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HSR’s on-duty staff this weekend performed commendably, reacting to storm conditions and closures with good quick decisions, and great communications.
Saturday afternoon, for over an hour, the HSR was forced to suspend all service on routes 21 to 41 due to road conditions.
The Public Works Roads response was poor, people playing Pokemon GO during the storm had better odds of finding a Pikachu than seeing a City of Hamilton salt truck.
On-duty HSR Superintendent Drew Westenburg harnessed his limited Saturday resources and responded excellently to the disruption.
The HSR Twitter account was active, updating passengers on the disruption, detours during the resumption of service, and even individually respond to people at bus stops tweeting where’s my bus?
The on-duty supervision team ensured people could stay on buses waiting for Mountain accesses to reopen, moved to position other buses at terminals in preparation for the resumption of service, and shuffled resources to get service back onto schedule after resumption.
Eventually, the City found salt trucks for one access – the Claremont – and HSR detoured using this single access. Minutes after opening, it was closed again, and the HSR had to wait for salt trucks to reopen the Jolley Cut.
During all of this, bus operators tell me communication from “control” – as they call HSR dispatch – was consistent, clear, and comphrensive. They were then able to relay information to passengers.
Saturday’s suspension of service was a nearly unprecedented event; it wasn’t just one or two accesses closed, it was all four central accesses closed, and dangerous road conditions city-wide. Retired HSR operators say the only time they can recall a suspension of service was during the Great Blizzard of ’77.
It wasn’t just accesses that were an issue; the 7-Locke route had two buses stuck at the top of Dundurn, other routes had to detour due to slippery hills, even the 4-Bayfront was impacted as the slight hill of Nash Road South was too slippery for buses to climb.
In all of this, the on-duty supervisors, dispatchers, and mechanics juggled these demands and kept the system operating. (It helped that HSR management planned in advance by pulling articulated buses off the road)
As the evening progressed, management assisted. The HSR Twitter account’s tone changed, tweets appeared to be by HSR’s Customer Service Manager Dennis Guy. The decision was made – after I called out this problem – to keep the MacNab Terminal open beyond the schedule 9pm closure.
Here are my takeaways:
1) Saturday’s on duty HSR supervisors should be publicly commended at the next Council meeting by the Mayor personally. They reacted exceptionally well.
2) Giving on-duty supervisory staff access to the HSR Twitter account was a very good decision. The non-PR tone of the tweets was exactly what riders needed to see, it was real. My personal favourite “Claremont access now open; detouring N-S routes up and down this one for now.” This gave us the information we needed – buses were operating, roads remained difficult, and things would change. No need for professional polish, Hamilton is still a blue collar city.
The impact of Saturday’s storm is not yet done for the HSR.
This coming Sunday the HSR will need to react as McMaster University’s rescheduled exams occur. Scheduled Sunday service to McMaster is one bus every 30 minutes, obviously not good enough for the thousands of students who need to be at exams at 9am.
I spoke to HSR Director Debbie Dalle Vedove this morning, and planning is underway to get students to their exams.
- Joey Coleman
The Week Ahead
Development Industry Liaison Group discussed the Downtown Secondary Plan, implementation of Planning Act changes, and Parkland Dedication By-law review. [Agenda]
Public Works Committee approved three roads to be repaired using the $19-million Council is borrowing against future revenue, staff says the roads will only see their top 8cm treated and the treatments are expected to last 10 years. Burlington Street (Sherman to Nikola Tesla), Upper Gage (LINC to Mohawk), and Cannon (Sherman to James). If the City can receive “favourable pricing”, then Barton (Gage to Kenilworth, Sanford to Lottridge), Highway 5 (Mills to Evans), Osler (West Park to South), Upper Sherman (Southampton to Mohawk), Upper James (Fennell to Mohawk, Kennedy to Christopher) [Agenda]
Planning Committee will debate the proposed Downtown Secondary Plan, Hess Village Paid Duty Policing is back on the agenda and we could see the $50,000 per year cost absorbed by the City as costs of administering the special levy now exceeds the revenue of the program – lawyer and Hess Village business owner Dean Collett is listed to speak on behalf of Hess Village businesses, a staff update on the City’s growth mapping, and a motion calling on the Province to prioritize Council’s list of cases at the OMB they wish to see heard quickly. [Agenda]
Heritage Permit Review is handling five routine renovation and accessibility permits. This agenda is not available on the City website.
Council GIC will receive from Hamilton’s Elections Manager a policy outlining restrictions on use of city resources for election campaigning; the policy will allow City Councillors to use their websites, mailing lists, and City promoted Councillor Twitter accounts. Council watchdog Viv Saunders will address GIC on the issue. An update on PTIF funding, spoiler: no new bus barn yet. Mayor Eisenberger’s moving a motion that on its surface asks for something which is already happening – commercial mixed use zoning, which begs the question of why? There is one phrase in his motion that catches my error “shopping malls” – Eastgate, Lime Ridge, and Mountain Plaza all have plans in development.
In closed session, Council will get an update on the never-ending stadium fiasco litigation, and discuss potentially buying the former Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital lands. [Agenda]
Hamilton Public Library Board is looking at making the Terryberry Study Hall permanent, receiving a presentation on geographical library usage and demographic trends, a motion to expand digital collections. [Agenda]
Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Workforce Development (seriously, that’s the name Mayor Eisenberger gave it) will discuss education-industry-government partnerships to advance Hamilton’s workforce to attack more employers to the region. [Agenda]
Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee will vote on designating three buildings or structures as Heritage Properties, among the list are the Cathedral Boys’ School and the Hamilton Water reservoir on the Kenilworth Access. The Book House in Ancaster is proposed to be removed from the possible designation list, to allow for its demolition. [Agenda]
Hamilton Police Services Board will receive a delegation from Kojo Damptey, the 2017 Freedom of Information statistics, 2017 Youth Crime statistics, and a letter from the International Village BIA concerned about a lack of community policies. [Agenda]
Grants Committee will approve the staff recommendations for 2018 City Enrichment fund grants for a wide variety of community services, events and programs. There were 313 applications this year for the $6,022,690 fund, City staff state that 17 applications meant the criteria for full funding, but were “underfunded” totalling $189,978 due meet the budget cap. [Agenda]
The Public Record Recommends:
- The debate around the renaming of Puslinch’s Swastika Trail is now going to the Divisional Court on an appeal by area residents who want the name changed due to the swastika association with nazism. Those who wish to keep the name argue the street name existed prior to the appropriation of the symbol by evil, prior to its use by the nazis, the symbol represented auspiciousness and good luck. As a matter of administrative and expression law, this will be a case to watch. The challenge is on how the municipal government handled the matter, but at its root, it is about the term swastika and its meaning in Canada post-Nazi Germany.
Later in April
- Thurs Apr 19, 7pm, Nash Jackson House in Battlefield Park, Olde Town Stoney Creek Community Assocation meeting. details
- *new* Sunday May 6, 1 to 4pm, Beasley Community Centres, Beasley Fair 2018: Finding Level Ground, a discussion on affordable housing and how to keep Beasley a complete community. Details
Newsletter top photo: HSR Bus on James Street last week