Special Report: Light Rail

Big Move Consultation Continues LRT Holding Pattern

LRT is the preferred option, but no one will commit to it until a new funding model is decided on by the provincial government.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 13, 2013

I was able to attend the latter part of yesterday evening's Big Move Consultation meeting. It was nice to see that it was very well attended by a wide cross-section of Hamiltonians: people are still enthusiastic about the prospect of LRT in Hamilton.

This meeting was similar to the other public information sessions I've attended: an introductory talk, and then a break-out session divided into groups, each one focusing on some aspect of the project (funding, transport, and so on).

There was nothing really new there, with the main message from the participants being: raise new money from a variety of sources and spend it in an immediate, direct and transparent way on transit improvements.

I was introduced to Gary McNeil, president of GO Transit. We were able to have a long chat, which was very helpful.

Despite the confusing messaging about "RT" rather than "LRT", including an official clarification from Metrolinx that the "original base case analysis for the project did not include a preferred technology" - Gary assured me that light rail transit is still the preferred option for Hamilton.

He told me a new report on LRT would be submitted to Hamilton City Council from City staff soon. He also confirmed that no decisions will be made until the government decides on new sources of funding, as no new projects can be built on the current budget.

As I suspected, the goal of these meeting is not so much to 'consult' the public, but rather to try to get people enthusiastic about The Big Move, Metrolinx's 25-year Regional Transportation Plan, and communicate this enthusiasm to the politicians.

He told the participants that no politician is going to vote for new fees or taxes unless they feel they have strong public support.

Same Holding Pattern

We are stuck in the same holding pattern we've been in for the past few years: LRT is the preferred option, but no one will commit to it until a new funding model is decided on by the provincial government.

Of course, once the funding model is agreed, there will be a political scramble to grab a piece of the budget, and then we will be in a very weak position unless our Mayor, Bob Bratina, suddenly becomes a champion for the cause of LRT in Hamilton.

We are still left with the question of why the Metrolinx announcement was so poorly and confusingly written, and why the Media Relations employee who responded to RTH didn't attempt to clarify things.

If you were not able to attend last night's consultation, the next meeting in Hamilton will be this Saturday, February 16, 1-3 PM at Dundas Town Hall, 60 Main Street in Dundas.

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 Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:08:31

If you covet a home copy of the str@tegy g@me used at these round tables, you can request boxed copies of the "Convers@tion Kit" along with with a full-size map (sadly, not in spill-proof, picnic-ready laminate) and tr@nsit trumps by writing to "connect at bigmove dot ca" If you enjoy cr@fts projects, you can DL the kit's components in a single PDF: http://goo.gl/wI54Y

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By me,me and me (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 14:06:15

1.3) I would have to think that funding is going to be a problem with this project. Does the casino issue and the funds it offers need to be reconsidered?

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By me,me and me (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 17:44:19

I suppose we should start saving our City pennies and stop turning down these lucrative private developments;)Thanks for playing Ryan!

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By GRW (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 08:47:52

Why not have MGM or others build a casino complex on Randle reef (and pay for cleanup)

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 13:09:15

A $3.8-billion contract to build and maintain the city’s planned light-rail system is ready to be signed, Mayor Jim Watson announced Wednesday.

The city announced in December that a consortium called the Rideau Transit Group, led by SNC-Lavalin, EllisDon and ACS Infrastructure Canada, offered the best of three final bids for the massive project, but it has taken nearly two more months to finalize the legal details.

The actual contract is to be signed in a ceremony next week, Watson said.

“Today achieves the end of one long and challenging journey, but also the beginning of another,” he said.

The contract includes $1.8 billion worth of work to construct a 12.5-kilometre light-rail line along the Transitway from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road, including through a tunnel under downtown, and widen a stretch of the Queensway for the provincial government. The contract also includes a pledge to maintain the rail system for 30 years, a job that’ll pay an estimated $2 billion more.

In response to questions from the Citizen earlier this week, the city’s communications department claimed to have no idea when the contract might be signed and said no ceremonial event was planned.


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2013 at 23:28:55

Metrolinx may finally be ready to consider charging GO Transit riders for access to its vast parking lots, which operate mostly on a first-come, first-served basis.

Station parking is one potential revenue stream that could be considered among other taxes and tolls the provincial agency is talking up to fund a massive regional transit expansion.

As recently as last June, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said the provincial agency had no plans to change its GO parking policy.

But at a Metrolinx board meeting Wednesday, he suggested that officials might be reconsidering that stance.

“When we look at parking, it can either be parking on a broad basis or it can be very specific, like the parking around transit stations. Yes, it’s something we’re looking at. It’s something we want to get input from the public, the municipalities and stakeholders on. We need to be able to see how it could have a place, or, if it doesn’t have a place, why not,” McCuaig told reporters.


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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 16, 2013 at 08:40:24

This column titled "What the "L" is going on with the city's LRT file?" by Andrew Dreschel is posted on thespec.com today: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

Dreschel's column reveals some curious and troubling news for the local LRT project and the lack of transparency in the provincial and Hamilton municipal governments:

  1. The Metrolinx project name change from "LRT" to "RT" only applies to Hamilton;

  2. Metrolinx asserts that the City of Hamilton was consulted about the name change but will not reveal who they consulted with at the city level;

  3. Chris Murray (City Manager), Gerry Davis (City Public Works Manager) and Don Hull (City Transportation Director) all apparently deny being informed about the name change.

There is a special GIC meeting on local transit on Feb 25/13. The first order of business for council should be to find out which city politician or city employee gave Metrolinx the green light to change the local transit project name from "LRT" to "RT", why they did it, and what other changes have been made to the project without public knowledge.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2013-02-16 08:41:05

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2013 at 19:39:12

"Packed room at metrolinx mtg in dundas A struggle to find a parking spot"


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