Special Report: Bus Lane

The Choice Our Leaders Face

Why spend money to move backward when the same amount spent to move us forward will accomplish much, much more?

By Sean Burak
Published January 21, 2015

I'm hoping that in light of the further research presented here, Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins will publicly correct his statements that incorrectly implied the bus lane caused a rise in accidents on King Street.

It's clear from the data that a) 2014 collision rates were not significantly higher than average and b) any rise over 2013 was mirrored on neighbouring TOL-free main street and must be explained using other factors.

I'm hoping that as a matter of general integrity, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead will take an opportunity today to publicly apologize to the city staff who, he implied, had twisted data to support a predetermined position on the transit only lane (in essence, implying that they lied).

To the other councillors, I ask: is this all truly about the five-minute average delay on King street? A delay that only affects a minority of Hamiltonians once a day and only during an hour of afternoon rush?

If it's about the delay, there is a simple fix: add a transit priority left turn onto James (that also allows a queue jump to the MacNab terminal). This will keep merging buses out of the vehicular travel lane and is guaranteed to improve travel times during rush hour.

If it's not about the five-minute delay, then what exactly is the removal of the transit-only lane going to accomplish?

What will we gain for the $100,000 it costs to undo the work that has been done and set us back a year in transit planning?

These questions must be answered before a vote to remove the lane is cast.

Why spend money to move backward when the same amount spent to move us forward will accomplish much, much more?

It is sad to think that any city leader would put a greater value on the opinions of their motorist constituents than those in their ward who rely on transit.

Every metric of study has shown that the bus lane was successful.

This is an important vote to set the tone for this term. Will this Council be seen as a leader or a follower? Will Councillors align themselves with the future or with the past? The entire city is watching.

To those Councillors who have voted to keep and improve the lane, thank you for your support. It is the only socially and fiscally responsible option and I am confident they will make the right choice in continuing to vote for this path forward.

To all of our civic leaders, I ask that you please take a moment to consider the following sampling of quotes before deciding which side of this issue to align yourself with:

"I've never believed for a moment that the individuals that have been involved in developing this report have been objective. I think they went with the mindset that this is the best thing to do and they try to justify it." - Councillor Terry Whitehead

"We got the data we need to move forward and let's get back to where we were." - Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

"Most communities wait until they reach that crisis point" [before investing in higher order transit] - Councillor Chad Collins

"The future is not now" - Councillor Terry Whitehead

"I can't understand what information would be provided to me (in a staff report) that would justify (the lane's) continued operation[...]" - Councillor Chad Collins

"30 new business licenses issued during bus lane pilot & 37 businesses approved for a total of $1.3 million in facade improvements from Wellington to Dundurn [...] How many in the 2 years previous? 46" - Councillor Jason Farr

"Bus lane aligns with Council initiatives like our HSR Ops Review, our Official Plan and our TMP transportation strategy" - Councillor Jason Farr

"New customers came in exclaiming that had it not been for the backed-up traffic, they would have never seen us because their concern was getting through the city as fast as possible." - Christopher Godwaldt, King Street Business Owner

"without transit, there would be 2,400 cars on four lanes rather than 1,200 cars on three lanes" - Transit Director David Dixon

"The current transit lane does work. It's just not as effective as it could be, and it needs to be elongated to be really, truly valued to the transit user." - Transit Director David Dixon

"If council is thinking straight, it will opt to follow staff recommendations and make some alterations to the bus lane to see what impact they will have." - The Hamilton Spectator

This article was adapted from a letter to Council.


Please add your voice to the Support Hamilton Transit campaign to keep the bus lane.

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.

12 Comments

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By J (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 09:44:52

assuming the status quo continues, Johnson and Partridge are the swing vote here. One would hope they and their constituents have no reason to join the myopic band of Collins et al, which I take as being: 1. me-first, in the sense of me as a councillor not wanting my drive to city hall obstructed, then 2. my ward first, in the sense of reacting to emotional voices on the street complaining about 'congestion', and finally 3. my ward first, in the sense of preferring the interests of their ward as a whole over the clear interests of the city as a whole.

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By 5er (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 11:31:05

I am a resident in Collins ward, and I would love it if the lane were extended. I'm sure all my neighbours would too. Who in their right mind wouldn't welcome more frequent, reliable, faster public transit???

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 11:38:39 in reply to Comment 108100

please email him and all of council to share your thoughts.

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By 5er (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 12:56:07 in reply to Comment 108101

I have, twice, and have not got any response from him. Very disappointed at the silence/ lack of engagement or even acknowledgement.

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By 5er (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 12:58:49

I don't see why Councillors can't have more regular/ active social media communications with Hamiltonians. Why only when its election time. Don't care how busy you are, takes two seconds to acknowledge an email or tweet. Also, why are half of the councillors websites with out of date information/ updates. Lack of accountability.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:05:48 in reply to Comment 108105

I don't see why Councillors can't have more regular/ active social media communications with Hamiltonians.

They can.

But will (authentically) only do so when pulled to the discussion table.

'You don't ask, you don't get.'

What we're seeing in Hamilton is not 'discussion'. Some thought-provoking articles and comments and Tweets, but these are in the main monologues, not dialogues. (No matter what thickness of rose-coloured-glasses you look through.)

Nothing changes unless something changes. And the change will almost certainly have to come from our side of the table.

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By 5er (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:37:04 in reply to Comment 108107

I don't understand. First of all, Councillors are supposed to represent their constituents as well as represent leadership/ make tough decisions for the greater good. Currently they're doing neither. I think they've been sent enough emails with questions inviting discussion, yet they don't respond, hence my comments.

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By Policeview (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:39:20

Are the police not a stakeholder in this matter as well? Where is their voice in all of this? What are their interests from a policing perspective/ budget perspective? Are they allowed to have a say? If they have already said, I must have missed it and apologize for raising the question.

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By EMS (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:41:48 in reply to Comment 108109

They should have a say, along with ambulance and fire services. They're the ones scraping the bodies off the street when there is a fatal collision on our homemade highways, designed to kill people. Not to mention the unnecessary PTSD that results from that kind of work.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:44:52 in reply to Comment 108110

Also, emergency vehicles are allowed to use the buslane and apparently it has sped up response times, yet this was never brought before council.

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By EMS (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 13:51:46 in reply to Comment 108112

Someone please bring it up tonight!

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2015 at 21:54:38

For an encore, Collins will prepare a motion to kill the Cannon cycle track pilot.

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