As a follow-up to the previous blog entry on the city's cycling budget, Transportation for Liveable Communities has just released a statement regarding the HSR fare increase as well as the lack of a staff person dedicated to cycling/alternative transport issues.
They make a great point: this year's $300,000 cycling budget was killed because last year's wasn't spent. The cost for the lonely staff person dedicated to cycling issues was to be an annual salary of $85,000, taken from the cycling budget.
Can anyone else do math (besides those at city hall)? $85,000 is less than $300,000, which means council could have spent at least $85,000 from this year's budget while carrying over last year's at the same time.
The real problem here is that they just don't get it.
Read the entire press release here (reprinted with permission):
Since our inception in 2000, Transportation for Liveable Communities has been engaged in addressing a dysfunctional traffic system that prefers cars to cycling, walking and transit.
TLC's long awaited hopes for the city to take positive steps to improve infrastructure for alternatives to the private automobile have been devastated by the Committee of the Whole's decision to raise bus fares, drop the modest annual allocation for cycling improvements ($300,000), and to turn down a proposal for an alternative transportation coordinator position.
This is the second time in recent memory that the cycling budget has been dropped because previous year's money was not spent: TLC understands that the lack of spending has more to do with the absence of a staff position than anything else, since there is an obvious and urgent need for spending on a multitude of cycling projects.
In our experience, programs and infrastructure for cycling are continually falling years behind schedule, while frequent changes to city staff for cycling issues make follow through difficult. This situation leaves TLC with the clear realization that there is a strong correlation between the two. Hiring an alt trans coordinator would be the most efficient way to support cycling initiatives in the city.
The Transportation Master Plan, "intended to move the City towards the achievement of the objectives of Vision 2020 and are reflective of the 9 Strategic Directions to guide development decisions...identified as part of the GRIDS process, including Direction #6 - Expand transportation options that encourage travel by foot, bike and transit and enhance efficient inter-regional transportation connections," specifically states the need for a "permanent full-time staff position for Cycling and a permanent full-time position of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Coordinator," as well as recognizing that "that planned population and employment growth over the next 30 years can be accommodated without the need for major new Escarpment crossings provided that viable alternatives to single occupant vehicles are fostered and developed"
By failing to pay the price in the budget (despite the fact the salary was to come from the annual cycling budget), we can expect more lip service to sustainable transportation when what we need is action.
Council's approach to the HSR: raising fares rather than taxes to support public transportation, hurts the city's potential to escape the jam we're in regarding traffic, air pollution, poverty, and pragmatic economic development in these global warming times. A serious look at area rating is long overdue. Making users pay the majority of the costs is not the answer.
In the big budget picture we're talking about small amounts, but amounts likely to deliver a huge payoff in terms of liveability and sustainability.
For less than it costs to resurface a kilometre of four-lane road ($700,000), we could have the cycling budget and a staff position ($300,000) and still have half a million dollars to put toward transit; yet a majority of city councillors don't seem to recognize the value they would get.
By comparison, the City of Toronto has just allocated $3 million for next year's cycling budget.
"It's ironic that they made their decision to cut support for sustainable transportation during a poor air quality alert (March 28, 2007, Downtown Hamilton AQI 53), with pollution largely generated by roads and traffic" notes TLC's Randy Kay. "We fail to see any logic in council's votes and we want the issues reconsidered."
Media calls can be directed to Randy Kay at 905-525-9140 ext. 26026
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