Hamilton continues to experience unprecedented growth with a boom of local jobs and a bustling housing market. The good news: Hamilton grows while its carbon emissions decrease. The bad news: The downward trend does not include transportation. Emissions in this area continue to climb. Hamilton needs decisive action to get its transportation emissions under control – with public transit holding a key role.
To local residents, high transportation emissions may not come as a surprise. Our five-lane Main Street runs one-way through the heart of our downtown. The constant noise of traffic follows you wherever you go. The city’s most recent data shows that cars are the source of 76 per cent of transportation emissions. While the City’s low-carbon actions bear fruit in other areas, transportation-related emissions continue to grow year after year.
Unfortunately, over the past decades Hamilton failed to invest adequate municipal dollars into the operation of HSR public transit (Hamilton Street Railway). The transit woes continue: In 2015, Hamilton City Council approved a 10-year transit strategy. It focuses on essential short term actions to strengthen the bus-based system in the lead-up to the 2024 completion of the provincially-funded lower city east-west LRT line. But already in year three of the plan (2017), Council failed to honour the strategy’s funding commitment.
This is where Environment Hamilton comes in. We see improved and expanded public transit as a clear solution for a more sustainable, equitable, and healthy city. In addition to lower car emissions, expanded transit provides numerous social, economic, and environmental benefits to the City of Hamilton. At Environment Hamilton, we want to encourage modal shift to reduce transportation-related emissions – but our public transportation system must first be safe, accessible, affordable, and reliable.
For years, Environment Hamilton and other community groups have called for greater municipal investment in Hamilton’s public transit. When The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) announced its regional expansion in 2017, Environment Hamilton saw an exciting opportunity to build on the work of Move the GTHA, and create a diverse collective of stakeholders here in Hamilton. Our collective impact work, supported by a TAF grant, will leverage existing connections and expertise. Through a diversity of voices, we hope we can increase support for greater municipal investment in public transit. Currently, we’ve already engaged the Hamilton Social Planning & Research Council, McMaster Students Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107, and more.
One of the promising efforts already underway – in partnership with the Hamilton and District Labour Council – is the foundation of a local transit riders group named Hamilton Transit Riders Union. This democratic, non-partisan local transit riders group will provide an authentic voice for transit riders to come together through collective goals and values. Building capacity for community groups will help strengthen the diverse perspectives needed to advocate for improved and expanded transit.
The timing for collective impact work on improved public transit in Hamilton couldn’t be better. Our city is at a crossroads: we will either get it right with a modern, reliable transit network to support the current urban redevelopment and intensification efforts, or we will become even more mired in traffic congestion.
Do you live in Hamilton? Contact Ian Borsuk at email@example.com to learn more and get involved.
Ian Borsuk is the Climate Campaign Coordinator at Environment Hamilton.
Photo source: Ontario Growth Secretariat, Ministry of Municipal Affairs