Light Rail

LRT Could Die Through Delay and Neglect

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published September 01, 2012

The new report by McMaster's Institute of Transportation and Logistics on the LRT experience across North America reinforces the points made in the Metrolinx Business Case Analysis.

It talks about the need for downtown parking charges, now the cheapest in Canada, to increase, as well as strongly recommending the two-way conversion of Main and King Streets.

Metrolinx was very impressed that Hamilton has indeed been doing the land use study to complement and leverage the LRT investment (even if some councillors wanted to study suburban sprawl roads instead). On this front we are already doing well.

However, when staff unilaterally decided to take two-way conversion off the table almost two years ago, the Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee and LRT supporters were dismayed.

No good reason was offered to do it then, and there is still no good reason.

In fact, the main justification - "There is still a need for some traffic to move easterly across the City, and Main Street fulfills this role" - goes directly against the need to shift away from catering to fast automobile commuting and toward making the route a people place suitable for denser mixed-use developed.

The other justification was to try to separate the controversial issue of two-way conversion from LRT, to avoid antagonizing people.

At the time, giving this up without any negotiation or real study to evaluate its negative impacts on the net benefit of LRT struck me as showing a lack of confidence in the entire project. LRT only works if the immediate neighbourhood is comfortable, safe and convenient to pedestrians!

As for the need for a political champion, this should be completely obvious! No one is going to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a city whose Mayor and Council are unenthusiastic about a project.

In every case I've looked at, the Mayor led the charge and fought actively for the project. It is hard to imagine how it could be otherwise.

The problem is that our Mayor and Council seem willing to let the project die through delay and neglect, rather than killing it through outright opposition.

Unfortunately, this may also be the Province's new strategy for Metrolinx and The Big Move.

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 -Hammer- (registered) | Posted September 01, 2012 at 20:36:36

The Province is suffering from massive debt from years of fiscally irresponsible McGunity governments, so it in no way surprises me that they want to back away from LRT now that they realize that this debt needs to be reigned in, and given Bratina has shown his stripes in clear support of McGunity, it's a clear case of scratch my back, I scratch yours.

I'd rather see funds directed towards the Randle Reef capping effort at this point, but that's a matter of opinion.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-09-01 20:37:23

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 02, 2012 at 22:47:58 in reply to Comment 80339

The Province is suffering from massive debt from years of fiscally irresponsible McGunity governments

Yes, it has nothing to do with the dire recession we're facing.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 02, 2012 at 12:39:26 in reply to Comment 80339

>> now that they realize that this debt needs to be reigned in

Ontario's debt charges are expected to be 1.58% of GDP(2011-12). Prior to the Great Recession (2008-09), they were 1.46%.

In contrast, for 2000-01, debt charges were 2.47% of Ontario's GDP.

At the current rate of debt charge increase (2009-2012), it would take another 17 years to hit debt charges of 2.47%/GDP. If you throw in the fact that we will probably not be in recession/slow growth for the next 17 years, this makes the Ontarios's debt "crisis" even less worrisome.

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted September 02, 2012 at 06:17:15

LRT Could Die Through Delay and Neglect

Playing Devil's advocate here: What happens if it does?

Seriously; what do you envision happening if, for whatever reasons, LRT does not happen in Hamilton?

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted September 02, 2012 at 12:09:31 in reply to Comment 80341

I would expect the status quo of decay and poverty for a vast swath of the lower city.

I expect LRT to have a transformational affect as it has elsewhere.

I cannot think of any other means that could produce such and affect for the lower part of the city that needs improvement.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted September 02, 2012 at 11:27:21

ThisIs, if LRT does not happen (and I am a skeptic that it will in the coming decade) then I think we may be looking at a real dedicated BRT plan. I don't see other solutions and the arguments for dedicated BRT, while somewhat less attractive in almost every area, are the same as for LRT.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted September 02, 2012 at 20:50:00

@ A.Smith>> Why is it that the big scare seems to be debt to GDP ratio in Ontario which is at 35 %. Are debt charges as a percentage of GDP a more reliable indicator of risk ?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 03, 2012 at 00:04:33 in reply to Comment 80362

I say we should push Ontario's debt to 70-80%.

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By Glottal Stop (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2012 at 06:14:31

You Can Do Anything In Hamilton. Especially the same-old, same-old.

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By Glottal Stop (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2012 at 06:23:03

Also, it's weird that the province develops plans for population densification and creates a new agency to roll out an allegedly 21st century transit network, but adopts an honour system for Places to Grow and expects civic cheerleaders to make the case that Metrolinx has ostensibly vetted through its Big Move report. I would agree that there's a lack of compelling leadership on this file but would disagree that council alone is to blame. Metrolinx was supposed to depoliticize this process and instrad they've turned it into a game show.

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