Saturday, March 01, 2008

transit wheels turning

In the words of Willie P. Bennett (R.I.P.)

Come on train
Can't you see I'm freezing here
Come on train

CATCH News – February 29, 2008

Transit revolution coming from province

Transportation decisions appear to be shifting away from city council to the province. And that will mean more transit, cycling and walking opportunities according to the head of the new transportation authority overseeing the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA).

Former mayor of Burlington Rob MacIsaac told this week’s air and climate change conference in Hamilton that major change is required and underway in moving people and goods. MacIsaac now heads Metrolinx, the renamed Greater Toronto Transportation Authority that recently directed $5.5 million to the HSR for more rapid transit in Hamilton.

“We are among the top five most congested city regions on the continent, and it’s getting worse every day,” MacIsaac warned attendees at the city’s Upwind Downwind Conference. “We are on a trajectory that will see us with Los Angeles style congestion in a relatively short period of time, and the worst in North America.”

The current congestion is already costing the GTHA economy an estimated $2 billion a year, as well as imposing unacceptable air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and stress, he said, suggesting that “land use planning got off the rails” by segregating residences from workplaces to protect people from the pollution of heavy industry.

“The suburbanization by cities has meant that walking and cycling and public transit are a lot less viable as forms of transportation because trips have become longer and they have become more complicated,” MacIsaac argued. “So ironically, what started off as dramatically improving public health, is now having precisely the opposite effect as rates of obesity and diabetes has trended dramatically upward.”

With a 50 percent population increase expected over the next quarter century, and a possible half million more cars accompanying this growth, the province has concluded that transportation planning can’t be left to cities or regional governments.

“We are now one big regional economy from Durham in the east to Hamilton in the west and York in the north,” notes MacIsaac. “Transportation investments being made in the United States are far and away superior to ours.”

He also pointed to Europe which is “light years ahead”, and specifically Madrid which has built more subways in the last decade than Toronto’s entire system. He went on to outline a future transportation system in the Toronto and Hamilton area tied to provincial land use rules, and directed by Metrolinx and including formal Metrolinx jurisdiction over GO Transit.

“When I travel to the Aldershot GO Station in the morning, I should be able to ride my bike there in protected lanes,” he envisioned. “I should have preferred and secure parking for my bike. I should be able to drop off my dry cleaning. A day care might make a lot of sense at a GO station.”

The Metrolinx board has been in place for less than a year and includes Mayor Eisenberger as Hamilton’s representative. It is currently seeking public comments on discussion papers – MacIsaac described seven of them to the conference attendees – which will be followed by “white papers” and then a set of major recommendations to the McGuinty government in June.

Their plans are moving away from road construction and towards more transit and other forms of “active transportation”. MacIsaac predicted the moves will be “difficult and controversial” and asked his audience to lobby councillors and other elected officials to support the changes.

“We need to develop a new transportation system using the principles of sustainability and mobility for those that will follow us,” he declared. “I need you to tell your councillor, your mayor and your MPP, and your MP how important that you think it is. I’m convinced that are few endeavours that we can undertake more worthwhile than changing the paradigm in transportation for our cities.”

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 You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to

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