After 30 years of blundered opportunities to make our communities safer, healthier and more prosperous, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area has a shot to get it right - but it will take lots of citizen engagement and political leadership.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 18, 2018
Last Thursday, DPAI Architects hosted a lively, often incandescent panel discussionon transportation in Hamilton. Called urbanXchange, this series brings local experts and activists together to explore some of the issues affecting Hamilton. The discussion featured Gil Peñalosa, director of 8-80 Cities; Nicholas Kevlahan, McMaster math professor and founding member of Hamilton Light Rail; Keanin Loomis, President of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce; Brad Clark, former Ontario Transportation Minister and City Councillor; and Debbie Dalle Vedove, Transit Director for the City of Hamilton. It was moderated by Laura Babcock, president of Powergroup Communications and co-host of The O-Show on Cable 14.
The panel, from left: Gil Peñalosa, Nicholas Kevlahan, Keanin Loomis, Laura Babcock, Brad Clark, and Debbie Dalle Vedove
After introductions by Babcock, Peñalosa set the tone for the evening by framing mobility as a human right and a tremendous opportunity, but also a great frustration over missed opportunities to do better. "The reality is we, with a very few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of what has been done in the standard GTA is horrible from an environmental point of view, from an economic point of view, from a health point of view, from any point of view.
"So we are going to need to change and I think that is a lot of what we are going to be talking about."
Kevlahan shared a personal anecdote about using various modes - walking, cycling and transit - on the day of the panel discussion, and defined multimodal as "giving people options so they can thoose the option they want and combine them together." He added, "There's a big demand for more choice in transit and transportation. And it also leads to better cities."
Loomis argued forcefully that building cities for cars instead of people hurts quality of life and competitiveness. He made what Babcock called "the quote of the night" when discussing Main Street West, the five-lane, one-way urban expressway that is many out-of-towners' first experience with the city.
Referring to parents taking their children downtown for their McMaster University graduation ceremonies, he lamented that the city has done nothing to make Main Street more habitable in the four years the students have been attending school. "I always point to Main West and I always say we do nothing to disabuse people of the notion that Hamilton is a shithole." He was not saying that Hamilton is a "shithole", but rather that Main Street makes a terrible first impression and serves to reinforce the worst outsider prejudices about the city.
Main Street West during evening rush hour, view from DPAI office
Clark drew on his experience as Ontario's Transport Minister under Mike Harris to point out that our transportation policies are interrelated and must be considered holistically at every level. He noted that marine transport may be Federal jurisdiction, but it can generate a huge number of transport truck trips that the Province needs to manage.
He also believes Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan is too far along to cancel. "I cannot see for the life of me that being rolled back."
Dalle Vedove said this is "an exciting time for transit" after 30 years of being a lower priority for governments at all levels. "You know the Millennials are creating a great opportunity for us because they are considering transit."
She pointed to the "Mountain Climber" initiative, in which cyclists can take a bus up the mountain for free, as an example of integrative multi-modal planning.
Asked to go into more detail about what the GTHA has gotten wrong with transportation planning, Peñalosa went on an epic rant that ranged from $4 million parking structures next to GO Stations instead of local transit improvements - "all they are doing is creating a huge congestion" - to Toronto's shockingly inadequate response to the calamity of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.
He railed against the decision to build McMaster's Business School in Burlington next to the highway: "Does it benefit Burlington? No. People come and get off the highway, they go to class and get in the car and go on a highway and they leave. Nothing for Burlington."
He eviscerated mayors and councillors for doing nothing when school boards close walkable neighbourhood schools and force students to get driven to larger, more distant schools. "When we see all these elementary schools amalgamating, the mayors and Councillors say, but that's not municipal. What do you mean? Everything in the city is municipal."
He even took a shot at the news media for failing to investigate official claims of progress. When the media applauded Toronto Mayor John Tory's announcement that the city would improve walking infrastructure around 20 schools a year, Peñalosa pointed out that at this rate, it will take 51 years to do every school.
A repeated theme in Peñalosa's comments was the fact that these issues are political, not technical. The changes are easy to make but the political will needs to be there to make them happen. "This is not a time for citizens to be spectators. When I say it's political, I mean everybody needs to participate."
Clark noted that City Councils like Hamilton have created a culture of fear in which staff are afraid to give expert advice that goes against what Council wants to hear. "Staff are being very careful because they don't want to do, they call it CLM: career limiting move. And so we have seen this happen with past senior staff who are now no longer here because they provided their professional expert advice."
He called on Council and the City Manager to exercise leadership in ensuring that staff are empowered to provide "unfettered" expert advice without fear of reprisal.
Kevlahan lamented that so few Councillors are willing to exercise any leadership in engaging meaningfully with their residents to explain controversial policies - like the LRT - so that the public can understand why the City has been planning it for more than a decade. He acknowledged that to the casual resident who just hears, "hey, we are going to spend $1 billion to build a streetcar to Hamilton, they will say that's a waste of money."
But his experience meeting with community groups and presenting the case for LRT is that nearly everyone, once they understand the project, comes to appreciate and agree with it. "If I can go to Ancaster, go to the East end of the city, go to the mountain, talk to these groups, and to be honest without a huge amount of effort, make people understand why we need to do this and have them write to Council saying we should do this, why are the Councillors not providing this leadership?"
Loomis agreed, saying his experience at the Chamber is that nearly every member understands and agreed with the need for LRT once they understand how it will benefit the city. Acknowledging the challenges that will go along with the construction phase, he added, "We have learned the best practices in terms of how you mitigate the impact to the businesses. And what we have also learned is that the impacts are temporary and they are manageable."
Dalle Vedove acknowledged that transit ridership "has been rather stagnant for a number of years" and noted that the HSR has partnered with McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics to review the entire HSR operation and re-envision how it can best serve Hamiltonians.
With respect to the LRT, she added they are "looking at our system in conjunction with supporting the LRT. So we are full steam ahead in regard to building a system that can move people across the city in rather a direct way."
The panelists all argued that citizens need to get engaged and lead on these issues in order to ensure that we make real progress. As Loomis put it, "I would say, spawn yourselves in terms of, you know, being evangelical about this and rope in your neighbours and other people so that progressive people in this community are far too numerous to ignore. And then vote."
Peñalosa had the last word and said that if Hamilton wants to be great, we need to compare ourselves to the best cities and adapt what they have learned, instead of consoling ourselves that we're not the worse. "You need to be bold. You need to be ambitious. If you look for cities that are worse than Hamilton, in five minutes you can do a list of a thousand cities. But if you compare yourself with cities that are worse, eventually are going to look like those."
He said Hamilton should take the lead of cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam to understand how to get more people cycling.
In talking with politicians, he said citizens should take the time to understand what is important to each councillor and then explain the goal in terms that resonate with their values. If it's reducing heart attacks, extol the health benefits of active transportation. If it's supporting older people, explain all the benefits of safer mobility options.
Finally, he asserted the fundamental role of walking in our humanity. "Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing is as important as walking. Nothing. Because every single trip begins and ends by walking. We walked to the car. We walked to public transit and we walked to the bicycle and we walked to places. Everybody walks. That is how we were created. We walk. Just like the birds fly or fish swims, people walk."
Following is a full-text transcript of the panel discussion, edited for clarity and formatted for publication. Big thanks to Mark Rejhon for sharing the text transcript, and to the event organizers for giving us permission to publish it.
David Premi: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. If everyone wants to grab a chair, I apologize for the late start but ironically our cameraman and some of the panelists and guests were all stuck in traffic. It's a lot. So we devoted free time to talk about multi-modal transportation.
My name is David I'm a principal and CEO of DPAI architecture. You're now in our studios. When we built the studio we moved here last November, we builtthe studio and created this space that you are in now as a multiuse space, but one of the primary intentions of the space was to create a space for community engagement, where we could get people together and talk about issues that were important to the future of the city.
So tonight you're here for the second installment of our urbanXchange series. Our last installment was on gentrification. It was a big success and we had a really good conversation and I think we enhanced the conversation. Tonight we are talking about the future of transportation in Hamilton. We have a great panel and I'm going to let our moderator introduce the panel, and I will introduce the moderator.
Laura Babcock, you will, most of you will be familiar with, is a television personality, political analyst, CEO of the Powergroup and she is here to facilitate the discussion for us tonight. So I'm going to turn it over to Laura Babcock.
Laura Babcock Thank you so much, David. So in addition to being a great host, I want to give David his due. This was actually a conversation we were casually having here not too long ago, maybe a couple months ago, about the city and the fact that in Hamilton we have a tendency, as other municipalities may as well, to really get revved up about issues, often though in a reactive kind of way.
Something that has happened or something is stalled and people really have to speak up loudly about it. We thought, wouldn't it be nice if we could have proactive discussions on important topics with experts? People who can add to the discussion, who can give us more insight, and we want this to be very much a community conversation.
So what we do with the urbanXchange, and this idea I mentioned came up over a quick chat and a couple ideas at The French, and we had an idea saying: let's pick some experts and the experts can pick five people they want in the audience. So the audience is different every time and we get to hear from different people and get different perspectives.
So thank you all for being here. We really appreciate that you are and there will be a point in our evening where I will turn it over to you and you can stand up and pose a question for the panel and the panel will be able to answer something more specific.
You may have noticed the first urbanXchange that we did just a month and a bit ago has been airing on Cable 14 and it is the full thing and it's pretty interesting. It was on gentrification, and/or was it about renewal. We wanted to have those top discussions.
This one, segments of it will be captured and will show on the O Show probably as early as next Tuesday so you want to check it out. Because this is a community conversation, we encourage you to use the hashtag. When you see me on my phone up here I will be live-tweeting. We have a tweet stream going on the back of the room.
The reason for that is people are so busy these days they don't often have an opportunity to watch a complete show but what they are doing is flipping over to the twitter feed with what ever they are doing and the more messages we get up about this conversation the more we will get some sort of scope to this. So if you feel something about the stuff, feel free to tweet it, the hashtag is #urbanXchange and that way people will get to see it and I will retweet if I see your stuff up here coming.
So without further ado I want to introduce the panelist and tell you a little bit about them and then I'm going to give you each chance in a very relaxed way to answer the first question of the night but after that it's a bit of a free-for-all. I will ask the questions as I hear interesting things that they have to say and try to get the most information we can out of them so we can all really learn.
Before we get started officially, I want to think some of the previous panelists who are here, Ryan - of course was on the first panel and I also want to acknowledge our newest MPP, Sandy Shaw, who has joined us tonight.
I asked Sandy, how did you beat the traffic coming back from Toronto? And she said she took the GO. Public transportation works in this case.
So speaking of public transportation I want to introduce to you a face that many of you probably know. It's Debbie Dalle Vedove - did I say that right? And she is of course the relatively new director of Hamilton Street Railway or the HSR, our version of course of the GO Transit here, the Toronto TTC - and you worked at the TTC back in the day.
Debbie Dalle Vedove: In 1987 I started as an operator and was there for 20 years, then I spent 20 years in Oakville, and then almost 18 months here in Hamilton.
Laura Babcock: Does it feel like 18 months or 18 years?
Debbie Dalle Vedove: It feels like 18 months.
Laura Babcock: I have much to say on that. We will go around and I will introduce you guys and when you start talking I will hand you the mic so that our my can pick it up. Of course, no introduction needed for [Brad Clark], the former Minister of transportation during the Mike Harris years. And so I appreciate having his expertise here, especially with the provincial related issues we have got going on, so Brad, thank you for being here. I posted, will he be running for council in the fall? He told me no answer. But I did not hear a hard no.
You know of course the gentleman to my right, this is Keanin Loomis, the CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. And you might hear him on some radio shows but I heard him on Metro Morning recently talking about the whole steel thing and the tariffs and the Trump fued. What people might not realize is he worked as a lawyer in Washington DC and you can tell by the depth of knowledge that he brings to the discussion.
And since Keanin has been in the job, the Hamilton Chamber has had a really powerful role in terms of promoting livable communities, walkable streets, this whole idea of progressing the city and almost non-traditional chamber ways which has been really interesting to watch. And a big proponent of LRT, the three letter word that will come up again tonight I promise.
Next of course we have Nicholas Kevlahan - did I say that right? Speaking of LRT, some of you might know Nicholas from his work in applied mathematics as a professor. I tried to read his description but I can't even understand the description. That's how smart, so I'm not even going to try.
But what I will say is that I know of him of course from, he is one of the founders of Hamilton Light Rail, a group that over ten years ago started to try to get this city moving aggressively toward in transportation. And if you want to check out something that will inspire you and break your heart, watch his presentation to Council last March about LRT. And reminding them why it was something the city should do. And it pains me but you might have to do that again soon, Nicholas. We will see.
And of course Gil Peñalosa needs no introduction. Many of you would know him from his international standing, we are so thrilled to have you here Gil, and the fact you were able to make it through the traffic.
I just want to acknowledge some of the achievements from Gil and his organization. He's from 8-80 Cities and it is an organization that was started because as I saw it, the belief that if you can make a city great for people from the age of 8 to 80 then you will have done a great service for your community and as I was looking at Phil's background I saw one of the Ted Talks that you did and the idea that for you urban development in cities is about so much more than just you know, the look of it or what kind of transportation. It's about reducing childhood obesity and quality of life and preventing accidents and I loved it. So check out his Ted talk and it's so great to have you here, Gil.
A round of applause for all the panelists.
Laura Babcock: I wanted to start with you, Gil. If you could just answer for our audience so we can get on the same page. In your mind, what is multimodal transportation? What is its potential future application to a city like Hamilton? Where do you see the opportunity?
Gil Peñalosa: I think that we are facing a fantastic opportunity. But also a huge responsibility. Because in the lifetime of our children, in the life of our children, we are going to increase a population of Hamilton and the GTHA by at least 50 percent. Imagine we had a magic wand and we could really do half of Hamilton - even the best half would do it even better. But that's the opportunity that we have over the next 30 years.
[J]ust within Hamilton I think we need to realize that mobility is not just about moving from point A to point B but also, how do we want to live? And we should always think of mobility is not moving cars but it's about walking, cycling, public transit, cars.
And sometimes people think that walking and cycling is fun and games. They think it's a joke. The reality is that walking and cycling is the only individual mode of mobility for at least one of three people in the wealthiest neighbourhood of Hamilton. Walking and cycling is the only individual mode of mobility for every child and youth. So having safe and enjoyable walking and cycling should be like a human right. Unless you think that only those that have the money and age and desire to have a car have a right to individual mobility.
"Having safe and enjoyable walking and cycling should be like a human right."
— Gil Peñalosa
So I think that part of the multimodal is having something that is good for everybody. Older adults, who are living longer, much much longer. I mean, we have been born only 150 years ago. The life expectancy when Canada was around 56 and today it is 82. Now we had more than doubled that and we are going to continue.
Over 65 in Hamilton are going to double. The over 80 are going to quadruple, so how good is the city from the point of mobility when people walk to places, like to places, take public transit, have a car and this is not just an issue of mobility but also about economic competitiveness.
It's about, there is nothing that the city could do that would improve the financial situation of us more than being able to downsize from two cars to one car or from three to two. It would be like winning the lottery, except that winning is guaranteed. It's great for the local economy if people could downsize, but it's also about mental health. It's also about physical health. It's also about the environment, the quality of the air, the level of the noise. It's also about recreation.
It's also part of how we move and so all these things are totally interrelated, and I think that it's really exciting to be part of this project. I'm talking about something that we have, a great opportunity, but also a huge responsibility because whatever we do or don't do in the next 30 years is how people are going to live for hundreds of years.
One last example, one last comment. The reality is we don't respect people who have been doing it in the past. What we have done in the standard GTA over the last 30 years is really mediocre. So if we are going to grow by 50 percent in the next years: if what we have been doing is good, then let's do more of the same.
But the reality is we, with a very few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of what has been done in the standard GTA is horrible from an environmental point of view, from an economic point of view, from a health point of view, from any point of view. So we are going to need to change and I think that is a lot of what we are going to be talking about. If we are going to change, how do we change and into what do we change if we agree that maybe we have not done what we should have been doing.
Laura Babcock: Thank you so much and I have to say Gil has worked with over 250 communities over six continents. So when I hear your commentary on the GTA in the last 30 years, we can take it to the bank that you know what you're talking about, Gil, and so I appreciate you make the point.
Nicholas, I will pose the same question to you, what in your perspective is multimodal and what role does it have in terms of Hamilton's transportation.
Nicholas Kevlahan: Thanks very much. I think multimodal is giving people options so they can choose the option they want and combine them together. So I'm going to give a personal story. It's a story that happened today. So today I took a bike share SoBi bike into my work. I walked five or ten minutes to the station. I then cycled for three or four kilometres. I left the bike share and walked right into my office and it was very convenient.
But I didn't really want to cycle from McMaster down here. I would be hot and a bit flustered. So I took the bus down. I took the HSR bus down so I was able to combine those trips using walking, cycling and public transit in a very seamless and comfortable way.
And I think that's really the key to multimodal. It's not saying you must choose this mode for all trips. It is depending on how I feel, what trips I want to make I can combine and chose the mode that is right for me. So it's really about choice.
And what you hear when you talk to people is, they would like more choice. So I am involved with bike share. I'm on the board of the bike share. One of our big accomplishments is being able to get more people cycling, because people want to cycle but they don't really want to buy a bike. They maybe don't know where to store a bike. So bike share gives them that option.
But there are still people who say, I'd really like to cycle but I feel unsafe. There's not safe routes. People say, I'd like to walk more but the traffic is dangerous. I don't want my kids out on the street because of the traffic.
So I think there's a big demand for more choice in transit and transportation. And it also leads to better cities. Most people would like to live in a neighbourhood that's walkable. So that's what it is. It's giving people choice and allowing them to combine different modes of transit or transportation in a way that makes sense for them.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, and I just have to say on that note, you mentioned that access to the sidewalks and cycling should be a human right. You talked about having that kind of option and the people working on it, I just want to recognize Tom [Flood] who is in the back there, because he's been working diligently on social media to get our streets safe for children to ride their bikes to school. And so many of you in the room are doing things of that nature. So, Tom, this is for you as well.
Yes, exactly. I appreciate you talking about multimodal being a personal experience because oftentimes I think some people think multimodal means airplanes, trains, industrial, sort of bigger uses. Keanin, what is multimodal from your perspective?
Keanin Loomis: Thanks for having me on the panel and for being among these very illustrous people. I just had an opportunity, Gil just got here but I had a quick opportunity to thank him for the influence he's had on me, and as a result on the organization that I'm so lucky to lead.
Gil was a speaker at our economic summit the year that I was named the CEO, but I had not yet taken over. So I was at the [start] of this new role and so I guess I was particularly impressionable. But I remember the one thing that Gil said that really stuck with me was the fact that quality-of-life is the best economic development tool in the 21st century.
And as somebody who is coming into this role thinking, what the hell do I do? How do I meet the needs of members and have influence in the community? That helped crystallize it for me. So as a result you mentioned, we are not your father's chamber, we are very supportive of the creative arts because we understand what that does for community, what that brings in terms of vibrancy and aesthetics and all of that culture.
But part of that is also about transportation. And that is why we have been hugely supportive of LRT, and because we are hugely supportive of LRT, we also know that the last-mile problem is a big part of the equation. So it's not just about the train. But it's about the bikes and the sidewalks that allow people to get from their homes or businesses to the train itself.
And so to me it is entirely a system that certainly meets the needs of its, you know, of the citizens of the community. Whether it be children or professionals or workers who are looking to get from point A to point B and just cannot afford a car.
So it's all of that for sure, but I think as well we also have to recognize Tte built environment and how much the built environment influences the choices of our citizens. So not just about meeting the needs but also optimizing and putting people into positions where they can have those options. That they might not otherwise have thought about them.
And when I look at where we are as a community, and I still have that newcomer view of this community, and I'm still appalled and shocked at, for example, Main Street, and that doesn't go away. And I'm not inured to it and I don't accept it still.
So I think we need to understand what that does to the surrounding neighbourhoods, what it does to the people who use it, what it does to keeping people off of the sidewalks. What that does to the commercial strip that is on both sides of the road itself. And the tax that we pay, the convenience tax that we are paying.
And I always point to Main West and I always say we do nothing to disabuse people of the notion that Hamilton is a shithole. And it's going on right now. It's going on right now. Because I think of this right now, every morning during this week, all the Mac parents are coming into the convention centre. So it's led to a lot of traffic chaos in the morning for sure.
"I always point to Main West and I always say we do nothing to disabuse people of the notion that Hamilton is a shithole."
But I feel like but we haven't really worked hard to change the view of Hamilton. They dropped the kids off four years ago and thought that it was a shithole, and now they still do. So we haven't really done enough to really influence all the aspects of how it spills into their life and how it might lead to higher vibrancy, which would lead to higher tax revenue for the community and then all these other knock-on benefits, health benefits, vibrancy and all of that.
So it is systemic and it's collocated obviously. But it is something we have to work on. Main West will at some point have to have a significant infrastructural upgrade. Let's start planning out to make sure that it actually improves and meets the needs of the community and optimizes as well all the various knock-on benefits and effects.
Laura Babcock: You might have the quote of the night. I'm not going to lie. I'm glad you are not interdicted the situation you are fighting for. I have to say when I was driving here posted on the urbanXchange hashtag that I saw the parents and students crossing to take a picture with the sign. So maybe it looks like less of a shithole.
Okay Brad, over to you. You have the long background in politics and you ran for city mayor last time around.
Brad Clark: Don't remind me.
Laura Babcock: He's over it. He's here. Part of the election was around the LRT and I'm sure we will get into that soon, but from your point of view as a former transportation minister who really had a provincial perspective as well, what do you see as Hamilton's multimodal future? Where do you think we should [focus]?
Brad Clark: My first experience in dealing with multimodal transportation and the planning that was required for it was when I was a minister of transportation and I was trying to convince cabinet to upload GO Transit from the municipalities because the municipalities had become locked into an impasse. If it was not impacting service, if it was not adding good service to them, they were opposing it. So nothing was happening with GO Transit.
And so the multimodal transportation plan showed very clearly that it was interregional transit and it had to be stepped up away from municipalities in order for it to actually work. And so we did that.
But I also learned that each government - Federal, Provincial and municipalities - has different ideas as to what multimodal transportation is. The Feds will talk about air and marine; at the provincial level we were told we don't talk about marine, but marine adds an awful lot of trucks on the road, because when marine comes in it either gets transported to rail or transported by trucks. And so when we are actually doing planning for the province, we have to have all levels of government involved with multimodal transportation.
I think in terms of where the city of Hamilton is going, I'm very optimistic about the city of Hamilton. I see significant hope on the horizon for improvements to transit. I still remain convinced that while LRT is overbuilding for me, the Council made the decision and they are going to move in the direction. I cannot see for the life of me that being rolled back.
But multimodal transportation really means for me that we are trying to limit the number of cars and trucks on the road. That is the planning aspect. And so if we do it right through air, through marine, through rail and we have multimodal sites - and Mississauga has one - you actually do lift a lot of vehicles off the 400 series highways.
And so we have to find ways to work together on the planning issues to limit the amount of vehicles on the roads and encourage people to find other modes of transportation for themselves. If it is convenient they will do it.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, and from your lips to Council's ears. I'm not sure I share in your optimism, Brad. But we will argue that more in a moment. Thank you very much.
[To Debbie Dalle Vedove] Relatively new to Hamilton, lots of experience in public transit as we talked about both at TTC and Oakville. You have a very unique perspective of being right there is the head of the HSR. What you see as Hamilton's multimodal future from your perspective we'd love to know.
Debbie Dalle Vedove: Thank you and thanks for the invite to be here. I guess - not I guess, but my perspective when we talk about multimodal, you know, transit has always been about moving people. 30 years ago it was just the bus and that was it. And the thought of any other connecting type of means of getting to transit was nothing that really transit was really interested in.
And I remember back in the day when they introduced bike racks on the buses and everyone was like, why are we putting bike racks on the buses? Well, what a crazy idea is that. And you know, actually not a crazy idea but an awesome idea that allows people the option to make decisions around how they want to travel, and to consider public transit as an option in their day is how they are getting from point A to point B.
And for me, transit is part of the community. We are an integral part of this community and an integral part of any community if it provides opportunities for citizens to get to work, to improve their state in life, to enjoy their families, to enjoy their friends when they don't have the car sitting in the driveway.
And as far as multimodal, you know I would love it if everyone took a bus from point A to point B, but having said that you know, let transit be part of that trip. We need to put ourselves in the place where we are a viable option, like you said. Maybe walk and maybe for this part I'm going to take the bus to get from point A to point B because it's a great experience. I'm going to get there directly. I'm going to get there quickly and have a great experience from that perspective.
It's an exciting time for Transit. In my 30 years, transit was always there but not as much a focus as it is now. You know the Millennials are creating a great opportunity for us because they are considering transit. I remember when I was 16, the first place I went was to get a 365 - and I know I'm dating myself because people are like, what they 365? Because the first thing we wanted to do was get off the bus.
And now that's changing and that's exciting for us in transit, and now this is a really exciting opportunity to be part of that and to take full advantage of that and the city is an awesome place to do that. So very excited about all the options.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, and I tweeted something earlier today that just came out that there's going to be a pilot if people want to take the bus up the mountain with their bike or down the mountain that would be free.
Debbie Dalle Vedove: We did launch the Mountain Climber last year on August 5, so if people wanted to get the lower city up the mountain you put your bike on the bus, get up for free, and get up to the top and take it to the top. And that was a raging success and now we are expanding it out to two other accesses. Think about the infrastructure you would have to put into facilitate bike lanes, and just even the physical requirement to go up the mountain and to get them up safely. Anyway, we are going up there safely and part of the community.
Laura Babcock: I want to go back to Gil because you said something that is sticking with me, that in the last 30 years the GTHA has not done enough of what it should. What should it have done and what it should do going forward in your estimation?
Gil Peñalosa: I think there are many things that are really obvious that we are still doing. For example, we are allowing Metrolinx to build stupid towers of parking in every one of the stations. That doesn't make any sense. All those towers, at a cost of $40,000 per parking spot. $40,000 - over $4 million each tower. All we are doing is creating a huge congestion.
There is many, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, the cost of one car, an economy car, is $8,500 per year. I know many people in Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville have a second car just to go to the station so they are being forced to have more cars. We are trying to eliminate cars. Why not invest the $4 million into local transit so people can actually get to their homes.
Now all we are doing is adding a thousand cars per tower of people that are going to go between 7 and 8 AM. So it's a huge traffic jam. So the traffic jam is getting worse all the time and people are arriving, they go and there's a huge traffic jam out. So why we are getting more cars out. We are getting more and more cars so those are the kind of things that don't make any sense.
Now we are getting here in Toronto, a lot of people walking and cycling are being hit. Not by cars but by people driving cars are hitting them. No, I don't know the exact number for Hamilton but in Toronto a person walking gets hit by a car every three and a half hours. And a cyclist every sevenand a half hours.
But now the city has come up with this stupid measure that says KSI, because it sounds cute: killed or severely injured. No. We should count all the statistics of anybody that reports to the police. So if you're hit by a car and you report to the police we should know the numbers. Why? Because there's over 1,000, over 1,500 a year of pedestrians, where 1,500 cyclists - but then it sounds a lot less when you say 54 people killed than over 1,500 people being injured. So this is totally safe.
This is not a financial issue. This is not a technical issue. It's a political issue. And two years, the city of Toronto approved I don't know if Hamilton has it, Vision Zero, so they have Vision Zero but do not have any money into it. So that is worse than nothing, because the citizens get the idea, oh, now we are going to do something and the reality is that they are doing nothing. Instead of Vision Zero it is Zero Vision.
I mean, for example, every single street in Hamilton in the neighbourhoods, every single station should be 30 K per hour, so if you are driving 40, 50, 60 those need to be lowered a little bit, but as soon as you turn it into a residential it should be automatically 30. Not 30 K zones, no, 30 all the way.
Also, why, because it is a lot easier to enforce and to obey. I know that as soon as I turn into a residential it's 30. So we should know why, if you get hit by a car at 30 K per hour, there is 5 percent probability of dying. If you get hit at 50, not 100 the difference between 30 and 50 is over 85 percent.
And the other thing is that when people don't like walking when they cross the point by 50 or 60, people like walking and it go up by 25 or 30, so many many more people are going to walk if we lower the speed. So not only if you get it, even if [inaudible] but when the cars are going slow, people walk and someone's walking their dog and they talk about the dog. They see a neighbour, they talk with the neighbours. So someone's selling flowers or fruits, you're going to have a lot of social life and that's doable.
For example, if we have an intersection and we put a small island on the crosswalk so people cannot cross it in one lights they can do it in two lights - a small item, we eliminate 60 percent of the incidents and crosswalks. Why are we still doing crosswalks without an island when we know it's not a technical thing?
People are getting older and we say it's because people are being hit by cars because they are listening to music. No. Actually people getting hit the most are the older adults. Older adults are being killed by people driving cars three times more than the proportion of the population. If it's really bad now, imagine 20 years from now when we have many many more older adults.
So these are some of the things that we are doing. But don't make any sense, but how do we make our cities. For example if we do McMaster, can you imagine McMaster, that such a stupid building in the middle of the highway, a building in Burlington? That's public money that belongs to all of us.
All of a sudden Burlington took it away from - and for them to do the management school by the water, on the waterfront, fantastic for Burlington, sorry for Hamilton. But at least regionally it was going to be great. Imagine hundreds and hundreds of students coming in and buying shirts and flowers and coffee and donuts and what, many people would probably want to live there.
Instead, one day they wake up and they decide to do it in the middle of the highway. Who does it benefit? No one. Does it benefit Burlington? No. People come and get off the highway, they go to class and get in the car and go on a highway and they leave. Nothing for Burlington. Nothing. And even for the students who was going to go to management school in the middle of the highway. McMaster and a stupid decision for Burlington - but we are citizens. Why do we allow this?
I was invited by the mayor of Burlington and the president of McMaster to do a talk. As you can see, I'm not politically correct. And I told them, I said, we were on the last floor I said I have not been recently, such a nice building in such a horrible location. I said, look around all the windows. What do we see? Warehouses. I said that's what you do next to the highway, you do warehouses, you don't do universities.
Those of us walking to the places, coffee shops, may be places where they live, this is a kind of thing where there is a small item in the crosswalk or the parking towers forcing people to drive or setting up public areas. I mean, whatever we do, everything that is public should be set with the schools. The problem in Ontario is, schools all over the place we are Amalgamated elementary schools.
The key question is: how do we want to live? If we have a shared vision of how we want to live, a lot of these are simple. For example, if we want you to walk to school, we need to have small schools. So that school is small and they can walk to it. But we keep amalgamating to gigantic elementary schools just because we don't have three principles, now we have one. Okay, we saved the salary of two principals. Now we are creating a nightmare that every kid has to be driven to school.
They are not only drive to school but drive to friends. They make a friend, they want to go play at each other's house, and they cannot walk to the friend's house because now the friend lives way out on the other side.
So we've got to make sense of what is the University doing, what is the Board of Education doing. And then we say, oh but that's not municipal. What you mean? Everything that happens in the city is municipal. The mayor of Burlington asked me, what would you have done? At first I would've gone to the board of McMaster University and try to convince them how horrible this decision was for both, for Burlington and for the students. Secondly I would have made a political issue. I would've put a tent in the middle of that lot and sat there, bring the media and raise the attention, because this is absolutely horrible.
The same thing with the schools. When we see all these elementary schools amalgamating, the mayors and Councillors say, but that's not municipal. What do you mean? Everything in the city is municipal. When have you as Councillors or how have you as mayor gone to the Board of Education to advocate for small schools that are walk-to schools?
Again, sorry for bringing up examples of Toronto, but last year, Mayor Tory went and fixed the stop signs and the crosswalks at the school, and he said we are going to do this until we are finished. We won't stop and we will do 20 schools a year until we are finished, and everybody clapped. And I said, come on, media, wake up. 20 schools per year means that it's going to take 51 years! It's going to take 29 and half years just to do the elementary schools.
Originally, I emigrated to Canada 19 years ago. But my brother now is the mayor of Bogotá. In the last two years, whatever Tory is going to do 20 per year in a wealthy city, Bogotá has maybe one-sixth the per capita income, and Bogotá in the last two years did 1,300 schools. 1,300 in two years.
So in Hamilton, every single school, you should not be having to try to make it work to make cycling safe. It should be almost a policy. Everything around the school. We have been in the schools only on weekdays instead of doing it, you know, 52 weeks of the year. What if we made in Hamilton, we said, okay around 500 metres within every school. 500 metres within every library. Every community centre. And every park.
We are going to lower the speed and put bumps and also be allowed to put, so people will really slow down so if you make those community areas a community priority areas, they will allow you to put cameras and really force people to slow down.
"This is not a time for citizens to be spectators. When I say it's political, I mean everybody needs to participate."
So the message in this is that none of this is a technical issue. None of this is. It's political. Two years after Tory called Vision Zero Toronto, which actually he came one day and made a press conference, We are going to lower 20 percent of the dead people in ten years. People said what? You're going to look at ten families that lost someone and tell them even ten years from now, eight of them would be killed?
Within 24 hours they said, oh no. It's going to be 100 percent. But no more money. Now it has been two years. They haven't done anything except now they came out with a cute contest. So now they call it the Vision Zero Challenge. So citizens can provide ideas on how can we - what do you mean, citizens? You guys are experts. Your staff knows what to do. Experts know what to do. Everybody.
So in Hamilton also, the thing is with Vision Zero in Hamilton and make it safe. These are, let's keep it very very clear. This is not a time for citizens to be spectators. When I say it's political, I mean everybody needs to participate. You need to advocate, make phone calls, send emails, go to public meetings because we really need to move from talking to doing.
Laura Babcock: Thank you so much! I'm so glad I asked the question. Predicable things come to mind as I'm listening to you, Gil. One is that you are talking but all these choices that seem common sense, but to me oftentimes cities operate tactically on what else, kind of what is politically correct for that little time frame based on information they have or whoever is calling the office. They don't tend to look at it strategically and say how do we want to live, how does every decision affect the bigger picture.
So that is a problem we struggled with in the city for a long time, is where vision meets choices. Oftentimes there isn't a vision behind the choices our Council seems to make, which is why I'm going to go to you, Brad. Which is when Gil mentioned that it is political it's not that the science is not there or not that the best practices aren't there. It's not like you didn't do it in Bogotá and all over the world. Why don't our politicians, whether municipal or provincial, why don't they hear from the expert that work for them? What do we need to do to make them do something different?
Brad Clark: I would start by making sure your staff of the city are aware that we want your unfettered advice on undertakings and proposals. We don't want them to give to city Council what they think city Council wants them to say. And unfortunately, the latter has become the rule. So staff are being very careful because they don't want to do, they call it CLM: career limiting move. And so we have seen this happen with past senior staff who are now no longer here because they provided their professional expert advice.
"Staff are being very careful because they don't want to do, they call it CLM: career limiting move. And so we have seen this happen with past senior staff who are now no longer here because they provided their professional expert advice."
When I was in cabinet, the staff at Queens Park, the ministry staff, they would do all the homework and come in and they would present an actual document and show us, here is the advice to cabinet. Cabinet wants to go against that, that's on cabinet. But the professionals, the civil servants, the code of conduct and their own expertise and disciplines very seriously and they provided unfettered professional advice.
It frustrated the hell out of me to find that Councillors were going in and meeting with staff and trying to water down projects or water down proposals to make it more politically tenable. That is not, I mean we are not having a good discussion that way. It takes leadership at the top of the Council to enforce this. And it takes the city manager to say to his staff, I got your back. You come in with professional advice, I will stand with you and we will protect you. There will be no recrimination or retaliation. It's up to Council to say no.
Laura Babcock: Wow, that brings to mind the presentation I watched you [Nicholas] do to Council and I looked at it again today. And so you are doing what Gill suggested, the citizen advocating. You went in front of Council, you had all the stats and facts to support LRT from a holistic way. It was impressive. It was inspiring.
But I was watching the body language of the Councillors as you were speaking. And I have since, so two of the Councillors I noticed moving around have since, publicly said they would not go with LRT given the option and another one told me privately, well, if the billion dollars is on the table and it can be used for something else, they are going to pull their support and they are one of the strongest supporters of the LRT.
So I guess what I'm asking you is... I know, right? I guess what I'm asking you is they said it's not popular in my ward, now that the billion is on the table I'm not going to support the municipal election. So as a citizen who has been ten years advocating for a single project, almost 11, 53 votes and counting, how do you take what Gill is saying and what Brad just said and how does that inform you going forward whether it is about LRT or any of these other transportation related issues?
Nicholas Kevlahan: I think yeah, being involved in this for almost 11 years now. One of the things I find difficult to understand is that Council has a strategic, consistent vision on LRT since 2008. I was at the meeting where they voted unanimously to pursue LRT with full provincial funding. And that was a great decision. A great strategic decision.
And at that time I was going around with members of Hamilton Light Rail. I put together a presentation and I gave dozens of presentations to all sorts of different community groups - including, I might say the Ancaster Rotary vote and Councillor Ferguson was there, he was with me. And what I found is: people are busy, they have lives to lead, and if you tell them hey we are going to spend $1 billion to build a streetcar to Hamilton they will say that's a waste of money. Why would we do that? And so if that is what Councillors are hearing I'm not surprised.
However, every single one of those dozens of community groups including Ancaster Rotary Club, once I described the case for LRT, why we should do it, the province was offering to pay the capital cost, which they are not doing for, for example our neighbours in Waterloo, they not only said, hey I get it now, every single one wrote to the city and said our group supports this.
So what I don't quite understand is me as an individual citizen, if I can go to Ancaster, go to the East end of the city, go to the mountain, talk to these groups, and to be honest without a huge amount of effort, make people understand why we need to do this and have the right to Council saying we should do this, why are the Councillors not providing this leadership?
They have the expert advice. They have commissioned millions of dollars of studies in order to investigate this. Every study says this will be great for the city, especially if the Province pays the capital cost. So why are they not saying to the citizens and their wards, okay I know, you know it seems hard to understand, but this is why we have to do it. And if they put a bit of effort, in my experience is people get it. They are not stupid.
Laura Babcock: So speaking of effort, we will not spend the whole time on LRT but it's the billion dollar elephant in the room when we talk about transportation in Hamilton. And you talked about effort. I don't know if you know this, Gil, and actually maybe you found out when you were here, but when Council came to the 52nd vote on the project, it took an incredible community effort including 300+ businesses to all put their names on a giant poster and community activists, and the Chamber of Commerce was at the forefront of that and you are the tip of the spear in many ways on LRT from the organizational point of view.
So Keanin, given what we have heard from Gil that makes such good sense, we have heard from Nicholas the facts and stats are there, the experts have said this is the way to go, given we are the month away from a municipal election and it might be all for naught.
Keanin Loomis: We are preparing for construction. We are working with Metrolinx to do a second year of LRT Ready series. Because this is exactly what we need to be doing at this point in time. We are one year away from shovels going into the ground and the businesses need to be prepared. The businesses along the route - and not just the businesses along the route but the businesses downtown - because I think we are going to have some significant traffic and disruption. So everybody's going to need to be prepared for it.
And if we are, and if we do the right things, we are going to be able to get through it. We've done a lot of investigation in Toronto and Waterloo and elsewhere throughout North America because we are not the first city to be doing this. And we have learned the best practices in terms of how you mitigate the impact to the businesses. And what we have also learned is that the impacts are temporary and they are manageable. And part of that is just preparing people and helping them understand what life is going to look like, feel like when construction happens.
"We have learned the best practices in terms of how you mitigate the impact to the businesses. And what we have also learned is that the impacts are temporary and they are manageable."
That's where we are. And I think there is obviously a lot of political trench warfare that needs to be done over the course of this year. We need to take the coalition of the people that came together. It was not just us. We weren't the tip of the spear I would say, I would say it was a whole coalition of groups, strange bedfellows under other circumstances, and that's what I think became ultimately too difficult for Councillors to ignore, was that yes you might get people coming up to you in the grocery store and there is your opportunity to provide leadership instead of demagogue the crap out of it. You can go one of two ways, and if you provide education, people do come out on the right side.
It happened the same way in the chamber. I thought it might be like the casino issue which happened to be, so the chamber did, they did a survey on the casino issue. And they found out that of the membership, 40 percent were for and 40 percent were against. And so my predecessor was able to say, I'm sorry but we are impassed so we cannot weigh in on this issue.
I was really concerned that was going to be the case with LRT as well because it was a hot-button issue. The more I talked about it, the more I realized when you do explain it, people get it and they want to, they support it. I was really empowered by people coming up at the end of every Chamber meeting and saying, yes, go ahead, this is awesome. I've only had one member resign as a result of our advocacy for it.
So the business do support it. We are getting everybody prepared for it and we are engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that is required both in Queen's Park and here municipally to make sure that this gets done, and it will get done. I think it ultimately is too difficult to unscramble this omelette. Ultimately once people realize actually there is no pot of money, that this is a financed project, so it is not you can just apply this to potholes. I think that we will be able to get this done.
Laura Babcock: There are some politicians who need to hear that, Keanin. One of the discussions that is vibrant in Hamilton, we will get to audience questions in just a moment, is whether or not there's enough capacity using public transportation currently to justify something like an LRT, or some of these other expenditures on transportation. So from your vantage point with ridership as it is, how do you, how does that fit into this discussion? is it about riding up ridership or convenience or liability, what might it take to get the city moving?
Debbie Dalle Vedove: That's a great question. So ridership has been rather stagnant for a number of years. And ridership in transit right across the nation went down in this kind of flatline. So as we are looking at the design of our system currently, we have now partnered with McMaster University and are going out for probably the first time in HSR history and creating a massive customer outreach and citizen outreach about re-envisioning HSR.
And really defining where our citizens and customers want to go and how they want to get there and looking at our system in conjunction with supporting the LRT. So we are full steam ahead in regard to building a system that can move people across the city in rather a direct way. And making transit a viable option to get them out of their cars and get them in our system and to take advantage of the process.
"[We are] looking at our system in conjunction with supporting the LRT. So we are full steam ahead in regard to building a system that can move people across the city in rather a direct way."
—Debbie Dalle Vedove
So we are planning and moving forward in regard to what the system is going to look like and now starting to wrap our head around the construction and how we are going to manage through that and maintain ridership while we go through construction. We have some great planning tools in regard to planning this service around the construction.
We are about to launch the mobile app so that communication so we will have real-time information out there are to customers on a daily basis as we go through construction. It's not a guessing game. Where is the bus and what time the bus is showing up we will be able to communicate that and get it through so we can maintain our customer base as we go through the construction and just a smooth transition to once the LRT is up and running so that's what we are focusing around at this time.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, I appreciate - to Brad's comments earlier about the people at City Hall, many people who worked at the city that they were watered down or just unmotivated from speaking the truth to Council, but I appreciate that you are here, Debbie, as a current city employee on this day is talking about it.
What I want to ask, though, is if anyone in the audience has a burning question that they like for this panel. Joey, I was actually going to say we have a lot of very active citizens in the audience, one of whom has been on the HSR reliability for a while Joey do you want to ask your question?
Audience Question: I realize now, just listening to a discussion on transit in New York City, and I realize that I now use the HSR as an option of last resort. So in the last month I only took seven roundtrips on the HSR and only when I had to go outside the Sobi area. I'll bicycle from East Hamilton to Dundas because I at least know it's going to take me 45 minutes, I can time it. So my question I'm actually going to direct, I'm going to put it to Brad that [...] how if we elected a pro-transit mayor, how would you as a politician - not you specifically, but a politician - how would you change it so that a guy like me actually would use transit and no longer think of it as a last resort.
Brad Clark: I'll pray for you Joseph. The plan that I had presented was a Smart Transit plan and the Smart Transit plan in many ways ended up morphing into what Mr. Dixon presented later on to city Council. So it really talked about five different rapid transit routes across the city. It talked about connectivity to GO Transit and it talked about building up ridership by making transit convenient. Having good connectivity to other regional transit and dependable.
And so from that perspective and looking at where we are right now I would suggest to the Council and the leadership and staff that there needs to be a parallel process. So the LRT is coming. For anyone who would argue that it's not going to come they are conveniently forgetting the fact that it's been eight or nine years now where Main Street, the infrastructure on Main Street has not been improved.
There's been no work on it, so you know pull the plug on LRT and you're going to start a brand-new PA which could be two or three years, you now will have 12 or 13 years of no work on infrastructure, water, sewer, pipes, everything. It's a mess. So they have to proceed with that infrastructure upgrade one way or the other. With LRT, the province is paying for it.
"It's been eight or nine years now where Main Street, the infrastructure on Main Street has not been improved. Pull the plug on LRT and you're going to start a brand-new PA which could be two or three years, you now will have 12 or 13 years of no work on infrastructure, water, sewer, pipes, everything. It's a mess. So they have to proceed with that infrastructure upgrade one way or the other. With LRT, the province is paying for it."
They'd be wiser to go to premier designate for it and argue we need additional assistance on the Ten Year Transit Plan. We can't do it fast enough but if you give us the 137 million I think is the city's portion if I recall correctly then they can actually move that ten year transit plan much quicker and it's a question of resources. So improving on connectivity, improving dependability and convenience get people out of vehicles.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, another question from the audience, go ahead JP, someone ready for Council.
Audience Question: So we heard about a lot of problems and the occurring infrastructure and I want to ask the approach, I want to, wonder if anyone has a specific example of something that went really well that could be applied?
Laura Babcock: Gil, do you want to try this one? You are the expert.
Gil Peñalosa: First, we need to learn from everybody and everybody also should learn from Hamilton. Not like we do in the computers that we copy and paste now. But how to adapt and improve.
For example, a city very similar to Hamilton where I have been many times advising the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis and St. Paul have similar winters, they get even more snow than Hamilton. And nevertheless for example they've got a fantastic trails for cycling, for walking and they plow every single trail - everything, you can walk or bike on the trails or run throughout the winter.
They have a fantastic LRT. They did the LRT and the LRT, all of it is also with at the same time with the land use. Land use and LRT are two sides of the same kind. So they change the land-use and designated people hit the 40 storey buildings, so do I. Who wants to have a 40 story building next to their home. Nobody.
But we can get the same density with four, five, six story buildings next to each other like Copenhagen or Paris or Barcelona than with a 40 story building on the other block. So no need to do the 40 story building that are horrible and inhumane. Once you go above ten floors you start having more in common with the birds and the planes then you do, so there are many examples.
A fantastic example for LRT, then, recently in North America is Minneapolis and St. Paul and how it has totally revitalized the area and the connectivity. Also I want to say from the point of view of public transit, some people say oh, but we have few people using public transit so why invest in public transit. Well here it is very clear what comes first, the chicken or the egg. No. You need to have good public transit. People don't take public transit because it's not good. It's not efficient. It's not frequent enough and not fast enough and not a priority enough so why would people take it.
So we need to have transit working fine. If we don't invest, if we did not have any roads we wouldn't have cars. We have cars because we have roads. You have people who say, we don't see that many people cycling, why should we do bikeways? If someone was going to do a bridge over a river and say, oh I need to justify the bridge by the amount of people that are swimming across the river. People don't use the bridge because it doesn't access.
Same thing with bikeways. People are not biking because there are no safe bikeways. People don't use public transit because public transit is no good. For example, somebody tells me we need to build infrastructure. What? Take a look at Hamilton from the air. 35 percent of Hamilton our streets. 35 percent. So what you want it to be 45, 55, 65? How much of 100 do you want it to be streets?
The issue is an issue of democracy. Do you want to have 140 people on two buses, on a tandem bus on dedicated lanes, or do you want to have 140 cars? Do you want 180 people on the LRT or do you want to have 180 cars? So it is a decision for the issue is not about infrastructure.
And by the way, what gets people moving is not if the wheels are rubber or metal. Some of the BRT, bus rapid transit that have been done in Bogotá most of them busier than the biggest subways in the world at a fraction of the cost, so then you have enough money also to do the public spaces all around it. And by the way, that is something I strongly recommend on the LRT. Even more important than the LRT is to fix everything around.
You will never ever in 100 years invest so much money along that corridor as when you do the LRT. So add to the budget five or 10 percent for improving all the public space: the sidewalks, the streets, the parks, the crosswalks, everything so that it is magnificent. Because otherwise, even the people that live next to it and might even be using it are going to hate it because they have to suffer through the construction and the noise and the dirt. And now make sure that you invest in that, so I would say that it's critically important.
For example, I see a lot of buses with 60 people going behind cars with one person. That's not democratic. I see our Constitution the first line of the Constitution says all people are equal. If all people equal, then 60 people inside of a bus should have the right of space of 60 cars with one person each.
"I see a lot of buses with 60 people going behind cars with one person. That's not democratic. I see our Constitution the first line of the Constitution says all people are equal. If all people equal, then 60 people inside of a bus should have the right of space of 60 cars with one person each."
Imagine 100 years ago, women could not vote in Canada. And people thought it was normal. People said oh yeah people, women should not vote. Who would think that? I think the same thing will happen a few years from now. People are going to say, What? 20 years ago you had 50 or 60 people on a bus and they would have to go in a huge traffic jam behind cars with one person?
Imagine people from Toronto arriving here late if all of a sudden you have a line in a queue from Toronto that's totally dedicated for public transit. And all these are in huge traffic taking an hour and a half, and this bus is taking 25 minutes. Maybe, you know, I'm going to get off my car and get into it, but you have to have the frequency and you've got to have the priority, otherwise people are not going to use it.
Laura Babcock: Thank you, we can take a couple more questions and I will have a quick last word.
Audience Question: Just to back onto what Gil said, another analogy, Gil, about the bike lane, if you say I don't see anybody using the bike lane, I say well, you don't see a lot of people using wheelchair ramps but I know they are used but if you don't happen to see somebody using it, I love your analogy about the bridge. Speaking of the frequency, I used to work in Toronto back in the '80s, 87 when I started commuting and took the GO Train and there were three trains out of Hamilton and three trains back. If you missed the last train you took the bus and it stopped everywhere. And it let me off at the Rebecca Street terminal instead of Hunter Street Station, that's kind of weird. And 30 years later there's a staggering four trains. So I don't want to pick on you, Brad, but [...] I know that freight still takes priority.
Brad Clark: Yes, no problem. You hit the nail right on the head. It is a dispute that has been ongoing between CP, CN and GO transit. It was there when I was the minister. We pushed hard to try to resolve those issues. The solution really is for the province to build a line of real and dedicate that line for GO Transit but they have not quite got there yet.
Audience Question: Can the federal government use any muscle to get the freight trains to give up more time, or -
Brad Clark: I think the CP tells the federal government what to do.
Audience Question: Is 35 percent of the world - Hamilton, is this slogan Hamilton is the best place to raise a car? I think you guys are saying, scribbling notes tells me that there is a big communication problem so what can you guys tell us to do as walk-always from this to better engage the various leaders and their provincial leaders that we have, our local leaders, our business leaders. What do we do to walk away from here today?
Laura Babcock: Alex, that's an interesting question and I know we started the exchange a little bit late today because of transportation issues but I do want to end on time. It's a good closing question. We like to, these exchanges are good for issue identification but we don't want to leave you without the tools to make the difference that you are seeking to make.
So if we could just go around, I will start with you, Debbie. From your point of view what you need from the citizens here and all the friends and people on twitter because we have a big audience watching this tonight on social media, what is it that you would help have them do to help with your goals of public transportation.
Debbie Dalle Vedove: we are going to be going out and providing a survey. Everyone has much input from the community you know, and on what your vision for HSR is and where you are traveling and every question that we are going to ask with that. So if there is one thing you could do for us at the HSR is to get everybody to participate in the vision and answer the service. That is my ask.
Laura Babcock: And there was a question on twitter that was posted: how many panelists, put your hand up if you use public transportation currently in the city? [hands go up] And I wanted to ask that because we said we take questions off of twitter. Brad, what from your unique position on the panel as being a former politician and currently with what you are doing, what you see is the takeaways for the audience in terms of being able to move forward with transportation agenda?
Brad Clark: I think the debate has been strategically centred around LRT or transit improvements. And you are hearing it from the Councillors, they are talking about the transit improvements. Really, and Debbie is correct. It's a holistic process. So the two have to go together. And the Council needs to be encouraged that the $137 million investment, which is the city's portion, 30 percent from the feds and the province, spanning that out over ten years because they don't want to impact the taxes too much, is problematic, because we need to fix the transit now.
"I think the debate has been strategically centred around LRT or transit improvements. And you are hearing it from the Councillors, they are talking about the transit improvements. Really, and Debbie is correct. It's a holistic process. So the two have to go together."
And so they could issue a debenture for $137 million tomorrow. I'm being facetious but very quickly they could issue a debenture for $137 million as a loan, and they could then move forward with the transit much quicker. I think we need to push to the Councillors, and the community needs to do this, that we are talking about the HSR. We are talking about our transit system in Hamilton holistically and the connections to LRT and all of it has to be done at the same time. And we have to stop biting into this debate of LRT and no LRT. It is a question of how we fix our transit system today, not waiting ten years to do that.
Laura Babcock: Thank you. Keanin, what would you have us do?
Keanin Loomis: Okay, so first of all I remain a great optimist in Hamilton's future and so I don't want this to be all doom and gloom. Or about airing our grievances, which it has been thus far. But I think it is important to remember how far we have come in just the nine years that I have been here.
Things have changed a lot. And in some cases, like with regard to staff, it takes a long time. Right? And I think we all feel very comfortable that somebody like Jason Thorne is in his position and there's been a lot of turnover within city staff, such that the culture of the organization has changed and the mindset of the organization has changed. So that's great.
We have to understand that it really only takes a couple votes. You know, at this point in time. And there's a few Councillors that are so terrible that they do deserve a pink slip in October.
And if that can happen, then we are no longer at, you know, whatever the vote is, three votes would make a huge change. And that would create a huge new culture within the city of Hamilton. And that would create everything else to follow up on that. I would say, spawn yourselves in terms of, you know, being evangelical about this and rope in your neighbours and other people so that progressive people in this community are far too numerous to ignore. And then vote. And work hard to elect the Councillors who can make good decisions and we have that opportunity in six months so let's get organized now.
Laura Babcock: Amen. Nicholas, your learned perspective on this?
Nicholas Kevlahan: I'm going to echo a little bit what Keanin and Brad have been saying. I think it is important to speak out to the Councillors, the incumbents and people who are running. Telephone them, talk to them. Don't just send an email. When they come to talk to you, tell them this is important to you. Tell your neighbours this is important. You know, fill up their inboxes. Their voicemail.
We heard it in the debate on the [LRT Environmental Assessment], some Councillors are very upset that their voicemail was so full of messages supporting LRT that no one else could leave any messages. That has, and they were a little bit annoyed but I think it got the message home, that although they might run into some people who don't buy the LRT thing, a lot of people who have thought about this and essentially every major stakeholder in the city supports it and they need to be reminded of this.
And just getting back to the idea of, are we ready for LRT? Well, we did the study. The study said that the main corridor carries 40 percent of the transit ridership as it is. As it is. On opening day the system would be in the mid-range in terms of ridership in North America. And that is starting from you know, we can do a lot better than that. So that debate is over.
And the other thing is we have had ten years now to build up HSR. If that is what we wanted to do, we have had lots of time to do it. Why haven't we done it? So it is time to start, stop making excuses and get on with it.
"We have had ten years now to build up HSR. If that is what we wanted to do, we have had lots of time to do it. Why haven't we done it? So it is time to start, stop making excuses and get on with it."
Laura Babcock: Thank you. Yes, last word.
Gil Peñalosa: I think that, think of the magnificent opportunity. I don't think it's negative. I think we need to think positive - there are many good things happening. More than one of three households that are going to have in the next 30 years have not been built yet.
Imagine that: between 30 and 40 percent of the homes that will be inhabited in 30 years from now have not been built. So not only - we need to improve the communities that exist today, but you've got to create great communities for all the people coming in.
And that is also why the quality of life is so important. Why is the quality of life so important? because we live in an ever more globalized world and in a globalized world the best people can live anywhere they want to. However you define best. Best could be best medical doctors or engineers or pizza makers or coffee makers.
If I were a really good carpenter I can live anywhere in the world, so where am I going to live? Wherever me and my family have the best quality of life.
So every day the public sector, the private sector, the NGO in Hamilton should be waking up, thinking: how can we retain the best people? How can we, so you, and I see some people consider - we are victims of our own success, we are growing so much. I said, who is not growing right, I say, have you seen Milton, have you seen Brampton, have you? They are growing as much as Toronto.
The reality that Canada is so far ahead in the world that if we open our doors for 24 hours, we can double the population. So I'm not talking about quantity. I'm talking about quality. How is Hamilton going to be able to attract and retain the best people, including against Toronto or Mississauga but also around the world?
You need to be bold. You need to be ambitious. If you look for cities that are worse than Hamilton, in five minutes you can do a list of a thousand cities. But if you compare yourself with cities that are worse, eventually are going to look like those.
"You need to be bold. You need to be ambitious. If you look for cities that are worse than Hamilton, in five minutes you can do a list of a thousand cities. But if you compare yourself with cities that are worse, eventually are going to look like those."
So you've got to start thinking which cities of similar size, income, weather, etc., which has the best quality of air. Which one has the best mental health. Physical health. The best level of happiness. The best quality of life in general. Then you're going to [benchmark] with each one of those.
When you are thinking on benchmarking on how to use bicycles, benchmark with Copenhagen, do not benchmark with Mississauga. When you're thinking - nothing bad about Mississauga, but they would be benchmarking with Copenhagen - what does Copenhagen have that you don't?
In Copenhagen, the car was taking over in the '50s and '60s and '70s. And then they had the Oil Crisis, and when they had the Oil Crisis people started using bikes in Denmark, in the Netherlands, and Germany. And children were being killed left and right. And they had huge demonstrations in front of City Hall.
And they started doing the cycle tracks, where people were physically separated from their cars. The first one in 1982 where they had ten people, 10 percent of people cycling and it went through the roof. Now 41 out of 100 are out on bicycles, even the middle of the winter. The downtown more than 60 percent.
So what does Copenhagen have that Hamilton does not? Infrastructure. Last week I was working in Oslo with the mayor of Oslo and then I said, what do people in Copenhagen have that you don't have? When this came out, they did infrastructure and Oslo did not do it.
Oslo passed a law in 1978 that all the cities of Norway of more than 5,000 people, would have a bike network in five years and I said yes, what, 40 years later you still don't have it? But now they have a 31-year-old Commissioner of Environment and Transportation. The college vice Mayor. 31-year-old. And she is making downtown Oslo pedestrian. Can you imagine? Pedestrian.
And also they are building a greener protected [network of] bikeways, but sorry, you said why don't we finish on [a positive note]. You know I think that 20 years ago - now we started the World Soccer Cup today. Fantastic. 20 years ago, Hamilton was not even on the field. You guys are outside of the stadium. Now everybody's talking about this thing. Now you are on the field. Not only in the stadium, now Hamilton is on the field.
You are learning how to pass a ball. Sometimes you do nice passes like the LRT. Sometimes you do nice passes of active transports. Sometimes, but you need to remember that if the ball doesn't cross the line, you don't score goals. So I think that you will need over the next few years a lot of people scoring goals. You are bringing the ball up to the line, but it has to cross. And I think that it has to cross.
And the way to make it cross from the point of view of mobility is not talking about walking or cycling or public transit or cars. It's talking about the benefits, because people are more in agreement of the benefit. So we have a huge problem. For example, of the lack of physical activity. And that has to be doing with heart attacks and the rest of our problems in cancer and depression and anxiety and so on.
So let's talk about that to a Councillor that really talks about that and say, by the way, by the way, in Copenhagen that everybody likes, the level of heart attack are really low. And the other place that they have high transit, they have heart attacks so we have to reach for the Councillor and also each one of our neighbours because maybe one of our neighbours gets run public, cares about public health but the other one doesn't, but another one cares about the environment.
So say you know what, the other day I went to this community, I went to Portland and everybody was walking in Portland and the quality of the air was really nice. So people that had asthma, no one has asthma in Portland because the quality of air is so nice. Why is it? That's because people walk. And walking or cycling or public transit is the means, it is not the end.
So we need to really think that this multimodal is about improving our health, physical and mental. It's about the environment, having cleaner air. It's about economic competitiveness. How are we going to be competitive. How are we going to attract the best people. Because following the best people are the companies. The companies are when they can have access to good workers. So it is about health and environment. It's about mobility also. It's about going from point A to point B.
And finally, I want to make a call that nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing is as important as walking. Nothing. Because every single trip begins and ends by walking. We walked to the car. We walked to public transit and we walked to the bicycle and we walked to places. Everybody walks. That is how we were created. We walk. Just like the birds fly or fish swims, people walk.
So we need to make walking safe. And enjoyable. Also because walking is not just about moving from point A to point B. Cycling is, public transit it is, cars it is. But walking is, and that's why also your most important public space in Hamilton are the sidewalks. The sidewalks. Because the sidewalks are - actually, they should be run by the parks department, because the sidewalks are much more like a part in the street.
The sidewalk is where we meet boyfriends and girlfriends and we make friends with the person that sells flowers and fruits and vegetables. We develop a sense of belonging to the city. We also work and we see and watch people go by and talk and chat. And so it's very different, the issue of the sidewalk.
We should not think of sidewalks from the point of view of the streets. So sidewalks are critical and walk ability is by far the most important. And also keep in mind the most vulnerable people. And the most wonderful people will always be the children, the older adult, the handicapped and the poor.
Laura Babcock: Thank you. I want to thank the panel and think market great horn who has been taking all of this downward forward. And Ryan McGreal, who has just told me that they are going to be putting it in Raise the Hammer, I think the whole transcript, Ryan? is that the goal?
Gil Peñalosa: What you said about elections, take advantage of the elections. The election is around the corner. And also we need democracy. We need to improve democracy. It's really a shame that almost all of the GTHA were elected people with 25 percent of the vote, of the people's vote. Without counting people that don't vote or the people that vote, why because we don't have [...] people who have 75 percent of the vote because 75 is percent split among ten people. So that's another thing I cannot accept: that why, with over 1 million majority, [Premier Kathleeen Wynne] did not say all municipalities need to have ranked ballots.
I mean, she did something very political. She said if municipalities want it, they can vote for it. How stupid. Politicians are not going to commit suicide. They know that half of them will not be sitting down there if there are ranked ballots. So if the provincial government thinks it's good, make it mandatory. If they don't think it's good, then they don't talk about it. But that wishy-washy is not going to take it. So the reality is we need to improve that.
Laura Babcock: You are speaking to the choir. I want to say on the O Show, we have a robust election this time and not just elect people whose names we recognize. We want to make sure that the department is informed.
I want to thank the panel individually and I want to thank you first for all the tweets I have seen for the discussion is much bigger than this room and that's because of all the capturing what has been said here and so many forces looking forward to re-observing it all.
But I want to say as a take-away, this panel came here for nothing tonight. Some of them could charge a lot of money but they are here because they care about it. Gil, I appreciate what he's doing with 8-80 the Foundation and watch the Ted Talk, please.
Nicholas's video is easy to find. Just Google his name. His speech to Council about LRT, help educate your communities we get closer and closer to the election on that, thank you so much for taking the time and not taking too much.
Thank you to Keanin, you might not be the tip of the spear but I know the work that goes on to keep the city moving forward progressively from the Chamber. Support the Chamber of Commerce, it's an excellent organization. Please join. I'm a former Chamber person - I still am a Chamber person, a former Director of the Chamber. It's a great organization.
Brad Clark, whatever he's going to do next - he won't tell us officially tonight if he's going to run or not - but listen to his wise counsel and support what he's up to on Twitter.
Debbie, I appreciate it and also to be involved in the HSR and what we are trying to do to build our public transit in the city. We can be very cynical but at the end of the day you are here today telling us how we can help, so let's do that.
So to all of you a big round of applause for this fantastic panel.
David Premi: I just want to extend my thanks and for all of you to thank all the work that Laura has put into us and thank you very much for coming, please stay in engage and if you would like to stick around we can continue the conversation.
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