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.
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)
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.