Monday, July 16, 2012

When WalMart meets GO Transit

A little while back I wrote about how there are dozens of bridges in the Hamilton megacity (read:   consolidated city-county), most of them in a horrible state of disrepair; and how with many of them no one seems to know who actually owns them.    Well, there is one that we definitely do know about now, and the cost is going to be much bigger than anyone could have dreamed just weeks ago.   (Source:   View Magazine) The bridge in question is a structure that is many decades old and carries the CN right of way between two very modern big box outlets -- Walmart and Home Depot.

The problem is that when GO Transit announced the extension of train service down to Saint Catherines, the idea was that one of the new stations for the Hamilton area would be at Queen Elizabeth and Fifty Road.    Certainly makes more sense; there's plenty of room to put in commuter parking as well as a local public transit hub, as well as to put in a much needed grade separation for Fifty -- one of the few rural railway crossings in the city where it's illegal for a train to sound the whistle.    And for what it's worth, that's what the city actually would prefer too.

Instead it now looks like Metrolinx, the regional public transit coordinating body, wants the station to be at Centennial.    Not only does this mean widening the bridge that has to be replaced (and which is owned by the city, as I've noted before) and widened from two lines to four, it also means trying to figure out where to put all the commuter parking.    Unless the landlords where the new Walmart is wants to give up the ancillary shops planned to be built and make it just one huge parking lot over what used to be a somewhat notorious but still profitable metal scrap yard, and unless Home Depot wants to give over some of its "parkage" the only other option will be to build a flyover pedestrian overpass (and one presumes one that is enclosed like some other setups on the GO network) from Confederation Park, over the QEW, and on the station.

This by itself would also be sheer madness.   Especially during the summer, when tons of families and tourists use the wave pool at the Park.    The campground may now be mothballed but there is no room for all those cars there either at any time of year.

Forget that Hamilton already has four Walmarts (and hypermarkets -- i.e. combo supermarkets and department stores-- at that) with one more currently under construction and one more yet to come.  All big boxes, but none anchoring a traditional shopping centre and all with parking issues of their own.

Forget that Hamilton had to scramble to find the money to make the Centennial bus route -- formerly a summer only, weekend only, express -- to all days all operating hours run connecting a regional mall to the lakefront parks.   With the old anchor store made redundant by the new mega store up the street, the bus definitely had to be made one year round which it should have been all along, except this is costing us taxpayers at least $150,000 per year with nothing from Walmart to even partially subsidize the route.

And forget that because the lanes on Centennial under the bridge are so narrow, and so many pedestrians are walking from their apartments to the new "wonderland" that one lane had to be blocked off northbound to make a makeshift "sidewalk" until the new bridge is built -- somehow there never was any foresight to put sidewalks in seventy or eighty years ago.   Gridlock galore.

Oh and did I mention, that particular bridge is flood central, just like the Kenilworth Avenue disaster which floods out next to Canadian Tire during any rainstorm?   Imagine the chaos on the side streets when Walmart opens on the other side of the "new" Centre Mall in the hut where Crappy Tire used to be -- and the skies also open up?    Especially when a train goes by and the gates go down on the level crossing at Ottawa Street, next to the Arcelor Mittal (formerly Dofasco) compound, and during a shift change?    Or down the way, with detours to Fruitland and Fifty (the latter just a two lane road)?   The residents along Fruitland and the peach and grape farmers along Fifty will be pissed.

Oh, the sixth Walmart, you ask?   The one which site hasn't even been serviced yet, the first step before construction?   It's actually the one at Fifty Road, the one that should have been built first -- with the actually sensible transit hub.    And making the rural road a four lane (and preferably divided) street as well.  Actually putting the horse in front of the cart.    Like a normal city and a normal corporation and a normal public transit authority would.    But nothing is ever normal in Hamilton thanks to the fuckheads at City Hall -- both on council and on staff.   Or with the auto fellators in Toronto that Pointy Head appoints to oversee these kinds of things.

My my my, isn't progress sweet?   I'm somewhat scatterbrained, I'll confess that up front.   But even Gracie Allen would have had way more common sense (and she really was way smarter than her fans ever knew) than the idiotic brain trust that came up with this Cerberus scenario.

Put the train station where it should be, at Fifty, at the expense of Metrolinx.   The railway company should rebuild the bridges and / or put in new grade separations, at their expense (it's primarily a freight line; with VIA, GO and Amtrak leasing it from them anyway).   And the underpasses and pedestrian accesses should be flood proofed, and roads and sidewalks built to handle the increased capacity required -- at the city's expense.

Now, that wasn't so hard.

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