If Mayor Bratina really supports LRT, he has had over three years to develop a properly thought-out alternative to the B-line and try to convince his colleagues that some other better option is possible.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 06, 2014
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina is backpedaling from a bizarre blog he posted on his website on Tuesday, claiming in a Spectator article that he is not actually interested in carrying out the proposal he outlined to put light rail transit (LRT) on the Escarpment and Chippewa Rail Trails. (You can read a review of the mayor's blog post on RTH.)
Rather, he says he was merely trying to dispel the idea that he opposes LRT in general, while raising a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about the east-west B-Line that the City and Province have spent the past six years studying and developing.
The important thing to remember is that Bratina voted to support a whole series of motions that involved spending millions of dollars of public money on feasibility studies, detailed development and land use planning, class Environmental Assessment and 30 percent engineering design of the B-line LRT.
He was absolutely crystal-clear during the 2010 election that he would "work with all levels of government to bring light rail transit to Hamilton" as his campaign website stated, and he clearly said at the October 6, 2010 Durand Neighbourhood Association mayoral debate that he firmly supported the B-Line LRT.
Bratina and I chatted after that debate and the only less-than-positive thing he said to me was that other councillors were worried about costs and didn't want the city to have to contribute.
I'm not sure what changed between October 6 and October 19, but musing about maybe looking at building the A-Line LRT first is not the same as vehemently opposing the B-line LRT, which is what he has been doing.
Any reasonable person in late 2010 looking at his platform, his voting record, and the work the Rapid Transit team was doing would conclude he would continue to support the B-line LRT.
But once he was elected Mayor, he changed course and went about trying to discredit building any sort of LRT, even as the planning for the B-line LRT continued with more votes from him supporting the process.
The Rapid Ready Plan that Hamilton sent to the Province is entirely aimed at justifying the B-line LRT as a priority development project. Bratina voted for it with the rest of Council, but later tried to claim that it wasn't really a vote for LRT.
In April 2013, City Manager Chris Murray told the Mayor and Council, "We've been focused all along on the B-Line and advancing the detail of that B-Line so the Province can make a decision on the B-Line. Okay?"
Bratina has had over three years to develop a properly thought-out alternative to the B-line LRT and try to convince his colleagues that some other better LRT option is possible.
Instead, he alternately claimed that there was nothing to worry about because Hamilton was doing everything Metrolinx had asked and we should just sit back, relax, and let them make their decision, which implied he supported the plan; and then periodically attacked the justification for any LRT line at all, including saying it would only make sense if a million people move to Hamilton in the next five years.
In any case, the City's and Province's actual plan was always supposed to be for two LRT lines in Hamilton, with the north-south A-line initially set up as a BRT due to lower demand and the challenges of the escarpment.
What is the justification for running LRT to the airport, which is clearly on the way to becoming a cargo-only facility? There is minimal-to-zero development potential along the route south of Rymal because of rural zoning, and almost no passenger demand.
The City spent a lot of money and time, included massive public engagement, in determining the optimal route and associated urban design, which is why we are focusing on the B-line LRT - and the Province came to the same conclusion in their Benefits Case Analysis.
Like his last-minute amalgamation talk earlier this year, Bratina posted this blog entry as a way of covering himself, like a lawyer who argues his client should get off on a technicality.
He is now trying to use his blog to claim that, in some strange way, he actually does (or at least did) support LRT. But he immediately counters his own claim by saying that, in fact, he actually doesn't support the plan he just posted.
And he also doesn't support the city's official plan, which he also voted to support, because he tries very hard to discredit it in his article.
If I can try to to summarize his position, it goes something like this:
1. I actually do support LRT. As exhibit A, I present this plan that no one knows about for a completely unfeasible and unjustified LRT to nowhere.
2. But, don't worry, I don't actually support my own plan. It is just there so that I can claim I didn't break my campaign promise "to work with all levels of government to bring LRT to Hamilton".
3. And you can relax because I really do support Council's official plan to build the B-line LRT.
4. But wait a minute, although I support Council's plan, it has all sorts of serious problems. Which means I don't really support it. But I'll still support it officially, for appearances sake, as long as no one actually asks me about it.
It is hard to conclude that his latest foray into the LRT debate is anything other than straightforward concern trolling - pretending to support an initiative in order to confuse, disrupt, undermine and ultimately kill it.
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