Wednesday July 27, 2016

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday July 27, 2016

LRT report not about ‘us-and-them’ says Whitehead

A Mountain councillor says a report his office authored to challenge Hamilton’s plan for a $1-billion light rail line in the lower city is meant to offer “sober second thought” as the project moves forward.

“What is the best net benefit to the community at large?” Coun. Terry Whitehead told The Spectator’s editorial board Monday.

But just hours after Whitehead released his report, Christopher Higgins, one of its key sources, released via Twitter scathing feedback of the Ward 8 councillor’s 58-page effort.

Higgins publicized an annotated version of Whitehead’s report early Monday, discrediting it for using study material “cherry-picked for maximum effect rather than to present a balanced analysis.”

That, Whitehead said, was “unprofessional.”

“Who does a peer review on Twitter for all to see?”

Whitehead said he and assistant Howard Rabb, who co-authored the report, had asked for Higgins’ feedback before publication, but that the researcher said he was pressed for time and heading to China.

Higgins, a post-doctoral researcher at McMaster University’s Institute for Transportation and Logistics, said a “role for MITL as peer reviewer was mentioned, but never acted upon.”

Whitehead rejected the report lacks context, saying links to PDFs of full studies it cites are just a click away on its host microsite. 

The work isn’t meant to be scientific, but an attempt to find answers, he added: “I’m not doing a scientific study, let’s be clear.”

During the editorial board meeting, Whitehead said the report isn’t about ward politics, either.

“This is not an us-and-them thing, as much as people want to pigeonhole me on that.”

Rather, the report — which questions projections for ridership, land values, development spinoff and system efficiency — is meant to foster a more “fulsome” take on the project.

Whitehead argues staff has presented “glowing accounts” of LRT success stories but not lacklustre performances in other major centres.

Those information gaps are not the product of “skulduggery,” Whitehead said, but he is concerned the LRT plan is becoming a “legacy issue” for some. “Decisions are often made in political time frames.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)

Hamilton, LRT, rapid transit, transit, Terry Whitehead, Donald Trump, art of the deal, Ontario