(This blog entry has been updated)
Congratulations: on a smog day in March, you voted to reduce transit use by 550,000 rides a year.
In voting to raise transit fares by 40 cents over three years, you have betrayed this city's vision and goals.
You have betrayed the nine GRIDS directions, betrayed Vision 2020, betrayed your commitment to addressing climate change, betrayed your commitment to the one in five Hamiltonians who live in poverty, betrayed your commitment to improve our air quality, and betrayed your commitment to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child.
While cities around the world take slow, tentative steps toward sustainability, you have taken a bold stride in the opposite direction.
With the anti-idling bylaw adrift in a doldrum of subcommittees, you have amply demonstrated your priorities and values by moving forcefully against the city's most vulnerable people. Those priorities and values are not shared by the residents of this city who pay your salaries and entrust you to make sound decisions on their behalf.
While some of the city's most affluent residents contribute nothing toward transit, you have voted to saddle the poorest residents with more of the burden of supporting a public good that already disproportionately falls on the poor compared to other cities.
Transit is a public good. It benefits everyone, even people who don't use it, by reducing traffic congestion, reducing air pollution, and improving the city's competitiveness.
The first order of business for any councillor who claims to support transit is to eliminate area rating, in which different parts of the city pay different amounts toward transit (and some pay nothing at all). Hamilton is the only city that does this, and it's an absurd throwback to amalgamation that keeps our priorities divided.
Ending area rating would raise a lot more money than the fare hike and would open the city to plan its transit system based on what makes sense rather than on arbitrary political boundaries.
It's not too late to revisit this decision. Council still has the opportunity to do the right thing, honour its commitments, and make its decisions based on the city's shared values and goals.
Editor, Raise the Hammer
Update: I slightly reworded this letter and added three paragraphs at the end before sending it to council. -Ed.
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