Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Henry Morgentaler dead

Love him or hate him, you can't deny Henry Morgentaler -- who died today age 90 -- changed the way we Canadians thought about the rights of women.

Isn't it time Parliament was like this EVERY day?

How refreshing it was to see a real Question Period in the House of Commons yesterday.   No histrionics.   No shouting.   No talking points that totally ducked the issue asked about.   No "impromptu" and grandstanding standing ovations.   Instead, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau asked short, straight and specific questions about Senator Mike Duffy and the $90,000 payoff from Stephen Harper's former chief of staff -- and there were straight answers.   25 in all over 60 minutes.

If the House of Commons was like this every day, like it was, say 25 years ago -- a lot would get done, and people would actually start having faith in our national legislators again.

Don't we wish, though.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Does Hamilton really need LRT?

I often don't change my mind on a lot of issues unless I can be convinced.    But this is one of them:   LRT is a stupid idea for the City of Hamilton.    We would be much better off with BRT - Bus Rapid Transit.

Metrolinx has said, along with the revenue proposals it put forward today, that Hamilton is definitely in the running for the first wave of rapid transit expansion across South Central Ontario.    But the cost is now up to $800 million and that is just for ONE line.   Remember this is back to the future syndrome -- we got rid of streetcars in 1951 and buried the tracks until the mid 1990s when King and Main Streets were rebuilt and the tracks finally excavated, despite repeated denials the tracks were there.    And it's hard to believe that a streetcar will get people out of their cars.   Except for a few sections, this will not exactly have its own right of way.   Priority at traffic signals, yes.   But nothing like the Spadina and St Clair streetcars in Toronto.

Far better would be dedicated bus lanes, especially during rush hour.   This could eventually lead to BRT, the kind that exists in places like York Region, Ottawa and along two of the rapid transit lines in Los Angeles (which uses a combination of BRT, LRT and subways).    A dedicated right of way is much easier to manage with buses because if a train stops there are no ways to divert around it causing huge backups (think the Queen St streetcars in Toronto, for instance).    Moreover, one can get much better service frequency.    Some BRT systems can run every two to three minutes if need be, and if on a dedicated lane with speeds of up to 80 km/h as opposed to other vehicles going at 50, that will REALLY get people on board.

A BRT system can be set up here for less than half the cost.    We're already gearing up to get the B-Line express buses which runs east-west up to a three minute frequency from the current 10 to 20.

We already have a white elephant in Hamilton.   Several.   The airport, Copps Coliseum and the Marine Discovery Museum.   This would be the most expensive one of all if it's trains.   Roll out the buses, please.