Downtown Is For Living

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 30, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion Dept: The Hamilton Spectator published an op-ed today by your humble editor, titled "Downtown is for living, not driving". Here's an excerpt:

Gradually, some councillors and city departments adopted the idea that downtown isn't the same as the suburbs and that suburban solutions only make things worse.

Echoing Vision 2020, the city's growth strategy extols the value of dense, mixed neighbourhoods and livable streets at providing a high quality of life.

With Mayor Fred Eisenberger's election, many urbanists heaved sighs of relief. It finally looked as though a real urban agenda might be on the table.

Unfortunately, the encouraging language has not translated into a real conceptual shift. We accept urbanism in principle but are unwilling to apply it in practice.

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 Jon Dalton (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2007 at 15:38:55

Great piece!
Walking downtown yesterday I was able to take a shortcut by going from main and hess to king and bay on the diagonal (it's all parking lot) That's one of many parts of downtown that you can do that.

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By Connie (registered) | Posted March 30, 2007 at 16:33:28

Yes, fabulous article, Ryan. Very timely, and hit the nail right ion the head with the difference between suburban and urban living. I would love to see those parking lots filled with cool condo and street level retail/cafe/open market establishments.

Lower the transit fares ... hike the parking rates!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 30, 2007 at 17:10:35

...widen the sidewalks, plant trees, lay down streetcar track, plop benches and patios everywhere...

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2007 at 01:46:29

... that reminds me of the benches installed on the reworked Bay St... sitting alone between a parking lot and a one way street. I don't think they've seen a pair of cheeks since they were bolted down.

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By David (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 01:16:43

My hometown is across the river from Sarnia, but I can only imagine the good that would come to that town only 5% the size of Hamilton with the minds of this site working on the sustainability issues there - and believe me, any thought would be the first.

To the subject of your published article, Ryan, I woke up one morning with an odd thought of a city the size of Hamilton surrounded by a giant circular ring - a curb, with just one-deep radial parking lines in the outward direction, which is located on the inside of a 2-lane round-about, which connects to the streets beyond. I don't know the radius of Hamilton, but a 5 mile radius ring would hold roughly 8300 cars in that scenario. That would put the periphery buildings close to a parking spot around the ring, with rail trolleys cris-crossing within the ring to take people to the center. Maybe even a few city-owned small hybrid vehicles that individuals can rent with a debit card to get around on your own, but no personal vehicles allowed inside the ring, except for delivery trucks, which would be clocked on entrance and pay a fee for the time within.

A strange idea perhaps, but it seemed to align closely with your message - the ring is the demarcation between suburbia and urban. It might look impresive from the air as well.

It would seem that no city could be too large to revitalize with such a plan, but some cities may be too large to form the necessary collective conscience to do so.

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