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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.