Special Report: Light Rail

Why Doesn't Premier Wynne Know Hamilton Wants LRT?

If we fail to articulate our commitment to LRT today, Hamilton could easily end up left out of the next wave of Metrolinx projects, even as we help pay for LRT in other parts of the GTA.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 07, 2014

Yesterday I attended the Toronto Region Vision (TRV) 2014 Conference, as half-day series of presentations hosted by John Tory, Sarah Thomson and Geoff Cape. There were some interesting presentations, and their goal is to get all the provincial and municipal candidates aware of the urgent need to upgrade infrastructure, especially transit, now.

To my surprise, I was able to have a good conversation with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton. She was doing some setup for her keynote lunch speech on transit and infrastructure ("Building Sustainable Cities") when she came up to my table and introduced herself.

Since there were only two of us, I had the chance to have a fairly good chat with the Premier.

She seems pretty interested in Hamilton, to the extent that a picture of Hess Village featured in her presentation, along with an anecdote about young people at Communitech in Waterloo wanting to be able to easily get to Hess Village for events.

Why Doesn't Premier Wynne Know What Hamilton Wants?

Once I had introduced myself, she immediately asked, "Has Hamilton decided whether they want BRT [bus rapid transit] or LRT?"

I was taken aback, but assured her that LRT is our choice. We've completed the 30% engineering design, the class environmental assessment, the land use study and broad public consultation, and there is deep public support.

I also said that there is some nervousness over cost and disruption. She laughed, as this is obviously a common theme.

It was clear that she sees Hamilton as a very important part of the overall plan, but I am dismayed that she thought we are still arguing over whether we want enhanced bus service or light rail transit, despite the various studies, Metrolinx support and Council's unanimous approval of the Rapid Ready LRT plan last February.

LRT has been Hamilton's official preferred choice for at least five years, subject to funding details. How on earth is it possible that Hamilton has done such a poor job of communicating this to a Premier whose main priority is regional transit?

Of course, it is possible that she is just not well-informed, but she knew enough to ask the question.

Hamiltonians Should Be Furious

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has, of course, spent the past three years clouding the issue, speaking publicly against LRT and refusing to communicate Council's clearly-stated position clearly in its dealings with the province.

If Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has been telling Premier Wynne that Hamilton doesn't know what it wants, Hamiltonians should be furious!

This is $1 billion in capital funding from the Province, and the Premier obviously wants to avoid the sort of mess that they got into with Toronto over the Scarborough LRT/subway fiasco.

My advice is that Hamilton's Council immediately has to make it crystal-clear to the Premier herself that we want LRT, not BRT. The fact that even supporters are musing that you can do a lot with dedicated bus lanes does not help.

Elections are the time for clear messages. If we fail to articulate our commitment to LRT today, Hamilton could easily end up left out of the next wave of Metrolinx projects, even as we end up helping to pay for LRT in other parts of the GTA.

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 Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 13:00:32


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By Cailou (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 13:10:35

I was a bit shocked to hear that the LRT has been shelved in the Transportation Planning DEPT at the City of Hamilton because of broken communications for funding. Mayor Bratina needs to step out of the way and stop holding back the development of the New Hamilton.

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By lurtee (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 13:28:52

This is an outrage! People need to write to council and tell them to bypass Bratina and send Kathleen Wynne a direct message on their support for LRT. Enough is enough.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 14:54:50

I think the point that needs to get through to Hamiltonians is that if we don't fight to get our fair share of provincial transit funding, it will just get spent elsewhere in the GTA, primarily in the City of Toronto.

Personally since the population of Hamilton is about one fifth of that of the City of Toronto, I think we should be fighting to ensure Hamilton gets one fifth the funding of Toronto. I know to some that sounds crazy, but why not? There's no law of thermodynamics that says that residents of Toronto have to get higher per capita transit funding than Hamilton, London, Windsor or any other Ontario community.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 15:46:36 in reply to Comment 97447

It really should be based on where there's a need based on trip demand and infrastructure available. Transportation isn't a one-size-fits-all thing and funding should reflect actual needs, not arbitrary political boundaries.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 20:27:31 in reply to Comment 97453

By that logic, Toronto will always get more money than everywhere else. That's not fair to the rest of province if the province is contributing.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 13:41:33 in reply to Comment 97461

You need to look at the big picture, not just funding for new transit infrastructure.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2014 at 00:05:54 in reply to Comment 97479

The big picture where there's always a Toronto priority like the Scarborough subway and Hamilton never gets proper funding?

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 21:59:19 in reply to Comment 97461

The only funding tool that will generate money outside of the GTHA will be the HST increase, and that money will remain in their local municipalities to invest in local transit and transportation projects. That's done to 1) reduce the complexity of introducing an HST to only one part of the province, and 2) ensure the GTHA remains competitive and retailers don't face unfair disadvantages. You should really read over the report before commenting.

In terms of assuming per capita funding, that's a mistake because travel goes over political borders. For instance, the majority of commuters using GO Transit/Union Station are from outside Toronto so "Toronto" would never agree to spending their share to improvements along the rail corridor or in Union Station that doesn't benefit them. Most of the transportation problems that we've had in the region stem from the "us" vs "them" mentality and people like you and many on RTH seem to advocate around. Projects need to move forward on how well they support travel with both a local and regional perspective. Much like a bike network, building in unconnected stages does nothing for commuters and instead we need to ensure that the trunk lines exist first and build from there.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2014 at 00:02:46 in reply to Comment 97462

Perhaps you need to become more familiar with Hamilton commuting patterns and the history of provincial funding of non-Hamilton versus Hamilton transit projects. What has the province already funded over the years for Hamilton since Metrolinx's inception and what are the actual concrete plans? If Hamiltonians don't fight for our share of funding from the province, whoever is in power at Queen's Park will be more than happy to dole it out to GTA projects.

Hamilton's main transit need is LRT that serves local commuters.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2014 at 16:58:01 in reply to Comment 97511

The funding Metrolinx has provided to Hamilton includes:

Fall 2009- $17 Million
- the purchase of new hybrid-electric buses for A & B Line corridors. I believe all this went to purchasing the articulated buses the HSR currently operates.

2012- $13 Million
- $4.3 million for the Mohawk College multi-modal terminal
- $4.5 million for the MTC Park-N-Ride
- $1.4 million for the upcoming A&B Line amenities
- $ 1.6 million for the Bike Share
- $565,000 for the passenger information screens at MacNab terminal
- $300,000 for the King Street bus lane

- $3.0 million for the James Street North GO Station
+ the ongoing plans for Centennial GO Station and expansion of service into Niagara

Except for the last projects, that's $30 million of support for expansion of the BLine and the creation of the ALine. I'd call that support for local commuters.

While I do want to see LRT move forward, there are significant improvements that could be made to the existing system to make it better for commuters. While Rapid Ready is good, the improvements in the 2009/2010 operational review would make significant strides towards reducing complexity in the system, reallocating resources to where they have the largest ROI, and making the system operate better. Grand River Transit has been making significant progress on developing a transit culture, and has managed to double ridership since 2001. While 50% of that is due to student usage, the rationalization of routes, the relationship with uWaterloo's Civil Engineering and Urban Planning departments to support research about changes they're making and the introduction of limited-stop routes has managed to grow ridership across all areas of the population spectrum.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 17:54:44 in reply to Comment 97462

Another tool that will generate money outside of the GTHA is the 10 cent gasoline tax increase. This also leads to considerable savings in the health car system, as it discourages car drivers from launching their lethal cancer poison attacks upon our people.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 18:03:45 in reply to Comment 97483

The fuel tax, as presented in the Investment Strategy, would only be applied within the GTHA.

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By frustrated (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 15:21:57

Is council going to take this lying down? Didn't they strip the mayor of his power to represent Hamilton at queens park? Why is this still going on?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 15:53:25

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted February 07, 2014 at 22:56:34 in reply to Comment 97454

Tell me, Capitalist, what's your solution to the question of moving people around our city now and into the future? How do you propose that we bring another 200,000 people into Hamilton and move them around effectively, as we are expected to do under the Places to grow Act? How do you propose that we reign in the costs of sprawl, and stem the tide of increasingly expensive outward expansion of our city? Are you willing to pay the taxes to continue to extend road, sewer, utility and civic services to the far-flung areas of our community that will continue to be the primary nodes of growth if automobile transportation remains the easiest way to get around? Because what I hear from people of your ilk is a lot about what you're NOT willing to spend money on, but nothing about what the solutions are. The status quo is costing us, as a region, BILLIONS a year. And last I checked, unless you want to start getting rid of pesky things like sidewalks and buildings downtown, you're not going to be building any more lane capacity anywhere. Stop stamping your foot and telling us what you're not willing to pay for and start proposing some FUCKING SOLUTIONS. Until then, STFU.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2014 at 17:51:13 in reply to Comment 97463


I won't STFU because I live in a free country and will say what I want. If you don't like what I have to say you can either ignore it, or provide a response but telling people to STFU only displays your lack of class.

Please learn some manners. I am ashamed for you.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 16:41:08 in reply to Comment 97602

Still no solutions offered. Thanks for coming out.

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By Crapitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2014 at 19:51:58 in reply to Comment 97602

Yes we all know how free speech works. You have the right to say dumb stuff and others have the right to call B.S. (hope that doesn't offend you). Justin DID provide a response to what you wrote. A long detailed response that was better than you deserved. He didn't just tell you to STFU, he said he thinks you should STFU if you don't have anything better to offer than lazy name calling. You can be rude no problem but soon as someone gives it back you turn into a delicate snowflake who Wiltshire at an acronym. Boo hoo.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 11:38:43 in reply to Comment 97463

comment from banned user deleted

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 13:17:22 in reply to Comment 97475

These are good points but what happens when you "feed the B line" -- it becomes even more crowded and the need for LRT more evident. Why would we choose to have a line of 10 - 15 buses driving between Mac and Eastgate in place of a clean, quiet train? It just makes no sense. The ridership to justify LRT is already there. I've ridden the B line to Mac and, believe me, it's no place for a relatively small, non-muscular person...LRT will get people out of their cars who would like to have a the transit option but don't want to put up with the bus ride experience.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 23:58:58 in reply to Comment 97463


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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 17:19:47 in reply to Comment 97454

It's become automatic for me. I see 'lefty' in a comment, I think: Oops, a moron, move on.

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By The Anti-Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 16:48:37 in reply to Comment 97454

I'm a tax payer of Hamilton. I want to foot the bill.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 16:25:10 in reply to Comment 97454

Apparently you ignored the articles about packed buses driving by people along the B-Line corridor.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 09:55:45 in reply to Comment 97456

comment from banned user deleted

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 09, 2014 at 00:25:30 in reply to Comment 97468

LRT is a huge development magnet. You'll see many new condos/housing built along it's route, bringing more people into the urban core. I would prefer to see LRT on the B-Line, and BRT for the A-Line as well as a cross-Moutain BRT on Mohawk Rd.

Our BRT can be real BRT, like this:


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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 11:38:12 in reply to Comment 97468

In the long term, LRT is cheaper than buses, and it's not just the cost of drivers. Again, over the long term, LRTs are cheaper to maintain than buses, their life span is much longer, so much so that they are cheaper, energy costs are cheaper. And then there are all non-cost advantages too. All you have to do is look at other cities across north America. Lucky for us, we have that advantage,

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 11:26:22 in reply to Comment 97468

The main problem with HSR service is not more buses, but more drivers. It's relatively inexpensive to buy a bus as compared to paying the salary of a few drivers to keep it operating all day (and their pensions when they retire).

If we can carry more people on King with fewer drivers (i.e. LRT) then we can free up those drivers for other routes.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 10:18:44 in reply to Comment 97468

Oh my yes I'm just dying to experience even more bus tailpipes on King. That will really get me wanting to shop along there, perhaps even buy a condo, sit at Gore Park in the patio cafes that don't exist. The air is already literally (in the truest sense of the word) nauseating along King and Main. Let's listen to capitalist and add even more buses. Instead of working with the province to electrify it, creating an outbreak of development and densification, which then feeds back as new tax revenue. Having nice things and a clean healthy city really doesn't make sense to you, does it.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-02-08 10:19:50

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By outrageous!! (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2014 at 16:23:12

outrageous!! premier doesn't know!! good thing rth ryan not going out for diplomatic core. his kids should edit his letters, which anyway contain important points.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 09:44:24

This would be the same Kathleen Wynne who served as Minister of Transportation from Jan 18, 2010–Oct 20, 2011, yes?


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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2014 at 16:01:54

The Feb 2013 report Rapid Ready: Expanding Mobility Choices in Hamilton prescribed a Transit Fleet Expansion of 100 buses. That's a significant bump from the current stable of 217 buses and would almost certainly go toward expanding service in un(der)served neughbourhoods. The cost for this initiative has been estimated at $50 million, with funding possible through Metrolinx as it’s a capital line item.

There obviously would be considerable operational costs associated with a 46% bump in service, but it would be partially offset by retiring redundant buses from service: The Rapid Ready default scenario assumes that 18 buses along the B-Line corridor would be thus removed (mainly 1 and 10, since the Delaware family – and the 55/55A service that merges with the 10 – will need to be operational in order to feed the trunk line and service the southern and western periphery).

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 11, 2014 at 15:21:53

Two LRT lines by 2025, and three more LRT lines sometime after 2035. That’s the concept.


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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted February 11, 2014 at 16:51:48 in reply to Comment 97552

Technically the BLAST plan only focused on corridors for rapid transit and doesn't specify a technology. It's most likely that in the medium term, most of those will see some form of aBRT similar to what the Region of Waterloo is developing from Fairview Mall to Ainsile Terminal.

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