Thursday, December 9, 2010

All I Want From this Next Council…

Dear Guelph City Council,

I’ve been a very good citizen of the Royal City this year, and I would like to get a few items for next term. Before I begin though, my Mom says I should thank you for the things I got last term. The new roads and infrastructure was really nice, once we had them assembled, of course. The new City Hall is pretty swanky, but it’s almost too nice to play with. The improvements on the Provincial Court House were pretty cool, but I didn’t like that Hanlon Creek Business Park so much, but my parents say we need it so…

But seriously folks, there are some developments that I wouldn’t mind seeing coming out of council in the next four years (if not sooner). Primary among them is the transit hub.

Such a monumentous undertaking, converting an entire section of Carden Street into a one-stop shop for local and inter-city public transit, was the last item being funded by cash from Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill to be shovel-ready. Are we going to get an extension on that loan, or are we going to have to eat it, which, if I know the city of Guelph and its past actions, will mean transit cuts? The good news is, as of last Thursday, it appeared that no eating would be necessary.

And really, what’s the deal with Ward 1 Councillor Bob Bell wanting to take a minute and edited the plans. In case you missed the Mercury article he said that he wanted to cut the number of bus bays at the hub from 22 to 18, and that those four cut bays “could be accommodated along the Gordon/Norfolk streets corridor.” So it’s a transit hub where there’s an 18 per cent chance that the bus you really want is a couple of blocks and a five minute walk away.

While I appreciate the councillor’s due diligence, I am aghast. I thought the City couldn’t revisit a construction plan once the shovels were in the ground. At least, that seemed to be the argument when the Hanlon Creek Business Park started to get going. Sadly, as I walked from one store to the other last Wednesday in a vain effort to find bus tickets (because apparently stocking up suppliers on the first day of the month so that they don’t run out is too much to ask), I wondered if former Mayoral Candidate Ray Mitchell was right. “Transit is the fallback position to cut when money is needed as it primarily hurts the poor, and we know they don’t vote” said Mitchell in his Candidate Questionnaire for Guelph Politico. “Cutting bus services was probably the meanest thing this council did.”

I know I’ve been harping the transit issue a lot this year, but it really does seem like there’s a concerted effort out there to perpetuate the myth that freedom is a car that you yourself ride in alone and that buses and trains are for poor people and hippies. Parking for the transit hub has been a concern, but I ask, why does one have to drive their car to the bus station? Or the train station? Or at the very least, why is their no encouragement from the City to car pool? If everybody’s going to the same place anyway…

With Rob Ford in Toronto ending “The War on Cars” (Worst. Covered War. Ever.) I wonder how long it will take his thinking to trickle outward from the GTA. Roads are for cars! Bikes are for sissies! Street cars are stupid! If you can’t drive a car, at least have the decency to travel by way of a dark tunnel underground where car people don’t have to look at you! First of all, can we get Clarence Odbody to stop by Rob Ford’s house this Christmas before he turns Toronto into Potterville? And second, if the increasingly long drive to get anywhere hasn’t given you a clue, I’m out of ideas on how to get people to think of transit more positively, and not wrinkle their nose at the thought of taking a bus.

Anyway Council, there’s some milk and cookies in it for you if you figure out a way (not that that’s a bribe or anything). In the meantime, stay cool and good luck with the term ahead.

A random lunatic (with his own newspaper column)

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