Special Report: Transit

Tell Council to Put More Transit in the Budget

It's budget season at City Hall and we need your help to let the community and councillors know that you support increased funding for transit.

By Hamilton 4 Transit
Published February 05, 2016

Hamilton 4 Transit has recently teamed up with Environment Hamilton to get our heads together for ways to mobilize residents to improve transit in Hamilton. We had an urgent meeting this week to examine HSR's budget presentation they made Monday and update to the Ten-Year Transit Strategy they presented to Council.

This is where you come in. It's budget season at City Hall and we need your help to let the community and councillors know that you support increased funding for transit.

Chip In

Look at this list and let us know which way you can chip in:

We hope to hear from you about which option is best for you to show your support for transit.

A group of us met this week with Environment Hamilton to analyze HSR's presentation to Council. We've reviewed the budget request and the updated Ten-Year Transit Strategy in the context of LRT now being confirmed, the Rapid Ready report having been unanimously endorsed by Council in 2013, and the growing consensus in cities all over North America that transit growth is key to quality of life, economic development and financial health of cities, and environmental responsibility.

Our Response to HSR Budget Request

We've developed the following consensus about our support for HSR's budget request to Council:

1) We support HSR's request for a second maintenance and storage facility ("bus barn"). As growth of Hamilton's transit system is severely limited by the location and limited size of the Mountain Transit Centre in Mount Hope.

The $5 million needed for preliminary costing, design, land acquistion, and preparing funding applications to other levels of government needs to invested now so that the bus barn can be ready when it will be desperately needed in 5 years.

2) We support HSR request for 11 more buses to be funded by the city in this year's budget. The fare increase this year was very steep. Many riders on fixed incomes have no way to pay for this increase, so their quality of life is reduced as they are taking fewer rides.

The bargain from the city last year was: 'we'll raise fares, but we'll fix deficiencies in the system and you'll get better service'. The city needs to keep up the bargain and improve service with more buses, or we will lose more ridership.

The city needs to budget to continuously buy more buses to do more than just keep up with population but also to increase service, so that more people have the option to use HSR and choose HSR because it is convenient.

3) We support HSR intention to reorganize routes to better integrate with LRT, and this needs to happen before LRT is in place.

4) We see an urgent need for Council to ask staff to report back on area rating of property taxes for transit with a focus on understanding how it limits expansion of transit in suburbs, how provincial legislation changes impact area rating, and what an urban/rural split instead of former municipality split as it currently works would improve fairness for low income tax payers.

We hope you can support these demands as well - please contact us if you need more info to understand these issues.

That's it for now! Keep on bussing!

Hamilton 4 Transit is an organization of Hamiltonians working together for improvements to transit across all of Hamilton.


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 10:29:15

They could start by actually spending the $31 million they get in gas tax money on transit (instead of 90% on roads) like almost every other large city in Ontario does! That's specifically what the Province wants us to do with the money:

"Ontario shares two cents per litre of provincial gas tax revenues with municipalities “to expand and improve public transit”. According to a Ministry of Transportation news release, “The Ontario government made the funding for its Gas Tax Program permanent in 2013 to help municipalities improve transit."

and we would get more money if we increased ridership!

"The province pays out funds from gas tax revenues on a quarterly basis and determines the amount that municipalities receive by total transit ridership and population of each municipality."


It's hard to ask the Province to send us more money for buses when we are not actually spending the money they do send us as it is intended. Spending the gas tax money on transit would be a good first step, and much less controversial than fixing area weighting transit (which is another Hamilton-only policy that should be changed).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-02-05 10:32:03

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 10:34:48 in reply to Comment 116410

and we also can't use the excuse that "we're broke" We're about to spend $80 million for a new highway in Waterdown right beside a current highway that is only carrying 50% of the capacity it was built for.
And that's just one example of many.
We're about to rebuild Rymal Road to a capacity more than 2x it's projected volume in 2030, and another main road next to the current mostly empty main road leading to the Ancaster biz park.

We spend money on unnecessary roads like Jay Leno spends on collector cars.

Pretty tough to go to the province and put on some 'poor us' routine when they see us literally throwing money away on unnecessary frills.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 10:37:16

David Dixon needs to develop a network of transit only roadways, lanes on expressway shoulders and transit-ways like Ottawa's vast BRT network if he wants council to ever spend $ on transit. When they see all the new concrete and asphalt that can be laid down for such initiatives I'm sure they'll suddenly be very interested.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 23:35:02 in reply to Comment 116412

I can't imagine that anyone could sell transit only lanes on expressways in Hamilton when council wouldn't allow King Street to keep it's lane (an arterial street that is actually WIDER than either of Hamilton's municipal expressways in terms of lane amounts)

Comment edited by MattM on 2016-02-05 23:36:31

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 06, 2016 at 15:42:21 in reply to Comment 116427

To be fair, city staff hopelessly pooched the project. Killing it was the wrong thing to do, but it was inevitable after staff demonstrated a critical inability to make it work.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 14:56:58 in reply to Comment 116412

What we need to do is dump David Dixon. He was a lame duck at the TTC and they cut him loose in their shake-up of management to end the era of mismanagement and incompetence that Byford got stuck cleaning up. What we need is to steal someone from GRT or YRT (heck, even MiWay!) who's willing to be a champion for local transit. Until then, nothing is going to change.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 05, 2016 at 12:28:34 in reply to Comment 116412

Just what we need. The same fast action and high interest as was shown in the downtown bus lane.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted February 05, 2016 at 16:25:20

My spouse attended their (Hamilton 4 Transit) meeting.

He's going to be going to City Hall on Feb 9th too, as a participant in this request.

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By yay (anonymous) | Posted February 06, 2016 at 14:01:16

Good for Environment Hamilton for doing this. They do more than even the 'activist' community on this realized.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 12:23:58

The big problem/opportunity here is the one staring you all in the face. It's numbered as #4 but should be numbered #1 and immediately addressed before anything else because the reasons and decisions behind it are the main things blocking the development of better transit in your city. Your area rating system has to go! Nothing else you do will work really effectively until it is dealt with.

Instead of making it an argument of fairness, or good city building forcing a change in behavior, an argument of pure economics must be made. Every politician wants to keep taxes down as much as possible and that is a political reality however, a good dose of economic reality given to them in the form of a business opportunity is an easier way to do change the stance on the issue. The current political approach has always been that, transit is the future and car driving is tied to over suburbanization and its built in hidden as well as its massively subsidized costs, which are bad.

Most of the people against this are unfortunately, are not overly effected by this argument. You often here very nice normal people say in response, "My house in the burbs is nice and so is my neighborhood, I'm not hurting anyone, why are you downtown hippies so against me! You can ride this great public transit of the future, I want my car. I don't want anything to change why should I pay more taxes for something I don't use, something I will never use unless you take my drivers license from me! Why does helping the environment mean, I have to suffer and pay for it." The argument goes on from there and divides up into the normal camps. Certain local politicians totally agree to this mindset and all the convincing by well meaning people on the other side using logic that, in anyway leads to a change in lifestyle, is immediately fought just on principle alone.

I often lead in meetings behind the scenes with the point that, "you can build all the office parks you want, it just won't attract the big companies you are really looking for and want to locate there. You get many start ups sure, but increasingly you are not getting the big companies there. The reason why is that they want a single large complex not 5 or 6 small suburban offices all in different locations. To build a complex like this using the classic office park model, forces the developer to build highly land intensive "massive footprint" structures to meet bank and financial loan regulations and requirements. Meaning, unless there are very deep pockets involved and the overall economy and building development market is really good, it won't get built".

I also say that, "its the old underdeveloped downtown locations that are in already built up neighborhoods that have the size and transport friendly locations you need, that are what you want especially, cheap locations."

When Dallas area officials asked why a certain Fortune 500 company whom had decided to locate their new worldwide headoffice in a core area location right beside one of DART's (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) LRT Stations, without even having to suggest it. The company answered that, good higher order Rapid Transit was the key ingredient. The central location meant, they could build a big structure for all their employees and not have to shuttle around during the day between locations. Annoying as well as increasingly expensive and often unreliable online video meetings, with employees in many different locations could also be avoided. LRT station access guaranteed that, all their employees could get there most of the time, very easily, regardless the time of the business day. Highways just get too crowded and have to be worked on constantly. It was getting too expensive to force some senior manager into his car on a Saturday to drive to some far off suburban location, for an emergency must attend meeting, than telling him/her to park your car at the closest LRT station and take the Train here. If food had to be brought in at the company's expense for a meeting or celebration with clients, it was cheaper to have it delivered downtown than always paying an extra distance charge added for delivery to service suburban locations. Employees, especially hard to get/control, younger workers, often felt that work could be like a jail during the business day. Having to be trapped in some far off suburban office that, requires that employees must stay close by, when there was nowhere or very few choices of where to go to at lunch or when on break. Employees who take transit or bike don't need as much, very expensive to build and maintain parking lots and structures.

One other fact is that many industries have the tendency to bunch in close by their competition. High tech, Bio Tech, and higher end business service companies have historically, done this and the trend is increasing. High Tech "techno-poles" were originally mainly suburban but this is quickly changing. Younger tech or high knowledge workers often want to be in locations that provide a "connected" environment. When they mean connected, its not just with free WiFi (although that probably helps too), they mean lots of choices to go for lunches, places with parks, good shopping locals. Any place that provides some place to go to whatever the need or interest of the worker. In some cases, just a place where you can see and talk to people who you don't necessarily work with. How many people do you see walking along the sidewalk in a suburban office park? Is there even a sidewalk at all?

Good transit is the key for all this. It doesn't mean everything must be downtown but this is where transit has the biggest impact. The impact is biggest there because of the supportive built environment. You can by the way, redevelop the suburbs, so they feel more like downtown and that is occurring inside many former office suburban office parks. The big change required is that it must be connected to rapid transit, on top og good planning and lots of awareness. Tysons Corners in suburban Washington DC and its new connection to the Silver Line of Washington's Metrorail System (The marketing name of the area's Heavy rail/Subway/Metro system) is one of the most famous examples of this phenomena.

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By Ham4trans (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 19:30:06

We see an urgent need for Council to ask staff to report back on area rating of property taxes for transit with a focus on understanding how it limits expansion of transit in suburbs, how provincial legislation changes impact area rating, and what an urban/rural split instead of former municipality split as it currently works would improve fairness for low income tax payers.

I think its important that we recognize that area rating is whats causing the bulk of the funding problems but as noted here there is a need to recognize the urban rural split and correct area rating in transportation rather than eliminate it.

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