Is a 'clerical' error going to turn a small downtown parking lot into a Mobility Hub?

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

April 3rd, 2018



Transit is an issue that Burlington city council has difficulty with. It wasn’t always that way. Doug Brown, the best informed Burlington citizen when it comes to transit, will tell you of the time that bus service to the one GO station Burlington had was free. It was something city hall bragged about. It was so popular that the city eventually put a price on the service and that changed the usage.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, one of the Bfast founders is getting ready for the 4th Annual Transit Forum.

If you get Doug going on transit, and that isn’t very hard to do, he will tell you of the days when the city’s transit service was something to be proud of.

Gary Scobie is another Burlington resident who, not unlike Doug Brown, does his homework and asks questions and digs away until he gets answers,

Scobie delegated to city Council in March to talk about transit the plans to turn a very small parking lot between Brant and John Street that has a small transit terminal siting at the edge of the lot that has been under a construction upgrade doe a number of months.

The parking lot will have fewer spaces than it had previously and it will be one of the links in what the city will come to know as the Elgin promenade that will cut right across the city and allow people to walk or ride a bike on a safe path that will be illuminated and have plenty of places where you can sit and just relax.

That promenade and transit use and the mobility hubs the city is working on as the place in the city where development is expected to take place all come together.

The city Council meeting last March was the occasion where Scobie set out to explain to the city that a mistake had been made by the province and that the city was making a decision based on the mistake. He wanted city Council to see the error.

Scobie said:

I live in Ward 3 and my Burlington includes the downtown.

I did some further research on the Downtown Mobility Hub and found out this mobility hub is based on a clerical error. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit. If you check out the screen image of the Metrolinx December 2015 Profile, note that the second paragraph begins “Downtown Burlington is identified as an Anchor Hub in the GTHA and includes the Burlington GO Station on the Lakeshore West Line.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

That last phrase confused and disturbed me. How could one Mobility Hub (a junior partner Anchor Hub) include another Mobility Hub (the Burlington GO Station) that is over 2 kilometres away?

Their 800 metre catchment areas don’t even touch. I could find no other pair of Metrolinx Mobility Hubs that are close to each other in municipalities outside Toronto (ie. Hamilton, Newmarket and Mississauga) that claimed one Mobility Hub included the other one of the pair.

I contacted Metrolinx and asked “Is this a mistake?” My contact felt it must be and someone must have accidentally done a cut-and-paste error and inserted it by mistake over two years ago. Funny, no one caught it until I mentioned it. Was it a mistake, or done with some purpose in mind? The phrase did not appear in the 2012 version of the Profile.

It took about three weeks for a full Metrolinx investigation to report back to me that yes indeed it was a mistake, but that it shouldn’t change the Mobility Hub’s legitimacy.

I beg to differ – our Downtown Mobility Hub does not have Rapid transit and barely integrates with Regional Express Rail. The Bus Kiosk on John Street can barely hold 20 people, let alone an actual bus. Attaching the GO Station to it might have given it, in some eyes, the only chance at legitimacy it could ever have.

A week ago, I requested that Metrolinx do three things:

1. Notify the City that no, the Downtown Anchor Mobility Hub does not include the GO Station,

2. Remove the offending text from the 2015 Profile and

3. Make sure it doesn’t reappear in the 2018 version coming out soon.

No response yet, but I understand these things take time. I’ll wait patiently.

Site rendering

This site rendering of the upgrade being done to the downtown parking lot between Brant and John Streets tells a lot more than you might expect. Running through the middle is part of the Elgin promenade pathway – one of the smarter things the city has done

I am still waiting in anticipation to see the coming transit plan that will have to show a dedicated light rail transit line going up John Street and then bulldozed through residential neighbourhoods to the GO Station, or else the subway that will take the same route underground. Nothing short of this will legitimize the Downtown Mobility Hub.

The Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations that Council accepted in 2006 are now leading to uncontrollable intensification and height in the downtown. They contain no height limits. The OMB acceptance of the 26 storey condo at 374 Martha Street has set a precedent that will only be used again and again by developers to gain further height along Lakeshore Road and up Brant and adjacent streets.

Council’s enthusiastic acceptance of a 23 storey condo across from our City Hall, beyond its own planned height, leaves us embarrassingly with little chance of appeal of the OMB decision.

The developers’ lawyers know this and so should we. We have no case under these current designations.

downtown mobility hub

Is it a parking lot that has been given an upgrade or is it an anchor that is part of a Mobility Hub?

Our only option now to exert any future control of height and density downtown is to ask the Province to remove these designations from the downtown and place them at the three GO Stations, living up to our commitment for 2031 and coming 2041 growth targets.

Last time I made this request, I was met with stony silence. One of you on Council must bring back Councillor Meed Ward’s motion to save our downtown, not from gentle change, but from this massive change that is coming.


The readership survey will close April 6th

The practice at city Council is for a delegator to stay at the podium to answer questions that any Councillor might have. Scobie has done this before and in the past he has given the members of Council a good run for their money.

There were questions – one from Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and two from Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison.  Scobie added in a comment he made several days after his delegation that his “new information was not what the broad Council wanted to hear.  They embrace the over-intensification of the downtown instead of questioning it.  They don’t want to hear of getting us out from under the Province’s mandate.  It remains their best and only excuse.”

Gary Scobie and Doug Brown are long time residents of Burlington who have been tireless advocates for sensible growth and a city council that hears what the voters have to say.

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10 comments to Is a ‘clerical’ error going to turn a small downtown parking lot into a Mobility Hub?

  • KJ

    If they have to cart people up to the GO station from downtown, then downtown was obviously never a good mobility hub candidate. Everything about this smacks of agenda driven by blind ideology, not facts.

    The Appleby mobility hub location is no better. You already can’t drive on Appleby it’s so congested and packed with stop lights. But what’s worse is the proximity to the Fearman’s plant. I wonder how many poor souls are going to buy a shiny new condo full of excitement and hope only to have those hopes dashed the first time they get a whiff of that awful smell. And as reported here a few weeks ago, they have plans to double their operation. Do planners even think about things like this? And ever since Fearman’s bought the plant back from Maple Leaf, it’s pretty clear they aren’t maintaining the air scrubbing equipment properly. For the first time in 20 years of living near Lakeshore/Appleby, I could smell the hog pee last week outside my front door.

  • Perry Bowker

    Thanks to Gary, and shame on Council. Last month I made a spontaneous delegation to the Planning Committee, suggesting that they simply remove all instances of the words “mobilty hub” from all the OP documents. Don’t change anything else, just remove the words, which make everyone crazy. With amusement, the Mayor and others told me that would be incredibly hard, impossible, the Region controls that, etc. Gary has shown that our Council is prepared to sacrifice good planning to avoid the effort of correcting a midtake. The mounting evidence that the whole OP exercise is flawed is hard to ignore.

  • Stephen White

    Congratulations and thanks Gary for uncovering this latest in a long and apparently never-ending series of gaffes, errors, oversights, shortcomings and mistakes that have come to define this Mobility Hub strategy.

    With so many holes now poked in the credibility of the OP and the Mobility Hubs plans I keep waiting for the light at City Hall to turn on and someone (i.e. our Mayor, our Council, the Planning Department) to finally shout “Enough”. Alas…I fear I may be waiting a long time before the proverbial shoe finally drops.

  • Susan L.

    In 2014, the City was planning on closing the John Street Bus Terminal to save $8,000.00 per year. Since it was considered to be a Mobility Hub, they couldn’t close it.

    If the Province no longer considers the John Street Bus Terminal to be a Mobility Hub, the City could close it down and perhaps even sell the land it currently occupies.

    If that happens, will the Hamilton Parkview bus still come into Burlington? Will we lose the Greyhound Bus stop? Will people have to travel up to the GO Station to add money to their Presto Cards? (And probably miss connecting with the bus they needed to transfer to.)

  • William

    Kudos to Gary Scobie for flagging this error. Sadly, council won’t correct this without staff giving the green light. Mary Lou Tanner wields the real power at city hall – most of council have neither the work ethic or boldness to challenge her agenda.

  • craig

    I agree with Greg Woodruff we should act as one city not ward against ward or neighbourhood against neighbourhood as the folks at central high did during the school closing fiasco.We should share new development like apartments condos town homes equally in all neighbourhoods

  • The only element of this I do not like is let’s place all the suspect buildings around the “Go Train stations.” I call this the “Mobility Hub Garbage Dump” strategy and I am not in favour.

    When did everyone become such defeatists? We should be defending greening and enhancing all areas of Burlington – not try to dump unwanted developments onto our neighbours.

    • Gary Scobie

      I understand and agree with your concerns Greg. This isn’t trying to move growth from the downtown to the GO Stations. It is trying to abstain from the growth mandated for the downtown as an Urban Growth Centre. It is not a plea to end all growth there or to send some to the GO Stations.

      As you state, they already have enough potential growth coming, in much higher numbers of residents than the downtown was on the hook for. But GO Stations have been on the Province’s radar fro a long time as major “Gateway” Mobility Hubs, destined for massive growth because that’s where the high speed transit already exists and the lands around most GO Stations have fewer established neighbourhoods nearby, so less disruption to current citizens.

      Doesn’t mean no disruption. Doesn’t even mean it will work. I think there will be major issues if these GO Station growth centres build out to the degree planned. Another 69,000 citizens living near the tracks. Doesn’t sound like fun to me. Plan is to go from 183,000 Burlington residents today to 250,000 in years to come. Won’t be changing Burlington for the better. I think we both agree on that. But at this point in time, with the OP about to be passed with just the downtown growth on file, it’s the area that must be protected right now.

      The next battles will be fought over the GO Station plans. Have to try and save Burlington one step at a time. This is just the first step.

  • Lynn Crosby

    The silence from most of council after this delegation was deafening. Attending council meetings and watching what the councillors ask and don’t ask, as well as their tone and how they treat different delegates can be quite eye opening.

    • Stu Parr

      Exactly Lynn – well noted! Don’t you wish you could just “cut and paste” this Council somewhere else! Let’s do a “Control, Alt., Delete” in October.