Comment 95603

By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2013 at 12:32:31

I am new here and interested in many of the issues raised in this blog. Forgive me for being not being in this post but it is my first time posting and the letter to Lloyd was long. Below is a slightly edited version of an email I sent to Jason.

First let me point out that it is a major mistake to spend taxpayers’ money on Bike Share. There is ample evidence in Canada that these types of programs have proven to be a black hole of expenditure. They have produced no justifiable employment for the expense and have not added markedly to the solution to the transportation issues in the cities where they have been tried. To use the word “amazing” is interesting in describing the impact of such a waste of money. Ask yourself, where does Metrolynx get the money. Also ask what scientific or economic analyses support this expenditure. Then ask what private industry has shown the slightest interest in investing in this type of venture. When you have those answers maybe you might agree with someone who would suggest that by opening your letter to Lloyd in this way you are simply pandering.

Mr. Keesmat may indeed be a good planner. Anyone with good ideas should be listened to. However, at the end of the day, many of the issues facing any community on how to spend taxpayers money has a degree of subjectivity to it. Democracy is the apparently acceptable system in this City and the determination of the application of that subjectivity is determined by the majority. So let Mr. Keesmaat enlighten us; And many others too I hope. Ultimately we need to implement what we think is best for us.

We all pay our property taxes. No we don’t. Commercial ratepayers – restaurants, shoe stores, barbers, art studios, etc., pay proportionally more than residential ratepayers who pay more or less depending upon whether or not they even have any money. Approximately 25 per cent of families living in Hamilton are subsidized by the remaining 75 per cent. However, many aspects of the roadways are just as important to them as to the others regardless of the fact that they pay no tax.

Major arteries belong to everyone. Not really. All public property belongs to the Crown who holds it in trust for all of us. No one person or group has any more right to the roadways per se than anyone else. City counsellors are the trustees of the taxpayers’ money. They administer the use of the roads on behalf and for the public good. They are responsible to the electorate. However, in Canada, ultimately the trustees are responsible to the taxpayers because without them, they do not have the funding to administer public property. In other words, wielding power with authority but no responsibility will, in the end, destroy the ability of the trustees to properly administer anything.

It is a weak argument to say that Ward 3 has no say in Ward 12. Certainly, Ward 3 representatives have as much right as any to sit on committee and vote in council. All roads are City wide issues, but some have more importance than others largely on the basis of volume.

Roadways are not much different than pipes carrying water. If the centre of the City requires the most water, then it needs adequate plumbing. The outer regions will have the smallest pipes while the inner regions will end up with either more or bigger pipes. It isn’t that the people in Ward 12 carry an inordinate amount of sway; it is that people from Ward 12 are more likely to need to travel in Ward 3 than vice versa. Their lives are affected by the decisions about travel in Ward 3 and therefore they have a say because travel in Ward 3 demands more attention as a matter of public good. Roads are the lifeblood of the City. People in a City the size and design of Hamilton must get from point A to point B. In the absence of perimeter roads, selective arterial roads need to be maximized to eliminate the need for traffic, both private and public, from rumbling down secondary roads.

It isn’t that many of Lloyd’s constituents commute. It is that most working people in Hamilton commute to some degree, as do students and even non-working people.

Cars are a form of transit; A form of transit used by the vast majority of people. Bike use in Hamilton is extremely limited, and given distances, pedestrian traffic is largely limited as well. People will not walk from Stoney Creek to McMaster, or even bike for that matter, no matter how many bike lanes are built. Your accusation that the “commuters” view cyclists and pedestrians as people who get in their way is hyperbole. I would venture that most people want cheap, efficient, time saving and pollution minimizing transit. I think drivers get frustrated when they pay the lion’s share of the taxes, through gasoline, income, sales and property taxes to see the resource of the roads unfairly shared. They are the majority, they pay the most, and their lives are shared in the sense that their labour is translated into taxes. Quite rightfully they become annoyed when they see a rarely used bike lane eliminating their efficient, time saving cheap and pollution minimizing travel.

Suggesting that Lloyd needs to elevate the conversation is condescending. Who defines elevation? Elevation is a very subjective term implying that those who do not adhere to another point of view are somehow denigrating the conversation. What is good for the City as a whole? What does that mean? What is good? In the long run, good is having a happy life. The majority being forcefully stuck in traffic at great expense for the minority may not be good. I don’t know. What I do know is that the budget of the City is fed by those who are willing to live here and pay for that privilege because without them, the City is a wasteland.

The streets do not belong to anyone and not to a particular neighbourhood. I am sorry but you are just wrong. Public property belongs to the Crown as set out above. Its use is administered according to the principals set out above. Clearly those living in a neighbourhood have a say. But ultimately they have no more say than any others. In Canada we have the luxury of mobility. We may be burdened by what Americans call eminent domain, but the saving grace is our unfettered right to move.

Very few people live in a house 24 hours a day seven days a week. And even if they did, they have no more claim to a public good that those who don’t. If my neighbour has a cottage and is away from his home 33 per cent more than me, do I have any more rights over the roadways in front of his home than him? What you are really identifying is that the trustees must administer their responsibilities giving great care and concern for how it affects people. But they must consider everyone and it is a complex balance.

Statistics are a funny thing. I am not sure that the extremely unfortunate death of a runner, new to the City, running in unfamiliar territory and running in darkness on a wet night at the hands of criminal says much of anything about anything. On the whole, the gross numbers of fatalities on our roadways does not appear to be out of the ordinary. All are regrettable. None are acceptable. But only Pollyanna would think that they can all be eliminated. What does 43% mean? 43% of a small number is still a small number. Just something to ponder.

The culture of the automobile is an interesting point. It has a religious flair to it. However, the industrial world economy is to a large extent driven by the automobile. You may tinker with it. But I am not sure that Lloyd or the other City councillors are equipped to deal with it, nor do I think it is their bailiwick.

Your next points really get to the point. What is the greater vision for Hamilton? That requires a lot more discussion than simply experimenting with changing road directions.

One thing I suspect though is that commerce will drive the decision making as you seem to imply. We have huge issue with brownfields and the decimation of our industrial base. In hindsight, moving the commercial centre from downtown to Limeridge and the Meadowlands was a mistake. But I expect that a reactionary plan of denying easy access to the centre of the City will do nothing but drive industry, commerce and therefore people outside of the City centre. Maybe it won't in the long run. But right now people drive down Main Street in the morning to get to work.

Much of the downtown development has been subsidized or is in fact government driven. That may prove to be an illusion in the long run. But it definitely needs study and discussion.

Now as far as creating congestion is concerned, until recently Hamilton did not have a congestion problem. One is being created so it is a fair question to ask why. Keeping in mind that transit includes private transportation; I do not see why you want to destroy a good thing. In the long run, as you note later, Hamilton’s growth may demand more public transit. But destroying the working private transit system, which in fairness is also public, is not necessary a priori. In a way, you are using a tautological argument. We don’t want more room for single occupant vehicles; we want the room that was already designated for it. Putting in a bike lane that serves one person at the cost of 100 is not logical, not fair and not just. Unless you have other motives - which you admit to below.

I expect that Municipalities burdened by the expense of public transit would have begged for Hamilton’s “problems.” Will the gridlock come? Not if Industry does not come. If not we are a bedroom community of Toronto and we will need many more train tracks to get people out of town in the morning.

Our infrastructure deficit is growing because the industrial base that has fed our burgeoning public trough has abandoned us. High taxes and high labour costs have driven them away and so it will continue as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. I am not wise enough or knowledgeable enough to foresee the future, but I am afraid that like many things that appear to be permanent, one morning we will wake up and find that all the real business of Hamilton has all gone. These indeed are huge questions. I doubt that eliminating one way traffic will solve them and I highly suspect that they may aggravate them for the reasons set out above.

Your willingness to give up five minutes a day is laudable. But what about ten or twenty or thirty minutes a day. If you lose a week of your time a year for a reason you do not feel is justified, will you be as happy? Would you work a week a year for me for free? If so, some on down and I will use your labour willingly. Scarier is your apparent true modus operandi – to make things harder for people; to modify their behaviour as if you know what is better for their behaviour.

Who is we? And who are the grand you who believes you know what is best for people. In a democracy, we are protected by the Crown from people who would try and amend our behaviour. For obscene interference we have the criminal law. Far be it for municipal politicians to start modifying behaviour without authority.

You are going to cure obesity by changing Hamilton’s traffic patterns? Seriously? And if you could, what gives you the right? Just because we have OHIP doesn’t mean that strangers have the right to dictate lifestyle in a free country.

If you do not want to waste money on a car – don’t. Get on a bus. But if that means it takes you 20 minutes longer to get to work and exposes you to the flu, don’t try and force me to take the same risks or waste the same time.

Water finds its easiest course. You lay bear your deterministic approach by trying to interfere with a functioning model in an attempt to direct and dictate people’s behaviour. Most people will continue to drive if it is easiest because it is easiest. When and if the burdens shifts, it will. But it may not. It may just as well be that cheap electric automobiles will replace the internal combustion engine. Who knows? Do you? Or are we all doomed to trundle like sardines to a bus. Fortune favours the brave. Let’s come up with better technology as opposed to falling back on 18th and 19th century thinking like trains and buses and bicycles.

I don’t know that we will have traffic chaos in 20 years. Most certainly we will have it next year if suddenly you eliminate one way streets.

You are, however very correct. We need to think. And we should not be changing anything until we have a good plan.

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