Special Report: Climate Change

Aligning Action with Rhetoric

During election campaigns, politicians speak often of their leadership abilities - perhaps it is time to show some leadership action.

By George Sweetman
Published November 09, 2015

Presumably when the Red Hill Valley Parkway was built in 2007, it provided some relief from traffic congestion. Now, just eight years later, the congestion has returned, so Council has agreed to study the possibility of adding more lanes.

Red Hill Valley Parkway (RTH file photo)
Red Hill Valley Parkway (RTH file photo)

It has been said that attempting to cure traffic congestion by adding more lanes is like attempting to cure obesity by loosening one's belt.

The issue of congestion is not new; it has been the subject of many previous studies. In 2007, a City working paper prepared in support of the Transportation Master Plan identified future capacity issues.

The paper also identified Transportation Demand Management - reducing single car trips, increasing transit, enabling more walking and cycling - as an effective means of alleviating congestion and avoiding the need for expanding expressways.

In 2011, the City's Integrated Energy Mapping Strategy stated that in order to meet Hamilton's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, the City needs to reduce single car trips and increase transit, walking, and cycling.

These approaches are more consistent with Transportation Demand Management than expressway expansion.

In October 2015, Council endorsed the Community Climate Action Plan, which establishes a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target of 80 percent by 2050.

It is difficult to understand how widening an expressway to facilitate more single occupant car trips will provide either long-term relief from congestion or achieve the city's stated GHG emission targets.

It does, however, expose the dissonance between rhetoric and action.

Jeffery Simpson of the Globe and Mail stated in his book Hot Air:

The easiest course for politicians has been to speak earnestly about long-term targets while avoiding difficult short-term steps that might cost political support. That way, politicians can be rewarded for their apparent virtue without imperilling their re-election prospects.

It is time for council to move from climate politics to climate policy and align their actions with their rhetoric. During election campaigns, politicians speak often of their leadership abilities - perhaps it is time to show some leadership action.

George Sweetman has been a civil engineer for 30 years working in land development and renewable energy, as well as teaching university students. He volunteers at various organizations focused on food security and affordable housing.


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By Dalaine (registered) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 07:37:32

Well said! It is time for Council to stand up for the right thing and show some vision. Let's use our tax dollars to make our city a more livable place, not a place that is easier to drive out of.

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By TrafficCongestion (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:19:53

The traffic congestion has been cured from the streets it was designed to help. The mountain accesses and the major east west roads on the Mountain have seen a significant reduction in traffic and massive improvements in safety particularly Highway 20. The traffic moved from those roads to the Linc and RHCE as it was designed to go. Now the City has grown and the road, which should have been 6 lanes to start with but for which the city had to fight tooth and nail for survival, needs expansion. That is all.

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By FFS (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 08:41:04 in reply to Comment 114763

That's adorable, the highway cured the traffic congestion so well we need to widen it to cure the traffic congestion!

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By yep (anonymous) | Posted November 11, 2015 at 07:57:11 in reply to Comment 114768

Exactly. It moved it out of neighborhoods.

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By Gridlogged (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2015 at 11:19:23

Where are we at on those 220,000 trees?

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