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:
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?
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?
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?
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.
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