Municipal Election 2010

Most Candidates Support LRT, Mayoral Candidates Split

Of the 65 candidates who responded, 47 or 72.3% support LRT, 13 or 20% oppose LRT, and 5 or 7.7% are ambivalent or undecided.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 20, 2010

After the Province of Ontario promised new funding to build rapid transit across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and a group of local citizens began advocating for light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton, the City of Hamilton has been developing a rapid transit plan, with the specific goal of constructing an east-west LRT line from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.

A benefits case analysis prepared by Metrolinx, the Provincial body responsible for coordinating regional rapid transit across the GTHA, determined that the capital and overall operating cost to build LRT would be significantly higher than to build Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), but that LRT would also provide much greater net benefits in new private investment, increased ridership, and improved quality of life.

City staff are currently undertaking the planning and design of an LRT system with $3 million in provincial funding.

Raise the Hammer contacted the 83 active candidates for the upcoming Municipal Election and asked:

Do you support Hamilton's LRT proposal? If so, what will you do to ensure Hamilton's success in building LRT? If not, why do you oppose it?

As of this writing, 65 candidates, or 78.3% of the total, have responded. Of the 65, 47 or 72.3% support LRT, 13 or 20% oppose LRT, and 5 or 7.7% are ambivalent or undecided. You can read all the candidate responses on the RTH Election site.

Mayoral Candidates

The 12 mayoral candidates who responded are split evenly - six in favour and six against.

In Favour

Bob Bratina has "supported the concept of LRT from the beginning" but notes that the plan needs some fine-tuning and that Council has not yet committed to "provide financial support for the plan in partnership with Provincial and Federal funders." Note: Bratina has also recently argued in other public events that he prefers building a north-south line first.

Mahesh Butani supports LRT but believes the city must "focus on quickly creating the other vital components that makes an LRT scheme successful", including using zoning and economic development strategies to maximize the benefits.

Larry Di Ianni supports LRT and wants to bring together all the stakeholders to "initiate a community-wide lobby effort of both the Provincial and Federal governments." He also wants the LRT plan "revised to include areas of the city beyond the proposed LRT lines at Eastgate Square and McMaster University."

Fred Eisenberger identifies LRT as one of his top mayoral priorities and pledges to "establish and personally lead an LRT SWAT team of government relations experts and community partners to secure government funding of LRT for Hamilton."

Glenn Hamilton "would have an assigned professional dedicated to assuring a successful outcome for this opportunity."

Ken Leach argues LRT will "not only build the basis for the City of Hamilton, it allows for investment by our community." He wants infrastructure improvements to the east-west corridor to accompany LRT construction.


Michael Baldasaro opposes funding for LRT "in the present economic circumstances." He prefers to invest in repairing and improving existing infrastructure.

Edward HC Graydon "question[s] the usefulness of light rail" and believes addressing the incidence of brain cancer in Hamilton is a higher priority.

Andrew Haines notes that he is a former HSR bus operator and believes Hamilton can improve transit service without the exorbitant cost of an LRT system.

Tone Marrone argues that BRT is "much more cost-effective" and that it is impractical to assume that the Province will be able to honour a commitment to fund LRT. He also believes LRT "would mess up Hamilton's synchronized traffic light system" and remove lanes of traffic.

Gino Speziale argues that other cities are "having serious problems with their LRT", including congestion, high operating costs and falling ridership. He believes "The politicians of the City of Hamilton are not competent to see past their noses".

Victor Veri would consider BRT or lower-cost streetcars. He believes LRT is "much investment risk for the return on benefits that may result."

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 22:26:33

The split between leading candidates on LRT is almost as stupid as what's happening with Transit City. We have unrealistic unaffordable promises and contradiction for the sake of contradiction. Eisenberger's platform is the only one that makes any sense on this issue. We made a plan, we made it well, let's stick to it.

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 08:18:06

However, having lived in streetcar-laced neighbourhoods for much of my life, I can tell you that the congestion they create on the roads (let's not forget the construction phase) is a real negative. With BRT, there is far more flexibility. Based on my experience living in a community with streetcar access in every direction, I can tell you that I prefer buses, and as a passenger, preferred to take the bus for one reason in particular - they remained on schedule. TTC's solution to the lack of reliability for streetcars was to spread them 10 minutes apart. It created a traffic nightmare along King, Queen, and Roncesvailles streets. It still took an average of 45 minutes longer to get to and from destinations as opposed to the bus route.

If you were a motorist sharing the road with a streetcar, it was nightmarish. I am more inclined to want buses on the road. First, they don't impede traffic flow like streetcars do. Second, they do not require the millions of dollars in construction coupled with prolonged traffic delays to lay tracks. Third, they are more reliable for those on a schedule. Fourth, they have the ability to detour in the event of traffic delay or road construction. Fifth, they will negatively affect business by reducing accessibility, despite many who believe otherwise. The last places to see regeneration in Toronto were the streetcar routes of King/Queen - even as they approached the concentrated (and business-rich) downtown core. Finally, I do not believe that Hamiltonians ought to foot the bill for such a large project at this time. We do not have the business tax base we require and it is too impractical to ask home owners to foot the bill unless they work on building business presence in the city. We need to work on repairing and replacing other infrastructure, namely the sewer and water systems for the city. I say work on improving overall transit within the city and accessibility overall, work on getting to and from the city with Metrolinx, and work on bringing business in.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 09:31:10

Streetcars run in mixed traffic. LRT will run on dedicated lanes.

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 13:01:31

"Gee" refers to the Toronto experience. What we are planning to build here in Hamilton is ANYTHING BUT what Toronto has. The planned RT system is not streetcars as we have known them and it will run on its own dedicated path as "nobrainer" has stated above. However, there will be some stretches of the street where the RT will, in fact, run in conjunction with other traffic and this is what needs particularly careful attention to detail. As it happens, I sit on the RT Citizen Advisory Committee which has just been established and the whole route will have intense scrutiny by this membership which represent ordinary citizens, neighbourhood associations and businesses alike.

I hope to keep others informed of what is going on so that misunderstandings and misinterpretations don't occur.

It should be kept in mind that this is NOT ONLY about building a Rapid Transit system, it is about rebuilding our city for the future by creating a transportation infrastructure that, initially, supports economic development along this first line from Eastgate to McMaster, which I like to think of as developing a "linear city," the effect of which will gradually reach out and spread ever-wider into the rest of the community. As each stage is built, more and more of the city will be affected through improvement of the quality of life we all lead.

We have to start somewhere and this is where we are beginning. We cannot afford to do everything at once. Everyone is invited to join in and enthusiastically support the revitalization of our wonderful city.

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 13:46:14

It's confusing to hear of this proposal referred to as "LRT"; "Rapid streetcar"; and "Streetcar", as these operate differently. This has been referred to as all three. I was correct in saying that this will negatively affect traffic, but you can't know how relieved I am to know careful attention to these potential problem areas is happening. Also, business does NOT always flow along with LRT lines. If it can be done so that there are very frequent stops with minimal LRT/traffic interaction, then you've got a good plan.

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 13:47:32

I don't see misunderstanding on my end. It's important to hear from those like me who are Hamiltonians with a strong "Toronto experience" as communicating with us will add to the overall success of the RT plans. A lot of us have moved here to get away from the crazies and we have a lot to offer Hamilton as we certainly do NOT want it to be modelled after a city we sought refuge from! You may be planning a Hamilton experience being "ANYTHING BUT" Toronto's, but that in no way means the same problems won't arise unless the planners are aware of them. I can offer the nuances. I am aware of them; I lived them. That insane rat race is not an insignificant fact to why I am a Hamiltonian today.

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 13:49:33

Overall, I do like the concept of light rail, as it's efficient, less expensive than subway but conceptually similar, environmentally friendly, safer, and surprisingly compact. It has to be planned accordingly with the existing infrastructure, so we need to make a few tweaks. Main can handle it, but I worry about the effects of removing left turns, for instance.

Sorry for the many posts, should've been one. Bot kept saying there were spam words in my post.....

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 15:40:02

Gee>> for more info

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By Realist (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 20:58:56

Folks, let me be blunt - THERE WILL BE NO LRT IN HAMILTION

This was part of McGuinty's misguided dream of transforming Ontario into some kind of socialist liberal utopia to protect us from ourselves.

- Ontario is currently running a deficit of $25 Billion and counting with a recession that's killing the heart of the manufacturing industry. This will not end until out largest trading partner, the US gets out of recession.

- McGuinty's days are numbered and he knows it, the new government will have to bring in austerity budgets to get spending under control or risk a downgrade, it will make the Bob Rae years look easy. The LRT projects will be one of the first things to go along with all the other big ticket infrastructure.

- Can someone please tell me why a stagnant growth area with 125,000 people (approx) with declining bus ridership and no inner city traffic congesion needs an LRT system? This is not Toronto where everyone lives and works downtown, in fact almost nobody works in downtown Hamilton anymore. Are we going to spend billions to get grandma to the market 1 minute faster than the bus? I would argue that most of the poeple who live along the proposed line are retired or unemployed. This is not a smart ass question, someone please explain this to me.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 23:22:16

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-21 22:28:09

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 11:00:15

I still cannot find a draft of the lines themselves or where the proposed LRT rail and street traffic meet. Not sure if one exists. I see one in the header of the website, but that's it.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 13:11:11

Proposed LRT lines

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2010 at 13:19:45

To be clear, the B-line is not a replacement for buses: it's more like an above-ground subway for Hamilton, running down the middle of King street. This means that King street is 1-way automobile traffic in each direction, with no streetside parking.

That's what this is about: Hamilton gets something that is functionally a subway, but at the cost of being able to park on King street (and a mountain of money).

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-22 12:21:13

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By lightrailignorance (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 13:49:36

Although I agree Metrolinx will esentially end up being another nail in McGuinty's coffin, I will tell you the LRT agenda will stick around. With excitement in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto (for now) getting light rail, and the obvious spinoffs each city benefits from during construction, it will be a no-brainer to fund an east-west line in Hamilton.

A lot of people are still confused as to what LRT actually is and say it won't work in a city like Hamilton. There are SO MANY resources out there, I dont know why people don't want to educate themselves?
City of Hamilton Rapid Transit Office

Hell, you can even use GoogleMaps to look at cities like Phoenix or Minneapolis to see how brand new, modern LRT shares the road with traffic, yes even in a city like Minneapolis with it's cold, norhern climate!

People are sared of loud, bulky, clunky, step-up Toronto 1950's streetcars.. Wake Up Folks, these are not the same!

YouTube it!!!!

Educate yourselves!!!

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 14:05:03

I have and I oppose the LRT. Its really not cut and dried

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 14:06:40

Lightrailignorance, your name and post is offensive. Just because an opinion differs from yours does not mean that it is an uneducated one. That is arrogant thinking on your part.

What's the point of discussion, and discussion here for that matter, if opposing viewpoints are treated with such disrespect? I haven't learned anything from your post that I didn't already know, including your resources given that I have already been to these sites before I posted here.

What I will take with me is the link to the actual map, so TY to the poster who provided that.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 14:45:32

This is a brilliant assesment of the LRT. Lets not put the cart before the horse. Actually this is the only mayoral candidate that seems to have it right. I know none of the candidate in Ward 3 are speaking this way and it really makes it tough not to think they don't understand the issue

Butani, Mahesh P.

I support the LRT. However, we have to move away from politicizing its need, and focus on quickly creating the other vital components that makes an LRT scheme successful.

One of this crucial component is the creation of 'economic conditions' that support the implementation of an LRT. Our current zoning and economic development policies do not support compact urban growth - and although political lip-service is paid often to such relevant growth, the reality is that many private sector investments and community driven initiatives in the urban areas have suffered irreparable damage on account of the anti-urban development policies that dictates our city's growth.

The other vital component being our political and institutional culture, which unfortunately continues to put the cart before the horse, and as a result many critical, progressive initiatives end up failing in our city, at much cost to the tax payers. We need to redevelop a culture that understands the sequence of community building, and respects the facts that certain blocks need to be firmly in place, before we can add more blocks on top of it.

In moving forward, our city needs to seriously begin driving the required economic conditions that will not only justify, but sustain the LRT scheme. Expecting the federal and provincial levels to entirely pay for the costs of the LRT project is unreasonable and far fetched in the absence of the underlying local economic conditions. Given the sorry state of our existing infrastructure, finding local council consensus for new transit infrastructure investment will not be easy.

Creating sound economic conditions to support the LRT is not nuclear science. It just requires a radical political shift in thinking - and the required planning & zoning policies, along with its resulting urban economic growth will flow from it.

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-22 13:46:58

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By Gee (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 15:38:52

Thank you Turbo. We need to focus first on bringing business in, and we do so by revisiting policy and zoning issues, and primarily, by attracting educated and skilled talent here.

Putting in LRT and expecting the rest of a healthy environment/neighbourhood to begin growing around it is looking at only half of the picture. If we fail to lay the groundwork, the LRT will be used to get through Hamilton as there is no reason to stop off anywhere on King except to catch a connecting route elsewhere. Much the same way King is used now - as a route to the 403 and out of the Hamilton core.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 16:09:51

In 2001, Hamilton had a population of 490,270 and 4,462 full time employees. Fast forward 8 years and Hamilton's population is 525,697, while full time employees number 6,183.

In 2001, the wage bill for city workers was $355,345K. In 2009, this bill stood at $656,149. In 2001, total Ontario wages were $242,939M and by 2009 they were $323,911M.

Hamilton city employee number increase 2001-09


Hamilton population increase 2001-09


Hamilton city employee wage/benefits increase 2001-09


Total Ontario wage/salary increase 2001-09


In per capita terms, Ontario wages have gone from $21,291 to $24,801, or 16.5% from 2001-09. In Hamilton, per capita wage/benefits per full time public employee has gone from $79,603 to $106,121 during this same time period, a jump of 33.3%, about double that of the average person.

If Hamilton's public full time employee roster had increased at the same rate as our population, in 2009 there have only been 4,784 employees. If we take the 6,183 we actually had in 2009 and subtract the 4,784 we might have had, we see that we are paying an extra...

1,399 workers * $106,121 average wage/benefits = $148.5M

in taxes, or $282 per resident.

I ask you, is our city doing better than it was in 2001, back when we had fewer city workers per capita and their wage scales were closer to the average resident?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 19:12:59

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 23:34:26

Ryan I think you are grasping at the strawman. Build it and they will come is not good policy. You need to fix the problems that are currently holding back investment and eventually you'll have a case for LRT. You cannot build something we don't need in hopes that it will create an environment that it is needed. It just doesn't work that way no matter how many times you say it does

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-22 22:41:14

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By creeker (anonymous) | Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:39:39

According the Stoney Creek news I read this morning, looks like DiIanni is against LRT since it won't serve the suburbs.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 23, 2010 at 16:36:28

Instead of giving more money to the central planners, why not return Hamilton to it's roots, low taxes and a strong, innovative private sector.

If the goal, even for lefties, is to create more business activity, how does giving more money for government to spend accomplish this? Hamilton already has enough government, from Copps Coliseum, to Hamilton Place and an expensive public workforce, this city has more than enough government infrastructure to allow it to prosper.

What this city really lacks is a populace with money to spend. Without money in our pockets, we can have the best LRT system in the world and our economy will still be garbage. Government projects like LRT do not create new businesses, they only move people around the city a little faster. However, last I checked, Hamilton doesn't have any traffic problems. Therefore, why the need for LRT?

My idea is to cut taxes to Burlington levels. This will require taking on debt, but that's not a problem. With more disposable income to spend, business activity will increase, jobs will be created and Hamilton will attract new businesses wanting to grab a piece of the new spending. Once Hamilton gains a reputation of being a place where taxes are low, more people will want to move here, increasing assessments and thus tax revenue to the city.

When people think of Hamilton, they don't think, "not enough public infrastructure", they think, "poor city, not enough money in people's pockets". If we know that the problem is too little money to spend in our private sector, the answer is lower taxes, not more government spending.

Cut our taxes City Hall and let's get back to our roots as being a place where people can make money.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 11:53:16

Ryan - why is my copy function not working on this page? I can't copy links or info to save them.

A.Smith wage data is truly shocking - far worse than I realized. But his/her idea to tackle the problem by borrowing money is risky in the extreme at this time. Interest rates will soon double or worse. (Follow my link to future vision). What we need is a rebalancing between taxpayers and tax takers (the public sector) as disruptive as this might be.

Ryan, only in your above post did I get any idea that you see regulatory reform (rezoning/ intensification) as a necessary condition. Your opponents here say building LRT is difficult financially. But getting rezoning/high density through is FAR MORE DIFFICULT, imo. You would be far more effective if you were to spend your time building the necessary political will to overcome selfish NIMBYism. Rezoning is PREcondition NOT afterthought. Otherwise, I fear that your accomplishment will be the worst of all possible outcomes instead of the best. So I am forced to concur with Turbo et al that one must build the NEED for an LRT (density, business, moola) BEFORE one actually builds it. Good planning and execution is required to put the horse back in front of the cart.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 12:31:01

Ryan - please ignore the copy thing. Its working now. :-)

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 12:53:07

Just found this re Ottawa LRT. Looks like LRT is fad-du-jour.

"And how much there still is to do.

Andy Haydon said he knows he won't win, but wants voters to follow the money trail on the $2.1 billion light-rail transit plan that includes a downtown tunnel.

"We're a billion dollars in debt, you know," he said. "Three times that we have been in the last four years. And we're going to go another one or two more billion dollars to a total of three."

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