Comment 104816

By RobF (registered) | Posted September 24, 2014 at 16:54:59

I agree we could do with a better calibre of public debate, and hyper-partisanship and narrow-minded parochialism is detrimental to all of us. But much of your argument is essentially post-political ...

LRT is a good case in point. Is LRT the penultimate transit system perfectly tailored to the character and needs of Hamilton? No, it is not. Is BRT the flawless transit system we have all been waiting for? No, not either.

Gee. This helps us make a prudent decision. Neither is perfect. Ok. So, which is a better choice for us. What criteria will you use to make that determination? How should others?

Most careful and thoughtful studies of transit avoid entirely the question of which system is better than the other, because it is an impossible question to answer and an unconstructive question to ask.

You can push this too far. It depends on the aim of the study. The whole point of policy analysis in general and Cost Benefit Analysis specifically is to aid decision-makers in making the better choice in a given context. Of course, someone has to set the terms of reference and not everyone agrees on the nature of the problem to be solved, and so forth.

There is seldom an indisputably 'best' alternative. Those who claim otherwise in spite of important contextual nuances and the impossibility of perfectly predicting the future are not giving the issue careful thought, they are shouting the slogans of their favourite team.

A number of contributors on RTH have made a pretty compelling case for LRT over BRT, but yes part of its advantage is based on greater future economic impact from redevelopment. That may not happen as predicted in the models they cite.

We instead need councillors who are willing to give impartial and cool-headed analysis of what course of action will be best for the city and their constituents.

Two points. First, analysis at city hall is impartial in the same way a train is about where its going. If you are in control of the terms of reference and get to determine what counts as facts you lay down the rails for the debate (or train) to follow. Second, what happens when what's best for your constituents isn't what's best for the city?

In the case of LRT, the opportunity the provincial government has made available right now does not include a BRT alternative and so we can't be restarting the 2010 debate on whether BRT or LRT is better for us. Especially not at this moment when our options are effectively: LRT with funding, or no LRT with no funding.

Effectively, you are arguing for policy lock-in or path dependency. This only works if you truly believe that there is little difference between the alternatives or that the costs of changing course are prohibitively expensive. Nothing has been built and the Province hasn't committed to funding the LRT. To hold off calls for a switch to BRT you'll need a more compelling argument, which would require determining which is better. More to the point, there are plenty of reasons to be wary of your logic. What if the issue in question is the Aerotropolis project? If it's a bad idea should we simply accept it as a done deal, because a previous council debated its merits and decided to support it? I could go on.

I think you are a fine candidate and wish you well in your pursuit of a council seat. But the current rancor at City Hall reflects what is at stake in Hamilton right now. It is naive to think that competing visions for the city will go away. They reflect very different interests and desires in the city. Political power is about having the means to shape the city according to your vision. That is what's at stake.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-09-24 16:59:59

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