Light Rail

Remember Why We Support LRT

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published January 14, 2010

this blog entry has been updated

Downtown businesses are understandably nervous about the major changes to their neighbourhood that will be coming with the proposed LRT line.

However, it is important to remember why the City, Chamber of Commerce, Realtors Association and the Downtown BIA and many others support LRT: because of its proven ability to attract billions of dollars in new investment, more residents, more customers and catalyse a revitalized Hamilton.

The opposition to the King only route is also based on a couple of misunderstandings.

First, the pedestrian-only configuration is only one option. The route could also be configured to retain vehicular traffic.

Secondly, although on-street parking on King would be lost, the City would work to increase off-street parking to compensate.

It should also be remembered that LRT would hugely increase the number of customers arriving by transit, and that downtown Hamilton currently has an over-supply of parking lots.

Finally, the King only routing was preferred by the City's consultants because it maximizes both the economic benefit of LRT (which the Downtown BIAs should support), and vehicular traffic flow through the core along Main St.

Splitting the line would reduce both traffic flow and the economic development potential of the line.

I agree with the Downtown BIAs that we need to get the details right in order to enhance our downtown economy and maximize access. That's why a detailed study on the various options (PDF link) recommends the King St route.

Update: added hyperlink to the study on LRT route options, as per this comment.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 09:21:03

I'm still somewhat torn between the LRT on Main or King, but I do agree that both directions of travel must be on the same street. One thing I know about people is that the easier it is to use something, the more often it will be used. Splitting up the lines may seem like a minor inconvenience but in this day and age convenience is key in attracting people to your product or service, and any difficultly will drive people away.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 09:56:16

thanks for writing this Nicholas. I was perplexed that the spec was allowed to write articles recently stating that King would be permanently closed to traffic through the International Village, as if it was a done deal.

I could see potential for one of the rail lines to divert to King William from Wellington to Catharine St in order to free up space through that tight stretch of King. The dowtown BIA should be celebrating the current alignment plan by throwing a big party in a gravel parking lot somewhere instead of rejecting it. The city's plan shows the potential for street parking ON King st in between John and Bay. Furthermore, Main St is 5 lanes through downtown meaning we can have street parking all the way along the south curb and still have 4 traffic lanes. The parking could end prior to a major intersection in order to allow for a turning lane (we love our turning lanes in Hamilton that sit empty 95% of the day).

The downtown BIA opposition is somewhat perplexing, although less-so if you've followed their priorities over the years which generally involve wanting more parking in the cheapest downtown core in Canada in which to park.

Another option with respect to the International Village routing could be to run both lines along King William or Main St from Wellington to Catharine and then back into the Gore.

Many cities I've been to have some blocks downtown where the route is re-aligned in order to accommodate narrow streetscapes.

I agree with the above poster - the line must stay on the same streets though the city. We don't want to split it between King and Main along it's entire length.

[Comment edited by jason on 2010-01-14 08:59:07]

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2010 at 11:27:27

The BIA's misunderstanding of how LRT works, (and the benefits of LRT) is sad, but not surprising.

Has HLR done any presentations to the Downtown BIA?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 12:12:46

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 13:30:38

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By Lyle Lanley (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 16:20:24

Anyone who has seen McMaster students wait 15 minutes at King and Sterling to catch a bus in order to spare themselves an 10 minute walk to campus will know that walk-phobia is not unique to older generations.

Spec.com readers' poll is currently 39.9% in favour of King, 59.96% in favour of Main.

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By Lyle Lanley (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 16:27:06

PS: Nicholas, your bio's "Infusions" mention made me nostalgic.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 17:45:39

that spec readers poll is baffling. it means one of two things:

  1. spec readers generally just read the paper and take it's info as gospel, or
  2. they have no idea of what LRT will mean for automobile traffic flow if King is the main street used for cars. That poll would be about 98%-2% in favour of King if the readers really knew what the differences are within alignment for cars.

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By Question (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2010 at 23:11:25

"That's why a detailed study on the various options recommends the King St route."

Can someone provide a link to that study?

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2010 at 08:12:59

not sure if anyone caught this, but the original spec article the night the story broke had quotes from a pawnshop owner on King complaining about the LRT configuration. By the morning, and since then, they removed any reference to the pawn shop. Only in Hamilton would we interview pawn shop owners to get an idea why LRT shouldn't run along a certain street. I wonder what the money mart and dollar store owners think of the plan?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2010 at 11:55:46

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2010 at 01:35:48

"WE" do not support LRT. You and many of your friends surely do. This LRT plan is simply to much money for to much track. Hopefully somebody will come to their senses any time now and put a stop to this silliness. If transit needs to be radically changed/improved (I'm still not completely convinced of that either) then a bus option would require much less tax money.

Detroit a city well over 4,000,000 (almost 8x Hamilton at a density 2.5-3.0 times as high as Hamilton) and the destination for miles around is building 13 km of track (at a cost of $400,000,000+). Hamilton is not the primary destination for miles around Toronto is. Hamilton is as much a suburb of Toronto as it is a destination city. Spending this much money on tracks is a huge folly.

What are my chances of getting to a score of -10 within 24 hours? I always figure that the faster and the lower my score goes the more on target it really is.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 16, 2010 at 13:38:13

well, it's the weekend so it will probably take 48-72 hours to hit -10, but yea you're right, that is definitely -10 material.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2010 at 14:09:22

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2010 at 19:08:01

To those of us who understand math, building electrified rails makes much more sense than building greater bus capacity.

Have you seen the pavement underneath busy bus routes, especially at major stops? Repaving is required quite often, even yearly in some really bad areas. Rails last decades.

But beyond that, tying the transit system to the volatile price of oil is a recipe for constant future debt. You may not believe that we are running out of oil, but even if you blindly believe in the power of money markets, you can't escape the fact that political instability alone will continue to drive the prices of oil upward - and future scarcity will make it even worse.

By building electrified rail, we will be making an investment that will allow us to apply future technological energy advancements to our transit systems.

Or we could do it your way, buy a ton of oil-consuming buses that will get more and more expensive to run every year, until we reach the point that we have to replace the entire fleet prematurely with electric buses (or more likely, electric rail vehicles). Now that's money well spent!

My vote goes to doing it right the first time.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 18, 2010 at 10:31:02

Electric rail is clearly the sustainable choice. The transportation status quo is not sustainable, nor is it very attractive.

I would be delighted to see the LRT happen here in Hamilton -- right down King past Gore Park through the International Village all the way out to Centennial. Then I could take the kids to Stoney Creek to see the Battlefield Museum without stepping into a car. That would definitely increase my quality of life.

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By derek (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2010 at 11:56:32

Mr Meister: "Detroit a city well over 4,000,000 (almost 8x Hamilton at a density 2.5-3.0 times as high as Hamilton) and the destination for miles around is building 13 km of track (at a cost of $400,000,000+). Hamilton is not the primary destination for miles around Toronto is. Hamilton is as much a suburb of Toronto as it is a destination city. Spending this much money on tracks is a huge folly."

Ummm...Detroit is actually sitting at a population of 800,000 and at it's peak was only 2 million. Secondly, Detroit is one of the least dense cities in all of North America due to it's high home ownership rate in its prime as a city, plus 1,200 people leaving the city every month. There are currently 100,000 foreclosed homes in the city. It's such an unpopulated city, in fact, that there is serious consideration to relocating people in order to demolish whole neighbourhoods and allow them to be left to nature.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted January 18, 2010 at 15:27:59

"Have you seen the pavement underneath busy bus routes, especially at major stops? Repaving is required quite often, even yearly in some really bad areas. Rails last decades."

I can attest to this. The Western terminus of Sterling Street, just before it ends at University Avenue on the McMaster campus, is travelled almost exclusively by bus, bike and foot. And there are some astonishing dents developing in the asphalt.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2010 at 17:45:56

Derek: American cities do not get amalgamated the way Canadian cities do so to compare you must take the metropolitan numbers. You really cannot believe that Detroit is less than 1,000,000 can you? I am basing my density numbers from the sites I accessed on line. If they are wrong them so am I. Detroit's population might be declining but many of the suburbs are growing. Your comments about razing neighbourhoods and relocating people are apt for Flint which has been devastated with the changes in the auto industry. By contrast places like New Haven and New Baltimore are growing.

Much of the LRT that is being built in the USA is not what is being proposed for Hamilton but rather more like GO Trains. Even those trains have a hard time competing with cars as can be seen by the state of highways leading into and out of Toronto.

The LRT proposed for Hamilton is just too much tax money.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 18, 2010 at 18:40:15

I don't know about the population of Detroit, other than the fact it's sinking like a stone, but their Woodward LRT route is a 9-mile route planned from Downtown to the Michigan St Fairgrounds. they project 22,000 riders per day.

Hamilton's east/west B-Line corridor which consists of routes 1/5/51 and 10 already carries 36,000 riders everyday.

The case for LRT is FAR easier to make here than in Detroit.

Our east/west LRT route is a 16km long route....that's 10 miles.

The Woodward LRT in Detroit is exactly the same type of system as we're proposing here. It's not remotely close to a GO Transit style system.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-01-18 17:43:02

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By MarkWhittle (registered) - website | Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:40:11

The only way LRT will happen in Hamilton is when some other level of government foots the bill. There is no way the local economy can carry this burden alone. And Hamilton has 40 hy-brid busses in the fleet. I suspect the provincial government will continue improving the fleet, sans LRT.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 14:30:08

I am starting to think the LRT is actually a good idea. It will waste money, weaken our currency against the U.S dollar and in doing so make our exports more competitive. This will help our exporters and likely lead to the creation of jobs here in Hamilton. In the mid to late nineties, when the CDN dollar was around $0.70/US, Hamilton was doing much better economically than it is today.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 15:13:33

Yes. A transit project in Canada's 9th largest city will devalue our currency. One of your better trolls.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 15:38:31

highwater, you are correct that this project by itself will not be enough to devalue our currency, but it is a step in the right direction. Throw in some money for a new 50,000 seat stadium, more money for welfare, new arts funding, even your cherished bike infrastructure. All of this government spending will drive up Canada's public debt and drive down the value of the CDN dollar relative to our biggest trading partner.

If you can think of any other items that the government can waste money on, I would love to here them as well. My capacity for wasting money is not yet as developed as most of the people on this site.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 15:52:03

One of your better trolls.

Setting Mel Brooks' "The Producers" in Hamilton is not a good troll.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 16:09:06

z jones, if you weren't so cold hearted in your outlook, you would appreciate the fact that creating jobs for people and increasing welfare payments for poor people is more important than having a strong national currency.

People like yourself, those that only care about the rich make me sick. That goes for you as well highwater.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 17:26:18

Setting Mel Brooks' "The Producers" in Hamilton is not a good troll.

I upvoted it. There's got to be some reward for imagination.

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