Urban Infrastructure, not Social Service

By Jason Leach
Published March 28, 2006

At a quick glance, it appears Hamilton Cit Council has done a fine job with our budget for the upcoming year, especially considering we constantly have to beg the province to help us cover costs that they downloaded to us in the first place.

However, I must take issue with the continuing antiquated mentality in Hamilton of viewing transit service as a "social program". The Hamilton Spectator story on the budget placed news regarding the HSR in the social services section of the report.

Any successful city is built around a proper, convenient transit system. The Spec would never dare call the Red Hill Expressway a social program, yet it is no different than the HSR. Both are critical infrastructure components to city life.

Perhaps the difference in the minds of Hamiltonians is based on the fact that highways serve sprawling suburbs, while transit serves compact, urban neighbourhoods. Again, this pathetic mindset is one of many things holding our city back from truly growing and becoming successful.

Forcing Hamiltonians and Hamilton businesses to be completely subservient to the private automobile is the biggest reason why many storefronts sit empty in built-up urban neighbourhoods, yet more big box stores and malls continue to be built on the outskirts of town.

Healthy transit equals a healthy city. Folks who become transit users also become shoppers of the stores and services clustered around transit lines and transit stops.

Hamilton needs a large-scale rapid transit network that will connect several spots in our city and provide the infrastructure needed to breathe new life into old, walkable commercial streets like King, Main, Parkdale, Barton and others.

To relegate transit service as some sort of social frill will only hold our city back in the car-dependent doldrums.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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