What did the consultant say to city council? Here it is - word for word. Pay attention - it is your city they want to change.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2106



The debate on the installing of dedicated bike lanes on New Street was the thin edge of the wedge that is leading the city into a full blown review of both the way land is used in the city and how we transport ourselves.

Sometime ago the city hired Brent Toderian to consult with the planning and transportation departments. Set out below is the “reporting letter” Toderian sent the city before the Committee of the While meeting last week that set out what Toderian described as a bold new move.

Toderian UrbanWORKS (TUW), the corporate name this consultant uses explains that the reporting letter is what is behind the support for Council consideration of a proposed launch of a public engagement exercise for a new City of Burlington Transportation Plan.

Burlington aerial

Burlington as it was in 2013 – before the pier was completed. Council has decided it needs to grow up rther than out. How are they going to do that?

TUW has been providing city planning, transportation and general operational and culture change advisory services to the City of Burlington since November, 2015. The engagement with the City has been strategically and deliberately broad/flexible, including advice on the City’s proposed new official plan, various transit – oriented development considerations, and more general city planning, urban design, communications, cultural, and capacity – building aspirations. The most specific and “deep” example of TUW’s consulting services to the City has been in the creation of a new Transportation Plan, the subject of this RL.

The following is what Toderian wrote in his “reporting letter”

Intended transportation plan, nature and structure:

Informed by extensive discussions with city staff, the intention for the Transportation Plan work program is to prepare a plan document organized around a new central transportation vision, eight powerful “new directions,” and a series of new implementing policies and actions under each new direction. Actions will include, among other things, new work programs that will extend from the transportation plan, and be guided by it.

The intention is NOT to make any detailed transportation alignment or design decisions as part of the Transportation Plan that would require processes such as environmental assessment – these would come later. Before any such detailed work is undertaken, and indeed before it CAN be properly undertaken, it is critically important for the City to consider and decide on a significant new direction for the city’s transportation.

Our working title for the Transportation Plan, which should have a dynamic and engaging brand, is
“GO BOLD in a City Growing Up: City of Burlington Transportation Plan.”
This working title reflects the critical relationship between the Transportation Plan and the Official Plan, which has already been branded “GROW BOLD.”

How we got here:

The City of Burlington is at a turning point. We would say that we’ve reached a “fork in the road,” but frankly that is left – over language from a car – first transportation era.

Building on decades of evolution in transportation thinking over many plans, policies & initiatives, two

significant recent events have sparked a game – changing new conversation about mobility in Burlington.

The first is the April 11, 2016 Council adoption of Burlington’s Strategic Plan 2015–2040. The bold new Strategic Plan contains unprecedented aspiration and commitments regarding both “A City That Grows” and “A City That Moves” — and to be more specific, a city that will move in a fundamentally different way in the future than it has in the past, as it grows in a different way than it has in the past.

The Village isn't completely built out yet - there are still pockets of construction taking place. Still room for new people.

Alton Village was a prime example of urban sprawl – the type of construction the city wants to see less of – the last of the new development in Alton is currently underway at the intersection of Walkers Line and Dundas.

The second is the significant declaration by Mayor Goldring and City Council in 2015 that Burlington is the first Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) municipality to “stop urban sprawl” and become a city that is “growing up rather than out.”  City leaders realize that for such a transformation to be successful, with resulting greater livability, quality of life, sustainability, equity, & healthy living, our city’s mobility and accessibility will need to be fundamentally rethought and rebuilt. The way we’ve been visioning, planning and designing our transportation networks as the city has grown outward has fundamentally focused on moving cars to such an extent that other mobility options are either not present, or at best are not practical.

This approach will not succeed if we are to be a city growing upward and inward.

Following these two big events, Council made two related critical decisions on July 7th of this year:

1. Council supported a new urban structure for the City with growth focused in downtown.

Mobility hubs

The city created four mobility hubs. Aldershot once appeared to be the one the city planned on starting with – that idea may have changed. The hub at the Burlington GO station linked to the hub in the downtown core may become the first to be developed.

Burlington, at our GO Stations (Mobility Hubs), and along the connecting corridors of Brant Street (between hubs) and the Plains Fairview Corridor (connecting all three GO hubs).

This smart, strategic land use facilitates, and is facilitated by, a different approach to mobility than Burlington has focused on in the past.

2.  Council approved strategic and unprecedented funding for the detailed planning and implementation of growth in the planned Mobility Hubs.  To further facilitate this turning point, and to begin the process of creating a new Transportation Plan for the City, we have prepared a DRAFT vision statement for Burlington’s new era of transportation. This Draft Vision draws from, and is inspired and directed by, existing policy, the new Strategic Plan, and recent community conversations about the future of our city. This Draft is not intended to be finished, but rather to start a conversation about what an ultimate new vision should include.

Since beginning this work, the City has released a new communications strategy relative to the preparation to a new Official Plan and Transportation Plan for Burlington. The key message in this strategy is the need for us to “Grow Bold.”

This message – this NEED – is in keeping with and is further inspiring our changing thinking around transportation. We will indeed need to grow bold in our thinking and building, and we will need to GO BOLDLY toward a better, more successful city as we grow.


Citizens meting with planners and developers to talk about how they want to see development taking place. The two meetings were held by ward 2 Councillor Marie Anne Med Ward. Her final report has yet to be released. The meetings were classic public engagement.

A plan with almost perfect vision, aspiration and policy can still fail in the “buy-in,” implementation and follow through. Indeed, disconnects between vision and implementation are the most common reason for failure of plan achievement. Failure can occur when plans aren’t given significant weight and value by Council, staff, and/or the community, and thus “sit on a shelf collecting dust.” Plans also often frequently fail when there are disconnects between plan vision/aspiration and actual budget decisions.

The goal of this Direction is to dedicate significant corporate energy and attention to ensuring that every level of follow-through, from culture change and capacity – building, to detailed levels of implementation & budgeting; is considered, and has been strategically positioned for success. This Plan will be a powerful catalyst for real change, and will not sit on a shelf collecting dust.

Next steps.

After the Council Workshop in September, the intention is to share this draft vision and 8 draft new directions with the public as a public “launch” for the new Transportation Plan. City transportation staff have coordinated closely with staff from other departments so that public engagement opportunities and efforts between the new transportation plan and the new official plan can be “piggy-backed” as much as possible.


Citizens talking amongst themselves about the kind of development they would like to see take place in their ward.

It continues to be TUW’s advice to the city that all opportunities for less formal/”traditional” engagement contact with the public should be taken advantage of. The bedrock of this way of thinking is to “go where the people already are, rather than expecting the public to come to you.” Shopping centres, schools, events, fairs & festivals, markets, “pop-up” street installations and churches should all be considered to ensure that engagement reaches the broadest possible community, including those who would not normally engage with city participation processes.

In addition to face-to -face connections, TUW recommends that individual transportation plan – related social media accounts be created (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc) ASAP , bolstered by the existing citywide accounts, to help create a new brand and specialized on – line conversation for the Transportation Plan.

These will continue to be an asset after the Plan is approved, over years of implementation and review.

Our intention is to take a very proactive approach to explaining to the public the “origin story” of this draft Vision and these 8 draft New Directions. In particular, it needs to be clearly explained how they seek to “make real” the commitments in the already Council – approved Strategic Plan. In that sense, it is not our intention to ask the public for comment on whether we are generally “on the right general track.” The truth is that Council’s existing approvals have already put us on that general track. We would be honest and transparent about that.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

Can the city learn how real citizen engagement is done – or will they continue with the practice of showing the citizens what they plan to do and asking for approval?

Having said that, we WOULD be communicating to the public that the draft text is considered far from finished, and for that matter far from perfect, and thus we invite comment on whether we’ve taken the right approaches & have the right language, with the intention of using such input to produce a final version of the Vision and eight New Directions. Based on this input , New Directions may be added, removed, revised or consolidated. Further, and very importantly, we would be inviting the public to comment on/recommend specific policies, actions or changes that the city should undertake in order to realize this vision and facilitate these New Directions.


We eagerly await our opportunity to workshop these challenging and dynamic New Directions for Burlington transportation. They are inspired by, and hope to further inspire, the ambitious and bold thinking that Council has already been showing.

This is a critical and significant step for the city. While city hall feels it has done a good job of explaining its Strategic Plan to the population – we would be hard pressed to find more than 2 out of every 100 people in the city who knows what the document says and what its implications really are.

That inability to communicate is not just the fault of the city – communication is a two way street – speakers and listeners – most of Burlington hasn’t been listening – and the city doesn’t really know how to communicate with its citizens.  Many suggest that the majority of this city council don’t want to communicate – they just want to decide what should be done and then go ahead and do it.

bridgewater-cement-trucks-5-of-themThere is a construction crew working diligently on the south side of Lakeshore Road pouring concrete at an incredible rate to put up a 22 storey condominium along with a seven storey condominium and an eight story hotel. Getting that project to the point where there is a hole in the ground began back in 1985. It was approved when Walter Mulkewich was Mayor of the city.

One wonders if such a project would be approved today.getting new - yellow


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18 comments to What did the consultant say to city council? Here it is – word for word. Pay attention – it is your city they want to change.

  • bonnie

    Why with a city manager from Vancouver do we now have a consulting firm from Vancouver telling us how our city should move forward?

  • CMG

    Marie Ann Med Ward?!

  • James

    So this is what I’m hearing:

    – Burlington has no affordable housing.
    – Burlington has very few jobs.
    – Burlington has poor public transit.
    – Burlington has poor public consultation.
    – Burlington has growing traffic problems and no desire to fix it.
    – Burlington has aging infrastructure and no money for repairs.
    – Burlington residents’ property taxes are increasing roughly 4% to 5% on an annual basis, despite incomes not increasing to match.
    – Burlington’s population is about to skyrocket, against the wishes of the public, making all of the above noted problems even worse.

    Have I got that right? If so, I guess that Canada’s Best Mid-Sized City trophy is about to be lost, potentially for a very long time.

    Tack on the explosion of hydro costs and the Liberal government’s desire to find even more ways to tax us, and I’m honestly getting nervous. I don’t know how much longer I can afford and/or want to live here.

    • Phillip Wooster

      I noted in an earlier post that the quality of life in Burlington has deteriorated significantly, in my opinion. I think your post encapsulated that conclusion for me. I am particularly worried about the impact of significantly rising property taxes on affordability, particulary for older residents of Burlington. During Goldring`s terms, these tax increases have significantly outstripped the rate of inflation. There is no concept of zero-based budgeting in the process at City Hall.

  • Stephen White

    This summation is naive beyond belief! I don’t know what type of Utopian paradise Mr. Toderian lives on but I suspect it isn’t Planet Earth. Mr. Toderian must be aligned with Avi Lewis, Naomi Klein and all the eco-thinkers who wrote the Leap Manifesto.

    Fortunately, just as politicians can be defeated during municipal election campaigns, consultants can be terminated too or not have their contracts renewed. The nice thing about this is that the battle lines are clearly being drawn for the next municipal election and we can all thank Mr. Toderian and the Mayor for galvanizing the opposition.

    • John

      Stephen – The purpose of the committee meeting was to get councils input on the first draft of the transportation plan.
      This consultant is just that, a consultant to assist council with their direction on transportation, council will still have to make the final decisions.

      As one councilor put it, the QEW divides the city culturally, almost like two different cities.
      Is that the battle line you are referring to ?

      Editor’s note:
      One member of council suggested that the QEW could be covered over and turned into a park.

      • John

        I did hear the councilors idea of turning the QEW into a park, I had to watch the meeting video more that once to be sure the councilor was serious.
        If that is what the councilor envisions as a goal for the city, great. I hope the benefits are clearly defined before it’s considered.

        • BurlingtonLocal

          They were joking right?

          Editor’s note:
          Does it matter if the person was joking? The only thing Burlington can do about the QEW is complain about it. You had to be in the room to appreciate the comment.

          • John

            You can decide for yourself, time is about 2:14 on the video of the meeting.
            The editor is correct, the QEW is a provincial highway.

  • astheworldturns

    and speaking of commuting…seems that MetroLinx is keeping their mouth shut on the reason for the delay (years)on completing the new GO station. A big eye sore right in the middle of Burlington where the new condo that is going up between it, Walmart and the tracks will be completed and occupied first. What is councils’ take on this? Looking for Burlington Gazette to investigate this Burlington embarrassment. Maybe some answers before another cold winter on the plateform waiting for delayed trains and jingling our cold hands in our pockets full of more change to give to GO when the rates (are sure to) go up.

    Editor’s note:
    We recall a comment the Mayor made at a council meeting when he said he couldn’t get answers from MetroLinx – they are a power unto themselves. Not all that transparent – and accountable to whom? This is one of the drawbacks when agencies like this are created.

  • BurlingtonLocal

    Maybe Toderian UrbanWORKS (TUW) can send us a “reporting letter” on how we can get our money back. I guess you don’t need functioning streets and roadways when you are sitting in your ivory tower, looking down on people trying to get to work on time.

  • Steve

    That’s a whole lot of words. So in a nutshell we’re stopping urban sprawl out and will in-fill building urban sprawl up, while making it easier to get around with a wonderful new transportation plan. Did I understand this correctly?

  • Biking along the street is dangerous. The bus gets snarled in traffic like everyone else. The new official plan spreads out intensification in such a way that mass transit densities are impossible. There is no commercial development strategy other than “hope” – no I’m not kidding last person I talked to at the city said we “hope” people build stores, but if they don’t to bad. So there will be no localized stores. People don’t have 2 hours to walk to the store.

    There is no plan or event in reality or other place on the globe that leads a reasonable person to believe that the direction presented here will do anything but create massive traffic congestion. Followed by really ugly bashed in extra lanes of traffic shortly after.

    Once there is nothing IN a place people will only care about getting THROUGH it.

    I hate to think what the city paid for this “insight.”

  • It’s just poor work product. There is zero analysis of what is a reasonable percentage falling into each transportation modes. People are inventing places that in fact have never existed. New York or Paris has a lot of pedestrians – they also have lot of single passenger cars.

    The idea is just to keep chucking people into Burlington in any place in any number. Until traffic becomes so horrific the system is unworkable. This is “victory” under this way of thinking. The writer doesn’t seem to care about people or there desires. Just reports reflecting reports.

    People are talking about doubling the population of Burlington to around 300k the buildings are being put up as we speak. Still zero planning for transit. The city doesn’t care about how it can solve citizen problems. Only how citizens can solve it’s problems.

    The new official plan rules are a disaster – spreading people out every where in a way that will mathematically never produce anything but traffic jams.

    I’m all for multiple methods of transit and mixed density projects and localized parks and shops.

    Just ask anyone from the city what % of people do you think will walk or bike in year X. You will NEVER get an answer, because either the plan will never deflect enough people out of cars OR they have to pick numbers greater than anyplace on earth.

    Again the distances in Burlington are unworkable for walking and getting worse. Biking

  • Bryce Lee

    I keep thinking of the problem The City of Hamilton is having with the proposed LRT system and keep looking at Burlington, specifically the
    corridor more or less from the Appleby GO station in the east to the Royal Botanical Gardens in the west.

    The PLains Road-Fairview Street corridor woud be ideal for a Light Rail
    Transit (LRT) system, one with tracks to the north and south of the corridor. However you wish to envisage this, the line at the west could in theory connect with a similar system if ever built, in Hamilton. Ditto the other way to Oakville.

    When the Ontario Hydro interurban transit systems were constructed, the main trackage went from downtown Hamilton across the Beach Sand Bar, into then downtown Burlington and then east along what was to become New Street and on to Oakville. Rubber tired transport killed that particular method of transport in short order.

    This city wants to move people, now and in the future.
    Look at LRT! A spur and a loop north to
    the proposed Aldershot transportation hub, the line passes the Fairview GO station, and if planned would connect to the Appleby GO station and beyond.

    Once firmly established tracks could be built north and then east-west along Upper Middle Road. LRT can also use what we term as subways, look at Boston for example and other cities.

    You can place only so many buses on a stretch of right of way, ditto an LRT however the newer LRT vehicles will pack in more people per vehicle than a bus.

    The thinking progression at one time was:
    Personal automobile->Carpool->Transit bus->streetcar/LRT->subway/underground/rail trains ie Interlinx Heavy rail borne GO Transit.

    Hamilton is in a quandry, an established area trying to squeeze something that should have been in theory never abandoned. Post WWII the personal automobile and rubber tired transit buses were seen as the future. The future has arrived and rubber tired transit is often inadequate.

    If Burlington is going to grow vertically as suggested, more people per square measurement; those people generally, hopefully will also not require their own personal transportation device.

    Burlington can plan its future personal transportation need on railed transit; yes employment needs to be local, however the idea is local LRT transit would be perhaps a better method of getting the commuter and the
    daily worker to and from their destination.

    • “This city wants to move people, now and in the future. Look at LRT!”

      I’m with you Bryce.

      Problem is that Burlington’s Official plan and complete lack on control on development places mass transit off the table. You need to pickup 4,000 people an hour to make an LRT make sense. You need not only space along the track, but depth away from the track to develop to make the numbers work. Recently official plan changes make intensification everywhere along arteries and we are not going to eat the subdivisions.

      It’s just impossible to make a viable line if we keep doing whats on the books.

  • Steve

    In short, they want to create a city so utterly overcrowded that travel in your car is so painful that it will create an opportunity for clusters of shopping Kiosks dotted all over like oases, and happy bicyclists peddling to and fro.