The Mayor really needs to get out in front of this issue and demonstrate some robust leadership.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 27, 2007
Yes, we're banging on the transit drum yet again; but with the recent provincial announcement of $300 million to spend on rapid transit in Hamilton, it's vital that we make the best decision on how to spend it.
Bus Rapid Transit is simply not the right way to spend that money. It has the seeming advantage of lower capital costs, but in every other area it falls far short of light rail.
In any case, with the province helping to cover the capital costs of a new rapid transit system, it makes sense to pay more attention to its operation.
Unfortunately, when Raise the Hammer asked Mayor Fred Eisenberger if he supports upgrading the city's transit plan to a real light rail system, he punted.
The expanded benefits of LRT are what were are aiming for, but we need to do the analysis to determine what will work best given the budget available.
The simple fact is that the analysis has already been done to death. We have copious real-life case studies from cities that have tried to do rapid transit on the cheap with buses, compared to cities that committed to light rail and/or streetcars.
The former just doesn't compare across a broad spectrum of criteria, from ridership growth to economic development.
Mayor Eisenberger was elected on a platform that stressed urban revitalization, smart growth, and sustainable development to build a strong, productive community.
The Mayor really needs to get out in front of this issue and demonstrate robust leadership on this clear case of what he adroitly called "transformation" during last week's announcement of $7 million in provincial money for Lister Block.
The time for "looking to the professionals that we are hiring to provide some proposals on what they think would be the best type of system," as the Mayor suggested, is in the past.
The hard work and risk-taking have already been undertaken by cities bolder and braver than this one. Hamilton needs only follow in the footsteps of the light rail pioneers that already enjoy its many fruits.
Where professional analysis can help is in determining which flavour of light rail to build and where the route(s) should go.
What light rail needs in Hamilton is not another raft of studies but a champion - a political leader willing to bring the local stakeholders on board and persuade the provincial and federal governments that an investment this big is worth doing right the first time.
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