Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CATCH the bus story

The following from Citizens at City Hall (CATCH)

Transit fare hikes reduced
There will be no increase in the seniors annual bus pass or for DARTS riders, and the regular adult ticket will only rise by 5 cents as a result of a last minute budget decision this morning. The senior’s pass was set to rise by $40 a year, and ticket prices to climb by 10 cents a ride.
The motion moved by Brian McHattie and seconded by Sam Merulla noted that plans to subsidize low income riders “will not realistically be in place until late 2007 / early 2008”.
Cash fares will still rise by 15 cents a ride, and that combined with the 5 cent ticket increase is expected to add $650,000 to the HSR budget as opposed to the $1.1 million expected from the full increases. The shortfall is being made up with $290,000 from taxes and $160,000 from the provincial gas tax monies.
The tax effect will only be felt in the former city of Hamilton whose residents pay 90% of transit taxes under an area rating system that is a hangover from the pre-amalgamation period, and see’s Ancaster residents paying less than one-fifth the transit tax rate as those who live in former Hamilton.
Nevertheless, four suburban councillors voted against the motion – Lloyd Ferguson, Margaret McCarthy, Brad Clark and Maria Pearson.
Voting in favour of the fare reduction were Mayor Eisenberger, Bob Bratina, Chad Collins, Scott Duvall, Tom Jackson, Bernie Morelli, Rob Pasuta, Russ Powers, McHattie and Merulla.
Two councillors – Terry Whitehead and Dave Mitchell – missed the 11-minute meeting that gave final approval to the budget and consequently didn’t get to vote on the fare hike issue.

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 www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to info@HamiltonCATCH.org.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cootes Drive in the News

The Dundas Star News is reporting that Ward One councillor Brian McHattie is pushing for a speed reduction on Cootes to a maximum 40 km/h in the vicinity of the busy pedestrian/cyclist crossing.

A good first step, acknowledging the danger of speeding vehicles to pedestrians. TLC's position, through our part of the McMaster Pedestrian Safety Committee organized by McHattie, is that speed reduction will only be effectively accomplished through redesign of the roadway, AKA "traffic calming," i.e lane narrowing or lane reduction, and eliminating the on-ramp from Main West in favour of a right turn lane.

TLC will continue to advocate for infrastructure changes that enhance the safety and security of pedestrians and cyclists.

The Dundas Star article is at http://www.dundasstarnews.com/dsn/news/news_769045.html and copied at the Restore Cootes "Media" page

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Show Off

TLC needs a new display to use at public events, especially since we've been invited to attend one on the theme of environment and health at the North Hamilton Community Health Centre

North Hamilton CHC is organizing our annual Community Health Day and this year our theme is "How the Environment Affects Your Health". As part of the days activities, we are hosting a showing of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and having a community health resource fair - as relates to the environment. We were wondering if Transportation for Liveable Communities has any information to share or would like to set up a small display (we have limited space) about transportation and its link to health (encourages physical activity, protection of natural environment, etc.)

The date of our event is Wednesday, April 25, 2007 from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m.

If you have a flair for layout, design, propaganda, drop by the OPIRG office all day Thursday (April 19) and lend a hand to create a TLC display board (portable, suitable for transport by bike or transit, of course)

Contact randy (at) opirg (dot) ca if you can help with text, images, ideas, cut and paste, etc.

Also, if you are available the day of the event to staff a table/display - please speak up now!


Thursday, April 12, 2007

road diets for hamilton?

A road diet for the city to cut the traffic

hs1608807 2007-04-12-1
An intrepid cyclist takes the bridge on Valley Inn Road, a small road which may be closed to cars.
Hamilton Spectator File Photo
(Apr 12, 2007)
A man from Hamilton's traffic department is poised at a flip chart, marker in hand. He's frozen, not moving.
David Cohen, a member of the audience at the public meeting, is waiting for his comment to be added to the list on the chart paper.
The man at the chart refuses to move, his Sharpie wilfully restrained from touching the page. He will not, indeed appears incapable of, writing the words on paper.
The words he won't write?
"Hamilton needs more traffic congestion."
Recalling this event, Cohen infuses it with meaning, a metaphor for institutional resistance, resistance frozen in time.
"Since the 1950s, we've created conditions for automobile travel at the expense of other ways of getting around. Congestion was the issue then and is still the issue; so, are we going to do something to make it more convenient to use cars?" he asks rhetorically.
"If history has any meaning, we will only crowd up those streets and expressways with more cars."
In other words, catering to cars hasn't paid off, unless you consider the payoffs to be air pollution, traffic-related deaths and injury (more than 800 fatalities a year in Ontario) and frequently clogged major highways due to "accidents" and traffic volume. Most wouldn't.
To shift the emphasis to other modes of transportation, Cohen advocates creating conditions "more conducive to transit and less conducive to cars."
The way to escape congestion is, counter-intuitively, to take space from automobile traffic and give it to other uses: transit lanes, roadside parking, wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes. Call it a road diet.
Hamilton has a disproportionately high amount of arterial roads and expressways compared to other Ontario cities. We weigh in at second highest with 7.1 "lane metres" per capita. Toronto has 3. So a diet seems in order.
Taking a Robin Hood approach to existing roads, i.e. stealing lanes from cars to give to other modes, would serve to calm traffic (making things slower, thereby safer) while creating the kind of infrastructure needed for intrepid cyclists and transit users to get ahead.
But what about the displaced automobile traffic? Cohen's assertion is that congestion, accompanied by beefed up alternatives, is precisely the thing required to move drivers toward sustainable alternatives. He figures people would think twice before hopping in the car when transit or bikes are moving faster.
Further support for road diets comes from a major British study published in the New Scientist, based on 60 cases worldwide where a road's carrying capacity was reduced. As recounted by the late urban-issues writer Jane Jacobs:
"When a road is closed, an average of 20 per cent of the traffic it carried seems to vanish. In some cases they studied, as much as 60 per cent of the traffic vanished. Most of the cases involved urban areas ... The report at hand is a logical extension to a 1994 finding that building new roads generates traffic."
Cohen uses Hamilton's Main Street as an example of a road whose only purpose is moving cars, a "traffic sewer" that displaces other modes of travel and opportunities for businesses to develop.
"Main Street between Dundurn and Queen should be busy with pedestrians and business but it just moves cars and trucks," he laments. "Cars and trucks are zooming along a curb; it's not only unnerving but it is completely wrong if you want street life, amenity and business. There's a huge potential to redevelop along these arteries. Bike lanes could be part of that."
Not far away, Ward 1 sports a nice example with recent work on King Street West just west of Longwood.
Adding an island pedestrian refuge, plus bicycle lanes on both sides of the street means a formerly four-lane road is now two lanes. It's a safer crossing point for primary school kids and cyclists finally have some room of their own.
It costs about $700,000 to repave one kilometre of four-lane road. That's almost the price needed to prevent a damaging fare increase from torpedoing the HSR. Yet all we hear is how fares should go up to cover the costs of transit, while roads drag their bloated bottom line under the radar of public outrage.
Another way to save money on roads is to close them to auto traffic. Closing a small road like Valley Inn Road to cars, (which is in the works), will have a positive effect on the natural integrity of the area at the mouth of Grindstone Creek. We should be looking for more opportunities to scale back roads in order to create islands of restored nature, neighbourhoods and business areas.
By following a path that downsizes roads, we can make room for other users, save money on roads that could be spent on transit or an alt-trans staff position, while ensuring we have more access to clean, quiet, safe areas to explore in the city. Road diets could help get the city in shape for the tough climate-change years ahead. And with more opportunities for active modes like cycling and walking, a trimmer population as a happy byproduct.
Randy Kay lives in Dundas and writes occasionally on issues involving alternative and sustainable transportation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

'Cyclists ticked' over budget cut

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Cycling advocates are refusing to meet to advise Hamilton until a city co-ordinator is hired and council restores its annual funding of $300,000 for bike projects.
Hamilton Spectator File Photo
(Apr 10, 2007)
The decades-old volunteer Hamilton Cycling Committee is suspending its monthly meetings to protest the axing of the city's annual cycling budget.
The group advises city hall on cycling projects and says the cut reveals a lack of effort in combating auto dependence and pollution as urged in city documents like the new Transportation Master Plan.
In budget talks, councillors voted last month not to spend the usual $300,000 on cycling projects in 2007. Advocates call it a wrong turn if Hamilton ever wants to become a bike-friendly city.
"If they are willing to drop this $300,000, what kind of commitment does the city have to cycling?" committee chair Daryl Bender said. "These kinds of hiccups are very frustrating."
Adds Randy Kay, of Transportation for Livable Communities: "They dropped it for the second time, the other being 2003, the year of the world cycling championships, ironically.
"Cyclists are ticked they are getting dropped off the budget. It's not a lot of money, and it gives a big bang for your buck," Kay said.
The $300,000 cycling budget, which pays for things like bike trails and paths, has been accumulating, going unspent due to capital project delays. Councillor Brian McHattie says about $650,000 collected is already earmarked for approved projects -- but is caught in a backlog.
Advocates say the lack of a dedicated cycling staffer at City Hall is causing the backlog. Others say a new hire is not in the cards.
"Could we spend it faster if we hired a co-ordinator? Sure we could," said Councillor Terry Whitehead, adding it's not the time to expand staff when social service cuts may be a trade-off.
Kay said bike projects are typically overseen part-time by junior traffic department staff, with turnover so high basic information isn't updated online and questions go unanswered.
Councillor Sam Merulla, who supported the cut, said it's wrong to ask for $300,000 more from taxpayers if it won't be spent in 2007 due to the backlog.
"Nobody is anti-cycling. I know there's a spin going out there right now," Merulla said.
Bender said the cycling committee is calling off its meetings because with no new money allotted in 2007, there's nothing to advise the city on regarding future cycling projects. The committee won't meet again until council hires a full-time cycling staff person, and restores the $300,000 in funding.
Still, Bender and Kay are optimistic about local cycling, thanks to recent victories like bike racks on HSR buses. But they too see challenges.
"It's a chicken and egg: we are not spending the money because we don't have the staff to do the projects, and if we don't change that, (the projects) are not going to happen," McHattie said.
rfaulkner@thespec.com 905-526-2468
Transportation Master Plan guiding philosophy
* Old Thinking
"Walking and cycling are only viable modes for a select group of people, and only for part of the year."
* New Thinking
"Walking and cycling accounts for 11 per cent of all morning rush hour trips. The fact that 50 per cent of all rush hour trips are less than 5 kilometres suggests there is potential to increase walking and cycling activity with spinoff environmental and health benefits."
Projects the Hamilton Cycling Committee helped get done.
* Multi-use trail on the Beach Strip
* Bike lanes along Sterling Street, Markland Street
* Two-way bike lanes over the 403 on King Street West
* East-west bike corridor on Stone Church Road
* Ongoing installation of bike routes, paths and paved shoulders along North Service Road (Grays Road to Niagara region)
* Bike racks on HSR buses, expected this year
From the city's proposed cycling enhancements:
* 66 kms of new on-street bike lanes
* 143 kms of new multi-use paths
* 60 kms of new shoulder bike lanes
* Incline railway
* Trail improvements
* And one goal is to increase the share of local trips made by bike, from current 6 per cent to 15 per cent by 2030.
"This is a modest target and one that can easily be exceeded if continued enhancements to cycling infrastructure are made," the Hamilton Transportation Master Plan states.

City Cycling Committee Calls it Quits: protest lack of action

Hamilton Cycling advocates react to lack of action on cycling and the cancelled $300,000 budget line for cycling in 2007 by "suspending operations"- the story, including quotes from TLC, in the local daily on line here