If Hamilton councillors go ahead with a citizen panel on public transit it behooves them to make sure the panel has good unbiased information. There will be no shortage of LRT advocates making their case; we’ve seen them in the last go-round which resulted in $9 Milllion in public money being spent to promote both LRT and the B-Line route to the exclusion of every other possibility. Most of this happened without the broad public being consulted beyond a group of urbanists with fixed ideas. Hopefully the views of people like Yonah Freemark can be heard as well. A passionate Urbanist, Freemark who is  a project manager at the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago, nonetheless wrote, “…It doesn’t take much digging to find that over the past thirty years, these initial five(LRT) systems in themselves neither rescued the center cities of their respective regions nor resulted in higher transit use…”  Similarly Jarrett Walker, a Portland-based international consultant in public transit network design and policy, was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “The US has been under the influence of a very aggressive movement claiming essentially that the streetcar vehicle…has some sort of intrinsic properties that cause it to generate great communities regardless of whether it has any utility as transportation whatsoever.”  The point here is that if we are going to spend $800 million of taxpayer dollars we had better have all the facts.

John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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