Other Cities Care

By Jason Leach
Published February 13, 2008

I-205 MAX Stations (Source:

Portland OR is now building a new light rail line from one suburban area to another.

(When I lived out there, I used the Gateway/99th station shown on this map.)

The end of the line (Clackamas Town Centre) was much like a Scarborough Town Centre or Meadowlands type of area - big malls, box stores, and sprawl.

It's amazing that they're doing LRT now across this entire strip of suburban residential Upper James-type neighbourhoods.

We still can't even get Hamilton to do LRT through the dense lower city. Meanwhile, Portland is running a line that would be equivalent to us doing LRT from Hwy20/Rymal over to Meadowlands.

This is the same city that is planning to build a canal in a major redevelopment of an under-used block of land north of Lovejoy.

Every time I read a proposal like this in a North American city I have two reactions.

The first is to be impressed and realize that there is a lot of talented folks who can develop great projects in our cities.

The second, of course, is to despair that Hamilton is falling further and further behind. I mean, we still have a Council that won't budge on the one-way mega highways tearing the life out of our urban city.

Other cities are building light rail, attracting new economy firms such as streetcar manufacturers, renewable energy firms and proposing European-style canals in downtown districts.

We're still knocking down buildings [PDF] for the almighty purpose of more parking lots.

Hardly a week goes by where I don't hear local politicians, "experts" and radio hosts talk about how downtown will never come back to be as vibrant as it once was.

Why on earth not? Other cities are seeing their downtowns enter the greatest period of development and vibrancy in their modern history.

Sadly, it's quite simple – other cities care.

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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By Frank (registered) | Posted February 13, 2008 at 09:04:27

Town council is to entrenched in its ways to think about doing 'new' things despite the fact that what's new to them has been used for ages elsewhere. They'd have to do a 5-10 year study and a community impact survey and all the other b.s... I propose kicking everyone of their sorry butts out and starting fresh. Give the younger fresher free-er thinkers a chance!!!

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By transitory (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2008 at 11:34:43

Federal rules prefer buses over streetcar expansion
Oregonian, Dec. 27, 2007

“Portland officials, eager to expand the city's heralded streetcar line across the Willamette River, are learning that federal transit managers favor buses for efficiency and may delay or withhold construction funding.

The expansion, pegged to cost $147 million, would extend the streetcar from the Pearl District across the Broadway Bridge and south to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, nearly completing a streetcar loop of the city's core. The federal government, according to the Portland City Council's plan, would pay for half.

But the City Council scrambled in early September to meet a deadline to apply for funds, only to learn from the Federal Transit Administration that Portland is failing to meet a cost-effectiveness test that planners here say is biased against streetcars in favor of high-capacity bus lines.

At stake is about $200 million in federal money that could provide the first national program for streetcars in cities across the nation. More than 60 cities nationwide have ideas for emulating the Portland Streetcar and the dense mix of housing and commercial development that accompanies its downtown route.

Despite the chance to compete for the new pot of money, however, every city except Portland has balked. Seattle, which just opened its first streetcar line earlier this month, says the process favors bus rapid transit -- the type of line that has large vehicles traveling in their own lanes separated from car traffic.

The transit administration has published rules that would make cost-effectiveness the key test of whether a project should be funded. Zoning for high density and saving miles driven in cars would be combined with congestion relief under an effectiveness test. Together those would count for half the benefits allowed.

The result?

"If you build 5,000 units of housing along that line and people walked from those units of housing and get on the streetcar, they would not count under their criteria," DeFazio said.

The only riders that count are the ones that transfer from a bus or other transit to get to the streetcar line, he said.

"It's totally misanthropic," DeFazio said. "It's set up to make streetcar never pencil out."”

(In full:

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 13, 2008 at 12:49:34

What a shocker - the US Federal Transit Administration favours buses over rail. And we think Hamilton's leadership has their head stuck in the sand.

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By transitory (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2008 at 15:23:36

Another shocker: Portland was recently named America's Greenest City in Popular Science.

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