Special Report: Light Rail

Hamilton is Somewhere, and its Citizens Are Worthy of Light Rail

LRT is a hopeful vision for the city we love. It looks forward and trusts in Hamilton's ability to survive the challenges of the construction period, and make the most of this transformational project.

By Mary Louise Pigott
Published October 27, 2016

The following is the text of my delegation to the October 25, 2016 General Issues Committee meeting on Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

My name is Mary Louise Pigott. I live in ward 1 and my husband and I own Hamilton Scenic Specialty Inc. in Dundas, fabricating scenery for the entertainment industry. We've produced scenery for Broadway, Las Vegas, London - England and Ontario - and beyond, all shipped from our shop in the shadow of the Dundas peak.

We've been able to compete with the biggest scene shops in North America because of the tremendous talent pool we have here.

While LRT won't service us directly, we are strongly supportive of council's pursuit and ongoing implementation of LRT, and grateful to the province for fulfilling your request for full capital funding.

It's important to remember that, not only is this first phase of the BLAST network not just about the lower city, it isn't even just about Hamilton. The route may have changed a bit from the route you initially requested funding for, and it's regrettable that it isn't going all the way to Eastgate in this first phase.

However, the James North connection to the GO station makes this overall a better route. It is the spur that creates the vital connection to the region that we need and want to be a part of.

As a business, as parents, and as citizens, we are very concerned about the mixed messages we are hearing from some members of council. With Waterloo and Toronto working collaboratively to build a tech corridor, I worry about Hamilton being left behind enough as it is.

Rejecting LRT at this point, and gifting a competing city with our rapid transit dollars, would send the message to business and other levels of government that we are not a serious, stable city in which to invest.

As a parent, I just don't want Hamilton to be a great place to raise a child, I want it to be a great place to keep a child. As the parent of children who show little interest in driving, let alone owning a car, I can tell you that higher order transit will be one of the key factors in attracting and keeping the talent in this city that we need to compete and thrive regionally and globally.

But enough about me. In addition to being a business owner and parent, I am also a citizen, and it's in that capacity I'm here today. I'm involved with several grassroots organizations and initiatives in my city and neighbourhood, and I am here today to present a petition on behalf of a very informal, ad hoc group of citizens, some of whom are members of the LRT advocacy groups Hamilton Light Rail and Hamilton LRT, and some who are not.

We know from our involvement in a variety of organizations such as neighbourhood hubs and other groups, that support for LRT is enthusiastic and widespread, and wanted to send council a message of support in advance of this important meeting. We felt a petition was the best way to accomplish that.

At 8:00 AM last Wednesday, the petition went live. We are averaging over 200 signatures a day. In just over 100 hours, we had over 1,200 signatures. At last count, it was over 1,300, and they're still coming in.

Today, I respectfully submit this document of the first 1,200 signatures of people who signed the petition for LRT.

Document of #yesLRT petition signatures
Document of #yesLRT petition signatures

In the same 100 hours that we received 1,200 signatures, we also received over 400 comments. I'll give the final word to Chris Brown of Ancaster.

I heart Hamilton
I heart Hamilton

I love Hamilton too, Chris. LRT is a hopeful vision for the city we love. It looks forward and trusts in Hamilton's ability to survive the challenges of the construction period, and make the most of this transformational project. Hamilton is somewhere, and its citizens are worthy of this investment.

Mary Louise Pigott is an armchair urbanist and founding member of the Useful Knowledge Society, whose passion for urban neighbourhoods and public spaces occasionally moves her to write.

You can follow her on twitter at @mlhpigott.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 11:27:04

A delegation from the NOLRT side was going to present a petition of about 412 signatures received over about 3 months. This delegation declined to present once they got wind of this petition.

The Supercrawl 2016 paintings showed an ambundance of being for LRT or open-mindedness.

The petitions gain signatures much faster on the YES side rather than NO side.

The pro-LRT Facebook/Twitter feeds are much bigger than the no-LRT equivalents.

The spectator seating in City Council Chambers was overwhelmingly #yesLRT on October 25th.

Hamilton is #yesLRT, to the point that even a referendum would win -- but a referendum is not necessary and a waste of money given the repeated voting towards LRT. Yes, I respect that while neighbours on a street may be mostly NOLRT, there are other streets of which where most residents are #yesLRT.

Let's fix the flaws in the LRT + expanded bus fleet plan instead of wasting money on NOLRT.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 16:01:55 in reply to Comment 120367

Anecdotes aren't data. Are you able to point to an Angus Reid poll perhaps or something equivalent? I'm not aware of one. Genuinely curious.

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-10-27 16:08:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 18:26:37 in reply to Comment 120374

According to Mayor Eisenberger: "Updated numbers from my office on #LRT For: 2,893 Against: 294 - calls, emails, letters. (No telegraphs)"

You can hand-wave that all you want, but if there was significant opposition to LRT, it would be reflected in the correspondence directed to the Mayor. Out of more than 3,000 messages, 91 percent support LRT. That is a huge level of feedback on a public policy issue.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2016 at 08:05:01 in reply to Comment 120381

A referendum wouldn't be "hand wavy" ( I like that term - like Team America World Police) but we cant have a referendum because all we need is Fred Eisenberger's telephone email stats. Talk about hand wavy.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2016 at 08:27:50 in reply to Comment 120387

A ballot referendum would attract at most around 30% of the electorate, so it would be non-representative (in social science terms) as well as legally non-binding, since a referendum needs more than 50% participation to be binding.

It is a non-starter. In the last municipal election, pro-LRT mayoral candidates got 60% of the votes cast, and every incumbent councillor was re-elected despite having voted unanimously to support LRT continuously over several years. Likewise, in the last provincial election, anti-LRT Liberal candidates in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and Hamilton Mountain lost to pro-LRT NDP candidates.

The most prominent anti-LRT group in the city spent three months gathering signatures for their petition and managed to get around 400. Meanwhile, a pro-LRT petition had 1,300 signatures in less than a week.

The anti-LRT group also organized to pack the council chambers for the October 25 GIC meeting. The gallery completely filled - around 150 people in attendance - but nearly all of them were there to support LRT, not to oppose it. Of the 26 delegations that were presented, 19 were pro-LRT and 6 were opposed.

If there was some kind of significant opposition to LRT in Hamilton, we would have heard about it by now.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 28, 2016 at 09:04:40 in reply to Comment 120388

Not to mention that, as far as I know, every organization in the City that has taken a position on LRT supports it. And this includes all the really big ones, including some that are usually on the opposite sides of major issues. And over 300 smaller businesses and organization have added their logos to Graham Crawford's we support LRT poster.

Here are just a few of the big organizations that support LRT:

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce

Hamilton-Halton Home Builders

Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington

Hamilton Burlington Architects

McMaster University

Mohawk College

McMaster Student Union

Environment Hamilton

LiUNA

Vranich

Hamilton Health Sciences

Hamilton Spectator

Clean Air Hamilton

etc etc

And over 90% of those contacting the Mayor's office support LRT. How can you possibly ask for a higher level of community support on a major project? Obviously, not everyone in Hamilton is going to support a $1 billion transformative project. But it is really difficult to imagine a higher level of support.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-10-28 09:05:12

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 16:46:05 in reply to Comment 120374

Do you have data to back up that the citizenry at large are against LRT? It's easy to ask others to provide data to support your claim while not having to provide any of your own.

From what I have seen, the NoLRT group talks a lot of talk, but is really just full of hot air and sticking their signs on the back of road signs, around telephone poles, etc., throughout the city. I haven't seen a single YesLRT sign stuck on post or sign like this, just in windows of homes and businesses.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 18:41:00 in reply to Comment 120380

We have made a point of asking people not to post pro-LRT posters illegally on public property.

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By Mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2016 at 11:03:04 in reply to Comment 120383

Same for the Hamilton LRT Citizen Advocacy group, too.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 16:15:45 in reply to Comment 120374

last mayoral election was an LRT referendum in the same way Christopherson v DiIanni was a Red Hill referendum. The results were extremely clear.

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