Imagine you’re a Redeemer University student and you miss your evening bus.
It’s -9 C, like it was on Tuesday. You run as fast as you can, lugging a heavy backpack, but get to the bus stop five minutes late.
You have to wait — outdoors — for another 55 minutes for the next bus. And that's if it was before 9 p.m. If it wasn't, you've missed your chance altogether.
This situation brought about 20 Redeemer students and a citizen group to a city hall budget meeting on Tuesday to argue for improved access to the 44 Rymal bus line.
HSR has suggested $2.6 million in transit improvements for 2014, the equivalent of about $8 per household in taxes. The changes include evening service every 30 minutes and weekend service of every 30 minutes to the 44 Rymal ilne.
Currently, there is no service on the Rymal/Garner line on weekends, or on weekday evenings past 9 p.m. And the evening buses at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. only run once an hour.
Garnering Support, a citizen group advocating for improvements to 44 Rymal, made a presentation. Justin Eisinga, a Redeemer student, heads up the group, which has gathered a petition of more than 700 names.
The university itself also made a presentation in favour of the expansion, as did Matt Thompson from the Beasley Neighbourhood Association.
The presentations were among the 18 given during the general issues committee meeting where the public made submissions on the 2014 budget.
Improving 44 Rymal benefits a wide range of people, Eisinga said. The line runs from Eastgate Square to the Ancaster Business Park, which impacts 48 per cent of Hamilton’s population, he said.
Don McLean, a local environmentalist, also spoke in favour of transit improvements. Trimming transit is being “penny wise and pound foolish," he said.
Council is busy sharpening its pencils when the future impacts of climate change will “make mincemeat of your budget," he said.
“Just because we’ve had some very nasty winter weather that reminds us of what we used to have 20 years ago doesn’t mean it’s going away.”
Transit service every 60 minutes, McLean added, is “not really transit service in an urban area.”
Councillors will continue to debate the budget, which is typically passed in April.
Other highlights from the meeting:
Implement the lobbyist registry already
Councillors discussed setting up a lobbyist registry for seven years. A registry means the public would be able to see who is lobbying councillors, and for what.
The now-disbanded accountability and transparency subcommittee finally nailed down a draft plan in the fall. Now it’s up to the city to approve it in the 2014 budget.
It’s time to pass it, said David Arbuckle, a citizen member of the accountability and transparency subcommittee.
“It’s certainly not the Rolls Royce of registry models, but I’m sure it would serve council very well."
The registry will cost the city $114,000 to $127,000 per year. An internet-based registry would involve a one-time cost of $50,000 to $100,000.
If council waited until next term, “to be quite honest, I would be disappointed,” Arbuckle said.
Deterring business with higher fees
Last year, the city hiked the fee for a rezoning application by 70 per cent — from $5,930 to $10,275. The city should retract that, said Arend Kersten, executive director of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce.
The hike deters businesses that want to set up or expand, he said. And while Hamilton is on the cusp of “something special,” the hike sends the wrong message to potential investors, he said.
“To confirm that Hamilton is indeed open for business, we recommend — with the utmost respect — that you revisit the matter of rezoning application fees,” he said.