Moving in the Wrong Direction: A Rant

By Sean Burak
Published December 14, 2007

With the recent news from Metrolinx (formerly the Greater Toronto Transit Authority) about expanding bus service in Hamilton, the glaring omission is any mention of investing in light rail.

That said, a bus link to the airport makes sense. The life of air travel is going to be much shorter than rail. If we build rail there, it will be a train to nowhere in about 20 years anyway.

Let's keep the rails closer to the core. The city will be forced to compact over the next couple of decades anyway whether we like it or not. We may as well do it in style.

There's a lot to be angry about lately: the Big Box Centre Mall redevelopment, the Walmart at Centennial Parkway, Trinity at the McMaster Innovation Park, obsession with buses, and useless ice-packed bike lanes and sidewalks - while cars get five lanes high and dry.

Then we have our myopic VIA/GO/HSR plans. We have a downtown terminal already built, but instead of investing in it, they want to build some new platforms (likely to be ugly as sin) and spread them all over the city.

I know the Hunter tunnel is a problem but if they can build a subway in Toronto, we can certainly come up with a solution for a two-block long tunnel. Its just that we don't want to.

We can invest billions of dollars in roads, but a few million for a proper solution to Hunter is somehow impossible. Hell, stop Hunter at James Street if we have to.

For visitors to Hamilton arriving on VIA, GO, Greyhound, etc., their first impression will be the Station. Hunter is amazing and we are just going to relegate it to Greyhound and commuter rush hour trains and build some crumby thing in the north or east end.

Why are we are such a lame city? Perhaps we deserve the national mockery we get. The only saving grace will be if the north terminal truly operates 24hr GO/VIA and ties into the waterfront in a beautiful way.

I wouldn't count on it, though. It's going to be a concrete pad and a grated metal outdoor staircase up to an unsheltered bus stop on the street.

Welcome to Hamilton.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.


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By Concerned Observer (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2007 at 14:17:30

Hamilton's priorities have always been wrong. The same with Transit, Millions can be spent on a new highway ,but not millions on transit.

On another vien, aassive urban expansion is a knew jerk reaction to the idea or complaints by a few people who state that there is no employment land in Hamilton. So what does Hamilton do, plan take thousands of acres of farmland and natural area into development. Soon it will be recognized that the rural area is just urban reserve land, and not rural land at all. What a Shame, or should I say Sham.

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By crtsvg (registered) | Posted December 15, 2007 at 02:26:25

How about __monorail?_

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By crtsvg (registered) | Posted December 15, 2007 at 02:28:57

How about a Monorail System for the city of Hamilton?

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By Antsy (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2007 at 14:03:46

Sean says "There is much to be angry about.."

I can't believe someone ranting about millions in investments in our city. I suppose if these were earmarked elsewhere you'd feel better.

There IS much to be angry about and it starts with attitudes like yours.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2007 at 15:48:52

Antsy, are you serious? Did you read my rant? I am not against investment. I am against short sighted investment that will leave us high and dry in the near future. And, I offer positive alternatives for us to strive for.

Big box retail is investment, but it is bottom of the barrel investment. Buses are investment but they are bottom of the barrel investment. Ignoring our strengths and building more weaknesses is investment but it is bottom of the barrel investment.

We need to stop celebrating bottom of the barrel investment and start encouraging (or better yet, demanding) true investments which include positive visions for Hamilton's future.

We have a unique opportunity to build a long term investment magnet FOR FREE: light rail. But we are slowly squandering that provincial gift on buses which will be a long term drain on the city in terms of operating costs.

The city had a great vision for Aberdeen: innovation/research lands. Real investment, real jobs, real image enhancement for the city. But if things follow their usual course, Trinity will convert half of that REAL investment/employment land into big box retail with 70% of the land used for parking.

If you read and actually think about the points I am making, you'll see I am not complaining about investment. I am pointing out that we need to make smart investment choices that result in long term growth for the city. Not all investment is ideal. Why do we continually settle for the bottom of the barrel?

Do you honestly consider a new Jack Astor's and Shoppers going on some of our prime commercial land to be positive development? What do these places offer our community? Please share your arguments in favour. Maybe I am missing something.

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By Antsy (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2007 at 23:09:40

Sean said: "We need to stop celebrating bottom of the barrel investment and start encouraging (or better yet, demanding) true investments which include positive visions for Hamilton's future."

And who do we make these demands on? And how do we enforce these demands? Do we hold our noses and threaten not to breathe?
I think our economy has been mismanaged by all levels of government since the 70's. Now we are beggars and can't afford to be choosers!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2007 at 23:56:11

Further mismanagement is not the answer.

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By liveD (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2007 at 11:31:21

And driving business away cause you don't like them isn't the answer either. I say aim high, aim low and you hit the sweet spot whenever you attract dollars. I'm sure those people on unemploymnet would love a job at Lowe's or even Wallmart.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2007 at 16:42:42

I'm not talking about driving businesses away. I'm talking about the city coming up with a plan and sticking to it. There is nothing like turning developers off by having wishy washy policies that you don't adhere to, and creating an environment where things don't get done. The city made a good decision regarding the innovation park zoning, and I'm certain McMaster would like to have their MIP be part of an entire area of research facilities, not an island stuck between big box development and a highway. If the zoning gets changed, it sends a clear message to developers that Hamilton does not intend to stick with their plans, so developers will shy away because they can't be certain who their neighbours will be despite existing zoning.

Regarding the downtown transit terminals, the Hunter GO station was developed under a concept that included future expansion. If we change our minds and start to build multiple terminals in different areas, it will send a clear message to developers that none of these transit stops might ever be long term investments in the eyes of the city. Would you open a business near the train station if you know that it could actually move 10 blocks down the road within the next 5 years? And once there are two or three, which one do you bank all of your investment money on? These kind of wishy washy half-measures make investors timid.

Regarding buses, Light rail is an economic driver and buses simply are not. This capital money is coming from the province. This is a one shot deal. So we can spend the money on buses which will cost much more to operate, will have a much shorter life, and will not drive any investment... costing all of us in future taxes. Or we can aim for building rail which is cheaper to operate, lasts much longer, and results in billions in investment along the rail line.

You can call me "anti development" if you like, but if you do, you are missing my points entirely. I've tried to be as clear as I can. It is time that we set out a vision for the future of Hamilton and STUCK TO IT. This is the only way we will convince developers that we are worth their investment money. And then we will see that we get the highs, lows and in betweens that you are looking for. If we continue to pander only to the lows, that's all we'll ever get.

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By RonPlinte (registered) | Posted December 16, 2007 at 16:54:05

liveD, you are not actually suggesting that we encourage giant US stores, like Walmart, are you? Like the other one taking over Fennell Square? There are no jobs to be gained that way, just putting local, small stores out of business, further hollowing out tradtional business districts.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 16, 2007 at 22:07:35

Sean makes perfect sense...a little too perfect for someone living in this inept town. Other cities would demand that millions be spent wisely. With LRT being affordable at that price, you'd have to be nuts to want more buses. Sadly, Hamilton's mismanagement for decades starts with the low-balling vision of residents content to "be a beggar" instead of having some pride and vision. Any money spent is actually NOT well-spent. Well-spent money is. Quit settling for second rate like we always do here. For once we CAN afford the best. Let's do it instead of allowing lazy staff and inept HSR management to waste more money.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 17, 2007 at 08:51:15

And now they are murmuring about tearing the lister down. The province and city should both be suing LIUNA for neglecting this heritage property. LIUNA should be on the hook for coming up with the money required to bring it back up to the condition it was in when they first acquired it (and subsequently left it open to rot).

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