jobs. No-jobs was never an option. How about? Good paying/educated jobs vs. Retail/box jobs.

When options are created simply to have them fail and throw-away, they weren't real options.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2008 at 13:39:56

"When options are created simply to have them fail and throw-away, they weren't real options."

You could be writing about the HWDSB's Board of Ed building options, or LIUNA's demolish-and-rebuild Lister vs. do nothing ultimatum, or Hemson Consulting's airport employment lands vs. nothing ultimatum, or...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 14:56:58

Holy Cow. A blog about my little comment. I feel like I've been rec'd on DailyKos or something! I wouldn't have used the word "crappy" had I known.

Frank, I'm thrilled to hear that the Redhill has cut down your drive time, but that isn't how this was billed. By the way, it isn't 'my' biosphere, it's UNESCO's. We had something truly special and unique in the world and we trashed it, for what? The only thing that could possibly make up for this act of vandalism is thousands of high-paying, high-skill jobs and a whopping increase in our tax base. So far, the only promise of high-quality jobs in this city are in the Innovation Park, completely unaffected by the expressway. And we still have a chance to screw that up too.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2008 at 15:42:47

I think "crappy" is an apt descriptive term, but it's important to be clear on just what is crappy about these jobs. By "crappy" I don't mean the job per se, and I certainly don't mean the people performing it. Rather, I mean the following formula:

crappy = low pay + part time + no benefits + no job security + no self-direction

None of those are intrinsic to retail service, as evidenced by the occasional maverick businesses that have managed to transform retail service into a real career that offers security, good pay, and creative fulfillment. However, in the absence of a 21st century movement to improve working conditions, they are the norm.

With energy prices putting the squeeze on everyone - but especially retail businesses based on 10,000 km logistical chains - I don't expect circumstances to improve dramatically for service workers any time soon.

As a city, we should be aiming far higher, especially when there are so many opportunities for us to position ourselves as leaders in new, innovative industries with strong potential for job creation.

We even have a high-level recommendation from Richard Gilbert's Peak Oil report (Hamilton: The Electric City), in which he argues that Hamilton should seek to be a leader in energy production and conservation - a field that could provide opportunities for everyone from unskilled and semi-skilled workers to designers, engineers, programmers, marketers, executives, investors, and so on.

Think: most of the buildings we will occupy in twenty or thirty years have already been built, and they are for the most part very poorly adapted to the energy environment coming our way. A huge industry is going to spring up in retrofitting existing buildings to produce and conserve energy, from micro wind to active and passive solar to insulation to geothermal and so on.

It's easy to design this stuff into new bujildings (though of course we aren't doing this), but considerably more difficult - and labour intensive - to design it into existing buildings. The actual work can't be outsourced or offshored.

A city that can create a centre of innovation around this emerging industry will do very well in the coming decades, not only by preparing its own infrastructure but also by exporting its expertise to other cities.

But no. Instead, we are pinning our hopes on logistics and warehousing around the Hamilton International Airport and the Mid Peninsula Highway, augmented by retail service at big box plazas - all of it just in time for oil prices to double and double again.

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By Thom (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 16:20:23

I'm concerned about the comment that the new expressway reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sure compared with driving in the city, the constant speeds and no stops on the expressway mean that fuel is burned consistently and therefore there are fewer emissions. But really this is a limited argument.

The best way for each of us as individuals to actually reduce our personal GHGs is to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, our driving. There are plenty of inexpensive options available including transit and cycling.

Driving on the expressway you might save a ton of GHG over a year compared with Centennial but you would save 20 tons or more if you took the bus for most of your trips. That's a really compelling argument.

And in terms of congestion on the expressway, just wait, it's a well known fact (except perhaps in Hamilton) that trips increase to fill new road capacity. If you know that you won't get stuck in traffic you'll run separate trips instead of combining them to minimize the bother. Then roads fill up and drivers complain and we get more roads.

So building roads and highways are terribly short-term solutions but so are most things that all governments do. Alas.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted May 15, 2008 at 13:03:08

Thom, by cutting time off my drive which, I might say is the longest drive I have to do except for the occasional downtown run, I am reducing my GHG. Have you seen our buses recently? In one belch they emit more GHG than my little Sentra driving for one hour. I haven't seen any data to suggest trips have increased or decreased and quite frankly, without an adequate transit system that gets me where I need to be in relatively short order, I could care less. I won't get onto a belching beast and sway through more traffic than I'd have to drive through in order to get the to my destination in over an hour when the RHCE has cut that down to a 10 or 15 minute drive max. Maybe you have that kind of time, but I don't. Also, I'd like to see what the tonnes of GHG per person of our city buses are in real life. An FYI, my Sentra still pulls at between 9 and 10 L/100kms and it's 14 years old.
Buses, my friend, aren't the answer. If I had LRT which would take me downtown in decent time and then rode a bus or another train up the escarpment and managed to get to a point somewhere near my destination in less than 45 mins, I'd probably take it. As it is right now, I drive to work (after nearly getting killed by a snack truck who didn;t look before making a right turn) because buses don't run frequently enough to the industrial area in Stoney Creek. Heck, I'm all for being environmentally conscious but I am of the impression that if everyone did a bit of something, we'd have a much greater impact than if a few people acted like environmental nutjobs. I know how to reduce/eliminate GHGs but right now, theres no viable option. I drive as little as possible and I drive a little car. I conserve fuel quite well by using good driving habits. To address an earlier comment, the park would've been destroyed if crews had managed to clean the creek up properly anyway. As it is, there are MASSIVE CSO overflows built in which you can observe as you drive up the escarpment something that is a huge factor in removing the sewage from the creek. I still haven't seen any major city that didn't have properly built ring roads and altho I'm not saying that the location is ideal, I will say that the design in amazing in its complexity and quite aesthetically pleasing...for a highway. Sometimes there are necessary evils...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2008 at 15:18:30

There's a funny thing about optimizing subsystems.

I was at the Transportation Summit the city's department of public works held on April 18. Among the excellent presenters was a traffic engineer from a US urban planning firm (I'm trying to get a copy of his presentation). He walked through the reasoning that you have just displayed:

  1. Improving traffic flow on a given street reduces air pollution / GHG output for that street.
  2. Improving traffic flow on another given street improves air pollution / GHG output for that street.

And so on - except that despite improving air quality from individual routes, the overall air pollution in the city gets worse, not better.

The problem is that when it's easier to drive, more people drive farther distances. When people make choices about where to live and where to work, the ease of driving is a contributing factor.

The cities that have the worst overall air quality are those cities that have devoted the most resources to improving traffic flow, and the cities that have the best overall air quality are those that have devoted the least resources to improving traffic flow, mainly because the relative difficulty of driving encourages people to live in walkable communities, live near transit, live near where they work, and so on.

It also dramatically increases public support for public transit, which improves the quality of transit to the point that it is both an economically and a functionally viable mode.

Every time we make an individual street better for traffic flow, we make the city as a whole worse.

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By sick of red hill (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2008 at 00:33:57

We are just getting the city we deserve.

For as a whole, this smog filled, trash heap of a city filled with unfullfilling jobs which do nothing but crush the spirit and occupy enough time to keep people from working towards a better future, is exactly the city the majority of Hamiltonians have asked for with their apathy, silence and non-action.

And to those still deluded enough to think a few minutes shaved off their travel time is doing something for the environement, remember, the link to the QEW is not even finished yet. Just wait until you are competing with the added truck traffic.

But even without it, that marginal gain pales in comparison for what was lost in the valley.

Move on and shut up about the expressway. The time to say and do anything about it's affects have passed and you missed it.

Those who actually tried to make a difference are sick and tired of those who whine about it, or comment about it, or crow about it now as if they had anything to do with it.

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By Roadster (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2008 at 05:12:32

Sick of Red Hill....you said it. Amen. The road is here. Long live the road! Stop the whining.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 20, 2008 at 11:33:31

"The road is here. Long live the road! Stop the whining."

This is what I mean when I write that Hamilton is a "Live and Don't Learn" kind of city. The people who promoted the Red Hill Valley Parkway made some promises about how it would perform once complete, chiefly:

  1. Move through traffic out of the core.
  2. Spur economic development in employment lands with highway access.

So far, the Chamber of Commerce has rejected the former as impractical in a "just-in-time" economy, and the evidence of industrial land being rezoned to single family residential has invalidated the latter.

We continue to hold Red Hill and its promoters accountable for their promises because Hamilton will never stop making the same mistakes over and over again until we draw a connection between the arguments in favour of those mistakes and the evidence that discredits them.

This, of course, is the fiscally responsible response: a cost-benefit analysis to assess the return on investment for this massive infrastructure project.

It never ceases to amaze me how severely those people who supported the highway before it was built object to any accountability for the ROI promises they made.

If the highway was delivering on its promises, I suspect we would hear about it continuously.

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By trey (registered) | Posted May 20, 2008 at 15:39:49

Since it's only used as a local road, why not put tolls on it? Business shouldn't object since they aren't using it anyway. Truckers don't need it, they continue to drive through downtown streets. Put in Toll Booths, not even the fancy transponder kind, I suggest the US style slow-down and toss a loonie toll booths. That must be cheaper then transponders.

Why have the rest of the city pay for a road they will never use or WILL NOT lower taxes from increased assessment?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:19:58

According to the City of Hamilton's 2007 Economic Development Review, the Glanbrook Industrial Park is currently being serviced over the next couple of years and will result in over 400 acres of industrial land. The expressway will make that park attractive to new industrial residents. In addition, the expressway will also make the aerotropolis project attractive to industrial development (as would the mid-penn highway).

Sorry Ryan if the benefits of the expressway did not happen overnight for you.

Those of you who are still crying over this road seem to have too much time on your hands.

The people of this city have spoken in favour of this road and the debate is over. Those of you who don't like are free to take the nearest highway out of town!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 21, 2008 at 11:55:02

"Those of you who don't like are free to take the nearest highway out of town!"

I'm reminded of the following quote from Richard Florida:

"I've seen firsthand how these squelchers drain the life and energy from their communities. They respond to new ideas with phrases like 'That's not how we do things here'; 'That will never fly'; or 'Why don't you move someplace you'll be happy?'"


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By trey (registered) | Posted May 21, 2008 at 13:43:25

As long as they stop rezoning Glanbrook Industrial Land for fast food, drive-thrus, gas stations, and car washes. Like McCabe did at the corner of Rymal and Dartnall.

Also I hope to see some Fortune 500 companies locate in Hamilton. We do have the highway now let's hope it lives up to its promises. The problem is it hasn't, not yet. Maybe never, maybe it will. But Hamilton was told the highway was the only thing stopping a list of companies from locating here. The highway is here and now we need to expand the boundry to more servicable land. The Glanbrook industrial park has been here for a long time. What now is the reason?

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By Skeptic (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2008 at 13:47:27

And the expressway was supposed to cure incurable diseases and put two chickens in every pot, as well as leading to the fountain of youth!
How come it hasn't?

We have been duped one more time by the Capitalists and anti environmentalists of this world.

Last time I believe any of them!

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By Seinfeld (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2008 at 07:26:36

Ryan said it best: "Yadda yadda yadda; blah blah blah blah blah BLAH"

Could not agree with Ryan's Rants more!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 22, 2008 at 08:09:25

Take heart. As Seinfeld famously said, "It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper."

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