in More Than 140 Characters

Burlington’s City Council has a vision for their downtown as a regional economic hub attracting small-to-medium businesses and young people under the age of 35.

more_than_140_characters_banner_sm

To achieve this vision, Burlington is approving more mid-rise buildings with ground-level commercial, approving separated bike lanes, improving transit service (with regular detailed reports to Council), and aggressively improving infrastructure to compete against Mississauga, Toronto, and Waterloo in attracting small firms that focus upon quality of life for their employees.

They are also flirting with the idea of higher order public transit, and can make a strong case to the province that installing Light Rail Transit in Burlington can provide economic uplift comparable per kilometre to other communities – such as Hamilton.

Burlington’s Downtown Vision

Burlington’s Downtown demographics face a similar challenge to Hamilton’s – the population is much older than average and lacks a large number of young post-secondary graduates under the age of 35. Burlington Council identifies adding more of these demographic as key to economic development and vitality for the City.

Bike Lanes and Burlington’s EcDev Vision

During a recent Council meeting, they debated dedicated bike lanes along New Street – a primary artery similar in importance to King Street in Hamilton.

There are the same opposition arguments against separated bike lanes in Burlington that exist in Hamilton.

The difference? Councillors in Burlington focused on facts not knee-jerk emotion.

Evidence proves separated bike lanes are critical to successful active transportation, that young people under 35 are looking to not purchase a second vehicle preferring to use bicycles for short trips and that young people wish to live within proximity of their employment.

Burlington’s economic development strategy focuses upon attracting young post-secondary graduates, and the employers that employ them, to the City’s downtown core.

Burlington Councillors combined facts with their economic development vision voting for the bike lane

During the same meeting, they reviewed how ridership patterns and numbers have changed in response to recent transit route and service changes in Burlington. They want to build demand for higher order transit, with an early focus upon better connecting their Downtown with the Burlington GO Station.

Burlington’s Case for LRT

An LRT line from Burlington’s main GO station to the Downtown, along Brant Street, will operate along a corridor that can easily accommodate and attract mid-rise development.

It will connect a large, and growing, population centre to the GO system, enabling the LRT line to quickly reach the passenger loads required for sustainability.

(The proposed Hamilton B-Line’s existing ridership makes LRT sustainable on the first day).

Burlington’s Downtown is already identified as an “Anchor Hub” as part of The Big Move plan.

Now, you’re probably saying, but it’s only two kilometres of LRT – that doesn’t provide much opportunity for economic uplift similar to the 13.4 kilometres the B-Line LRT will run.

This is where it gets more interesting – During this Council meeting, rapid transit between the downtown and GO stations (yes, plural) entered the discussion. Rapid Transit along New Street or Fairview Street from Burlington’s Downtown to Appleby GO Station adds another 8 kilometers, bring the entire line to a more viable 10 kilometres.

The business case for LRT from Downtown Burlington to Appleby GO is not even close to the same returns as Hamilton’s B-Line, but there is a political business case to be made – Burlington just elected a Liberal MPP. A Conservative safe seat is now a Liberal foothold.

The governing party will be looking for ways of ensuring they keep the seat in 2018, upgrading Burlington’s portion of The Big Move Dundas Street BRT To LRT from the GO to Downtown provides a great ribbon cutting opportunity for the new Liberal MPP.

Burlington’s Mayor Supports Transit Improvements

Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring is front and centre supporting The Big Move, and his support is not fickle.

Goldring supports the proposed new revenue tools for The Big Move, states very clearly The Big Move is vital to the economic future of the GTHA, and is pushing for Hamilton’s LRT project.

Goldring states to audiences in Burlington that Hamilton’s proposed LRT is an important investment in the Bay Area’s economic future and will benefit Burlington.

It was Goldring who listed Hamilton’s LRT as a regional priority during the first joint Hamilton-Burlington Council Greater Bay Area Committee – it wasn’t the Hamilton Councillors on the committee.

Goldring is doing more to lead on Hamilton’s LRT than our Mayor.

Hamilton Doesn’t Want LRT, Burlington May Seize the Opportunity

If Hamilton City Council doesn’t want LRT, expect Goldring – and Burlington Council – to very quickly approach the province with their pitch: The Bay Area’s economic potential can still be realized with a provincial investment in making Burlington the anchor of the West GTA, starting with LRT along Brant Street.

Hamilton’s indecision will become Burlington’s advantage – deja vu.

  1. An interesting thought experiment.

    Worth noting that antipathy toward transit in Burlington is widespread (it’s even more car-centric than Hamilton). While Burlington Transit has made inroads in service — despite what transit advocates suggest is a gross underfunding of local service (see http://bfastransit.ca/?p=306 for starters) — the fact remains that the only route in the entire system that operates at anything approaching rapid transit volume runs from the Fairview GO to Downtown Hamilton.

    . If the province is interested in setting back the

  2. Cut myself off there. Meant to add:

    If the province is interested in setting back the transit conversation to the period of the Scarborough byelection, where ridership ROI takes a back seat to political expediency, there is nothing stopping them. At least until 2018.

    From the recent budget: “The Province will work with Metrolinx and municipalities on how best to prioritize transit investments through the use of rigorous business‐case analyses,” and “Proceeds from the dedicated fund for the GTHA would be invested exclusively in
    public transit priorities that address congestion and improve mobility throughout the region.” That sounds like code for “all-day GO” to me. (And right on schedule, here’s the Budget again: “The government recognizes continued expansion towards two‐way, all‐day GO Transit rail service as a priority.”)

  3. The jury’s out on Burlington Transit’s “inroads in service”.

    “Council had directed transit staff to find efficiencies within the transit system by reallocating transit resources from low performing routes to high performing routes. Significant changes were made to the system in November….

    Several routes saw their ridership increase after the changes, but many saw dramatic decreases, including Route 2, serving the downtown, which went from 29 boardings per hour (BPH) in 2013, to 17 in 2014.

    After the changes in November, overall ridership decreased by 100,000 passengers, from 1.7m riders to 1.6m, with boardings per hour down from 25 to 24. Staff cautioned that it can take six months to a year following a transit system change for boardings to return to or surpass previous numbers.”

    http://ward2news.ca/transit-and-roads/transit-improvements-2015-burlington-city-budget/

  4. The Ambitious City: Vote and be Part of the Solution

    The only time that the Province of Ontario thinks about Hamilton voters is when the Leader of the NDP stands up in the Legislature as the “member of Hamilton Centre”. Scarborough and Etobicoke or Brampton have more political clout than Hamilton.

    Former Infrastructure Ontario and Transportation Minister Glen Murray jumped in and offered one billion dollars to build a subway in Scarborough while Toronto’s Mayor was experiencing a personal melt-down over the past two years. Would the Ontario cabinet help Hamilton during its time of “priority need”? I don’t think so.

    Hamilton has had disruptive changes in its economy over the past forty years since the first oil crisis:
    Continuing steel sector decline; good job losses; air and water pollution; lack of civic vision and mission; undistinguished civic council leaders; city hall personnel issues top to bottom; Linc expressway indecision over ~50 years; flip-flops on stadium locations; too long council discussions on chickens in backyards and less decisiveness on loiters jerking businesses at King and James and elsewhere in the Gore Park area.

    Our Mayors tend to be radio and TV hosts, sports readers, teachers and former government workers who retired well and are playing-out second careers as politicians to top-up their government pensions and bide their free time after Freedom 55 for a shot at Toronto or Ottawa’s government largess – political appointments as Citizenship Judge or more lucrative position like CEO of Mohawk College or Hamilton Health Sciences – which is the lottery prize occupied by a former Burlington Mayor closely aligned with the Ontario Liberal government.

    The distinguished feature of Hamilton politics is the undistinguished councils that seem to be very good at glad-handing citizens and groups that have anything to say which, inevitably, leads to indecision as councillors fear making decisions that some squeaky wheel can parlay into a dissonant movement to unseat the incumbent at the next municipal election.

    Toronto political masters play into Hamilton’s political divide: we have become predictable in our unpredictability. One reason why Toronto’s political masters are forcing us to accept a made-in-Toronto transit solution that will be designed and constructed dollar-wise by Hamilton outsiders – some LIUNA workers no doubt will be involved, for a $600 million project that will, following experience, likely come in closer to one billion dollars.

    For what? To transit folk now using buses to travel from east Hamilton to the downtown and points in-between using a train running on tracks buried down the middle of Main Street? I see the pretty pictures of the LRT the Burlington consultants presented but the big picture isn’t so pretty, especially when other economic priorities are present – like revitalizing the downtown core’s infrastructure.

    When I was a teen the city reconstructed Barton Street and I recall seeing the old rail tracks pulled from under the pavement. The HSR streetcars were sold to Toronto. It seems like we are going back to the future or, more succinctly, ‘walking backwards into the future’.

    But the difference then and now was there were fewer citizens that could afford a car (or two) and HSR was a popular ride for all classes of Hamiltonians – from unemployed to gainfully employed, to move about the city to work and shop. People are now used to driving places during our hectic lives. But it doesn’t justify over-use of cars – ‘it is what it is’. The good news is that the next revolution in transport electrification will see increasingly more EVs – small two and three wheeler in addition to the Leafs, Tesla and other EVs that most major automakers will produce and introduce. Are we ready? Is our electrical grid reliable to support Hamilton’s increasing use of EV charging at home and on the go? I don’t think so.

    Times have changed dramatically since the HSR operated earlier versions of LRTs. Suburban business centres were developed and malls and food ‘supermarkets’ replaced the street-front shops, farmers markets and food vendors now boarded-up along Barton, King and Main Streets.

    Hamilton Health Sciences operates clinics and satellite operations in Stoney Creek and other locations to reduce the travel time to McMaster or General or St. Joseph’s or Henderson and other west-located healthcare facilities and clinics. As stated, people have more fossil fuel cars – not a good thing but a reality not expected to change within the short-term; but medium to long-term, all bets are off and as the price of gas escalates more will buy EVs for city driving and possibly rent for out-of-town excursions until EV batteries carry a similar long-distance payload of charge as do ICE vehicles today.

    Simply stated, the one billion dollars proposed for a Pink Elephant LRT running up and down the centre of Main Street is better spent improving our infrastructure in downtown Hamilton. A modern resilient infrastructure coupled with an underground PATH, like Toronto’s famous PATH, to connect our downtown core radiating from the new major street – James Street, to capture the buzz and tempo of a vibrant new city.

    The new city of Hamilton will be known as the ‘ the amazing turn-around city’ based on the new global economic revolution that transforms cities in communities of communities that form a smart city design that draws developers and investors to construct LEED-class structures of architectural merit instead of, for example, garbage nondescript squat buildings that Council allowed to be reconstructed on the north-side of King Street across from our idyllic Gore Park. Clearly a mistake.

    But it takes knowledge, experience, and vision and mission with priorities to rebuild a successful city. It requires leadership to move past the petty politics that characterize much of Hamilton’s city Council over the past 50 years. Most importantly, it requires civic leaders that ‘walk the talk’ instead of using buzz words to sound like they know what they speak or understand “sustainability”, “smart city”, “smart grid” and social-technical issues that need to be resolved to transform Hamilton’s downtown core into the most progressive revitalized city in North America. And the revitalization of the downtown core would serve as a model to redevelop at appropriate scale other sub-centres within Hamilton, and Ontario, and Canada and the USA: Smart Cities is smart business.

    I don’t see anyone standing for Council – Mayor or Councillor, that has shown in past or presently that they have the depth of knowledge, competence and leadership skills to rise above and strike a vision and raise a mission to move our city forward as the Ambitious City.

    Part of the problem are the voters. Hamiltonians chose to elect a crop of councillors that they recognize in the Hamilton Spectator, sports or radio announcers instead of those who had not had the benefit of incumbency but are eminently qualified to make a valuable contribution to this city.

    Several of our current Mayors or candidates for mayor are tied to provincial or federal government as former politicians, employees on pension or political party appointees. In municipal politics, a former government employee on pension or former political appointee is seen as a qualified candidate.

    But what I see is a candidate who spent most of their careers in government that are quite different than the private sector. Ask a veteran steel worker what it’s like working in Stelco (USSC) these past few years. I wonder how many councillors ever seen the inside of the Open Hearth let alone worked in the storied steel industry as a student or full-time? The steelmaking business is dirty and unhealthy to workers, especially Coke Oven and Open Hearth labourers.

    Eventually some unqualified councillors progress to the legislature or parliament or, if aligned to parties in power, vetted for political appointees in lucrative government positions across the many boards and official positions: Chair of the Harbour Commission, Citizenship Court Judge or secure political seats which the Liberal or NDP own in much of our old city.

    Ottawa has the National Capital Region and largest group of beneficiaries of government wages and salaries from federal and provincial civil service jobs, appointments and contractors. Toronto owns Queens Park and lions-share of the Ontario budget floods monies to irrigate the Toronto economy.

    And poor old Hamilton? It’s holding a losing hand.

    The HHS doesn’t pay city taxes and the ‘beds and heads’ fees paid by Ontario to Hamilton ‘in lieu of property taxes had cheated the city of Hamilton treasury since the late 1970s with nominal funding fixed on rates that were not increased during decades of inflation.
    .
    So what are we going to do about this dysfunctional system of government largess?

    The smart city revolution is underway. The revolution transforms cities from old technology and infrastructure to lower cost, energy efficient and environmentally sounder designs in harmony with people and the environment. Revitalization of Hamilton’s core (Ward 2) is Priority One.

    Vision and Mission

    Our vision and mission is to develop a stronger city economy and diversified healthy community focused by attracting science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) talents to start businesses in Hamilton instead of automatically going to Toronto or Ottawa or Waterloo. To be clear, we need STEM talents building businesses and jobs in Hamilton. They are the engine of the new global revolution that delivers the economic rewards to fund the sustainable environment, arts, education and social services to take care of our citizens – young and old, who need community services.

    Hamilton needs to put the Ontario and federal government on notice that it is to embark on a significant infrastructure redevelopment plan that will require loans and grants in the multi-billion dollar range over the next 10 years to scale-up layers of innovative Canadian-sourced technologies to rebuild our city’s core.

    Funding from Toronto and Ottawa will redress past neglect of our city by opening federal and Ontario tax coffers to flow beyond the floodgates of Ottawa and Toronto into the Ambitious City’s “infrastructure redevelopment plan”. The good news is that ‘what’s good for Hamilton, is good for Canada and Ontario’.

    But who on council can make our business case? No one that I can see.

    A change in direction and priorities is long past due. We need to raise the hammer on those standing for political office to make certain the candidates are knowledgeable, creditable and experienced individuals that understand priorities, decision-making and the global economic revolution that will impact our city by mid-century. We need mayoral candidates to articulate clearly an succinctly their vision and mission without filling in sound bites of buzz words like “sustainability” – we are well-past sustainable planning and into the second generation of integration of infrastructures – a convergence of Information Technologies (IT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to realize sustainable cities through advanced and creative uses of networks of services – electricity, water, sewage, to reduce waste and improve the quality of life of our citizens through innovative built-environment design.

    2014

    The 2014 election leaves us at a fork in the road. One path leads to prosperity and the other leads down a dark alley. We need to return to the audacity of an Ambitious City. We need to elect a council of credible candidates to change a losing game and rebuild Hamilton’s economy to compete in the new Industrial Revolution. If we are complacent and happy with our city today, we should consider our children. The children today can expect to leave Hamilton for career opportunities elsewhere if we do not reinvent the city’s economy to take advantage of global trends in creative uses of technologies and an exportable service and advanced electronic devices manufactured in highly automated plants located, not in China or India, in Hamilton.

    The game is ours to lose. It depends on who we vote-in. And that is part of the solution.

Comments are closed.