$485 million for bike lanes - no road widening

By James Portside

March 13, 2024



On December 4th, 2023 council met to discuss the “Phase 2 Multi Year Community Investment Plan”. This plan calls for $1.145 billion in future infrastructure spending. This spending is for new projects, not the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

The spending plan covers 25-years; that works out to about $50 million in spending a year. The largest item in the investment plan is called the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP), coming in at $485 million: the plan is largely for bicycle lanes.

Council is all in on this plan. Mayor Meed Ward commented on how municipalities need a new taxation framework to support infrastructure spending. Meed Ward is chair of Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OCBM), a group of municipalities that lobby the federal and provincial governments for a larger share of our tax dollars. Here is a recent quote from Meed Ward “We shouldn’t have to beg the province and the federal government for these things; after all, there is only one taxpayer.”  https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/meed-ward-ontarios-municipal-taxpayers-need-a-better-deal-from-the-province-and-the-feds

Maybe the electric cars will be small enough to use the bike lanes.

Both the federal and provincial governments are currently spending far more than they take in. Providing more money for municipalities requires some combination of more debt, more taxes or less spending by higher levels of government. What are we willing to trade off for more bike lanes? Billions are being spent on battery plant subsides. Without roads to drive on maybe we don’t need electric cars. Maybe the electric cars will be small enough to use the bike lanes.

Here are some of the details from the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP). Other master plan items will be covered in future articles.

The IMP was presented to council on October 31, 2023 by K. Edgcumbe, Manager of Transportation and Parking who said “The fundamental assumption that underpinned the philosophy of our IMP was the directive from council that there were to be no new road widenings for the sole purpose of adding additional auto capacity.”

Translation: The plan is to grow the population by about 65,000 people, over the next 25 years, without widening any roads. As we all know the growth is coming through the intensification of existing neighbourhoods. In Burlington’s schizophrenic world of roads, the region manages Brant St. from Dundas to Fairview and may well make that stretch of road three lanes in each direction with dedicated transit lanes. Meanwhile Burlington council won’t widen any roads.

Here are some key points from the IMP.

“Consider the future conversion of general-purpose traffic lanes, or, in limited circumstances, consider widening existing streets to create dedicated transit corridors. “

Translation: Add dedicated bus lanes to existing four lane roads, for example Plains Road, effectively reducing the lanes available for cars and trucks to one lane in each direction.

Shift how people move through the city by “Developing a spine network of high-quality cycling facilities designed to serve cyclists of all ages and abilities by building new and improving existing cycling infrastructure.”

Translation: six people in 100 will be riding bikes to work, school maybe even Costco.  Being realistic our climate does not really lend itself to relying on cycling for transportation. On hot days you need to shower when get to work, rain, ice, snow … are also problems. Another issue is that about 25% of Burlington residents are seniors and about 15% are under the age of 15.

This is a list of the “Budget planning estimates for the seven catalyst projects total a cost of $315 million including a 40% contingency.” There are many other bike lane projects but these are considered the critical projects to get us out on our bikes.

Councillor Galbraith asked if these costs were for road work and cycling lanes and staff answered “those are just costs related to the cycling facilities, they do not include the road renewal requirements”.

Councillor Nisan: “Amazing”

Councillor Nisan commented “pretty cool to see it coming through … amazing” and went on to request that the 19 new hires, the staff needed to implement this plan, be budgeted for 2024.

There are also significant annual costs associated with snow removal, cleaning and upkeep of bike lanes that are not included in the costs shown here.

On the positive side the plan does call for traffic light priority and queue-jumping lanes for buses. Queue jumping lanes will be added on streets like Lakeshore Road where road widening for dedicated transit lanes will be either too contentious or too expensive. Imagine Plains Road with dedicated bus lanes and one lane each direction for everyone else and the traffic lights turn green when the bus approaches instead of being timed to allow traffic to flow.

Queue jumping lanes graphic.

Edgcumbe did state that 25% of the car trips through the city are cut-throughs, commuters bypassing traffic on the QEW and 403. There is nothing in the IMP to address this issue, offering bicycles to commuters is unlikely to help.

Council and staff could lead by example and start riding their bikes to work.

Jim has lived in Burlington for much of his life and has watched the city change and grow over the years. With over 1,000 people working for the city there is a lot going on. As a now retired, successful business owner, Jim is interested in exploring and sharing some of what our local government is working on. You can reach Jim by emailing Jim.Portside@gmail.com


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7 comments to $485 million for bike lanes – no road widening

  • Sue C.C.

    I hope that people will start to realize that it is not some form of misguided idealism that motivates Her Worship and our Clowncil but an ingrained cynicism; push the ideal, spin the ‘never-ending sustainability story’ and imitate the progressive. What is lacking, as both Joe and Perry have noted, is vision based in realistic expectations and probable outcomes. To hear the Mayor cast blame on other levels of government (no matter how justified) and spout the forgotten maxim that “there is only. one taxpayer” is particularly offensive in the face of her recent budget. Truer to state that “there is but one goose to pluck” – and we have plucked it bare and bloody.

  • Philip

    Haven’t we already tried this on New Street with disastrous results?

  • Perryb

    It is time for people in charge to seriously question the idealistic basis for so much of our future planning, and replace it with realistic projections. For starters, bicycles are generally impractical in our climate, and are unsuitable for commuting any distance. Will some people cycle? sure – but in significant numbers, no way. Does anyone really think seniors, handicapped, delivery people, emergency services will be cycling? Another example: it is now becoming obvious that a massive increase in electric vehicles is not going to happen soon. The environmental costs alone of EVs are starting to be seen as unsustainable. Are there ways forward? Sure, but today’s approach of magical thinking and pipe dreams will not get us there.

  • Joe Gaetan

    With respect to the quote from Mayor Meed-Ward, “We shouldn’t have to beg the province and the federal government for these things; after all, there is only one taxpayer.”
    In the absence of the context and not being a mind-reader, I have no idea how to unpack the Mayors’ statement.
    I do agree with the sentiment, there is only one taxpayer, and we are over-taxed. Just like households have to figure out how to live within their means, the same applies to municipal governments.

    • David

      I am in favour of getting rid of city governance altogether with our elected councillors sitting only at the regional table also eliminate the city portion of the property taxes and have the region operate on a separate regional tax collected by the Province; I would even be open to a City condo fee for frilly bits.

  • I’m glad to see the tax increase being spent on such worthwhile projects. (NOT)

  • Grahame Richards

    Anyone know what the Cumberland Campus is?
    Are there any plans to share this in plan in plain English to the taxpayer.?
    I just cannot see my grandkids riding bikes to work /shop in our climate and beside the proposed congested roads.

    Editor’s note: Cumberland Campus I believe is where all the Burlington Transit departments will eventually live – staff, buses, garage etc