The number of cars on Burlington streets isn't being looked at properly

By Pepper Parr

September 24th, 2021



Mayor Marianne Meed Ward once said that fireworks were something she heard about from residents almost as much as parking.

Parking – where do the people driving put their cars when they want to shop, or visit or dine?

Back up a bit and ask – where are all the cars coming from?

Back up a bit more – when a development application is filed with the Planning Department one of the reports that must be included is a traffic study.

Look at any number of those studies and they will all say that the number of cars that might be added to the flow of traffic in the city is “acceptable”, or words along those lines.

The people who write these reports are seen to be professionals who know their craft very well and their evidence is accepted as true.

The traffic reports get an OK from the planners.

And – the OK for that single traffic study might be very valid.

But there is a bigger picture that has to be looked at – and at this point no one is looking or asking the question.

All the traffic from the underground garage will exist on to Elizabeth, shown on the left. To the left of the development is the site for whatever the Waterfront hotels site ends up looking like for the site

The hundreds of cars coming out of the Bridgewater Development will exit the development onto Elizabeth street and then can continue north or go right or left on Lakeshore Road.

The hundreds of cars that are expected to come out of the proposed redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel site also empty onto Elizabeth Street and then can continue north or go right or left on Lakeshore Road.

While this is, at this point in time, a Ward 2 concern it will become an issue elsewhere when the large developments along Fairview and in the east end of the city come online.

We challenge Councillor Kearns to look for a way to require traffic studies to focus on the impact the single development will have (they are already required to do that) AND to provide a report that sets out the impact their development will have on new developments already approved within a 120 metre radius.

The planners can work out the specifics; the objective is to have information that sheds light on that bigger picture.

It is the bigger picture – everything happening within a specific radius that isn’t being looked at.

The city planners don’t ask – they aren’t required to.

We don’t quite why Heather MacDonald, Chief Planner doesn’t go before council and point out that they are not asked to report on the bigger picture – and ask Council to give them a Staff Direction to do just that.

At some point someone has to get ahead of the problem and ask the bigger question.

If we don’t the phrase in the Official Plan that has Burlington as a “City that Moves” will have to add – moves very very VERY slowly.

To Lisa Kearns and Heather MacDonald – the ball is in your court.

Looking forward to listening to what you put before Council on this one.


Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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13 comments to The number of cars on Burlington streets isn’t being looked at properly

  • joe gaetan

    DPC meetings are held quarterly if you wish to attend. The last one was held on Sep 16.

  • David Barker

    As per usual there is a great deal of huffing, puffing and complaining in respinsevto thus article and other recent Gazette pieces about this and other proposed developments. But as always no potential solutions are offered.

    It is obvious to me we (Burlington) need to employ an integrated traffic and transportation policy that dissuades the vehicles coming into or through the downtown core and not only encourages the use of public transport but makes its use irresistible.

    I have suggested this before, only for it to be shot down by people who complain but offer nothing constructive.

    Turn the lower downtown core into a European styled pedestrian city centre using electronic technology to control entry and exit

    • There would be vehicular access for residents and merchants.
    • Emergency services would be able to directly traversethe pedestrianized zone.
    • Multiple no cost/low cost to user shuttle bus services to & from John Street and designated parking locations (e.g. Go Stations and Malls) in combination with usual city bus routes.

    It is very likely this would lead to property tax increases. Any City implemented traffic management plan will result in tax based costs. If you want a solution, any solution be prepared to bear the cost.

    Don’t say it cannot be done. It has been done many, many times in Europe

    Let’s start lobbying Council to get moving down this route and take the downtown awsy from vehicles and turn it over to people.

    • Blair Smith


      I support your pedestrian downtown city centre. It is an attractive and compelling idea and, in truth, probably all that is left to salvage something of the downtown core.
      But when will people wake up to the fact that what they thought they voted for in 2018 has effectively betrayed them; has given them nothing but well rehearsed excuses, a waterfront with more and more tall buildings proposed or to be built and a legacy of cynicism?

      • David Barker

        Thank you for supporting the idea of the pedestrianization of the downtown.

        But I really must question you in saying residents and electorate have been betrayed by this Council. I have, I believe, clearly set out the actions and achievements of this Council in dealing with the OP/developer mess it inherited. Actions and achievements that should place the City in a position to successfully defend the City against the attacks by developers, soon to be judged at the OLT.

        Please, please, please would you clearly set out for all to see òthe evidence you have to support the “betrayal” tag you have thrown out there. What actions/inactions has this Council taken that are a betrayal?

        • David Barker

          Blair, are you going to provide by way of Council’s actions/in actions to back up your betrayal tag?

          • Gary Scobie

            David, here is the inaction that they created. They were well and often advised during 2018 that the only way to stop excessive numbers and heights of high rises in downtown Burlington was to 1) Remove the Downtown Mobility Hub that was a farce and 2) remove the Urban Growth Centre from the downtown. The Mobility Hub was the easier one and Jane McKenna helped in showing how it could be done in the OP. The UGC was going to be the harder one. Therefore it needed to be tackled as soon as the new Council convened in January 2019.

            The new Council decided to do one thing instead that would not help – bring in the Interim Control Bylaw (ICB) for one year that would delay processing applications but not stop their time-stamping. They decided to do a second thing that would just make it look like they cared about stopping excessive high rises – start out on an updated OP that reduced somewhat the zoning but still allowed a concrete jungle in the downtown that few citizens in the work groups supported. This OP took months and months to update, months and months to sit on the Regional Council agenda before being rejected for a few issues. Even when it was given support, it took months again to get provisionally passed.

            In the meantime, applications piled up and appeals were initiated at the “new” OLT (just an OMB remake). Time marched on and Council waited two years until 2021 to actually begin asking the Province to move the UGC to the Burlington GO Station. Two years of wasted time on the most important task in saving the downtown that could have been started in early 2019. Even today it is still not in force until the province passes the legislation, if they actually do. As I said earlier this year, it’s too late baby. The chance has been missed. You can’t go back in time and negate all of the high rise applications filed in good faith under the old OP and the UGC in the downtown. It bothers me and my like-minded friends so much. Council failed its supporters and pretended to work on it instead. We were betrayed. There’s your timeline. Oh and by the way, the Interim Control Bylaw – it’s still huffing and puffing along after two and a half years of applications piling up for downtown high rises. It won’t go away until every appeal is dealt with at the OLT. Some legacy.

          • Blair Smith


            Apologies but I didn’t actually see your reply to me until tonight. I have been trying to stay off media in general. I would be pleased to itemize the list and, for whatever record exists in heaven, I do not believe you have ‘clearly set out the actions and achievements of this Council in dealing with the OP/developer mess it inherited’. At least not in any of your “apolgia” that I have read. I will respond later but I will definitely respond. Again, please excuse my tardiness..

        • David Barker

          Gary. Thanks for your comment and detailed perspective

          I believe the City’s thinking has been in order to be successful in fighting the applications for what it and we all consider excessive height it had to have in place a Provincially compliant OP, complemented by the removal of the mobility hub designation and a realigned UGC. Even should the UGC have been realigned at an earlier date, without the ICBL and a revised OP, developers would have pointed to the old OPs.

          The date stamp on the applications is irrelevant. Without the ICBL the applications would have been adjudicated by now, and not in the City’s favour. The ICBL has allowed the City to get all its ducks in a row to be in the best possible position to contest the applications. Your suggested approach would have been going off half-cocked. Each and every application would have been given the green light by now. If you think differently you are in my opinion misguided.

          Are you are really saying the Mayor and our councilors pretended to work on stopping the over development of the downtown? Because that’s what you wrote. You used the word “pretend”. If you are really saying that, your credibility is shot. Maybe you disagree with their plan to fight the developers, because you would have tackled it a different way. That’s OK. But attacking the entire council’s integrity and accuse them of pretending to fight the developers is ridiculous. There is no disputing their goal is the same as yours, as mine, as pretty much every resident. That is to stop the super high rises.

  • Steve

    Creating traffic gridlock is a big part of the idea behind the green belt, so people will get out of their bourgeoisie cars and onto public transit? Overcrowding will do that nicely.

  • perryb

    The LPAT/OMB process is specifically designed to prevent asking or answering these questions. As far as the judges (yes, that’s what they are) are concerned, every development is sitting in a huge empty space, with no consideration of other similar developments in the area. Developers and their lawyers think this is just fine.

  • Diane Knox

    At Last a report on the impact for residents. For 50 years I have lived in Wards 4&5 South of Fairview.- A perfect place to raise children with THEN local schools, local shopping hubs and a Commute to Toronto & Hamilton (once the QEW access came to Appleby and Walkers). I am still here and I still drive all the East West, North South roads in Burlington.
    Not just “Parking”–“Driving” is a Municipal / Provincial “Planning” decision Issue long overlooked for Us who do not live Downtown

    There are Two CAR TRUCK roads to avoid now in MY Burlington 2021 .Ward 4/5 South

    1- Appleby Line at ALL times- 20 Stoplights, not timed, from 407 to QEW access to Lakeshore, Two major parking lots from Go, A hockey Arena, Industrial -Multiple, small and large–Trucks/cars–AND more Intensification planned ,height to be determined, at-Fairview, Pinedale, Lakeshore Plaza to Build up and then Fight with Province Rules? & Tor Developers.
    (We always lose– Downtown condo corridor million dollar row.)
    Appleby is Road Rage/ run the light, madness. Stay alert on Appleby at all times.

    2. Lakeshore Road– Rush hour times–All those CARS are are coming and going to work- Via Appleby to/from Lakeshore. But this road has been ‘modified’ for other uses bikes, flowers, stoplights. and for the last many years–Construction for more ‘car’ issues Downtown–“where do the visitors of residents park”, “where do the Residents of Million dollar condos buy their Groceries”. No Full service Shopping Hub – Cars- Even Toronto figured this out.

    Unfortunately, Our HOSPITAL is on Lakeshore and is the ONLY Site for- Covid testing, and ANY and ALL Emergencies.. Even The EMS avoid this road I learned. So plan your route

    Thanks for this issue because I feel our Town, now City of Burlington, our Province has had for many years a very myopic view of future, long term, big picture planning and the needs of Taxpayers’ and diverse requirements in a Suburban Lakefront community

  • Tom Muir

    As you state, the cumulative impacts of all the new development on traffic has been ignored forever. It is ignored everywhere for every development, no matter how close to each other, or how many there are.

    The Planning department completely ignores this, and does so as a matter of practice. Every Planning Director I have experienced since 1990 has operated in the same way. Impacts of this be damned.

    The consultants work for the developers, and are paid hires for individual projects. They are not paid to say the traffic is unacceptable, or will add up to problems when all of them are added together.

    Most applications I am familiar with want fewer parking spots than the zoning bylaw allows. There are numerous excuses offered for this ask, including people don’t need a car for various reasons, or won’t want one for various reasons, and other things. For only 3 projects I am familiar with along Plains Rd these reductions in parking added up to thousands.

    All of this is concocted by the same consultants that do traffic studies, and each hire will do any number of the development applications each one in isolation. As so-called experts or professional, they certainly should know better, but they don’t get paid to tell the truth of the whole story, only to support the interest of the development that is hiring them.

    This story has a lot of chapters, examples, and consequences that are too much to cover here – Pepper has managed to scratch the surface and identify this as so wrong that it needs a fix – it is terrible policy, leading to gridlock, air pollution, and lots of other consequences.

    It is not Good Planning!

  • Lynn Crosby

    This question actually has been asked and raised countless times by delegates complaining that traffic studies and wind studies and all studies done for an application are meaningless when they don’t consider the collective impact of all the other developments approved or up for approval. And every time it’s been said, council members and staff stare back in silence. Been there, done that as the saying goes. The traffic studies done by developers’ own “experts” are laughable. I dare anyone to read them and not either laugh or cry at some of the ridiculous statements made. Is it any wonder many of us feel the entire process is a joke?