Special Report: Bus Lane

Public Works Committee Rejects Bus Lane Pilot Project

Hamilton Councillors claim to value transit, multi-modal transportation and livable urban neighbourhoods, but they refuse to put those values into practice in any meaningful way.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2013

this article has been updated

Hamilton's Public Works Committee just rejected a proposal to establish a King Street Bus Only Lane [PDF] pilot project.

Under the one-year pilot project, the City would establish a bus-only lane on the north side of King Street from Mary Street to one block east of Dundurn Street. Where curbside parking is currently on the north side of King, it would move to the south side.

This initiative would help to improve bus service on the busy B-Line express route by reducing travel times and boosting ridership. It would also help Hamilton to get ready for the B-Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) line that the City has been planning since 2008.

The money to pay for it would come from the Metrolinx Quick Wins reserve, and Council already approved the pilot in principle when Councillors unanimously accepted the Rapid Ready report in February.

According to the recommendation:

On February 27, 2013 Council approved recommendations related to Rapid Ready – Expanding Mobility Choices in Hamilton (PW 13014). The Rapid Ready report sets out actions and investments Hamilton will have to make if it is going to realize its approved transportation strategy. The Quick Wins projects are included in the Rapid Ready 2013 Work Plan and are an integral component to the Rapid Ready strategy. Furthermore, the Quick Wins projects capitalize on funding received by the Provincial government, which is to be spent by 2013.

Further, it has been clear for some time based on the City's own traffic volume data that Hamilton's lower city streets - including Main, King and Cannon - have significant excess lane capacity. Extended lane closures on Main, King and Cannon over the past two years have had negligible impacts on traffic.

In other words, there is no good reason for the Public Works Committee not to approve this. Nevertheless, according to Councillor Brian McHattie, members of the Committee raised objections over potential loss of leading areas for local businesses and worry about taxis not being able to drop riders off on the north side of King.

If those sound like limp excuses rather than insurmountable obstacles, it's because they are. A distressing number of Hamilton Councillors fundamentally do not value transit, multi-modal transportation or livable urban neighbourhoods, despite having endorsed these principles at a broad policy level since the 1990s.

The problem is that they refuse to put those values into practice in any meaningful way. As a result, the Public Works Committee remains the place where progressive transportation initiatives - even cost-free, low-risk no-brainer pilot projects that are subject to review - go to die.

The committee voted to sever the original motion into two parts - one to establish the bus-only lane and one to establish A- and B-Line passenger amenities: shelters, benches, waste receptacles, bike locking facilities, location maps and transit information at key strategic locations.

The sub-motion to establish rapid transit amenities was carried with five members of the Public Works Committee voting in favour (Ferguson, Duvall, Merulla, Collins and McHattie) and no one voting against. (Powers, Pasuta, Whitehead and Jackson were absent.)

The sub-motion to establish the bus-only lane was defeated, with only McHattie and Merulla voting in favour, and Collins, Duvall and Ferguson voting against.

Councillors will have a chance to overturn the Committee decision and approve the pilot at the next Council meeting on Wednesday, May 22. Please contact Council and let them know you support this initiative.

Update: updated to add the recorded votes from the draft minutes, provided courtesy of the City Clerks' office. You can jump to the added section.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 13:38:04

Who and the Heck is the public works got to do with this anyways and who are they by names all they whant is Metrolinx money in there pockets

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 15:43:48 in reply to Comment 88765

There is no separate transit commission in Hamilton.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 13:42:12

Oh and council yous have voted for the LRT better overturn this Public work who ever they are

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By DBC (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 14:00:05

Great news Hamiltonians! Ward heeling is alive and well!


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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 14:02:41

Anyone know who voted what?

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 14:03:58 in reply to Comment 88770

My guess:

McHattie - For
Everyone else - Against

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By HamiltonTransit (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 14:30:00

Votes for: Merulla McHattie
Votes against: Ferguson, Duvall, Collins
Absent: Farr (was at the meeting but not at the vote)

A total of 21 bus routes ( 16 HSR, 2 Burlington Transit, 3 GOTransit) use King Street between John and MacNab Streets. The section of King Street for the proposed transit lane also handles daily bus traffic from Greyhound, Coach Canada and AboutTown.

The issues that Duvall stated he had for not voting for included local businesses not being able to load/unload on the street as well as taxis being unable to stop to pick up/drop off passengers in the section from Bay to New.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 14:40:47

That is total crap.

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By Harrumph (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 15:05:24

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 15:18:00 in reply to Comment 88775

Pipe dreams = liveable neighbourhoods for all citizens.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 15:39:19

Collins comments are so idiotic they trump Duvall's.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 15:49:06

This would truly be the first step in really making the case for or against the LRT. If a BRT is all we can do then so be it, but couple a dedicated bus lane with dedicated bike lanes and consideration for pedestrians (e.g., http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/18... ) would really make living/visiting/shopping/exploring in the core much better. Heck they could even keep their E-W one way streets.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 23:05:04 in reply to Comment 88783

At this point, I think council would defeat BRT.

Why is it that city council again and again views things in the short-term, instead of the long-term?

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 16:05:53

Silly people.

Don't you know if you restrict the ability of people from Wards 5 and 12 from getting through town like there is no downtown their councillor just may get a few phone calls from the squelching minority decrying the "gridlock".

The same minority of me-first NIMBYs that would NEVER accept streets like these where THEY live. After all, you must live where you do, because you can't afford to live where they do.

This city is doomed until this Council is swept clean and replaced with some progressive thinkers who want to advance the CITY...........not worry about a career in civic politics.

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted May 17, 2013 at 09:29:02 in reply to Comment 88784

Totally agree. It's as if the vitality of the Main/King/Cannon corridors are simply sacrificed for the "greater good" of saving a couple of minutes in travel time. If we were to look at the actual costs of the status quo (reduced property values, challenging environment to operate a small business that is not car-centered, pedestrian/cycling safety, etc...) vs. the benefits (quick travel time) we would definitely not continue with the status quo.

The only way I can understand it is to look at them as people with a bad addiction which makes it very hard for them to accept how their addiction is harming themselves and others. They are blinded by their addiction.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:28:03 in reply to Comment 88797

their addiction to car fumes

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 17:25:48

Public works. Council vacillates.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 21:43:53

Understandable that council wants to play it safe on this issue, and wait to learn from the experiences of other cities. Bus lanes have only been around since 1940.


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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:43:52

Ferguson against a bus-only lane pilot project, but is ready to lead the charge on epi pens for all food service outlets.I may be in the minority, but this is wrong for so many reasons.


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2013 at 14:58:57 in reply to Comment 88798

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:38:29

You know something is seriously f'ked up when you agree with Bill Kelley on a transit initiative.

Listening to senior's radio this am - this City is seriously screwed when you have people calling into a radio station clamoring for bus service to the farm fields they decided to buy houses on in Binbrook and even an east west mountain LRT - but think that the LRT that is on the table right now will be too disruptive and costly for the City.

One caller from Binbrook - who wanted new transit to help develop "growth areas" - ie business parks in the middle of nowhere and Hamilton's poster child for North American suburban sprawl - thought that the King / Main shouldn't get any more transit because they already have service. Really. That was an actual opinion.

Seriously WTF - is it April fools day or something. Are people really that stupid, selfish, myopic....???

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:57:23

I've removed all the sharp objects from my home, so I think I'll be OK.

Not terribly surprising though is it? Come on now, improving transit is terrible for business - we all know that, right?

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2013 at 14:57:50

"...loss of leading areas for local businesses and worry about taxis not being able to drop riders off on the north side of King..." Really? That's the execuse eh? Oh, it's not even a valid excuse only a "worry." Heck, I worry about pigs falling from the sky, quick - no more transit because those falling pigs could cause unwanted costs to hitting buses.

To be fair, the taxi bit is consistent for Collins to be pushing. Back in January he was very supportive of Taxi companies fighting insurance rate hikes and he sees Taxis as a vital component of public transit.


I think we found the solution - bus lanes are also Taxi drop off lanes! Problem solved.

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By Investor-In-Taxi-Industry (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2013 at 20:55:09

"The sub-motion to establish the bus-only lane was defeated, with only McHattie and Merulla voting in favour, and Collins, Duvall and Ferguson voting against.":

Did Clr. Ferguson declare a conflict of interest? Is he even allowed to vote on this issue, where the taxi industry stands to gain by not having a dedicated bus lane?

Could not the bus lanes be marked on road, but be in operation only for an hour or two in am/pm during rush hour traffic???

December 10, 2008

Page 2


Economic Development and Planning Committee Report 08-024 Item 25 Public Meting respecting Change to Licensing By-law (Taxi Cab Cameras)

Councillor L. Ferguson declared an interest as he is an investor in the taxi industry.



Page 2

Councillor L. Ferguson indicated a conflict of interest with respect to item 16 of Planning Committee Report 12-018, respecting Taxi Cab Broker Participation in Seasonal
Promotional Public Service Campaign with the LCBO, as he has family employed in the
taxi industry



Page 2

Councillor Ferguson declared a conflict of interest with Planning Committee Report 13-
003, items 1, 6, and 9 as he has family involved in the taxi industry:

Accessible Taxicab Licensing Consultation Staff Resources (PED10063(f)) (City Wide) (Item 5.1)

Vehicle Inspection Manual for Taxis (PD05141(c)) (City
Wide) (Item 8.1)

Taxi Insurance Premiums (Item 10.1)



Page 3

Councillor Ferguson declared a conflict of interest respecting Item 7 of Planning Committee Report 12-003, as his family is involved with one of the businesses (taxi) whose fees are being reviewed.


7.4 Declaration of Interest – Integrity Commissioner

That Earl Basse, Integrity Commissioner for the City of Hamilton, be requested to attend a meeting of the General Issues Committee to explain/ clarify the policy on Declaration of Interest issues where Council members need to declare a conflict on specific issues, but have to withdraw from discussion on the whole report that may include other areas of interest, but not a conflict situation.


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By Investor-In-Taxi-Industry (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2013 at 21:14:50

Clr. Ferguson needs to PUBLICLY disclose his+family+friends financial interests in Hamilton's taxi cab industry, and respectfully step down from any council discussions/votes concerning lower city two-way road conversions, dedicated bus lanes, traffic calming & walkability, and vehicular speed reduction issues.

Also the Integrity Commissioner of the City of Hamilton, Earl Basse needs to open an inquire into how many of Clr. Ferguson votes on cmtee/council to date have directly prolonged the treacherous and life-threatening conditions of our roads in downtown.

He also need to get all councillors to publicly declare their business interests or that of their family/friends if any in Hamilton's cab/transportation industry.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 18, 2013 at 23:40:32

That is the problem with the society we live in, the masses, the majority, get to decide how we spend the money in the community pot. The majority get to decide what is right and what is necessary. It's a bitch isn't it.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:09:24

If Hamilton council was really serious about rapid transit they would give the B-Line BRT system dedicated lanes from Eastgate to MacMaster. These lanes will be used by LRT eventually, around 2021. Doing only 2Km now, is a waste of time and money. Go big, or go home.

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted May 19, 2013 at 17:56:02

CATCH News – May 19, 2013

Inner city taxed much more for HSR

Thirteen years after amalgamation, residents of the former city of Hamilton are still taxed three to four times higher than suburbanites for the HSR. If the higher-income suburbs made the same contribution as inner city dwellers, it would provide the first new property tax funding in over twenty years for a transit system that has the worst growth rate in the province.
The average-valued home in old Hamilton is taxed $288 a year to support the HSR, while a similar-priced house in Ancaster pays just $71. The equivalent charge in Stoney Creek is $83, in Dundas $62, in Waterdown $50 and in Mt Hope $93 per annum.
Suburban HSR service is less frequent – and very limited in places like Dundas and Waterdown – but all riders pay the same fares to use the bus in any part of the city. And because incoming suburban riders board first, it often means they get seating, leaving inner city passengers standing on overcrowded buses or too often standing on the street waiting for another bus that has enough room to take them on.
HSR ridership has actually declined in four of the last six years, so while London, St Catharines, Mississauga, Ottawa, Durham and Brampton registered increases from 13 to 70 percent, the HSR showed only 3.5 percent growth over the 2006-2011 period. Average national ridership grew by nearly that amount in just the first six months of last year according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association.
The disparity in taxation rates is a unique Hamilton arrangement called area rating that used to also be applied to fire protection taxes and culture and recreation until it was finally modified in early 2011 to treat all urbanized areas the same, while imposing lower charges on the rural areas where many city services aren’t available. But the much heralded “end” to area rating wasn’t applied to the transit system where changes were “deferred until the completion of an approved plan for transit service improvements.”
The transportation master plan was approved in 2007 and called for substantial increases to transit funding. A major consultant study on HSR operations received in 2009 also advocated more funding was but its recommendations were merely received by council without taking any action.
In late February of this year councillors endorsed the Rapid Ready transit plan that made clear that “implementing the city’s strategic direction for transportation will required continued increased investment, particularly in transit.” Councillors enthusiastically praised the report, but implementation funding will not be considered until 2014, and will face the extra challenge of approving new spending in an election year.
And a council committee has already handed the plan a major setback when last week it rejected a pilot bus-only lane on King Street even though funding for it will come entirely from the provincial government. Last month council also rejected all the options being considered by Queen’s Park to cover a $2 billion a year increase in transit funding in the Toronto-Hamilton area.
The Rapid Ready report strongly emphasizes the need for a substantial increase in HSR funding, noting that provincial subsidies have only allowed for additional service “more or less in line with population growth” since 2003, leaving the annual rides per person unchanged.
“To achieve gains in ridership per capita and transit mode shares, the level of investment in transit, both in the amount and quality of service, needs to greatly outpace the rate of population growth,” states the report. “In the case of Winnipeg, a city which is similar in size as Hamilton, service hours per capita are about 40% greater than Hamilton.”
It notes that other cities of a similar size to Hamilton such as Victoria and Quebec City offer much more transit service (more than two revenue service hours per person versus Hamilton’s 1.4). The first two targets in the report would provide a bus every three minutes between Eastgate and McMaster and install regular Dundas service.
Between 1994 and 2005, the HSR’s inflation-adjusted budget actually fell by 25 percent, and since then only fare hikes and more monies from senior levels of government have kept the system from further decline.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 19, 2013 at 22:35:40 in reply to Comment 88823

April 15, 2011

After years of delays and disputes, councillors have agreed to update the city's controversial tax system.

But residents of the old city of Hamilton won't see any savings out of the deal.

City council voted Thursday to institute a new area rating system that includes a “special capital levy” for residents of the old city. That levy — which will amount to $3.4 million each year — will be spent on infrastructure updates in the old city alone.

The decision was lauded as a compromise that satisfies both urban and suburban councillors. The final vote at Thursday's budget meeting was unanimous and was met with a standing ovation from senior staff.

“I'm so proud of this group to have this kind of discussion at the end of this long and difficult road,” said Mayor Bob Bratina.

The new plan will apply to this year's property tax bills.

Staff first suggested updating the area rating system in 2009, to fix an unfair distribution of tax rates across the city. Because the outlying wards that amalgamated into the old city were not paying enough for the services they receive, they were scheduled to see a tax increase. Residents of the old city, who have been over-paying, were to see a dip in their tax rates.

Thursday's decision increases tax rates for the new areas of the city, as planned.

However, instead of using the increased tax revenue from new areas of the city to offer savings to residents of the old city, council decided to keep tax levels in the old city the same.

If the savings from area rating had been built into tax rates, urban areas would have seen a 0.3 per cent increase. Instead, rates are going up in the old city by 0.9 per cent.

In other words, council chose to increase tax rates in the old city by an average of $20 a year. The cash will be used to update roads, sewers and sidewalks in the old city.

“We've got a $195-million infrastructure deficit. A good chunk of that is in the former city of Hamilton, because it's older,” said Rob Rossini.

“What this does is actually kill two birds with one stone — you address the area rating issue, we put it behind us, and we've got some funding available to put toward our $195-million gap.”

The highest tax increases will be seen in urban areas of Glanbrook (3 per cent) and urban areas of Dundas (2.9 per cent). The only tax rates going down — by 0.6 per cent — are in rural areas of Ancaster.

Instead of taxing residents based on ward boundaries, the new plan taxes residents based on whether they live in an urban or rural area.

Culture-related charges will not be area rated, but recreation, fire, streetlights and sidewalks will be based on the urban/rural divide.

Several councillors said Thursday that the plan had been agreed on before the public meeting that day. As a result, councillors spent the majority of the budget meeting congratulating staff and their colleagues.

“The fact that we can support this motion here today dispels dysfunctionality around this table,” said Councillor Terry Whitehead. “We put the most divisive debate since amalgamation to bed. That's a credit to everyone around this table.”

“If it wasn't for these back hall discussions … I don't think we'd be at this point,” said Councillor Russ Powers, credited with brokering the deal along with Councillor Chad Collins. “It's not perfect but it's a workable document.”


How much will your taxes go up?

If you live in the urban area:

Hamilton – 0.9 per cent

Ancaster – 1.2 per cent

Stoney Creek – 2.4 per cent

Flamborough – 2.4 per cent

Dundas – 2.9 per cent

Glanbrook – 3 per cent

If you live in the rural area:

Hamilton – N/A

Ancaster – (minus) 0.6 per cent

Stoney Creek – 0.6 per cent

Flamborough – 0.5 per cent

Dundas – 1.1 per cent

Glanbrook – 1.2 per cent


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