It is Whitehead's job as a Councillor to lead for the good of this entire city, not to play this childish game of divisive political theatre.
By Ryan McGreal
Published November 26, 2015
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead has declared open war on livability improvements across the entire lower city in a notice of motion that would declare a moratorium on any new projects to make a lower city street safer and more inclusive while traffic impacts from the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project are still being studied.
Proposed area of moratorium on any new street safety improvement measures (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Whitehead's motion, which he presented at last night's Council meeting as a notice of motion and will introduce in a subsequent meeting, is literally titled, "MORATORIUM ON ANY NEW PROJECTS, ROADWAY ALTERATIONS OR DESIGNS THAT REDUCE MOTOR VEHICLULAR CAPACITY ON ANY ROADWAY WITHIN THE LRT CORRIDOR".
Yes, it's yet another dispatch from the You Can't Make This Stuff Up files.
Whitehead argues that because the construction and operation of LRT will impact vehicle traffic on Main and King Streets, the City must not do anything to "reduce motor vehicular capacity on any roadway within the LRT corridor, bounded by Cootes Dr., the escarpment, Hamilton Harbour and Parkdale Ave. in order to safeguard the capacity of the existing road system within the LRT corridor" so that volumes displaced from Main and King can be "reassigned" to the "available capacity".
Never mind that part of the point of the LRT investment is to reduce the number of vehicle trips, not simply to displace them to other streets.
Amazingly, as part of his motion, Whitehead even has the nerve to cite the outstanding list of planned lower city two-way conversions, many of which were approved almost 15 years ago, as a reason to put a freeze on a new street improvement plans.
The city's decades of inaction and stalling on taming its urban thoroughfares is already an embarrassment. It is certainly no excuse to delay change even longer!
It is clear that Whitehead's sweeping motion is at least in part a reaction to a recent notice of motion from Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson to make Aberdeen Avenue safer and more inclusive, a move that Whitehead reflexively opposes because he sees Aberdeen as merely a shortcut for Ward 8 residents to get to Highway 403 a little bit faster.
It is equally clear that actual facts have made no impact on Whitehead's opposition. Aberdeen carries 18,000 cars a day, most of them short-cutting through the neighbourhood. That volume can easily be accommodated on a street with one lane in each direction and left-turn lanes, creating safer space for walking and cycling without preventing Aberdeen from serving as a through route.
Aberdeen is a racetrack most hours of the day, and traffic still flows freely even during rush hour. The only slowdowns are at the corner of Queen and Aberdeen, where traffic has to turn through a signalized intersection and sometimes backs up behind a red light.
Animated GIF: Typical Traffic on Garth, Beckett, Aberdeen on a Monday, AM peak, midday and PM peak (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Aberdeen could be ten lanes wide and traffic would still have to slow down to go through that intersection. It is instructive that the Beckett Drive escarpment access is only one lane in each direction and carries over 20,000 cars a day without problem.
Even here, part of the problem for northbound traffic coming down the Escarpment is that Queen Street is one-way southbound north of Herkimer, so everyone heading northwest is forced to divert left onto Aberdeen (or rat-run down Stanley Avenue).
Converting Queen to two-way would reduce the need to turn left onto Aberdeen, but Whitehead is also reflexively opposed to any change on Queen Street, no matter how little sense it makes to keep Queen as an overbuilt one-way street.
Queen Street South during afternoon rush hour on November 23, 2015
Implementing a complete street design on Aberdeen is a classic win-win situation: it will improve the street for people who live on and around it without preventing cut-through traffic from continuing to use it, albeit at safer, more reasonable speeds. But Whitehead doesn't care about this. He is interested in raw politicking, not in solutions.
His motion to freeze progress across the entire lower city is deeply cynical and nakedly selfish. He is not acting in the interests of his constituents, who would still be able to use Aberdeen as a shortcut to the highway, and he is certainly not acting in the best interest of the city as a whole.
Rather, he is following the classic reactionary right-wing tactic of driving a wedge into the city in order to inflame the worst impulses of knee-jerk fear and resentment and pit different constituencies against each other.
Whitehead can dress up the motion all he wants in the language of process, but his own stream of commentary over the past several weeks and, indeed, years sinks this convenient embrace of analysis before action.
He is deeply prejudiced against any outcome that would allow streets in the lower city to become safer, more inclusive and more useful for everybody.
He sees lower city streets as nothing more than a traffic sewer, a conduit to somewhere else, and he automatically resists any change that might shift the balance between the convenience of fast, dangerous cut-through traffic and the basic needs of the people who actually live on and around these streets.
It is particularly cynical that Whitehead is using LRT as his excuse not to implement any more complete streets. The evidence overwhelmingly tells us that LRT will be far more successful at attracting new riders, new investment and more effective land use patterns if it is combined with complete streets that encourage walking, cycling and transit.
To suggest that we should not implement complete streets because LRT is coming is ludicrous. The most generous thing you can say about it is that it utterly fails to understand why LRT is so important in the first place.
It is Whitehead's job as a Councillor to lead for the good of this entire city, not to play this childish game of divisive political theatre. Ward 8 residents deserve better from their representative at Council, and the city as a whole deserves better from the people who choose to lead it.
Following is the text of Whitehead's Notice of Motion:
Council Date: November 25, 2015
MOVED BY COUNCILLOR T. WHITEHEAD
MORATORIUM ON ANY NEW PROJECTS, ROADWAY ALTERATIONS OR DESIGNS THAT REDUCE MOTOR VEHICULAR CAPACITY ON ANY ROADWAY WITHIN THE LRT CORRIDOR
WHEREAS the City is currently reviewing the existing road network and road use priorities via a Transportation Master Plan Update;
WHEREAS City Council has already directed staff to convert specific roadways from one-way to two-way operation which effects [sic] capacity on roadways as follows:
(i) Bold St. from James St. S. to Queen St. S.
(ii) Duke St. from James St. S. to Queen St. S.
(iii) Hughson St. N. from Wilson St. to Barton St. E.
(iv) King William St. from John St. N. to Wellington St. N.
(v) Wentworth St. N. from Delaware Ave. to King St. E.
(vi) Victoria Ave. N. from Barton St. E. to Burlington St. E.
(vii) Caroline St. N. from King St. to York Blvd.
(viii) Hess St. N. from York Blvd. to Barton St. W.
WHEREAS Traffic staff support the additional conversion of Wentworth St. N. between King St. E. and Barton St. E. such that Wentworth St be a continuous two way street between the escarpment and Burlington St.;
WHEREAS bicycle lanes have already been established or approved for implementation on Hunter St., York Blvd., Cannon St., Charlton Ave., Herkimer St., Dundurn St. and Bay St. thereby reducing motor vehicle capacity on these major roadways;
WHEREAS The Province has approved 1.2 Billion Dollars in funding for the development of Light Rail Transit (LRT) in the City of Hamilton;
WHEREAS LRT Traffic Impact studies have not yet been completed and therefore the impact of the vehicle offloading from King St. and Main St. to the adjacent surrounding road network in the lower City is unknown; and
WHEREAS the parking, delivery and loading of goods and services in the LRT corridor has not been determined;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
(a) That the City place a moratorium on any new projects, roadway alterations or designs that reduce motor vehicular capacity on any roadway within the LRT corridor, bounded by Cootes Dr., the escarpment, Hamilton Harbour and Parkdale Ave. in order to safeguard the capacity of the existing road system within the LRT corridor such that when volumes need to be reassigned from Main and or [sic] King during the LRT Construction and subsequent operation, that there is available capacity within the remaining roadway system;
(b) That planned or emergency roadway reconstruction, repaving of roadways and servicing of utilities in the corridor be exempt from the moratorium with the condition that they be scheduled to have minimum concurrent interference with LRT construction; and
(c) that the LRT Project Team report back to the General Issues Committee once traffic impacts studies are completed, with the expected roadway traffic volume reassignment and traffic impacts of the reassignment on roadways within the LRT corridor.
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