Sunday, February 7, 2010

Theatres and LRT -- life goes on in Hamilton (not)

A couple of observations about life in The Hammer:

First, the demolition of the old Century Theatre on Mary Street is basically complete save for some minor dusting and such, after the roof caved in a couple of weeks ago.   What a pity.   This vaudeville era theatre later became a movie house -- probably the largest in Hamilton with over 2000 seats.   I remember seeing a few movies there, most notably A Passage to India, one of David Lean's best and right up there with his masterpiece Doctor Zhivago.   Well, with the consolidation of the cinema industry it and a few other theatres (including the Tivoli on James and the Avon on Ottawa) were left to rot.   Plans to renovate into condominiums just kept getting pushed back again and again.   The Odeon was abandoned for a number of years, and while it has recently been turned into the Lincoln Alexander Center (a concert hall) it's just not the same anymore.

I can't help think about Stratford, which during the 1970s and early 80s had a winter movie series at various venues across the city, including the Stratford Festival venues, that made it second only to Cannes in importance.    If Hamilton had kept its act together and bothered to spend a couple hundred thousand to restore the theatres, we could have had something that would have been as big as TIFF, the annual festival in Toronto.   Instead, once again we're a joke.

Second -- as Metrolinx gets ready to announce what form of transit Hamilton will get to upgrade the B-line buses (either bus rapid transit, or the city's preference for light rail) shopowners are already starting to complain that the proposed route will kill off businesses because of the relatively few places drivers will be able to U-turn to get to the venue of their choice.

I do think the routing from the Delta to Paradise should be along Main and not King -- or it could be made so that on the one way segments it could run on each.   But the idea that an LRT would be a business killer is not really borne by the evidence.    In fact, by freeing up buses to run on the feeder routes there would be more frequent service and more passengers, therefore more traffic to stores.     There are right and wrong ways to do this -- think of the contrast of the subways in Calgary and Edmonton, for example.

But whatever the choice, the line can't just end at McMaster in the west -- it has to go out to Dundas as present and even possibly Waterdown; and in the east there is a strong argument to extend the line from Eastgate to either the former Stoney Creek City Hall (presently a library and the Hamilton offices of the Mounties) or even Fifty Road in Winona.   I also believe there also has to be immediate movement on the A line from the harbour to the airport, and both need to be completed in time for the 2015 Toronto Pan-Am Games, since Hamilton will be hosting a number of the events (including soccer and cycling).    Things move at City Hall at a glacial pace -- compared to Peel or York Regions, where transitways are under construction; or in Ottawa where the existing dedicated express bus rights-of-way are always being extended due to popular demand and are well set up for light rail whenever that happens.

In the meantime, Hamilton gets the Presto card this fall -- the card that will eventually be used across this city and the GTA.   At least we're now finally in the early 1990s.   Twenty years late.   Like, London, Hong Kong and NYC have had that at least that long.   Dinosaurs we are -- or the government is, at least.

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1 comment:

Toe said...

I gotta tell you BF, I detest the bus routes. Not the service. I so much want more south/north service, everything is east/west. It gets complicated when you live near Gage and are forced to Ottawa St. just to go south, then coming back your dropped at King, a long walk up to Main when your carrying heavy bags.

Ptui, at least there is some movement now, as slow as it is.