Special Report: Light Rail

Bratina Concern-Trolling the LRT Debate

If Mayor Bratina really supports LRT, he has had over three years to develop a properly thought-out alternative to the B-line and try to convince his colleagues that some other better option is possible.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 06, 2014

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina is backpedaling from a bizarre blog he posted on his website on Tuesday, claiming in a Spectator article that he is not actually interested in carrying out the proposal he outlined to put light rail transit (LRT) on the Escarpment and Chippewa Rail Trails. (You can read a review of the mayor's blog post on RTH.)

Rather, he says he was merely trying to dispel the idea that he opposes LRT in general, while raising a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about the east-west B-Line that the City and Province have spent the past six years studying and developing.

The important thing to remember is that Bratina voted to support a whole series of motions that involved spending millions of dollars of public money on feasibility studies, detailed development and land use planning, class Environmental Assessment and 30 percent engineering design of the B-line LRT.

He was absolutely crystal-clear during the 2010 election that he would "work with all levels of government to bring light rail transit to Hamilton" as his campaign website stated, and he clearly said at the October 6, 2010 Durand Neighbourhood Association mayoral debate that he firmly supported the B-Line LRT.

Bratina and I chatted after that debate and the only less-than-positive thing he said to me was that other councillors were worried about costs and didn't want the city to have to contribute.

Changed Course

I'm not sure what changed between October 6 and October 19, but musing about maybe looking at building the A-Line LRT first is not the same as vehemently opposing the B-line LRT, which is what he has been doing.

Any reasonable person in late 2010 looking at his platform, his voting record, and the work the Rapid Transit team was doing would conclude he would continue to support the B-line LRT.

But once he was elected Mayor, he changed course and went about trying to discredit building any sort of LRT, even as the planning for the B-line LRT continued with more votes from him supporting the process.

The Rapid Ready Plan that Hamilton sent to the Province is entirely aimed at justifying the B-line LRT as a priority development project. Bratina voted for it with the rest of Council, but later tried to claim that it wasn't really a vote for LRT.

In April 2013, City Manager Chris Murray told the Mayor and Council, "We've been focused all along on the B-Line and advancing the detail of that B-Line so the Province can make a decision on the B-Line. Okay?"

No Alternative Presented

Bratina has had over three years to develop a properly thought-out alternative to the B-line LRT and try to convince his colleagues that some other better LRT option is possible.

Instead, he alternately claimed that there was nothing to worry about because Hamilton was doing everything Metrolinx had asked and we should just sit back, relax, and let them make their decision, which implied he supported the plan; and then periodically attacked the justification for any LRT line at all, including saying it would only make sense if a million people move to Hamilton in the next five years.

In any case, the City's and Province's actual plan was always supposed to be for two LRT lines in Hamilton, with the north-south A-line initially set up as a BRT due to lower demand and the challenges of the escarpment.

What is the justification for running LRT to the airport, which is clearly on the way to becoming a cargo-only facility? There is minimal-to-zero development potential along the route south of Rymal because of rural zoning, and almost no passenger demand.

The City spent a lot of money and time, included massive public engagement, in determining the optimal route and associated urban design, which is why we are focusing on the B-line LRT - and the Province came to the same conclusion in their Benefits Case Analysis.

Concern Trolling

Like his last-minute amalgamation talk earlier this year, Bratina posted this blog entry as a way of covering himself, like a lawyer who argues his client should get off on a technicality.

He is now trying to use his blog to claim that, in some strange way, he actually does (or at least did) support LRT. But he immediately counters his own claim by saying that, in fact, he actually doesn't support the plan he just posted.

And he also doesn't support the city's official plan, which he also voted to support, because he tries very hard to discredit it in his article.

If I can try to to summarize his position, it goes something like this:

1. I actually do support LRT. As exhibit A, I present this plan that no one knows about for a completely unfeasible and unjustified LRT to nowhere.

2. But, don't worry, I don't actually support my own plan. It is just there so that I can claim I didn't break my campaign promise "to work with all levels of government to bring LRT to Hamilton".

3. And you can relax because I really do support Council's official plan to build the B-line LRT.

4. But wait a minute, although I support Council's plan, it has all sorts of serious problems. Which means I don't really support it. But I'll still support it officially, for appearances sake, as long as no one actually asks me about it.

It is hard to conclude that his latest foray into the LRT debate is anything other than straightforward concern trolling - pretending to support an initiative in order to confuse, disrupt, undermine and ultimately kill it.

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 hrt (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 09:09:41

Bratina's wayward 2014 LRT blog is reminiscent of his one day T-shirt wearing support of the West Harbour Pan Am Stadium back in the 2010 municipal election year whilst spending the other 364 days undermining the West Harbour location behind the scenes and on CHML.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2014 at 22:42:02 in reply to Comment 98243

To be fair, I think Bob's opinion during that mess was simply that the stadium should remain in the lower city. He was as waffling and indecisive as ever, but he was consistent about that one fact.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 23:44:23 in reply to Comment 98274

Good point. Nonetheless, for old times sake:


Comment edited by jason on 2014-03-06 23:45:02

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2014 at 09:44:07

No wonder there's so much confusion out there. Here's a Bratina comment that appeared on RTH transcribed from one of Bobby B's appearances on The Bill Kelly Show on July 19, 2011.

"Everyone who has come to my office in the last year, or six months, has had to go through the boredom of me unrolling my map of where the LRT should go. And the City Manager, "Oh not again, here he goes with his map. We have an LRT line sitting waiting to go that goes from the airport to the GO station, goes through the two business parks in Glanbrook, goes through the 20,000 home sprawl, which I didn't want to support that but we're going to get 20,000 new houses in the southeast you know up around Summit Park and that way. So I have a map in my office that shows the corridor it comes down and it hits Rymal, Stonechurch, Limeridge, Mohawk and then you get this nice sweep."

B Line? Seems not. Bob seems to prefer the My Line.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 18:52:13 in reply to Comment 98246

He talks about it like he is a sitcom character and this LRT map is his one quirky character trait. The problem is, its only funny in a sitcom because you know that the character is not real and is not your mayor.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2014 at 10:15:21 in reply to Comment 98246

the BEE line versus the MEE line?

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 10:29:35

Oh not again, here he goes with his map.


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By j.servus (registered) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 18:31:35

Bratina has just confirmed (1) deep cynicism, (2) shocking ignorance, and (3) stupidity. To wit:

Stupidity: If he thinks an LRT line through parkland will "better fulfil the development promise of the B-line," then he obviously hasn't understood the arguments concerning transit oriented development.

Ignorance: If he thinks "the potential capacity of the [me] line for transit users is in the hundreds of thousands of rides per year" is impressive, he must not realize that the B-line currently carries a hundred thousand riders about every 8 days.

Shocking ignorance: It would be one thing not to know this fact. It is shocking to be the Mayor and not to know it.

Cynicism: Proposing a line that (a) only serves parts of Hamilton that are already among the wealthiest and best served, (b) while doing nothing for the poorest neighborhoods in Hamilton, and (c) minimizing the impact on drivers by (d) taking escarpment access from the poorer parts of the city.

Deep cynicism: Proposing such a line, knowing that it is only a campaign gimmick with zero chance of enactment, which nevertheless has a negative effect on probabilities that the real plan might actually be enacted; and obviously assuming that the people in the snubbed neighborhoods aren't paying attention.

Comment edited by j.servus on 2014-03-06 18:33:08

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 20:03:01

Those who are being snubbed or should we irrelevant are paying attention, they are the ones who no longer vote.

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By JMcGreal (registered) | Posted March 06, 2014 at 22:50:53


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