Special Report: Light Rail

Mayor Replying to Letters of Support for LRT

We cannot afford to let Bratina continue to hijack the agenda for transformative change in Hamilton.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 23, 2014

Hamiltonians have been sending statements of support for LRT to Council and the Province this week as Transport Minister Steven Del Duca plans to join a secret meeting with Mayor Bob Bratina and his governance advisory committee.

Bratina has been responding to some of the messages. Several people have forwarded the email response they received to RTH, and they all include the same copy-pasta text:

At present, Council's position is stated in the Transportation Master Plan presented in February 2013 which advocates extensive investment in active transportation, acknowledging that increased active transportation is an outcome essential to achieving Council's Vision for Hamilton. The entire Rapid Ready report which is a must read for anyone interested in the future of transit in Hamilton can be found here.

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/1EF0629C-3003-4FC2-A286-8ECACE07BB0E/0/RR1_Rapid_Ready_Report.pdf

The report states the following: "The first key contributor to becoming Rapid Ready in Hamilton is to invest in improving transit services and reconfigure the transit network in anticipation of rapid transit. These early investments would increase ridership, elevate the role of public transit in Hamilton, and prepare customers for rapid transit implementation."

So it is critical that immediate improvements be made to the current system with standard buses. Pending project funding from the provincial government, the earliest construction start date for an LRT system is following the completion of the 2015 Pan Am Game with a length of phased construction estimated to take 5 to 7 years. In other words a functional LRT service for Hamilton would commence by 2021 or beyond.

Thank you again for your interest.

Mayor Bob Bratina.

Let's get a few things straight. According to the Rapid Ready LRT report Bratina cites, present-day ridership on the B-Line would put the LRT in the middle of the pack of North American LRT systems if it opened today.

B-Line LRT boardings per kilometre compared to other North American cities with LRT (Source: Rapid Ready)
B-Line LRT boardings per kilometre compared to other North American cities with LRT (Source: Rapid Ready)

So Bratina is misleading when he claims we need to build ridership on the B-Line before LRT makes sense. The City has been steadily building ridership on the wast-west LRT route since the "Bee Line" express bus service between Eastgate Square and McMaster University first opened in 1986.

Next, Bratina claims construction for LRT could not start until after the 2015 Pan Am Games. Of course, Bratina himself has spent the past four years of his mayoral term stalling and delaying progress on LRT, including telling the Province it is "not a priority" and having city manager Chris Murray suspend the Rapid Transit team and disperse its staff members.

Back in October 2008, the Rapid Transit Feasibility Study final report stated:

[A]s a result of Provincial timelines, which impact the potential funding for rapid transit projects in Hamilton, it has been made clear by Metrolinx that Provincial project priorities, will in part, depend on projects that have strong political support and that can be completed under aggressive timelines. Rapid Transit Team Staff are dedicated, from a technical standpoint and subject to Council approval at a future date, of making rapid transit in Hamilton happen with an anticipated ground breaking scheduled for Spring 2011, subject to Provincial and Federal funding commitments through the MoveOntario 2020 plan.

There are a lot of reasons why that "aggressive timeline" was not met, including foot-dragging at Metrolinx and Queen's Park, but Bratina's political opposition starting after he was elected (he supported LRT during his election campaign) is a big part of why the City didn't submit its LRT plan until 2013.

It is also a significant part of why the Province has felt safe ignoring that plan for the past year and a half.

Next, Bratina claims a "phased construction" would take five to seven years. According to Appendix C: Building Rapid Transit [PDF] of the Metrolinx big Move Baseline Monitoring Report, "An LRT project can take 4 years to build between 10 and 15 kilometres."

Of course, it could be 2021 or even later before we get LRT, but Bratina himself is arguably the single biggest reason why the project is so delayed from the "aggressive timelines" staff and the public were pushing for back in 2008.

We cannot afford to let Bratina continue to hijack the agenda for transformative change in Hamilton. Add your voice of support for LRT so Council and the Province get the message loud and clear.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By acanadianyoda (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 07:39:37

I got this letter from Bratina also.
Do you think its better to try and educate him or just ignore him as he becomes more and more irrelevant?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 07:50:10 in reply to Comment 103393

At this point, the best we can hope for is to try and minimize Bratina's ability to stall, obfuscate and disrupt the implementation of LRT. One important way to do that is to let Council and the Province know that support for LRT is robust and widespread, so thank you for sending a letter.

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By whatgives (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 08:21:38

I got the exact same letter! What a guy!

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By Giver (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 21:58:46 in reply to Comment 103400

You aren't really so naive to think you'd get a personal response to a Special Interest Group email campaign, which even included a web based submission form, are you?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 22:55:08 in reply to Comment 103422

Too right.

You send a form letter to the mayor and he responds in kind. Yet he's the bad guy???

I'm no fan of BoBra, but you're grasping at straws here...

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By adrian (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 23:12:04 in reply to Comment 103428

It's not a form letter. The http://hamiltonlightrail.ca site does not provide you with any text whatsoever. You are free to - and in fact must - write your own statement, using your own words, with no assistance from the site. If you do not have anything to say, you can still sign the petition, but the nothing is sent to officials and politicians. Go check it out.

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By Bobra (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 09:19:41

Bob Bratina has the courage of his afflictions. He's Rob Ford without the crack. He's the town jester without a hat, and he has absolutely no moral authority to act in any capacity of leadership on this important issue so late in his lame duck term of office.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 10:04:43

The Hamilton LRT project is part of a long-term vision to connect key origins and destinations across Hamilton. The project will help revitalize Hamilton’s downtown core and improve public transit options in the city. The 14-kilometre LRT line will extend from McMaster University in the west to Eastgate Square in the east. The corridor will run along Main Street and King Street, on a combination of shared and exclusive at-grade track. Today, bus service operates in mixed traffic along the route. The project is currently in the planning phase, with an EA approved in December 2011. Significant planning, design, and engineering work, made possible through Metrolinx Quick Wins funding, was undertaken collaboratively by the City of Hamilton and Metrolinx and resulted in the “Rapid Ready” report completed in February 2013. The current cost estimate is approximately $1 billion for construction and implementation, and will be updated as engineering work continues.

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By DelMIA (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 10:30:53

I have sent numerous email and tweets to Minister Del Duca on this subject and have not gotten one reply from him.

Has anyone gotten a statement from this guy?

Is he just a Wynn Puppet? Does he just stand there until Kathleen tells him what to do and say? Or is he an actual Minister with the ability to do his job?

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 12:50:16 in reply to Comment 103406

He's probably scouring a map trying to find this 'Hamilton' that you're referring to in your emails.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 22:56:08 in reply to Comment 103407

Maybe you can help and provide him with the URL: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/

Oh, wait, that's YOUR vision for the city of Hamilton...

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By teddymac (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 13:09:41

a certain minister just confirmed through email that hamilton's lrt plans are going to be in the next wave within 7 to 10 years.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 21:15:59 in reply to Comment 103408

of course, Hamilton is always in the 'next wave'. Funny how that wave never comes.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 22:56:39 in reply to Comment 103420

Maybe the wave already came and left you on the shore?

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By hang ten (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 23:04:03 in reply to Comment 103430

the only "wave" to arrive was in the fifties: the green wave to hell.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 13:17:04 in reply to Comment 103408

Would you mind forwarding that email to RTH? editor@raisethehammer.org

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By jayrobb (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 13:28:54

The conversation about rapid transit in Hamilton starts with Friday's meeting. Let's not blow the meeting and derail the conversation by trying to score points, soundbites and votes.

We need to stay the Ambitious City and not become the High Maintenance City.

Demanding the province keep its promise is one approach.

Or we could use Friday's meeting to get a better handle on the Province's transit priorities and identify where there's alignment with Hamilton's priorities.

The 2014 Provincial budget offers some clues. The Province is investing $15B over 10 years for GTHA transit projects that address congestion and improve mobility throughout the region (we may want to stop talking about excess lane capacity and posting pics on social media of empty downtown streets).

The budget speech made specific mention of investing in GTHA projects that "help people get to work, home and school more quickly and safely". So let's highlight where Hamilton's plans align with that objective.

Hamilton rapid transit is one of nearly a dozen priorities in the GTHA and more could be added to that list. Expansion toward two-way, all-day GO transit rail service got special mention as a priority of the Province. GO Transit improvements on all corridors would include additional track, grade separations, improved signalling, station improvements and additional fleet. The Province is also looking at a proposal to electrify the GO rail system to deliver regional express rail service at intervals as frequent as 15 minutes.

So how does Hamilton's transit plans tie into the Province's plans for GO Transit? How could investing in Hamilton rapid transit deliver more riders / commuters and revenues for GO Transit? The Rapid Ready report mentioned a GO Station in Stoney Creek. Where are we at on that file?

Anyone expecting Friday's meeting to end with an $800M grip and grin cheque presentation will likely be disappointed. But Friday's meeting can be the start of a conversation and a collaboration that meets the needs of both the Province and our city. And we're going to need the Province's help on other projects beyond transit during the next four years.

Please don't blow it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 15:33:09 in reply to Comment 103411

the conversation has been going on for years. Friday is just a continuation of the leadership-less sideshow at city hall. No real discussion will take place until after the next election when we find out if we've elected a mayor with vision or not.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 13:50:20 in reply to Comment 103411

Or we could use Friday's meeting to get a better handle on the Province's transit priorities and identify where there's alignment with Hamilton's priorities.

We can't use Friday's meeting to do anything. It will be a secret meeting of elected officials attended only by the Mayor and councillors Russ Powers (who opposes the city's LRT plan) and Scott Duvall. Councillor Merulla has stated he won't attend the meeting because he can't get a definitive answer on whether it is even legal.

In any case, we already know where the Province's transit priorities align with Hamilton's priorities. The Rapid Ready LRT plan was developed over five years in which the City worked very closely with Metrolinx and the Province to develop a plan that aligns closely with The Big Move. The B-Line Rapid Transit is specifically mentioned in the Ontario Budget and is also included in the Next Wave list of Metrolinx projects.

Let's stop pretending that Hamilton is trying to sell the Province on some aspirational transit scheme. The only reason we started developing our LRT plan is because the Province told us they wanted to build two light rail transit lines in Hamilton. The Province even gave us $3 million to complete our required Class Environmental Assessment as part of our development plan.

This is the same Liberal government that announced the MoveOntario 2020 projects in the summer of 2007, threatened during the 2007 election that Hamilton would miss out on two LRT lines if the Progressive Conservatives won, included the B-Line as a top priority project in the Regional Transportation Plan, included the B-Line in the Next Wave list of top priority projects and included the B-Line in the budget that just triggered a general election in which the Liberals won a majority.

The Province has made it clear all along that they have been impressed with the very high level of broad citizen engagement on LRT in Hamilton - much higher than in other municipalities where funding commitments and investments have already been made.

This is not the time for hand wavy equivocation. It is the time to send a clear, direct and positive message to Council and the Province that we have done everything the Province asked us to do and we are ready for a funding commitment. It would be nice if we could count on our Mayor to deliver that message, but we know that he will not. So it's up to us to deliver the message directly.

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By IanReynolds (registered) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 14:22:32

I got the same email response, but with an extra first paragraph about how Hamilton's median income is higher than Toronto's. It screamed of "My dad could beat up your Dad" insecurity.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 14:24:32

I think we all got the same letter except he responded to my letter from May 2011. A letter that late by definition is retarded.

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By 21stCentury (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2014 at 21:52:32

Retarded?? Your choice of language is offensive. Please return with your choice of words to 1979.

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