Transportation

Foxcroft's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 12, 2010

Today's Spectator has a column by Andrew Dreschel in which he quotes Ron Foxcroft expressing concern about the West Harbour location for the Pan Am / Ti-Cats Stadium:

We can talk all we want about public transit but, in North America, we drive cars.

Of course, the principal reason we North Americans drive cars is that we talk about building public transit but spend our money building all-you-can-drive roads, highways and parking lots.

Foxcroft's transit defeatism merely advocates continuing to do what we've always done because it's what we've always done.

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. 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.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:07:17

Hey! Dreschel is back online! Wonder if this has anything to do with Estok's departure.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 11:46:17

"Of course, the principal reason we North Americans drive cars is that we talk about building public transit but spend our money building all-you-can-drive roads, highways and parking lots."

Uh, no... That's just you providing some self-created 'logic', Ryan. A more accurate quote might be: "Of course in North America some of us talk about building public transit but because of how deeply-entrenched the automobile is in our societal value system, we still spend our money building all-you-can-drive roads, highways and parking lots."

Did you happen to catch some of the discussion at The Toronto Star this week with the article addressing whether that city was a 'bike city'? The vehemence of Torontonians (based not just on the comments, but on the comment voting) concerning driving was quite...well, sobering. And the truth is, it's all the more vehement here in Hamilton.

"Foxcroft's transit defeatism merely advocates continuing to do what we've always done because it's what we've always done."

This might be part of the overall truth connected to his comments. But stepping back a few paces, it's easy to just as quickly say 'Ryan's pro-transit stance merely advocates the change he believes in simply because it makes sense to him...ignoring the reaity that to effect a value change, you won't get where you want to simply by marshalling out the same facts over and over and over again.' That's not what turns people around, gets them thinking in entirely different ways, actually gets them considering change. That might be what you want to believe, but that's not how peoples' behaviour shifts...and it's not how Life works.

This pro-transit citizen wants a less car-centric world...but can't see the sense in railing against things...and expecting change from the resulting volume -and cogency- alone.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:01:43

Schmadrian, we've done this dance before, but I see that you remain unpersuaded by the abundant evidence that people respond to incentives.

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By More roads (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:47:27

Hamilton needs the Perimeter Road -->

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/5AB94776-4B1C-4A2D-97C2-986BDB273FA7/0/SSAPR1404PERIMETERRD.pdf

This project would really help the struggling downtown.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 13:32:16

^Yay sarcasm.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 15:35:21

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By Hamilton Civic League (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 16:09:37

Join the Hamilton Civic League on March 22 to discuss this topic in person. The theme for this month's installment of the pre-election Speaker Series is "Transportation in Hamilton: Challenges, Goals and Possibilities." The panel will include representatives from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce-Transportation Committee, Transit Users Group, McMaster Institute for Transportation & Logistics, Hamilton Light Rail and Transportation for Liveable Communities.
We're asking what specific considerations should inform the City's transportation strategy and how Hamilton's interests with regard to movement and mobility should be defined.

Time & Place: Monday, March 22 @ Volunteer Hamilton, 267 King Street East. 7pm-9pm.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 16:13:21

Lol I'm looking forward to seeing all those delusional transportation planners and business leaders explain how Hamilton needs more funding for transit.

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By delusional transit activist (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 16:16:04

"most of whom also own and drive cars"

I guess Transit advocates are "damned if you do and damned if you dont". If you own a car you're not allowed to want better transit but if you don't own a car you're a loony activist who's opinion doesn't matter.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 22:17:14

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2010 at 22:44:45

Money talks, and none of you have enough to make an impact.

At least you understand exactly how our 'democracy' works.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted March 13, 2010 at 10:42:21

Hey guys. Remember when gas prices went up?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 13, 2010 at 18:17:00

that will never happen again, the market won't allow it

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 13, 2010 at 20:29:43

Oh, it'll happen again - and next time oil prices will likely spike to $200 before the economy comes crashing down again.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 09:49:14

Ryan,

I recall in fall 2008 when oil prices hit $147 you made predictions that oil was going to hit $200 in 2009 and even higher in 2010 (many others on this site predicted this as well). But it didn't happen! Why don't you share the predictions you made on this website with its readers and fess-up that you were wrong? You know, provide us with the raisethehammer.com links where you state your (incorrect) predictions.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 09:59:06

@ Jon Dalton

"Hey guys. Remember when gas prices went up?"

When gas prices went up to $1.30 very few people opted to take public transit. Some people opted to purchase more fuel efficient cars. The reason? Even with higher gas prices it is still cheaper (when accounting for one's time - time is money for those of us with lives) to drive your car.

This is what you transit nuts just don't understand. And this is why transit will NEVER be competitive with cars in NA.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:17:22

Hey, If they built that perimeter road like the drawing shows, it would go right by the new stadium. Thus making the naysayers to the stadium like it better?? Maybe this is all a giant master plan we little people aren't privy too, lol.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:47:28

When gas prices went up to $1.30 very few people opted to take public transit. Some people opted to purchase more fuel efficient cars.

Funny, why do I remember reading so many articles about transit systems being overwhelmed with new riders and bike shops being sold out of bikes back in the summer of 08?

The reason? Even with higher gas prices it is still cheaper (when accounting for one's time - time is money for those of us with lives) to drive your car.

Certainly wasn't the case with me (I have a job, and a life). I use transit every day. So do you, if I recall correctly.

This is what you transit nuts just don't understand.

I appreciate those terms of endearment but for many of us transit riders it's simply the logical thing to do.

This is what you transit nuts just don't understand. And this is why transit will NEVER be competitive with cars in NA.

Define competitive. Would that mean 100% of drivers would switch to transit, or maybe 30%? The overall difference in transit modal share between NA and Europe is only about 10%. Us transit 'nuts' don't think everyone will stop driving, but with better service and the inevitable rise in fuel costs, a significant percentage will.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2010-03-15 09:48:50

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:05:05

It seems that bigguy1231 only joins forums to squelch at LRT... It WILL happen! You know why? Because everyone in this City knows it NEEDS to happen!

Check out the PROFESSIONALS The Spec finally got a hold of today; Real Estate Pros, Urban Planning & Transit Proffessors.. And imagine, they all advocate LRT (so long as it's done properly) http://thespec.com/News/Local/article/73...

Hopefully The Spec's days of talking to Drive-Thru Dan & Little Ceaser Larry to get the 'business' perspective is over!

LRT is going to happen despite what squelchers like you and Bob Bratina say! Sorry.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:57:41

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 15:39:39

Really? bang on comment.

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By More roads (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 18:19:51

Look at where nearly all the condo construction is happening in Toronto, near the Gardiner Expressway, a raised highway and a corridor of high public investment. All they did there was get rid of the industrial zoning and boom, large amounts of private residential investment moved in around it.

In Hamilton, our downtown is located very close to a private sector paradise we call the industrial sector. In this area, there are very few public roads, sidewalks, parks, or any other public investments, just acres of unbroken, privately owned land, rail and factories. In fact, this area has almost zero public investment and in 1995, when CN Rail was privatized, we lost even more when the railyards near Barton St. fell under private ownership. Since that time, has the downtown gotten better or worse?

In contrast, take a look at the financial sector of Toronto. It has two subway lines nearby, street cars, a city owned rail corridor, publicly owned Union Station, lots of Go train service, public highways (Gardiner Expressway) and even the Toronto Islands are owned by the city. And what is the result of this high concentration of public assets? Is it stagnation and poverty? No, it's an area of great wealth that Hamilton would love to have.

Look at Locke St. It has gotten much better ever since Hamilton got public Go Train service with the lines that run nearby.

The Perimeter road would be a great way to stimulate new private investment across the whole of the downtown and raise the cap on property values. Combine that with city efforts to eliminate the large swaths of industrial zoned land and Hamilton will not lose prosperity, we will start to build it.

Hamilton does not need, nor has never needed, the private sector to help create jobs, in fact the complete opposite is true, the private sector needs the public to create business opportunities. The best way to do that is to fill ALL areas of Hamilton with plenty of public assets.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted March 15, 2010 at 19:13:37

Foxcroft's comments were made in the context of locating the stadium somewhere that is easily accessible by car.

He is off the mark linking our driving preference to a decision on where to locate the stadium. People take the bus when they go to Ivor Wynn, or they park far away and walk because there's really nowhere to park. Same thing with the Skydome - parking is expensive and many people walk/take public transit. Don't let him throw you off on this one by getting you side-railed into a pointless debate on car versus bus culture.

Putting a stadium in a location where it is impossible to get to any other way than driving is not a reasonable reaction to the fact that people like to drive their cars. I have a very strong preference for not taking the bus, so I'd walk to the stadium, but I'm sure if parking is expensive enough, many people would be happy to take the bus. And even better if a train shuttle service from Toronto to the stadium for big games could be arranged. It could be a really cool thing down by the waterfront.

Turning his comment into an argument on the relative merits of car culture versus public-transit culture is not productive and I think it also takes the focus away from the central issue of the best location. The real car lovers can still drive to the waterfront. The location is also good for most of Hamilton to take the bus, and even to walk up from downtown through a fairly interesting and often lovely section of town. The Centennial location is only good for car access, which is fine for a Home Depot, but not for an entertainment centre.

I am assuming that Mr. Foxcroft has sold his interest in the former Fluke Transport lands and does not have an ulterior motive for suggesting that dire location.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 15, 2010 at 22:45:54

Capitalist wrote:

I recall in fall 2008 when oil prices hit $147 you made predictions that oil was going to hit $200 in 2009 and even higher in 2010 (many others on this site predicted this as well). But it didn't happen! Why don't you share the predictions you made on this website with its readers and fess-up that you were wrong? You know, provide us with the raisethehammer.com links where you state your (incorrect) predictions.

Still beating on that strawman, I see. Turns out I'm happy to follow up on my previous projections related to oil prices.

From April 4, 2005:

Those radical flat-earthers at Goldman-Sachs Global Investment Research have just released a report predicting that the oil market is entering a "super spike" period of price instability that could see oil top $100 a barrel.

G-S defines the "super spike" period as "a multi-year trading band of oil prices high enough to meaningfully reduce energy consumption and recreate a spare capacity cushion only after which will lower energy prices return."

This, of course, dovetails almost exactly with the prediction of a modified Hubbert's Peak, in which price spikes caused by peak production drive demand down below output. The price then falls, spurring demand growth and another 'bang' off the peak before the long, volatile descent down the other side.

Projection: growing demand against tight production will result in a super-spike in the oil price, which will kill demand by triggering a slowdown in the economy that brings oil prices back down until the economy recovers.

Actual: growing demand against tight production resulted in a super-spike in the oil price (to $150 a barrel in the summer of 2008), which killed demand by triggering a slowdown in the economy that brought oil prices back down.

The economy is slowly recovering, and oil prices are already back up to $80 a barrel.

From April 27, 2005:

More ominously, the April 13, 2005 CIBC World Markets Occasional Report #53 predicts that oil prices will almost double over the next five years. The price hikes "will follow from the inevitable collision between surging global crude demand and accelerating depletion of conventional crude supply."

Essentially, the report predicts that 2005 will mark a peak in the world's ability to increase the supply of oil... Prices will have to rise dramatically enough to constrain demand to what the world can produce.

Projection: oil production will peak in 2005 at around 85 million barrels per day.

Actual: oil production peaked in 2005 at around 85 million barrels per day.

From May 16, 2005:

The next five or ten years will offer extreme price volatility for energy, particularly oil and natural gas, as demand bangs repeatedly off the production peak and then crashes under grueling price spikes.

From June 16, 2005:

Nearly every reserve assessment not based on suspect USGS data puts the peak somewhere between now and 2010. In fact, there likely won't be a discrete peak per se. It will probably stretch over several years as volatile prices squash demand periodically. We appear to be entering that jagged plateau now, as described by analysts at Goldman-Sachs and CIBC World Markets. ...

[T]he global economy, powered as it is by cheap, abundant oil, will inevitably go haywire as the supply starts to contract.

From August 22, 2005:

[I]f the oil infrastructure can continue bringing oil to market fast enough to meet market demand, then the economy will continue to tick along as it has. If, however, the rate of oil production maxes out but demand keeps growing, then the price of oil will keep rising until it gets high enough to push demand down to what the industry can provide. ...

So far, rising oil prices haven't brought on a recession in North America, but there are plenty of reasons to suspect that growth here must stall sooner or later.

Projection: the next several years will be characterized by oil prices spiking leading to economic contraction and falling oil prices, followed by renewed demand growth and more price spikes.

Actual: the past few years have been characterized by oil prices spiking leading to an economic contraction and falling oil prices. Right now the economy is recovering and oil prices are hovering around $80/barrel.

From April 29, 2006:

Saudi Aramco announced on April 10, 2006 that Saudi Arabia's mature oilfields "are expected to decline at a gross average rate of 8 percent a year without additional maintenance and drilling."

The Aramco spokesperson explained that the company is attempting to offset those declines with "remedial activities" including drilling new wells in existing fields and opening up new fields.

But get this: the spokesperson went on, "This maintain potential drilling in mature fields combined with a multitude of remedial actions and the development of new fields, with long plateau lives, lowers the composite decline rate of producing fields to around 2 percent."

Projection: Saudi Arabian oil production peaked in 2006 and would decline by between 2% and 8%.

Actual: Saudi Arabian oil production peaked in 2006 and declined by 8%.

From July 19, 2007:

A new report by Jeff Rubin and Peter Buchanan at CIBC World Markets predicts that oil will hit $100 per barrel by the end of 2008.

Projection: Oil prices would hit $100/barrel by the end of 2008.

Actual: Oil prices hit $100/barrel on January 2, 2008. You're right: I was wrong on this one. By two days.

By the way, on the off-chance that you're actually interested in an honest discussion of the issues, I have written fairly extensively about the recession and its relationship to oil prices here, here, and here.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 11:26:53

Road bikes sales per unit in Canada were up 15% in 2009. Poor quality bike sales were down. Source: http://www.btac.org/members/annual_bikes_sales_report.html

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 11:39:02

Can't help but notice Ryan is quoting dirty hippies like Goldman Sachs and CIBC World Markets.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 15:25:46

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 16, 2010 at 16:36:55

Capitalist: Here is a series of lectures

Alarming Economic Facts - 1 of 21 - Peak Oil Peak Coal Peak Debt Peak Everything

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9ruW9FRb...

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 08:23:15

Can't help but notice Ryan is quoting dirty hippies like Goldman Sachs and CIBC World Markets.

Those pinkos!

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By frank (registered) | Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:39:38

Ryan wrote:

"From July 19, 2007:

A new report by Jeff Rubin and Peter Buchanan at CIBC World Markets predicts that oil will hit $100 per barrel by the end of 2008.

Projection: Oil prices would hit $100/barrel by the end of 2008.

Actual: Oil prices hit $100/barrel on January 2, 2008. You're right: I was wrong on this one. By two days."

Shouldn't that be a year less two days? or is the year wrong?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 16:25:31

Ah yes, more shouting from the fringes... how very constructive.

Anyone think maybe we need both better transit and cars???

I love cars and don't plan on getting rid of mine, especially since there is no transit connection to my work; but I'd love to be able to jump on the LRT right outside my door and go downtown too.

The polar extremes in this debate are pointless and to be ignored.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 18, 2010 at 18:34:32

"Anyone think maybe we need both better transit and cars???" ... "The polar extremes in this debate are pointless and to be ignored."

That would require a spirit of co-operation and genuine concern for the needs of the community. When it occurs beautiful things happen. This region needs a lot of humbling until some of these attitudes are turned around. It will happen, whether peak oil, economic collapse (the US is about to go bankrupt pretending otherwise won't change that), etc, and many won't change willingly so it will be a bit painful, but either we clean up our act and treat each other better or nature will do it for us.

"That's mathematics, son! You can argue with me, but you can't argue with figures!" ~Foghorn Leghorn :)

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:03:16

Agreed Mikeonthemountain.

Often consensus could be found among the "middle majority" but the constant, pointless, open-mouth-closed-ears arguments from the polar extremes often drown out real discussion.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:47:38

Frank wrote:

Shouldn't that be a year less two days?

Oops, you're right! Turns out $100 oil came a year early rather than two days late.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 12:59:43

Well false dichotomies are abundant ... if you drive it's easy to be fearful that adding a bike lane will cause gridlock which is nonsense; if you don't drive it's easy to be fearful that 'better cars' can only mean adding more lanes which is also nonsense.

'Better cars' can include, off the top of my head:

  1. Consolidate some surface parking into multilevel or underground garages and develop some nice stuff on the currently ghetto looking surface lots. (You know, actually caring about what your city looks like.)

  2. Cleaner engines and infrastructure. I find myself gagging (literally) on car/diesel exhaust while walking (not just while cycling). A quick google will yield the numerous already established statistics on respiratory ailments and deaths caused by our smoggy oily civilization.

  3. More efficient use of existing space : some concepts include smart-card car rentals which are stacked like this awesome idea from MIT : http://www.markpascua.com/2008/03/11/cit...

  4. Self healing concrete in high traffic areas where density can support the extra cost, which decreased maintenance would probably pay for anyway : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/200...

Good ideas are everywhere, we just have unmitigated selfishness and stupidity, foremost in leadership. We should be trying to improve everything - walkability, transit, driving, cycling, ecomony/productivity, it's all so possible just largely suffocated in this current culture of being stuck in our ways, plus enslaved by corruption.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 16:12:03

Well said again mikeonthemountain.

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By E-moter City (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 16:51:43

Well yeah. Much as I don't care for his logic one thing I can say about Foxcroft is that he does more than talk about issues. He barges ahead and imposes many of his "solutions." I wish a more of those who contribute to RTH (perhaps myself included) would do that.

Thing about cars though is not the pollution or the energy costs. Those can and to a large extent probably will be solved, or at least reduced, by technology. Thing about cars is the congestion. Solving that requires something a little more disruptive and innovative. The result won't be the disappearance of cars but the decline of their primacy.

In North America that decline has already begun. That's what the recent economic crisis was all about. The utility of our current transportation structure (which affects everything from industrial manufacturing to housing construction to social networking) has peaked. It was no accident that it was the automobile manufacturers who required bailouts, along with banks, in the last recession. And those billions went to shore up industries while they cut back production. We're buying time, not rebuilding.

Most of those who say they don't want or like to go into Hamilton's centre seldom cite a lack of interesting things to do there or the costs etc. They complain about things like available free parking. That's a congestion complaint, not complaints about the cost of energy or air pollution. They don't like bikes and public transit because they see these forms of transportation as competition for available roadspace. They also don't like rubbing shoulders with people they consider "undesireables" but that too is all about congestion. And the fact is that in densely populated urban areas, more cars on more roads don't mean more room, however cleanly or cheaply they run.

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