Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Councillor Arlene Vanderbeek, you have failed Dundas

Dear Councillor Arlene Vanderbeek:

In your first test as Councillor for Ward 13, you failed.  You failed the people of Dundas.  Miserably.

In spite of some spirited lip service to the importance of public transit to the long-term interests of Hamilton, which includes Dundas, in voting to suspend the King Street bus lane, you have set back the cause by a decade or more.

We, as a city, are already lagging behind similar-sized communities in our transit infrastructure.  Ridership is increasing at exponential rates in centres such as Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo and St. Catharines.  And the progress that Ottawa has made - and continues to make - on light rail transit makes us look like an embarrassment by comparison.

You and your Council colleagues failed to recognize that the bus lane is a harbinger for larger transit issues, not least of which is light rail transit.   We are on trial in Hamilton, Councillor Vanderbeek.  There are people and entities watching and gauging a perception of the city's receptiveness to a viable transit system.  These are entities like the Province and Metrolinx, who have the resources to make Hamilton a livable city via enhanced public transit.  In the pursuit of parochial interests, you and your colleagues have failed the city as a whole.

And, make no mistake about it, you have failed Dundas.  Have you asked the people you purport to represent about why transit may not be a priority for them?  You needn't bother, because clearly you haven't, but I will tell you any way.  It is because the levels of service are presently inadequate, as they are in other "peripheral" parts of the city.  

What is going to make public transit work in Dundas?  The answer is simple; it needs to be viable city-wide and, critically, in the core.  Do you think people are taking transit just to get around Dundas?  Guess again - people have jobs, appointments, family and friends across the region.  It's an adage that was heard frequently throughout the 2014 municipal campaign - what's good for Hamilton is good for Dundas.    Good transit attracts ridership.  Ridership promotes expansion.  By crippling transit in the core, you have jeopardized the future of decent transit in your own ward.

Transit, more than ever, is becoming a quality of life issue.  We all breathe the same air.  In a city where air quality is a constant concern, viable public transit is the best option we have to curtail the amount of emissions coming out of the only option people have in the absence of decent transit - the private car.  We talk a good game about making our communities more livable and walkable.  But do we put our money where our mouths are?

You have not heard the last from me, or the growing numbers of those who are committed to the betterment of the whole city in part owing to our insistence on a transit system that is worthy of us.

Dundas deserves better.

Respectfully
Rich Gelder



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