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Follow bus lane debate live: Is it just about a lane or much more?

Hamilton's debate over a bus only lane through downtown comes to a climax tonight with a full house of transit supporters expected in the council chambers and many framing the question as a much bigger one than just the fate of a bus lane.

The fate of the transit-only lane is expected to be decided tonight

City council will debate whether to keep Hamilton's downtown bus lane on Wednesday. (John Rieti/CBC)

Follow @SamCraggscbc on twitter for live tweets from the debate or keep up to date via the Scribble Live at the bottom of this article.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he’s a supporter of the downtown Hamilton transit lane, but he’s not expending his “political capital” to try to sway other councillors and keep it alive.

“I’m going to reserve my political capital for the bigger issue, which is broader public transportation.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

City council will vote Wednesday night whether to kill the lane, which runs on King Street from Mary to Dundurn Streets. Last week, there were four tight votes to defer, suspend, improve or scrap it. Every vote will count.

Eisenberger says he’s talked up the benefits of the lane to some councillors, but he doubts it will make a difference. And he’s not willing to push them on it.

“I’m not prepared to arm wrestle over this issue,” he said. “I’m going to reserve my political capital for the bigger issue, which is broader public transportation. I’m interested in the long game rather than the short game.”

“I’m not going to use my political capital on this bus lane.”

The “longer game,” Eisenberger said, is enhancing public transportation across the city. “That’s one of the key priorities for me.”

“It’s not winner take all on every issue.”

On the issue of transit, Eisenberger campaigned on the promise of establishing a citizens' panel on light rail transit. Eisenberger says he plans to establish it when the province indicates how much of the project it is willing to fund.

Councillors representing wards in red voted to kill bus lane

Voting patterns show an urban and suburban divide in the vote on the bus lane. (Adam Carter)

Here’s where the councillors stand so far on the transit lane:

  • Mayor Eisenberger: Eisenberger is a transit lane fan. Last week, he voted to improve and suspend the lane, and voted against killing it.
  • Aidan Johnson, Ward 1: Last week, Johnson moved a motion to improve it and voted against suspending or getting rid of it.
  • Jason Farr, Ward 2: Farr is a fan of the lane and wants to see it modified to run smoother. Last week, he moved a motion to defer the issue until Feb. 6, when transit head Dave Dixon will present a larger transit plan.
  • Matthew Green, Ward 3: Green is a transit lane fan who voted last week to modify the lane.
  • Sam Merulla, Ward 4: Merulla is a bus lane fan and voted to improve it.
  • Chad Collins, Ward 5: Collins has twice introduced motions against the lane — once in December to stop enforcing it, and last week to kill it. The latter failed 8-6.
  • Tom Jackson, Ward 6: Jackson voted to get rid of the transit lane.
  • Scott Duvall, Ward 7: Duvall voted in favour of suspending it and against modifying it.
  • Terry Whitehead, Ward 8: Whitehead introduced a motion last week to suspend the lane to study it more, which was lost 8-6. 
  • Doug Conley, Ward 9: Conley voted to get rid of the transit lane. He also voted to modify it and suspend it. Conley has told CBC Hamilton in interviews that he's not a fan of the lane.
  • Maria Pearson, Ward 10: Pearson voted in favour of modifying the transit lane last week. She voted against killing it.
  • Brenda Johnson, Ward 11: Johnson says she's still thinking about it, but is leaning toward getting rid of it because it's not long enough.
  • Lloyd Ferguson, Ward 12: Ferguson voted to get rid of the transit lane.
  • Arlene VanderBeek, Ward 13: VanderBeek voted to get rid of the transit lane.
  • Robert Pasuta, Ward 14: Pasuta voted to get rid of the transit lane.
  • Judi Partridge, Ward 15: Partridge was missing from three of the four votes last week, but was prepared to second a motion to get rid of it. She voted against modifying it.

CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs will tweet live during the meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. at Hamilton city hall council chambers. Follow her at @SamCraggsCBC or in the window below.


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