this blog entry has been updated
There are lots of interesting discussions we can have about what policy goals the City of Hamilton should pursue and how we should go about pursuing them. Those discussions are most productive when the people participating commit to an honest, good-faith treatment of the evidence and arguments.
Unfortunately, every open discussion attracts a few trolls who refuse to let mere facts, or indeed basic principles of discourse, get in the way of squelching and stonewalling any idea that might move our city forward.
One of the more common excuses for why we can't have nice things is because the municipality spans an area of 1,100 square kilometres. The argument is that if you divide the city's population by its area, our density is too low for walkable neighbourhoods, effective transit, functional bike lanes or anything else aside from single-family suburban houses, wide, multi-lane streets and mandatory free off-street parking.
There's a quick and easy answer to this claim, but I want to put this meme to bed, so I hope to indulge you for a few minutes by taking you on a trip. Or rather, by bringing you back from a trip north of the city.
Maybe you were enjoying a recursive experience on an island on a lake on Manitoulin Island. Maybe you were SCUBA diving for shipwrecks in Fathom Five. Maybe you were hiking the northern stretches of the Bruce Trail. Maybe you were cottaging in Lion's Head or Wiarton. Maybe you were getting high, happy and healthy in Mount Forest. Maybe you were camping in Elora Gorge. Maybe you were visiting a friend or family member at U of Guelph. Maybe you were enjoying an entertaining murder-mystery dinner theatre at the Aberfoyle Mill.
But you're on your way home now, and you're coming south toward Hamilton on Hwy 6. You're on a rural highway, 80 km/h dropping to 50 km/h when it passes through a village. You're surrounded by farmers' fields, stables, livestock pastures, copses of northern carolinian trees, a cheerful red barn, a stately rough-hewn stone house.
Just south of Puslinch you pass a blue sign welcoming you to Hamilton. It's just outside the gravel shoulder in front of an evergreen thicket. You're in Hamilton now, but you're still in farm country, surrounded by rolling fields and distant farm-houses.
After several minutes, you pass the turn to go to Valens, a relaxing campground operated by the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Keep driving, you're still in the country.
After several more minutes, you pass the turn to go to African Lion Safari, the bizarre drive-thru zoo where the monkeys have fun tearing off your wiper blades. Keep driving, you're still in the country.
Several minutes later, you pass the turn to go to Flamborough Downs, which an investigative report by Steve Buist in today's Spectator tells us is one of the few parts of OLG's casino operations that is actually making money, unlike its resort casinos. Keep driving, you're still in the country.
All in all, it's a 15-20 minute drive through the rurals before you finally reach Clappison's Corners and the top of the Escarpment, with a highway design that looks like something you find in a city.
It's fully 21 kilometres from the northern border of Hamilton to the downtown - a 21 kilometre wide band of farmland that happens to be inside the official borders of the city thanks to amalgamation.
So remember: the next time someone tries to say Hamilton can't have a functional mixed-use, mixed-mode, mixed-density because of its area, what they're really trying to get you to believe is that we can't have livable streets in downtown Hamilton because there are farmers in Flamborough and Glanbrook.
Update: this entry originally described Hwy 6 as one lane in each direction south of Hwy 401. However, it soon expands to two lanes in each direction and the entry did not make this clear. RTH regrets the oversight.
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