Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why is it a war?

Well, it's approved.

Committees, lawsuits, submarine motions and council votes. Letters to the editor, blog posts, newsletters, emails to reps, calls to action. Misinformation, disinformation, feet in mouths and FUD. Meetings, phone calls, rumours and mysteries.

Done. For now, at least.

All of this is about establishing the foundation for a better transit system, the basis for moving around the region for the next half a century. That's all. Seems like so much struggle for such a comparatively simple thing. Why is it such a fight? How are we so conflicted about this?

With everything happening around us, how can we look each other in the eye and say "no, we don't want to react to change"? How do we consistently get stuck on this simple topic of how to move people around and make a war out of it, while we give a free pass to all the other monumental costs that come with civilized society?

What makes us so mad about transit?

We need to work this one out. Today we've cleared the hurdle, but it was a close run thing. We face many of the same hurdles to come.

How can we keep making progress on this track if we are at war with ourselves?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Transit for Cambridge: everyone's on board, almost.

Councillor Jane Mitchell recently laid out why Cambridge is where it is when it comes to transit, and why Mayor Craig's motion to area-rate Cambridge out of paying for LRT (rationalized as Cambridge isn't "getting anything out of it") displays an astonishingly selective memory on his part.

As Mitchell points out, Cambridge's transit has been pulled up by its metaphorical bootstraps since the region took it over. Before then, according to Cambridge regional councillor Brewer, it was raided for funds whenever things were tight. Since the formation of GRT as a regional transit entity, Cambridge has seen a huge service increase (more than doubled) while ridership in Cambridge has more than tripled.

It seems like Cambridge residents are interested in transit. It seems like the region is interested in bringing transit to the residents of Cambridge. But is Cambridge's own leadership interested?

Read Councillor Mitchell's post.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reading for comprehension

First off, I Am Not a Lawyer. I do, however, practice reading for comprehension.

For those of you wondering about a certain Waterloo businessman's threat of legal challenge against LRT, based on the claim that it violates the region's current official plan, I offer you this:

11.2.3 The Regional Municipality of Waterloo, in conjunction with Area Municipalities as appropriate, will promote increased transit ridership, walking and cycling and reduce the need to make trips by automobile through such means as:

a) the provision of rapid transit service within the Central Transit Corridor with linkages to other transit corridors and nodes;


That's from "Amendment No. 26 - Introduction of New Transit and Rapid Transit Policies and Mapping" to the Regional Official Policies Plan. This is the plan in effect right now, as the new regional official plan (which also provides for rapid transit) is in legal limbo due to the appeal of an OMB challenge. The amendment was approved and adopted in 2007.

The claim against the region is that this rapid transit project violates Section 24 of the Ontario Planning Act which basically says all public works must conform with the official plan. The claim seems built on the fact that the new 2009 plan provides for rapid transit but it's not in effect, along with an impression that the old plan does not provide for rapid transit.

So what's the deal? Is there something else up this person's sleeve? Hard to rule out the possibility that sufficiently motivated lawyers may dredge up some loophole, but at the same time it beggars belief that a public project could be so easily tied up by a single disgruntled citizen with lawyers in tow. Especially a public project like this, more than a decade in the making.

What's worse, this person can still attempt to pursue this case, and our tax money will be spent defending it.

Well, the regional government is acting like there's nothing to be concerned about. I hope they're right. We've waited too long for this.

Edit: this CBC article includes a legal letter that states,

"The ROPPA 26 rapid transit policies currently in effect contemplates a further official plan amendment. Accordingly, entering into a contract which commits the Region to the construction and operation of the LRT does not conform to the existing policy framework."
So they're claiming that this part of the plan can't be pursued without the contemplated amendments, and the new plan is not in effect. I took a look. Amendment 26 says:
"This amendment will be implemented through the future approval of further amendments to this plan, amendments to the affected area municipal official plans and the approvals process for development applications in areas where application of the new and/or revised policies is appropriate.(emphasis mine)
Does that mean we need more amendments before rapid transit is enshrined in the official plan? The lawyers writing that letter seem to think so. But arguments about Oxford Commas aside, there's a lot of wiggle room in the bolded text above.

I'm sure lawyers will be getting a workout.

Edit again: Waterloo Chronicle has a statement from Chair Seiling regarding the region's opinion.