Going Bold On Walking, Cycling & Public Transit In Burlington, Ontario

News from Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), a citizens watchdog group in Hamilton, Ontario

Posted November 22nd, 2016 on Niagara At Large CATCH News – November 21, 2016

(A Brief Foreword Note from NAL publisher Doug DraperNiagara At Large is postng this piece, first and foremost, to show some of the progressive moves some of Niagara’s  neighbouring regions in the Golden Horsehoe are making when it come to shifting to healthier, less car-dependent communities while Niagara’s regional chair and his cronies waste more time and tax money on consultants tinkering around the edges of delivering a full-fledged regional transit system for Niagara.

This post is also a reminder of the important role citizen watchdog groups like CATCH can play in local democracy and decision-making when mainstream news resources are all but picked to the bone for covering what our local municipal councils are up to.)

Nearby Burlington, Ontario with the City of Hamilton in the background

Nearby Burlington, Ontario with the City of Hamilton in the background

Over 450 people came out last week for a two-hour public session with the mayor of Burlington, key staff and two world-renowned urban experts who are bluntly advocating a dramatic shift in the lakeside city toward walking, cycling and transit. They rejected road widening as a proven failure, and emphasized municipal transportation visions are useless if they aren’t backed up by major spending to implement them.

One of the experts hired by Burlington is Brent Toderian, a Hamilton native who has led Vancouver’s urban transformation and advised on similar initiatives in two dozen cities around the world. The other is Portland transit planner Jarrett Walker, the author of Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives, who and has designed transportation changes in Moscow, Edmonton, Auckland, Toronto, and numerous US cities.

Mayor Rick Goldring opened the “Inspire Burlington” consultation by reminding the audience that Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton are expected to add three million more people by 2041, with Halton nearly doubling is population in that period. He also pointed to Burlington’s commitment to preserve all its rural lands as part of the Greenbelt, and the provincial government’s investments in transit with over 200 projects underway including all-day 15-minute GO Train service to his city.

He said dependence on autos is a hangover from a time when both land and oil were cheap but that “neither is true anymore” and Burlington must now grow up rather than out. That will require major changes in a suburban city where 90 percent of trips are currently by car, and transit investment per capita is one of the lowest in Ontario.

The session in the great hall of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre was part of engaging and preparing residents for those changes, and was Toderian’s third visit to the city. He set the context by recalling the extreme storm two years ago that flooded over 3000 Burlington homes, but said public health objectives as well as climate change “are forcing cities to plan for built-in exercise” and was the reason he was hired by the Australian Heart Foundation.

Toderian was blunt about the options to transit and cycling: “Building bigger roads actually makes traffic worse. We know that when we build more roads they fill up” and adding car lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.

“The concept is called the law of induced demand,” he declared. “When you build more roads, people will drive more. And it’s proven – study after study, meta-study after meta-study, has shown this to occur.”

Toderian also stressed designing the higher density Burlington for walkability and cycling as well as major improvements in transit. He recommended the “trick-or-treat” test for both commercial and new residential that “is all about how easy it is for kids to ring your door bell” and argued against faceless highrises and blank walls.

“I often say the most important policy idea we have in Vancouver is no blank walls. It’s the most important for architecture; it’s the most important for walkability”.

Keeping the same focus, pointedly he asked “how much of the traffic in the morning is taken up by all of you driving your kids to school and ironically making it an unsafe place for kids to walk and bike to school?”

Toderian supported the controversial New Street bike lanes but warned that they won’t attract many cyclists until a minimum connected network of cycling routes is in place. But he dismissed worries about “carmegeddon” and predicted the street will be safer and have fewer accidents.

Jarrett Walker provided a detailed review of the benefits and challenges of transit, including urging attention on the objectives and not which “shiny technology” to utilize that he lamented seemed to be the main point of discussion in many cities.

“An important feature of cars is that the more people drive cars the worse they work whereas the more people use transit the better it works,” he argued. “So transit has a positive feedback effect as opposed to the negative feedback of cars leading to more congestion.”

Both speakers stressed that visioning and fine plans are useless if they aren’t implemented – an apparent response to the reluctance of some Burlington councillors to embrace Goldring’s “Grow Bold” mantra. Toderian said Burlington has “a pretty good vision on transit” but “the problem is you didn’t do it” and he warned that change is difficult.

“Follow through is the problem and you’re not alone, you’re not unique, that’s the most common problem in Canadian cities,” he concluded. “The true measure of a city’s aspirations isn’t found in its vision, it’s found in its budget.”

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to http://hamiltoncatch.org/newsletter/?p=subscribe. Sharing links are available on the hamiltoncatch.org.You can unsubscribe at http://hamiltoncatch.org/newsletter/?p=unsubscribe

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders




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