Special Report: Light Rail

Letter: Please Support LRT Bay Street Station

Even - indeed, especially - if you are not sure that LRT will be successful, you should be doing everything in your power to set it up for the best possible outcome.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 16, 2017

During the February 15, 2017 General Issues Committee meeting, City Councillors rejected a proposal to add a light rail transit (LRT) station at Bay Street. That vote still has to be ratified at the City Council meeting on February 22, 2017. Please send a message to Council asking them to reconsider their vote against this important line improvement.

Dear Mayor Eisenberger and City Council,

The Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) project is going ahead on the strength of consistent, longstanding Council support and the once-in-a-lifetime full capital funding commitment from the Province. Metrolinx has already issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for interested bidders on the construction contract.

I understand that some Councillors have recently expressed concerns about the project, but the responsible course for every Council member is to give fair and good-faith consideration to the well-argued proposal for a Bay Street station that emerged during the recent public consultation period.

With a project the scale and magnitude of LRT, it is imperative that we pay careful attention to benefits-case analysis and feedback from the public and stakeholders to make the very best decisions that will ensure its overall success.

Even - indeed, especially - if you are not sure that LRT will be successful, you should be doing everything in your power to set it up for the best possible outcome.

We will all lose if the Province makes this transformative investment but the City undermines and subverts it through sour-grapes municipal policy decisions.

A Bay Street LRT station makes very good sense, as argued by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of business and community partners and reviewed by City staff.

This proposal was submitted through the recent Public Consultation process, which was specifically held in order to receive feedback on precisely this type of minor improvement.

As such, approving it will not open the door to "scope creep" - the public consultation period has finished.

The final decision will rest with Metrolinx, which is responsible for the engineering and detailed design and the final procurement process. That means the proposal will still be reviewed to ensure it wits within the budget envelope and provides good value for money.

There is literally no downside for Council to do the right thing and ask Metrolinx to consider this addition.

Again, every Councillor who sincerely wishes for the best possible outcome will vote for the course of action that ensures the most promising design elements are given due diligence.

Please, do the right thing and approve this initiative at next week's Council meeting.

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. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2017 at 11:26:40

I received the following response from Mayor Eisenberger:

Hi Ryan, thank you for reaching out to me concerning an additional stop at Bay Street on the planned LRT line.

This was a proposal as you know by the Hamilton and District Chamber of Commerce and was unanimously approved by the city's LRT subcommittee. However the proposal was turned down by the city's General Issues Committee (GIC) in a vote of 6 - 9, with one council member absent.

I was among those who voted in favour of the additional Bay Street stop. I was persuaded by the Chamber's argument that the additional stop would serve downtown businesses as well as people attending events at nearby cultural venues, such as Hamilton Place. The additional stop also has the potential to stimulate new development around King and Bay streets, including housing, which will result in additional economic uplift and expand the property tax base, which benefits everyone in Hamilton. I was also persuaded a report by city staff that said the additional stop would only add 50 seconds to the travel time along the route. The cost of approximately $2.6 million could be accommodated by the total $1-billion budget being covered by the province.

The GIC recommendation now proceeds to city council for consideration on Feb. 22. Regardless of the final outcome, it is important to remember that this is a provincially-funded Metrolinx project, and while Metrolinx will take the opinion of council into account, it is not bound by it.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 17, 2017 at 12:16:42 in reply to Comment 120784

It's encouraging that Metrolinx is not bound by the results of the vote. I'd love to see our city council make responsible decisions based on facts but it looks like that just isn't going to be happening. Maybe Metrolinx should just take the ball and run with it.

That said, it may be that come council members voted no simply to appease vocal LRT opponents, knowing full well that their vote wouldn't amount to much anyway.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2017 at 14:47:06 in reply to Comment 120786

Unfortunately, Metrolinx says they won't add the Bay station without sign-off from the City. In an email response to RTH, Metrolinx spokesperson Kelsey Ewart wrote:

Metrolinx would require City agreement to add the stop as we are co-proponents on the [Environmental Assessment amendment]. We would not add it unilaterally.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 17, 2017 at 15:30:14 in reply to Comment 120787

Aw, nuts...

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