Wednesday, the Urban_Empress and I boarded the #47 GO bus bound for downtown Hamilton, a city which many lump in with the supposedly-homogenous “905″. Shortly thereafter, another passenger boarded the same bus at Burlington Carpool Lot. But, they soon realized that they were travelling in the wrong direction. This individual got off at McMaster University for the return trip to York University, but it left us wondering what could be done to prevent this from happening. Countdown timers at stops could be helpful, but these did not stop a couple from boarding a late night bus to Brampton last week when they really wanted to go to Square One. We expect perfection from our transit agencies, but we must concede that there is a small group of people who will forget to tap their PRESTO cards, will board the wrong bus, or will miss the announcement of an upcoming service change.
After a connection at Hamilton GO Centre; the preserved 1933 Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway station and headquarters; we found ourselves at Mohawk College where I accepted an offer of admission to the Transportation Engineering Technology program. This program is one-of-a-kind in Canada, and will provide detailed design and technical skills to complement my professional planning experience. That said, this does not change my status as a professional urban planner eager to get my career started. While touring the campus, I saw streetlights on the Fennell Street frontage powered by solar panels and twisting wind turbines. Since large scale wind farms have become politically toxic, it made me wonder how many small-scale, barely-noticeable green energy sites could produce a comparable amount of electricity.
Leaving the campus and descending the mountain, we rode to the new MacNab Terminal which allowed the city to remove bus stops from Gore Park. The terminal stretches from King to Main and has colour-coded stops for each route with big lettering – a big improvement over the line of standard Hamilton Street Railway signpost around King and James. From the terminal, we walked to James Street and turned south towards the GO station. Passing the Pigott Building near James and Main, the Urban_Empress stopped to read the historical plaque and look at the stained glass in the vestibule. At that very moment, a gentleman who appeared to be a resident of the building approached us and gave us a short history of the structure.
Continuing south, we had lunch at Royal Pizza – a tradition passed down to me by a McMaster University graduate – then took a gaze at Hamilton’s Skyline before boarding a bus towards home. The Urban_Empress, who had never been to Hamilton proper before, remarked that she had always pictured the city to resemble Manchester during the industrial revolution. But, she was pleased to see that it was a functioning, vibrant city. I have always felt that Hamilton, especially downtown, has great potential. But, realizing this potential will hinge on two things: First, the city needs to give developers an incentive to build residential units downtown instead of in Toronto where making a profit is much easier Second, the city needs to realize that building a thriving, urban city where people live in downtown condominiums and take transit is not turning its back on its blue-collar roots. This also applies to Oshawa, another community where I feel that a blind dedication to the manufacturing “lifestyle” is proving to be a roadblock to becoming a great city.
Once our 407 bus arrived at Square One, we walked over to Mississauga’s City Hall for an open house showcasing the progress made on the Hurontario-Main LRT project. Designed to travel from downtown Brampton to Port Credit in reserved lanes and mixed traffic in narrow areas, this project is one of the few post-Metrolinx projects to be tied to a district master plan. I’ve always believed that this was a wise undertaking, but getting the timing right will be critical to its success. If we wait until after the Sheppard East LRT is complete, project supporters will have a relevant example to display to the public. However, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion has become a champion of progressive urban issues in recent years, partially because her 90% share of the vote means she need not pander to traditional suburban values. I worry that once she finally retires her replacement will be less willing to champion high-rises and light rail or cul-de-sacs and street widening.