Special Report: Transit

Throw Council on the Bus

A cheeky new campaign is collecting pledges to encourage Councillors to commute by transit for a week.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 28, 2015

The good folks at Environment Hamilton have launched a cheeky new campaign: Throw Council on the Bus, in which Hamiltonians can pledge money to pay for City Councillors to commute on HSR for a week between now and March 28, 2015.

The rules are straightforward: if a Councillor agrees to commute for a week using transit, the Throw Council on the Bus campaign will collect the pledges for that Councillor and donate them to people who need help paying for transit.

The campiagn will use the honour system to determine whether a Councillor fulfilled their commitment to use transit, but Councillors are encouraged to share selfies on the bus.

You can donate the money city-wide, in which case it is divided evenly among the 15 Councillors and the Mayor, or you pledge specific amounts to a given Councillor.

You can follow the campaign on twitter via the hashtag #BusAMove.

The campaign launched yesterday, and people have already (at this writing) donated over $2,000. More than half the total has been pledged to Councillors Chad Collins (Ward 5) and Terry Whitehead (Ward 8):

Results sorted by pledge amount (Image Credit: Throw Council on the Bus)
Results sorted by pledge amount (Image Credit: Throw Council on the Bus)

Collins was instrumental in building a majority vote to kill the transit-only lane on King Street between Mary and Dundurn. Whitehead accused City Staff of not being objective in writing the bus lane report, and misrepresented the results of a telephone survey.

At the Council meeting last week where Collins' motion to kill the bus lane passed, several Councillors who voted to kill the bus lane expressed strong support for transit and acknowledged the need to improve transit service - including through bus lanes.

Council has approved several strategic documents on improving transit service in the past 15 years, including the Transportation Master Plan in 2001, the Transportation Master Plan Review in 2007, the HSR Operational Review in 2010 and the Rapid Ready LRT Plan in 2013.

However, when it has come time to implement these strategic plans through transit policy, Council has consistently failed to act. The bus lane was the only proposal from the 2010 Operational Review that Council implemented, out of a list of recommendations that were supposed to be implemented by this year.

As a result, Hamilton has made no progress toward its goal of increasing the transit share of total trips from 6 percent in 2001 to 10 percent by 2011 and 15 percent by 2021. It is 2015 and we remain stuck at 6 percent.

Now several Councillors who claim to support transit but voted against the bus lane are saying it doesn't make sense to consider any transit improvements until the next Transportation Master Plan review is completed in 2016.

Hamilton deserves much better from its leaders.

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 Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 15:45:31

Spoke to @TerryWhitehead @Chad_Collins5 re #BusAMove - are not going to take challenge. Cite family and mtg obligations as factor #YHMgov

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins said they would not be using transit. Collins for family reasons. #HamOnt

Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead says he will not use transit because of his family. "Not a chance in the world," he says. #HamOnt

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By Mr Hamilton (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 19:19:33 in reply to Comment 108510

This new bus lane is crazy the city needs to open up all lanes the way this city was designed in the past was due to the needs and wants of the old days. meaning the people who designed this city had no vision of the future just a dull here and now outlook Hamilton needs to open up and get with the times

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By Wh-wh-wha? (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 19:21:29 in reply to Comment 108524

I have literally no idea what I just read

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 28, 2015 at 17:31:20 in reply to Comment 108510

The fact that taking the bus to work is such an impediment that they consider it a massive interference in their "family and meeting obligations" speaks volumes.

Countless Hamiltonians take the bus to work or school every day. Think they don't have family and meeting obligations?

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By WakeupCollins (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 17:11:34 in reply to Comment 108510

Collins, do you look forward to leaving behind a more polluted world for your kids? As a father, you have the chance to make your kids and generations to come proud. Don't squander this LRT opportunity because of backwards thinking. You're relatively younger, so supposed to be aware of the issues. For pete's sake man, don't continue to be such a dickhead.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 17:01:45 in reply to Comment 108510

Family reasons?

Good news, councillors: HSR Day Passes may be used by two adults and up to four riders 19 and under, travelling as a group.


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By Shameful (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 16:48:02 in reply to Comment 108510

Shame on these two councillors. The audacity to claim they represent ANYONE but themselves. If leaders don't represent the most marginalized in society, they are clearly not leaders, but oppressors. If their family obligations are an excuse for not leading, then time to step back and let others who can manage family and political life lead. Again, shame on you Collins and shame on you Whitehead.

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 08:54:44 in reply to Comment 108513

I'm with you. This is very telling. To be unable or unwilling to ride the bus for a week speaks volumes about how interested they are in improving transit in this city.

Family? What does that have to do with taking the bus? Sometimes I'm required to go away for work for a week and make other arrangements for my family. That's part of having a career and being a professional.

I wish they'd been honest and just told reporters that it wasn't worth their time and they don't care.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 15:46:11

Stoney Creek councillor Doug Conley says he may wait until better weather, but will take transit starting at the Eastgate Square. #HamOnt

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 28, 2015 at 21:02:01 in reply to Comment 108511

The snow stopped. Better weather is now. I can bike in this weather, so councillors can take the bus in it.

Still, happy to hear Conley taking the challenge seriously.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 16:09:36

Well, it really is revealing that many Councillors won't even consider taking the bus for a single week! Surely, no matter how complicated your family life is, any of these councillors could try taking HSR for just a week, if only to experience the service level themselves.

This makes it absolutely clear that they know themselves that the service is unacceptably poor ... but their refusal over many years to significantly improve it (to the point they themselves would actually use it sometimes) demonstrates that they think it is good enough for those who have no choice (or no family?).

What about all those transit users who have families? Or have evening meetings? Or who live in their wards?

I never realized that HSR was so bad for your family ... I guess I should give up my Presto card for the sake of the children.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-28 16:18:53

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By East Mountain Fellow (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 16:38:24 in reply to Comment 108512

The rules from Environment Hamilton for the Councillors says the 5 days don't have to be consecutive, so picking the 5 most convenient days is allowed.

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By Really (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 17:15:06

I would like to be able to pretend that I am shocked by their responses. But sadly I am not.

Thir arrogance is galling to say the least. Although they will all be judged by their legacy I doubt they care. This is their career. The objective is not to do what is best and right, but rather, whatever it takes to keep the job and keep getting paid.

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By Fireem (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 17:35:26 in reply to Comment 108516

Fire their asses then. Chad Collins is corrupt like Rob Ford, only less entertaining.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 23:38:45 in reply to Comment 108518

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 KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 21:35:23

What a great campaign! I just put $ 100 each down for Chad Collins and Terry Whitehead.

If they do it, then this will be one of the best uses for $200.

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By SSnowling (registered) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 23:31:04

I just donated... Awesome idea. I am impressed with this concept. I'm interested to see how much pressure will build up on the reluctant councillors over the coming weeks.

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By Clyde_Cope (registered) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 23:40:17

The excuses of councillors are really appalling - are they so bothered by the idea of rubbing shoulders with regular citizens?

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By Bells (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 13:17:47

Lloyd Ferguson lives in a rural area with no bus service at all. He's clearly not going to start taking transit any time ever.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 13:29:40 in reply to Comment 108543

It's clear that for a few Councillors doing without a car is not possible ... this highlights one of the big problems with the current HSR system. But maybe these councillors could propose taking the bus where possible (e.g. from City Hall to other meetings in the City served by transit). Another option would be to drive to a friend's house in your ward near a bus stop, and then take the bus the remainder of the way. There are many ways to respect the spirit of the challenge, rather than dismissing it out of hand. Remember, the pledge is only for a single week!

But even rural councillors could take the bus if the City, like other cities, established park-and-rides. Apparently, the city built at least one park-and-ride facility on Upper James with money from the Province: http://www.hamiltonnews.com/news/mountai...

However, some of the strongest objections came from Councillors, like Collins or Whitehead, in areas relatively well-served by transit. And if it is "impossible" for a busy professional to rely on transit in these areas, our system is really falling short.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-29 13:48:52

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By cshhadcawlens (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 16:11:36

i do not wan too take the bus cause theres all these crazy poepl, they want to talk loud and the're mean to me. they look at me funny & tha bus is bumpy?right? and it costes alot & itsmore comfrtabl in my car & I don haff to pay for driving on th road and it takes longr on the bus, put atleast i don gotto park the bus!! Thas what i thnik

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2015 at 16:22:31 in reply to Comment 108548

I have no idea what's going on here, but I'm somewhat frightened that this person may drive.

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By cshhadcawlens again (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 16:16:37

oh & king st east? right? its too skinny for a bus lane, tho some poeple they said my area? my ward, right? is way far from downtown thats true but i get to say what i think about downtwon too cause i got electd? and I got the right to fredom ofspeech? so its beter to stop havng that buslane evrywheere.

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By J (registered) | Posted January 29, 2015 at 16:30:40

shame on those councillors who immediately shot down this great idea. Indicates not just disdain for the HSR but simple mean-spiritedness and disengagement with the people they ostensibly represent. Fine if you have to get around your ward all day; leave your car at work and just commute in in the morning and afternoon (or between 10 and 3 more likely), but don't throw out an original and fresh idea that will let them see how thousands of your constituents live their lives. What a bunch of dullards. Yet another indicator that council represents only a certain wealthy segment of society.

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By Headcount (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 01:58:56

How many people on this site, or maybe the better question to ask is how many people posting here take the bus regularly? Do you all take it more than 5 days in a year?

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By Headcount (anonymous) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 07:11:45 in reply to Comment 108563

So, there are 2 occasional riders who are reigistered, 1 anon, and someone who proudly doesn't take it. I can totally see why council is behind this effort. Not to mention the Twitter comments from people like Clr. Whitehead, who has said it like it is - that being volun-told that you're participating in some sort of event is hardly the way to get buy-in.

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By volun-told (anonymous) | Posted February 01, 2015 at 19:03:40 in reply to Comment 108618

councillor whitehead, doesn't get it and never will. i can see it now - they approach him and ask if he wants to participate, i'm sure that really would have changed his outlook. gimme a break. no one is forcing him to take the bus - he can do what he wants. but if he won't do it he has to own that position all by himself as it's his own choice and nobody else's fault. what a baby.

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By Trollcount (anonymous) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 10:38:37 in reply to Comment 108618

You forgot to count all the people who know better than to feed the troll.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 10:43:57 in reply to Comment 108624

mea culpa

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 15:22:38 in reply to Comment 108563

I take the HSR several times a month in winter when the weather is bad (probably 5-7 return trips per month), and a bit less often from April-November. The rest of the time I bike or walk. I drive when it is too far too bike and the bus is too inconvenient. I imagine I will be taking the HSR a bit more now since it combines very nicely with SOBI.

Unfortunately on the morning rush hour King/Main route the buses are often packed to crush and drive bys are common so the experience is not all that nice.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-30 15:33:29

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 30, 2015 at 15:20:35 in reply to Comment 108563

I bike on days when I'm not picking up my kid from violin (drive on those ones), and I take the bus when biking isn't feasible (blizzards, rainstorms, etc).

Took it every day at my old job that wasn't in a bikeable.

My car's pretty old - I'd like to not have to replace it when it dies, and my family can downgrade to a 1-car household.

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By Yup (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 10:13:16 in reply to Comment 108563

I used to take it every day. Now I don't cuz I work in T.O but may end up doing so again if it was more frequent and fast getting to new GO stn.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 09:44:36 in reply to Comment 108563

Although I cycle, almost every day I rode the bus up the mountain from the GO station.

The Sanatorium and W5 get extremely crowded. The bus was stuffed by the time it started up the mountain and sometimes by Fenell and W5 it was leaving people behind. I could see that the nice lady driving the bus was actually doing her best to stuff everybody on and not leave anyone behind.

But getting a ride up the hill on the bus was perfectly comfortable in and of itself. There was no reason I wouldn't have happily done that indefinitely. Especially with a 50-cent tap-on when switching from GO train.

So to answer your question, I took the bus 5 days a week, not year. The route did not have capacity for me.

There was one particular instance when it passed me by at Hunter Street. That was the last straw. I converted my favorite mountain bike to electric, to give me a ride on the tired or lazy days. Save the HSR the burden of one more body on board. With flatproof tires and regular maintenance, I have never taken the bus again after that. The e-bike is already 16 months old, 4 months past the point where its paid for itself; my Presto card is completely idle now.

Since then I no longer live there, so it wouldn't be my route any more, but the story is 100% legit. I got pushed off the HSR by the crushed capacities.


Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-01-30 09:59:45

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By so Poe's law, RTH... (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 15:09:01

So steven Colbert's TV work would be an example of poe's law? and surely [shirley] in this case, the spelling of non-councillor 'cshhadcawlens' 's name on the posts would've given it away, eh? RTH is not actually that kind of amusing site, though, not to offend.

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