Special Report: Light Rail

Alarming Notice for Metrolinx Big Move Meeting

Has Metrolinx simply published a sloppy and confusing notice about tonight's meeting, or has the plan for LRT in Hamilton changed without anyone being told?

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 12, 2013

this article has been updated

I noticed an ad for yet another consultation session with Metrolinx in Hamilton on the RTH events listing. Curiously, the description [PDF] of Hamilton's "RT" project bears little resemblance to what Hamilton has been planning for the last five years or so - especially during the Rapid Transit Citizen Advisory Committee meetings of 2010-2011.

The city's focus is to implement RT on King and Main Streets and to expand the existing B-Line bus service to be faster and more efficient. The project will help revitalize Hamilton's downtown core and improve public transit options in the city. [emphasis added]

There are a few confusing issues here:

  1. We're getting "RT", not LRT. What does that mean? Is it LRT or BRT or something else? In other cities that are getting LRT or BRT, like Mississauga (LRT) and Durham-Scarborough (BRT), the type is specified. Why is Hamilton's project now being described as RT, even though it has been studied and designed as LRT for several years and dates from before Mississauga's project?

  2. It says we're going to get this "RT" on King and Main Streets. I thought that Hamilton had already settled on a King St route (not Main street). Has that changed?

  3. I have never heard any discussion of "expand[ing] the existing B-Line bus service to be faster and more efficient," since it makes no sense to expand the B-line bus service if it is being replaced by LRT.

As it stands, this makes it sound rather as though Hamilton is now simply going to get upgraded bus rapid transit (BRT) type service on Main and King.

Where did this description come from? This is not what Metrolinx gave money to Hamilton to do a 30 percent engineering design and environmental study on!

But maybe the expanded bus service is just a short-term stopgap until LRT can be built. Well, not really:

The proposed RT is part of a long-term vision to connect key origins and destinations across the City of Hamilton. [emphasis added]

So now we are not only going to get improved bus service instead of transformational LRT, but we are only (maybe) going to get it sometime in the distant future?

On the other hand, the cost is still estimated at $1 billion, which is consistent with the cost to build LRT - so who knows?

Is this just a extremely confused and sloppy write-up of Hamilton's LRT project - after all, there is a picture of an LRT vehicle - or has someone suddenly decided to downgrade Hamilton's LRT project to improved bus service?

This is very worrying, and either interpretation reflects very badly on Metrolinx as an effective organization. At best, it's confused and mixed-up messaging. At worst, it sets the stage for downgrading of Hamilton's RT to BRT.

It also indicates a lack of coordination between Metrolinx and Hamilton, since Hamilton was given the $3 million to do an Environmental Assessment and 30 percent design for LRT, and the alignment has been fixed along King Street.

There has been no talk or study of expanding the B-line bus service, except possibly as a normal modification of HSR operations (not part of the Big Move).

Again, why is Mississauga's project clearly described as LRT, while Hamilton's is RT and the description talks about improving the B-line bus service, which LRT would replace?

RTH contacted Metrolinx to ask for clarification on what this notice means. Malon Edwards, a spokesperson at Metrolinx, provided the following response:

Our original base case analysis for the project did not provide a preferred technology. While planning is in progress for LRT, no final decisions have been made on technology.

Until now, Metrolinx has been speaking openly about LRT for Hamilton, not some as-yet-unspecified RT. This is a new and disturbing shift in their communications.

Somewhat poignantly, HSR buses are still carrying posters advertising "public information sessions on Hamilton's LRT project coming in January 2011" (i.e. posters that are more than two years old).

The most recent "Latest News" posting on the Hamilton Rapid Transit website is from January 18, 2012 - over a year ago. The Meetings and Events page is empty: it isn't even cross-promoting the Metrolinx meeting. The project timeline's most recent entry is a "2012 Forecast / Work Program Outline".

All this makes it clear that Hamilton's LRT project has been put into suspended animation until Metrolinx tells us what they want to do. The City has become entirely passive on this issue of LRT for Hamilton.

Please try to attend tonight's Big Move Consultation and let Metrolinx know that Hamilton wants and deserves straight answers and a fulfilled commitment from the Province:

Update: updated to include the response from Metrolinx. You can jump to the added paragraph.

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 ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted February 12, 2013 at 15:13:34

It is worded ambiguously. But re: the King/Main thing, the LRT route does run on Main between the Delta and the traffic circle, as well as Main West toward Mac.

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By sellout (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2013 at 16:41:55

Lets put the blame where it really belongs, with Bob Bratina, who sold the city out to curry favour with his Liberal friends at Queens Park. Why should the province care about Hamiltons LRT if Hamiltons own leaders don't care.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 12, 2013 at 20:55:34

So it's back to square one then? We're back to not knowing if we're getting LRT or fancy buses? WTF, Metrolinx? Seriously, WTF?

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By Lee Edward McIlmoyle (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2013 at 21:12:38

I attended tonight's session, and I think I devoted a fair bit of energy to discussing the need for LRT. I even got up and spoke publicly on that and a number of other issues our table addressed. It was a pretty fascinating session, but I have to admit, I'm still not sure if they've made a definite decision, or if they're using these sessions to feel people out and figure out where the best place to start and/or finish. I wish I felt secure that LRT is coming to Hamilton, but nothing I heard tonight really said it was a done deal. At least they weren't talking as if it's definitely OFF the table, for which I was openly grateful in the little questionnaire.

I hope we impressed them with our desire to see a real change. I think we gave them that impression. I certainly gave it a good whack.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 12, 2013 at 23:09:33

"Big Move will likely require myriad of funding schemes" by Daniel Nolan on thespec.com tonight: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 08:57:59 in reply to Comment 86218

"Hamiltonians should expect to pay for LRT: GO president / More than 80 people gather for Metrolinx public consultation" by Samantha Craggs, CBC Hamilton

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 08:30:42

There certainly is the intention to build a world-class rapid transit network that enmeshes several disparate regional transit systems. To accomplish that goal, Metrolinx must overcome its two main impediments: lack of any real power and lack of any real financial plan. They have understood first challenge since its 2009 ingestion by the MTO borg, and the latter since the summer of 2008. These roundtables were long overdue.

That Metrolinx has waited this long to initiate the "big conversation" does not inspire great confidence, and their rose-coloured price tag serves as a subtle reminder that the "difficult conversations" are being kicked down the road (though not far, considering they pitch the province on their strategy in 15 weeks' time).

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 09:05:38

Still going to try and blame Bratina for this?

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By memory hole (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 09:35:17 in reply to Comment 86229

So when Bratina spent a whole year running down LRT on talk radio and telling the province LRT was "not a priority" for Hamilton, somehow Bratina's not to blame now that LRT is no longer a big priority for the province?

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 10:37:20

When Metrolinx posted their "Next Wave" projects info sheets originally, they did refer to "Hamilton LRT".


That was the end of November. What changed since then?

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:09:58 in reply to Comment 86242


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By Scomat77 (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 11:36:27

Typical Hamilton B.S it seems any idea that might help revive the city is taboo....its no wonder it has the reputation that it does.....sickening.....

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:18:55

Pubic engagement!


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