Susan McKechnie, Candidate for Ward 15 in Hamilton Municipal Election 2018
Details page for this candidate.
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Candidate Details (top)
|Election||Hamilton Municipal Election 2018|
|Website||(no website listed)|
Responses to Questions (top)
|Question||Brief Response||Full Response|
|Council has voted dozens of times since 2008 to advance Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) project, including voting to submit the plan with a full funding request to the Province in 2013, and voting to accept full funding and implementation from the Province in 2015. Do you support completing the LRT plan? Why or why not?||Yes||The existing council has already made this decision. The objective of the newly elected council members will be to ensure that this massive project be executed in a manner that mitigates risk, manages cost, delivers value and ensures successful completion within the defined scope of what had been negotiated with the province. This question is perhaps incomplete as the provincial government has now changed and a careful understanding needs to be reached regarding what deviation or options our new Conservative Provincial government might have with this project.|
|Hamilton has a legacy of multi-lane, one-way arterial streets dating back to the 1950s. Do you support accelerating the conversion of these streets to two-way? Why or why not?||Yes||The arterial road network with its complex one-way streets was a strategic planning solution to an era that was seeing vast demand on that Victorian road network looking to accommodate growth. Civil engineering pioneer Wilbur Smith came along to praise the potential of moving traffic at higher speeds by converting pairs of parallel streets so that each carried traffic in just one direction.
In 1956, with a city council that was all-in, Hamilton adopted this approach and completed the conversion in just one night.
Hamilton’s one-way streets have been successful in delivering traffic through the lower city at high speeds for a half century. The cost of this success has been witnessed by various impacts on neighbourhood vitality. Many storefronts did not survive the engineering design. Many families have suffered with tractor-trailers rushing by front doors.
The right answer to this question today can be found by reviewing the objectives of the citizens, the travellers and the businesses who live and use these corridors. Moreover, and continuing from a potential pursuit to Vision Zero, we know that higher speeds predictably generate worse human outcomes. So part of the conclusion from this perspective can be delivered with either a reduction in speed in one-way streets, or a conversion to two-way to purposely enhance quality of life and economic opportunity at the same time. There were a number of underlying drivers to positively encourage the decision in the 1950s. Times are different now, and resident demands are radically different. Technological opportunity is different. We are dealing with this issue in an era of autonomous vehicles and autonomous public transit making real advances around the world. If the data supports conversion in certain parts of the city, plans should be crafted to accommodate the citizens, the business and the cities best interests.
|The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act mandates that cities must be completely accessible by 2025. What changes would you make to ensure Hamilton complies with this mandate?||Yes||Changes need to comply with the provincial mandate and should go further to connect with the vision and mission the city has outlined in its 10-year strategic plan. To “age successfully” in Hamilton means that Hamilton provides the tools to do so.
Acknowledging the volume of residents with disabilities and laying projections that highlight the vast number of Hamiltonians who would benefit from AODA legislation would be key.
Hamilton should move past the requisite requirement of the Act and differentiate itself as a municipality that is fully committed to this legislation.
An acute focus on transit could be a good start. The existing solutions are falling short of present-day demand. A new model that reaches past the AODA requirements could represent a progressive mark toward the City’s high level of commitment to this. A move that aligns progressive transit technology, with consideration to autonomous movement along progressive road and infrastructure routes represents this type of idea. Harnessing 5G infrastructures and capitalizing on it with Artificial Intelligence and a more specific focus toward accessibility represents ideas that would showcase this.
|Since the 1950s, most new residential and commercial development in Hamilton has been single-use suburban sprawl. Do you believe Hamilton needs to concentrate new development within the already-built area? Why or why not?||Maybe||The issue of development is challenging for all municipalities. Hamilton has a magnified challenge, as it comprises nearly 1,200 square kilometres. The implication of this vast geographical area is that it confuses the plan on where to develop. Location is critically important as the municipality spans nearly 60 kilometres east to west and families base their decisions about where to live against the backdrop of where they need to work. This means that significant parts of the geography of Hamilton will be substantially more attractive to residents who must commute to work in Toronto or Mississauga or Waterloo versus those that might potentially work in Niagara. The City Centre will not be as attractive as alternatives in Winona or Binbrook or Waterdown for many of these families.
The economic reality faced by families is making some of the outer regions of Hamilton substantially more attractive and suitable based on residents’ need to commute outside of Hamilton. One of the first steps is to intercept this reality and to attract industry and progressive companies to core urban areas offering well-paying jobs so that new and existing residents and their families can live and work in Hamilton. This in turn will create demand to live in the already built area and will enhance the argument for further intensification. Residential intensification without appropriate focus on economic development will only further exacerbate the daily exodus of residents continuing to travel to jobs outside of the city. Today 1 in 3 Hamilton workers commutes out of the city for work. The provincial average is 1 in 4.
|Bonus question: If LRT goes ahead, what will you do to ensure Hamilton receives the maximum benefit?||Yes||When we say that Hamilton needs to benefit, we are really saying that all Hamiltonians need to receive maximum benefit from the LRT. Outside the lower city, this heavily implicates the effective delivery of the BLAST network that should really augment the LRT with an aim of reaching the key points of transit in non-core parts of the city, many of which include the fastest growing population pools like that in Ward 15. Currently there is no transit option in place to connect outlying students, seniors or workers to the downtown core and its transportation network. The BLAST infrastructure can begin to alleviate some of this demand.
Planning and strategic staffing will be critical to the success of moving this project forward. At a projected capital cost of $1Billion, the LRT represents one of the largest (potentially the largest) infrastructure project the city has ever undertaken. The challenge with mega-projects like this is that there is always the risk of scope creep and other variable cost concerns that could see its projected cost escalate substantially.
Of the LRT projects going on in other cities, each one is substantially over budget and suffering from inevitable timing delays for delivery. Very careful attention to how this is delivered is critical.
Another challenge with mega-projects like this is that they could also “monopolize” resources at the city. Because of their size the City Council, City Staff, Capital budgets, etc run the risk of getting overburdened with the planned infrastructure development. Very careful resource planning needs to be considered in light of these concerns.
|Do you support improved public transit in Hamilton? If so, what changes do you propose? If not, why not?||Yes||Public transit in all major cities needs constant review, adjustment and improvement. In Hamilton we need to start with Hamilton’s strategic plan, which aims to create a “prosperous and diverse economy supported by state of the art infrastructure, transportation options, buildings and public spaces that create a dynamic city.” When the strategic plan outlines the need for state-of-the-art infrastructure and transportation options, the city should seriously entertain state-of-the-art options. State of the art means that the city will investigate the newest ideas with the most up to date features. By definition this means that the city ought to be investigating things like projections toward the use of autonomous vehicle options as part of an overall strategy. Autonomous vehicles will have certain infrastructure requirements, some of which can be utilized with such things as BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) solutions.
There are wonderful “New Tech” options on this topic. The city should be investigating these to support the broad and diverse needs of all citizens across the entire geography. Emphasis should also be given to the constantly changing demographic makeup of the city. With an ever-increasing group of senior residents, consideration around reliable accessible transit must be part of the conversation.
|Global warming is an existential challenge facing humanity. Do you think Hamilton should play a role in addressing climate change? If so, what should the city be doing? If not, why not?||Yes||Again, reflecting on the strategic priorities of the city, a key element to consider has to do with environmental stewardship and being “Clean and Green.” It is important for Hamilton and for Hamiltonians to do their part. As a hub of the past steel mill boom, Hamilton unfortunately has a disproportionate share of responsibility on leading from a social stewardship perspective. As evidenced in progressive cities like Buffalo and Pittsburgh, moving away from steel to green is incredibly possible and incredibly lucrative. In Buffalo over 1 million square feet of previous Steel Mill Brownfield sites, still owned by the city, is home to Tesla’s Solar City. In Pittsburgh, entire street corridors are filled with autonomous vehicles, linking the city to its brain hub at Carnegie Mellon. Turning green can deliver incredible value – perhaps Hamilton can glean some inspiration from these and other great green leaders.|
|Should Hamilton be trying to attract more young people to live, work and start businesses here, including the 60,000 students studying at Mohawk College, McMaster University and Redeemer University? If so, what should we be doing? If not, why not?||Yes||Absolutely. This population represents the future and the city should develop aggressive strategies to keep the talent here. Just look to examples of critically successful University and College towns in Canada and the United States. Look at Pittsburgh – similar in its history to Hamilton, and similar in educational structure, with Carnegie Mellon located at its doorstep. Pittsburgh is now contending with Silicon Valley and capitalizing on that great scientific talent pool. It is becoming the Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicle hub of North America. Entire neighbourhoods are equipped with self-driving vehicles – all a function of careful and close cooperation between the city and its spectacular schools. Hamilton could look to these examples for inspiration.|
|Do you support phasing out area rating for transit? Why or why not?||Maybe||Area Rating related to transit has to be considered in light of the majestic geography that makes up Hamilton. Over 1,100 square kilometres defines us and most of this area is sparsely populated and will remain out of the reach of conventional public transit solutions.
Public Transit in its current form is simply something that can’t be made economically available to the overwhelming majority of the geography of Hamilton. It deserves special consideration.
This is not to suggest that the future leadership should do nothing. Transit solutions must be delivered. There must be an aim to deliver sensible transit services to key hubs across all wards in the city. There should be cost sharing as part of an overall strategy that brings the topic of transit into the conversation about tax equity across the city, for all residents. The facts are simple – Public transit routes will not be available to over 70% of the vast geography of the city. Unique rules will need to apply here. Today there is no transit option for young people or seniors to get from Carlisle, or Rockton, or Lynden, or Binbrook, or Waterdown etc. to McMaster or Mohawk for their studies, to the downtown area for their medical or hospital appointments. This needs to change.
|Do you support the "Vision Zero" goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Hamilton? If so, what specific actions would you take to implement this policy? If not, why not?||Yes||Vision zero is a noble cause and one worth pursuing. The city must remain steadfast in its pursuit of reducing fatalities and serious injuries on our roads and reducing traffic related fatalities to ZERO. Data provides the answer to much of this. The city should change its historic approach to dealing with the issues of traffic fatalities. Vision Zero pushes responsibility to all stakeholders, engineers, traffic planners, together with drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We all share responsibility. Designers of the road system are ultimately responsible for the design and operation and use of the transport system. Road users are responsible for following the rules, if they fail to obey the rules, designers should take further steps to counteract people being killed or seriously injured. A continuum of constant improvement needs to be adopted. Our current model acknowledges a death, but does not change the rules or the design.
We need to let the data lead us on where to start. Our emphasis needs to ensure we move in areas that enhance the human experience, and protect life. As an example, Ward 15 is home to Highway 6 that is a regular point of unnecessary death. No design intervention is introduced, no rule changes are applied, and no new penalty systems are refined following these horrible incidents. Focus could be directed to places like this, places where the city can work with the province – we know with certainty that speed kills. School zone studies are incredibly revealing on this topic of speed. A child hit by a motor vehicle at 40 km an hour often has an 80% chance of survival while a collision at 60 km or more has an 80% certainty of death. Speed is a great place to start.
At very low levels of additional cost new built-out street networks could adopt a Vision Zero architecture. These are simple first steps to take. Following the model of other cities that have successfully deployed sensible solutions in cites half the size or ten times the size.
|Hamilton has been experiencing a slow-motion crisis in housing affordability. Do you support an expanded role for the City to provide more affordable housing? If so, what should Hamilton do? If not, why not?||Yes||Cities have a role to play in ensuring their vulnerable groups are cared for. Housing affordability has much to do with simple supply and demand economics. Location is the key-determining factor in influencing cost of residential units. Irrespective of that, the city does have a role to play in ensuring our most vulnerable are taken care of. More than just our most vulnerable, careful consideration must be given to ensuring there is a real level of affordability considered with new development sites. Affordability in most of Hamilton will drive development toward mid to high-density forms.
Addressing affordability options ensures our seniors have feasible housing alternatives. Affordability provides first-time buyers a chance to live in Hamilton and pursue their new careers, their new research projects, or their new next generation ideas. Positive outcomes are delivered as a result of the city promoting the right types of affordable options across Hamilton.