Special Report: Light Rail

Will Transportation Policy Ever Translate Into Practice?

All I want for Christmas is for council to take the Rapid Ready report seriously, and put some investment behind it.

By Sean Burak
Published December 23, 2014

It's nice to hear our City Councillors acknowledging the severe problems our city has with transit service citywide - problems that require political and financial support to solve. Councillors from wards across the city are talking about taking an "inclusive" approach that takes into account all citizens, not just the ones in a given ward.

The good news is that we already have a holistic, comprehensive plan for citywide transit: it's all contained in the Rapid Ready report, which Council approved in February 2013.

In case you haven't seen it, it's available here:

I'm wondering how the Council-approved Rapid Ready report fits into Council's vision. This is a report that calls for, among many other things, multiple corridors with transit priority lanes and signals in addition to building Light Rail Transit (LRT).

I'm not sure how removing a transit lane downtown will, for example, help mountain residents with their bus headway issues. I'm also not sure how dragging our feet on LRT helps anyone in any ward.

I live downtown, but I do not believe we should limit our transit improvements to my ward. I have advocated for systemwide improvements all along.

From Rapid Ready:

Not investing in transit poses a significant risk to the City. The obvious risk is that not achieving mode share targets would result in increased congestion and associated delays and a greater need to invest more heavily in roads.

A not-so-obvious risk is that Hamilton residents continue to be captive to automobiles and the financial burden that this comes with. Even if transit investments allow a household to manage with one car instead of two, this can translate into significant savings over time.

The City has started undertaking a review of the Transportation Master Plan, and I'm told that the Rapid Ready report will inform the study of the Transportation Plan. What I'd like to know is: when will any of these reports, studies and plans actually inform Council?

The City has been been talking about transit improvements, putting pedestrians first, complete streets and two-way reversions for over a decade, and yet our spending on new car lanes is at record highs while all of these claimed "priorities" are implemented at the speed of molasses, if at all.

The world is passing us by, folks. If anyone is waiting for a study that says, "Build more roads and don't invest in transit, cycling and walking," you'll be waiting for eternity.

Those days are over and at this rate we'll still be playing catch-up to Kitchener-Waterloo, Burlington, St. Catharines, Welland, Vineland, Wawa, Dawson City, and so on well into the 22nd century.

All I want for Christmas is for council to take the Rapid Ready report seriously, and put some investment behind it.

Can we start by trying out just one single solitary transit priority signal for King buses to access James South and the MacNab terminal?

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 Tweet (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 09:33:59

Tweet Chads and Whitehead people. Tell them to shape up or ship out.

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By Tweet (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 09:34:21 in reply to Comment 107362

*Collins

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 09:40:14

Not gonna happen until the price of driving resembles the cost of driving. Advocate for removing the roads budget from municipal (subsidized driving) taxes and put it on a gas (user fee) tax.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:12:21 in reply to Comment 107364

I don't think it will take that drastic a move to make a difference. Look at Calgary's growing transit mode share. A sprawled out, car-filled, frigid oil city. Or Montreal: more dense, compact but still frigid.
Heck, Mississuaga and Brampton are making huge transit ridership gains.

Transit ridership correlates directly to the $ invested in the system. More buses, more priority lanes, more comfortable buses and trains, easy to figure out scheduling that is consistent 365 etc.....

Winnipeg serves roughly our same population with more than double the buses. And of course, it has more than double the ridership. I'm kind of heartened that Hamilton has added 25 new buses into the fleet by early 2015 compared with 2005. But for comparison, Winnipeg is planning to add 6-8 new buses per year starting in 2015. That will be 60-80 more in their fleet in a decade.

Hamilton should be buying 60-foot articulated buses almost exclusively for the next decade, other than when 40-footers need to be replaced. I'm pleased to see we are doing that in 2015. Our 5 new buses are artics. On paper that is equal to 7-8 40 foot buses, and in crush loads it is equal to almost 9-10, although comfort and convenience is a big factor in attracting new riders. Being squeezed together with 150 other people like a sardine can isn't very comfortable.

Another quick win would be a new express route running from a park and ride at Limeridge Mall to McMaster University with stops at:

-Limeridge

-Upp Wentworth/Mohawk

-Upp Wellington/Mohawk

-Upp James/Mohawk

-Upp James/Fennell

-Mohawk College

-James/Charlton

-James/Hunter

-King/McNab

-All B-Line stops to McMaster U

Ample road space exists for some transit lanes and queue jumping lights at Upper James/Fennell, Fennell Ave from Upper James to the college, James South in the southbound lane from King to Hunter, James at King.

The B Line corridor has the most pass-bys each year. Barton corridor is 2nd, then the Jolley Cut buses leading to/from Limeridge Mall and those headed to/from Mohawk College are next highest for passbys.

More express routes like this connecting employment/shopping/transit hubs through many neighbourhoods would be a huge hit.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-23 10:14:05

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:59:16 in reply to Comment 107365

Re: “Our 5 new buses are artics. On paper that is equal to 7-8 40 foot buses, and in crush loads it is equal to almost 9-10"

New Flyer's specs support the 7-8 times analysis at capacity, but not the crush load claim.

newflyer.com/pix/Brochures/hybridbrochure.pdf

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 14:04:37 in reply to Comment 107369

absolutely. My 'on paper' comment was referring only to the 40-footers. Looking back, I can see how it sounds as though I'm referring to the crush load 'on paper' as well.
Real life crush load is much more crushed than the 'official' numbers from bus companies. Lol

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:21:57 in reply to Comment 107373

In real life, crush load is hellishly uncomfortable.

Except for the sexual gropers. For them, it is paradise.

Let's plan for seated load, and leave crush load for unexpected peaks in demand. Things like everyone leaving the "Love your Streets" conference at the same time.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:01:27 in reply to Comment 107380

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:57:44 in reply to Comment 107380

agreed. I mentioned earlier that we should be aiming for comfort and convenience. Not a sardine can. However, with almost 20,000 people passed by at bus stops last year due to buses being unable to accept any more riders, it's clear we have a looooong way to go.

Of course LRT would help this issue tremendously, but we would need to borrow a city council from Burlington, Brampton, Ottawa, Kitchener, Mississauga, Toronto or Waterloo to make that happen.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:10:05 in reply to Comment 107382

Of course LRT would help this issue tremendously, but we would need to borrow a city council from Burlington, Brampton, Ottawa, Kitchener, Mississauga, Toronto or Waterloo to make that happen.

Jason, I've asked you a few times but haven't had a response. BRT in Mississauga is a joke. Chronically empty parking lots, minimal ridership, terminals that are a ghost town, it's pretty sad. It's been running for just over a month, and based on what I see driving past it on Eastgate Parkway twice daily, it's as if it's not even open to the public. Trying to get ridership numbers is impossible, based on my research. I could find projected day 1 ridership at "http://www.gotransit.com/public/en/improve/Appendix%20A%20-%20BRT%20Opening%20Day%20Operating%20Plan%20Concept.pdf" but even then that's not properly from Mississauga Transit Even the Mississauga Transit BRT site is out of date for current events - http://www.mississauga.ca/portal/miway/b... - the last update is the "winter 2014 newsletter", which looks like it was written prior to the go-live date.

Your thoughts on this?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 23:01:22 in reply to Comment 107389

I'm not completely familiar with the Miss BRT, but from what I've read, they recently just opened one piece of a 3 or 4 part route once it's all finished.

You may recall back when we built the Linc, it was wide open everyday. Very light traffic. And that's in a car-dependent city and in a sprawl area.

I commend Mississauga for planning for the future. Based on their transit experience the past 15 years, the BRT route will be very busy and well used in no time. They have passed us now in annual transit ridership due to their great investments in a robust bus network while we've been decimating ours.

All modes of transport share one steadfast common denominator: build it and they will ride/walk/drive/cycle

Mississuaga is also now planning an LRT route that will run N/S from Port Credit right up through downtown MIssissuaga to a northern terminus I don't recall at the moment.
Again, planning ahead (sort of) and trying to create attractive alternatives to the car.

It would have been true planning ahead had they done this 20 years ago. They went 100% in on car dependant sprawl, but to their credit can see the writing on the wall as having an entire city all driving around with one person per car is a disaster in the making. They've made great strides to add high-rise density and now good transit, and numbers show their investment and switch in planning priorities is paying off.

Hamilton used to try to mimic Mississauga's every sprawling move.
Now that they are adding density and great transit, Hamilton is completely ignoring them and learning nothing.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 07:37:51 in reply to Comment 107395

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 15:31:12 in reply to Comment 107403

Where would you peg downtown Mississauga?

Here. Detail (both pdfs).

It might be just south of Square One but it's mostly tall office towers and condos.

Retail, office towers, condos. That would pretty much be the definition of a city sized downtown.

Except in this case for transit.

Exactly. The only difference is their smart growth and transpo plan is being put into actual action. (My turn to be a wise guy).

Seems like the wrong portion opened first,

I see your point. But it's not the wrong portion, it's literally not finished yet. With four of twelve stations complete it is probably very localized usage. The connections and the Kipling Mobility Hub are critical. Also worth mentioning is that GO Transit intends to divert some routes onto the Transitway once complete. The more I read about this project the more intelligence it looks like was put into it. Why don't we let them finish it and see how it grows as connections grow?

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-24 15:40:19

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 11:13:11 in reply to Comment 107403

I'm pretty sure you need to give it more than a month before there will be any useful published data. You are REALLY grasping for straws here...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 11:17:39 in reply to Comment 107415

And yet Main Street has been open for what, 100+ years? At Bay St, it carries less than half of it's capacity every single day of the year. East of Wellington it carries just over 1/3 of it's capacity.

Why don't we clamour to close it down or remove half of it since nobody is using it. Nevermind one month of a partially opened new transit service. This is a 100 year old roadway.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 14:01:00 in reply to Comment 107416

Yes Jason, Main has been 5 lanes for 100 years. You're right, we should just get rid of all streets and replace them with LRT. It's really the only sane choice.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 25, 2014 at 01:25:17 in reply to Comment 107420

so it's fine for you to criticize low ridership on a new transit service that has been open less than a month, but nobody can point out the half empty roadway in the middle of our city that has been open for 100 years, 50+ in it's current 5 lane format? Ok then.....

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 26, 2014 at 08:13:50 in reply to Comment 107424

Jason, I think you miss the point. I'm calling out how projected "day one" ridership is somehow supposed to magically improve, but in this instance it hasn't. Sure, it's "only been a month" but day one numbers aren't out there best I can tell and it looks like it's unused. That's what I'm calling out. Maybe there is some sort of a run between 7 and 2 but I haven't seen it. I do know though that downtown is busy during the morning and afternoon rushes, and at other times during the day.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 23:25:39 in reply to Comment 107395

The wiki page on Mississauga BRT has information. 4 of the planned stations became operational in 2014, most are due in 2016. The connection to Kipling in 2019 will be major as well. Yes, the network is still pretty isolated at this time.

The Big Move identified a number of corridors to become equipped with higher order transit and incentivized for urban development. Dundas Street in Peel region is one of those corridors. What you are seeing is the fulfillment of Mississauga's portion of the Big Move. Their answer to the question that is the title of this article, was yes.

A failure to begin good projects 20 years ago is not an argument to postpone them further. It is all the more argument to avoid further delay.

Congratulations to their vision to anticipate smart design for inevitable further growth, and begin action.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-23 23:33:20

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 23:36:55 in reply to Comment 107398

well said. Mississauga deserves huge kudos for changing gears mid-stream. Most car-addicted places never learn from their mistakes.

In Hamilton our faux leaders use lines like "well, we don't have congestion like TO yet so everything is fine".

Yea, we also don't have the tremendous growth that TO has because the majority of people who move here know they need to own at least 1 car to make it work. We're harming our own economic potential and urban revitalization potential by simply fooling ourselves into thinking the status quo works just fine.

20 years ago if half the 403 closed, it wouldn't gridlock the entire city. Today it does. 20 years from now that will be a regular traffic occurrence if we continue to refuse to provide ANY options.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-23 23:37:27

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 20:02:40 in reply to Comment 107382

Yes, it is truly, profoundly disturbing when people are denied access to public transit because of overcrowding. Far better to live in a city like Zurich where there is plenty of room on the trams, but strict limits on car driving because of overcrowding.

In the mean time, we have to put up with situations like this.

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By zero sum (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 21:11:53 in reply to Comment 107386

I don't get it. How are the two issues related? You could triple the number of buses in Hamilton without impacting private motor vehicle traffic whatsoever. One has very little to do with the other. It is not a zero sum game.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 23:40:36 in reply to Comment 107387

You certainly could triple the number of buses in Hamilton and that would see tremendous ridership growth. But any city that has developed a huge % of the population using transit has made that transit as convenient, comfortable and fast as possible.

Tripling the number of buses in Hamilton and adding a city-wide network of transit-only lanes with priority signals, and express routes would have a massive impact on the % of Hamiltonians feeling comfortable to ditch the car, or one of their cars, and use transit as a regular part of life.

Adding more buses simply sharing the road with cars and stopping every block will increase ridership but not as much as those transit lanes and more express routes.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 19:11:51 in reply to Comment 107400

Absolutely right. When public transit looks like this, the overcrowding is a serious deterrent to people using the system.

Overcrowding also provides opportunity for sexual gropers

On the other hand, if walking, cycling or public transit is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely travelling from A to B, then people will do so in the way that they already are in many cities throughout the world.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:18:37

Whitehead responds:

> You may or may not be aware that we have launched a city wide transportation plan and that the rapid ready report will inform the study.
>
> Respectfully,
>
> Terry Whitehead

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 13:12:27 in reply to Comment 107366

Well, since you actually mention the new Transportation Plan in your letter, Terry could have guessed that you are aware of it!

It's great that they are updating their transportation plan, but the Rapid Ready Plan was adopted almost two years ago and it doesn't require a new overall Transportation Plan to start implementing the recommendations to improve and extend HSR services.

Just getting the service level back to late 1980s levels would be a huge improvement, although this would still leave us behind given the huge growth in population of the City in the last 30 years. Voting to increase funding levels from the City to HSR would be an excellent first step. If Council really does support the Rapid Ready Report (and the need to improve HSR before getting LRT, as some have mentioned) then why hasn't this been done already?

As others have pointed out, money does not seem to be short for building or widening roads (over $4.3 million for James Mountain Access, $18 million on the mountain, $23 million in Waterdown, $75 million from the City and Province for the Clappison's corners interchange). And, just like the HSR, these new road builds incur new maintenance costs each and every year from now on.

And, most obviously, the Rapid Ready Plan has LRT is the centrepiece and council should be doing everything possible to achieve this goal.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-12-23 13:53:22

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 14:06:14

The city constantly hides behind studies and more studies as an excuse to do nothing.

We started the 'Putting People First' plan in 1994 and have done nothing to put people first over the past 20 years.

The only study that anyone pays attention to at city hall is called "Cars. Nothing but Cars".

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:19:57 in reply to Comment 107374

The rub is that the last half-rigorous study of the HSR's operational dynamics is coming up on five years old and blinkered at that. There is good reason for a new operational review, and it's a small price to pay if that's a precondition of game-changing investment.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:54:04 in reply to Comment 107391

based on all the studies we've done since Vision 2020 in 1992, there won't be any game-changing investment. In 25 years, the next generation of kids will be berating city hall for ignoring Rapid Ready for the last 25 years and whatever new useless study is planned over the next couple years.

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By MLS (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:09:51 in reply to Comment 107374

But honestly; how else can you sell sprawl?

What are places like Mt. Hope and Binbrook even close to?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 14:32:02

Crush load standing capacity

30: 35 passengers
40: 55 passengers
60: 80 passengers

goo.gl/MC9SPp

Artic = 142 passengers
40' = 95 passengers

So, 7-8 times.

FWIW, 9-10x crush load would require loading 190 riders on an artic and holding 40s to 95.



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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:19:30

good point. We regularly have more than 142 and 95 in crush loads. So, 7-8 bus equivalent seems the right number all around.

We could add 50 new artics to the fleet overnight and still have crush loads. But wow, 50 would be dynamite and send us climbing the transit ridership charts again.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:24:54 in reply to Comment 107378

If we are talking frequent service of artics with crush load, then it is time to upgrade to LRT.

And we should be buying 40' buses. Not every route is high-volume. If we don't service low volume and feeder routes then we do not have a balanced transportation system for everyone.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 16:03:45 in reply to Comment 107381

I think for a number of years we should only be adding artics into the fleet, other than 40 foot replacements that are needed.

As far as I can tell, by this spring we will have 45-50 artics in the fleet of 227. There's ample room to add many more in the next several years.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 00:22:11 in reply to Comment 107383

"About 17 or 18 buses are usually bought each year, although no buses are on order for 2013 due to citywide budget constraints, a saving of about $9 million."

thespec.com/news-story/2116003-hsr-buses-going-back-to-natural-gas-/

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 08:53:10 in reply to Comment 107401

I love it when city hall pulls out the 'budget constraints' line. Not sure which is worse, the city or a media outlet publishing that without doing an ounce of work.

If only there was some way to find $9 million in the budget.....

http://raisethehammer.org/article/2161/c...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 23, 2014 at 17:19:56

Betteridge's law of headlines applies:

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 23:16:33

A great watch here for anyone wondering what it looks like when a city encourages other modes of transportation, especially mass transit. Cars and driver are still allowed, but not given complete reign to run wild at everyone's expense in the city.
Simple, logical, balanced, yet brilliant.

http://www.streetfilms.org/zurich-a-worl...

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 08:51:11

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE 2014-2018 TERM

Sam Merulla (Chair) Sam.Merulla@hamilton.ca (905) 546-4512
Arlene VanderBeek (Vice-Chair) Arlene.VanderBeek@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2714
Chad Collins Chad.Collins@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2716
Tom Jackson Tom.Jackson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2707
Scott Duvall Scott.Duvall@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2706
Terry Whitehead Terry.Whitehead@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2712
Doug Conley Doug.Conley@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2703
Lloyd Ferguson Lloyd.Ferguson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2704
Robert Pasuta Robert.Pasuta@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2705

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By Despondent (anonymous) | Posted December 25, 2014 at 00:48:56 in reply to Comment 107404

Can't believe clowns Collins and Whitehead are on this committee. This is looking hopeless to me. How do we dispute this BS?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 25, 2014 at 18:33:24 in reply to Comment 107423

PLANNING COMMITTEE 2014-2018 TERM

Judy Partridge (Chair)
Brenda Johnson (1st Vice-Chair)
Maria Pearson (2nd Vice-Chair)
Aidan Johnson
Jason Farr
Matthew Green
Chad Collins
Doug Conley
Robert Pasuta

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 11:06:00 in reply to Comment 107404

Get ready for four more years of new pavement and ballooning deficit

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 24, 2014 at 10:37:51 in reply to Comment 107404

How is Sam Merulla the only downtown councilor on Public Works?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2015 at 15:45:54 in reply to Comment 107413

Likely to be a PW vacancy shortly.

thespec.com/news-story/5242594-hamilton-councillor-scott-duvall-to-make-federal-election-announcement/

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 09:03:59 in reply to Comment 107404

Wow.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 09:28:54 in reply to Comment 107407

It's the same Public Works committee lineup as 2010-14, aside from two changes precipitated by retirements: Arlene VanderBeek taking Russ Powers' seat and Doug Conley taking Brian McHattie's seat.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 09:32:22 in reply to Comment 107410

*Merulla takes Powers' role and VanderBeek takes McHattie's role.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 09:38:05 in reply to Comment 107411

actually it will end up that VanderBeek takes Powers'r role and Merulla takes McHattie's role.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 09:06:26

"Some 55,000 transit service hours have been added between 2003 and 2010, but this has more or less been in line with population growth and directed toward alleviating overcrowding and bypassing. To achieve gains in active transportation mode use, the level of investment in transportation needs to greatly outpace the rate of population growth."

hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/76D38C17-DC96-4C54-8E55-3A6EA1C71D73/0/Feb25EDRMS_n414203_v1_5_1_PW13014.pdf

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 31, 2014 at 00:07:52

Another good question:

Will Transportation Policy (in Hamilton) ever leave the mid 20th Century?

https://twitter.com/rethinkdetroit/statu...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 31, 2014 at 11:42:42

Planning for the future. Novel concept. Safe to say Hamilton isn't too concerned about being competitive with global cities anytime soon?
Nice to hear some politicians who 'get it', and care about their cities's future, even in the face of the usual do-nothing crowd.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/31/us/atl...

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By walter (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 00:04:05

What a simple request, it makes no sense why a government, any government cannot govern. What is the city council for? Useless

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