If ever there was a time for our Councillors to remember the evidence presented before them, trust their own legacy of support, uphold the courage of their convictions and reiterate their commitment to LRT, that time is now.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 18, 2014
The same Liberal Party that first proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines in Hamilton in 2007 and campaigned last month on a promise to provide 100 percent capital funding for Hamilton's Rapid Ready LRT plan has just won a majority government in the Ontario Legislature. Now it's time for the Province to keep its promise to Hamilton.
We have never been closer to achieving our plan to build LRT along the east-west B-Line corridor between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.
What City Council needs to do is stay the course it has been on through a long series of votes dating back to 2008. That course began with the formation of the Rapid Transit Office and the launch of a feasibility study that compared LRT and bus rapid transit (BRT) and concluded that LRT is more expensive but delivers a much bigger overall benefit.
Council needs to stand behind the Rapid Ready LRT Plan, which is the culmination of several years' worth of study, analysis and design work, and communicate its support for LRT clearly and unambiguously. Council approved the plan last year and submitted it to the Province.
We have completed the feasibility studies, the economic studies, the class environmental assessment, the 30 percent engineering and detailed design work and the secondary land use planning to ensure that developers are able to invest in new projects around the line. The project has been reviewed by Metrolinx and studied independently by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics and other planners.
Hamilton is in the Metrolinx list of priority projects and we have done our homework. We are ready for approval. We are ready to make this project a reality.
This is absolutely no time to waver or give Queen's Park any excuse to claim we are not serious about LRT or do not know what we prefer.
Unfortunately, we have in Bob Bratina a mayor who has spent his term confusing and undermining the case for LRT with a relentless stream of misleading and bogus claims. His antics continued last week with a fresh serving of malarkey:
In the past, Bratina has advocated for building ridership using bus rapid transit before building an LRT line, but has been in favour of all-day GO train service. He said Thursday there are still too many questions around LRT, such as "where we would park the trains" and "the infrastructure underneath the street, which could add tens of hundreds of millions of dollars on our tax burden."
Where will we park the trains? Staff already recommended a location at an existing city-owned transit maintenance building on Wentworth Street North, but Council deferred making a decision on it. This is hardly a deal-breaker, but Bratina makes it sound like we can't possibly decide to go ahead with LRT until we can determine whether it's possible to find somewhere to store the vehicles.
What about the road infrastructure? As part of the Rapid Ready planning, city staff carefully estimated which part of the infrastructure beneath the streets would be charged as direct capital costs to the province and which infrastructure Hamilton would need to pay for. Essentially, any infrastructure that would need in any case to be replaced soon would be paid by Hamilton, and the rest would be paid by the province.
This is a matter for negotiation, but we know how it worked in Toronto, where the Province fully funded and is in the process of building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line. Bratina is trying to count the necessary infrastructure upgrades we would have to complete regardless as part of the cost of LRT.
If we refuse LRT now, we are walking away on $800 million in direct provincial investment in our economic sustainability, an investment that is proven to deliver a huge overall return on investment in greater economic activity, new transit-oriented development, greater mobility and improved quality of life.
If Bratina is truly worried about our tax burden, he should consider what the loss of new tax revenue will mean for a Hamilton that turns down this opportunity.
Not only that, but the cities we are competing with for residents and investments - places like Mississauga, Brampton and Kitchener-Waterloo - will be increasing their attractiveness with LRT investments of their own. Refusing LRT will be a double-whammy for Hamilton, which will compete even more poorly with its regional peers.
The mayor is only one vote on Council, and in any case he has already announced that he will not run for re-election. He must not be allowed to hijack Council's will or misrepresent its decisions to the Province.
If ever there was a time for our Councillors to remember the evidence presented before them, trust their own legacy of support, uphold the courage of their convictions and reiterate their commitment to LRT, that time is now.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 considers the Province's role in bringing LRT to completion.
with files from Nicholas Kevlahan
By CaptainKik (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2014 at 20:45:31
"Currently we are setting records for development as revealed in our Building Permit data, two years in a row over a billion dollars in construction values , none of it based on transit oriented development, with the possible exception of impacts related to the new GO Station." --- Well duh! If the GO station is resulting in TOD, then surely LRT will too. What kind of argument is he making in the quoted statement, and how much of that billion dollars is being invested along the older part of the city's B-Line?
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 18, 2014 at 23:23:46 in reply to Comment 102651
Because there is no transit in Hamilton except at the GO station?
That sound you hear is my BS alarm going off.
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-06-18 23:24:05
By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2014 at 22:29:37 in reply to Comment 102651
add to this TOD around GO Stations the following facts:
3% of Hamiltonians work in Toronto. 70% work in Hamilton.
If 3% of the population is enough to drive TOD around a GO Station, just imagine how much TOD we could see along our many proposed LRT lines with 70% of Hamiltonians working in Hamilton, and the vast majority of them, downtown.
By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 07:20:51 in reply to Comment 102656
70% of Hamiltonians (ie. 139,470 commuters) work somewhere within Hamilton 23,400 of those (ie. 17% of intra-Hamilton commuters), worked downtown (ie. Downtown Community Improvement Project Area, or Queen/Victoria/Cannon/Hunter plus James from LIUNA Station to St. Joe's) as of the summer of 2010. The remaining 116,070 (ie. 83% of intra-Hamilton commuters) work somewhere other than the Downtown CIPA. StatsCan indicates that 23,445 Hamilton workers commute to Burlington and another 21,880 Hamilton workers commute west to Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto.
"Final mile" is the missing link in all of these cases. Nudging people out of cars means providing fast, convenient service to the trunk line. Wards 1-5 fare reasonably well on this count, but the other 10 wards do not. Doubling the frequency of service in those wards would go a long way to encouraging drivers to use transit more often, but the cost would be considerable, since you're doubling the fleet and, with it, adding capital and O&M costs. The City has shown little appetite for new investment, and the HSR has been timidly respectful of council's reticence.
By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 13:25:33 in reply to Comment 102666
Drawing the focus even tighter, the Centre for Community Study has estimated that as of 2010, the DSPA (smaller than the CIPA, it’s the standard Queen/Cannon/Wellington/Hunter version of downtown) contained 21,306 employees.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 08:53:53 in reply to Comment 102666
yes, the final mile is a huge problem in Hamilton.
And my bad on referencing 'downtown'. In lights of the B-Line discussion I was speaking of the McMaster-Eastgate corridor as home to the majority of our workforce.
Of all the nodes in the city, downtown is the largest, which also helps make the case for B-Line LRT.
You are correct tho - the city and HSR are more than content to take home public salary to run a 1990 transit system with virtually no improvements.
By RobF (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:04:02 in reply to Comment 102668
The data above indicates that almost twice as many Hamilton residents work in the GTA west and Toronto as work in Downtown Hamilton (as defined above). This doesn't really lessen the arguments in favor of building the LRT B-line, but it does suggest we need to update how we think about the lower city within Hamilton as a whole, and Hamilton as micropolitan centre within a larger urban region.
We aren't talking about a single dominant urban core surrounded by dependent residential peripheries anymore in most urban regions. Yes downtown is distinctive, because of the density of employment. But in overall or absolute terms employment is now multi-nodal and dispersed across regions, which is why congestion and sprawl are such vexing problems. Of course, the logic of transit investments now and the dominant strain of new urbanism is to shift growth toward a node and corridor (re)urbanization model ... a return to the spatial structure and form reminiscent of the streetcar metropolis of the 1890s to 1930s, except with greater regional integration.
I'm of the thinking that the political problem is that some areas, the lower city for instance, are more amendable to a reversion back to an earlier form of urbanism (albeit in re-urbanized or transformed form). I imagine the GTA and Hamilton as being split between those spaces that are relatively easy to shift from automobility to those which must cling to some form of it because the built form makes it difficult to conceive of any other way to function. Many early postwar suburban areas fall in-between and these places interest me the most in my own work.
Comment edited by RobF on 2014-06-19 12:11:51
By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 13:13:58 in reply to Comment 102675
The data above indicates that almost twice as many Hamilton residents work in the GTA west and Toronto as work in Downtown Hamilton (as defined above). This doesn't really lessen the arguments in favor of building the LRT B-line, but it does suggest we need to update how we think about the lower city
In my opinion, all day GO was needed 10 years ago.
In my opinion, LRT is needed today.
We just fall farther and farther behind. Both are beneficial; both have existing and latent ridership demand, and procrastination is difficult when it catches up with you. $50B on the table, miss this and we may not get another chance at provincial money for many years.
By RobF (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 13:50:16 in reply to Comment 102687
Yes, we need both. The argument for LRT is strong, but it isn't made stronger by the strong-arm tactic of arguing that we'll lose out if we don't act fast (that tactic is usually employed in relation to weak projects). We should proceed with LRT, because it makes sense based on current ridership, projected increases, long-term cost-savings, and increased redevelopment potential (it will strengthen our tax-base). The provincial funding is not a rationale for doing it ... a bad project is still bad project even if it is free (think of all the urban expressways built in the US with federal funds).
By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 20:20:19 in reply to Comment 102693
Yes but its already been established that it is a good project, so in that context saying 'let's do it asap' is actually a good argument, especially for a process that could take 5-10 years to complete. If we think we need it now, we will definitely need it in 10 years when it opens.
This is what is frustrating about talking about the DRL in Toronto - it is needed now to alleviate overcrowding, but the entire process for approving, designing and building could be 10-15 years... Meanwhile the city will be held back by transit congestion.
By RobF (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 22:49:13 in reply to Comment 102706
Agreed on the LRT. I'm not arguing that we need to deliberate on it further (see below).
Transit politics in Toronto is a completely different animal. Not enough time to get into the politics around the DRL and the various plans being floated re: transit expansion in Toronto. I do wonder why it takes so long for anything to be built ... does it really need to take 10-15 years to build a subway line?
By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 15:30:22 in reply to Comment 102693
I agree that "acting fast" is not always a good argument, but the City and Province have been studying and Council has been voting to support this project for over six years. That's not exactly speedy, and the B-line LRT has also been on Metrolinx's list of next wave projects for several years.
The question since at least the 2010 Metrolinx BCA has not been whether its a good idea, but when the Province would decide on a funding formula.
It's not so much acting fast, its being competitive with other municipalities who are competing for the same money (funded in part from taxes paid by Hamilton residents).
Council decided back in 2008 that LRT was in principle a good idea, the only caveat being that the funding arrangement had to make it realistic and affordable. The Liberals have offered 100% funding of direct costs three time now (in 2007, 2011 and 2014) and, with a majority government and transit funding in the budget, they are now able and have a responsibility to deliver.
Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-06-19 15:33:17
By RobF (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 16:37:58 in reply to Comment 102699
Sorry, I hadn't meant to imply that we would be "acting fast" on the LRT. It's clearly been well studied ... and I should be clearer that I'm strongly in favor of it.
My point wasn't that we need to delay or defer, it was more a dislike of the "limited time offer" line of argument. I don't feel it is necessary, except to flush out fence-sitters and opponents to LRT who hide behind cost rather than simply say they prefer things as they are.
Of course, you are right about the funding formula ... this has hung over Metrolinx since it was created. It would have been nice if we'd had more debate on funding the Big Move during the election.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 20:37:54 in reply to Comment 102702
My opinion as a professional Accountant is that we don't get good things without paying for them.
A year ago the provincial government put on the table 11 revenue tools to pay for The Big Move. Even the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (not exactly a bunch of wild-eyed tax and spend leftists) endorsed two of the revenue tools as "high potential." The Ontario Chamber of Commerce endorsed Highway Tolls at 10 cents per km and an increase in Fuel Tax of 10 cents per litre.
Andrea Horwath and the NDP used their power in a minority government to reject and veto all of these revenue tools.
What does it mean when the NDP and Andrea Horwath are more right-wing than the Ontario Chamber of Commerce?
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-06-19 20:38:18
By RobF (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 21:37:54 in reply to Comment 102709
Well Horwath decided to run on a populist ticket, and that has left her the Queen of the rustbelt and resource North. It has also led to a divide within the NDP itself. On the surface right and left populism don't differ much from each other, except in who is framed as the villain. Resentment against perceived elites and "fancy" ideas fuel both.
Really there isn't consensus on how to fund Metrolinx politically, which is why it seems that politicians keep kicking the can down the road. Wynne ran on the sunny-side of her platform during the election. We know what her vision for Ontario looks like, but the election never addressed how pay for it. She wasn't brave enough to run on the road tolls and gas tax proposal endorsed by the OCC. It probably would have cost her government, but we'll never know. Now she has a majority and doesn't have to ask permission. She can weigh the political risks and decide which revenue tools are necessary and how much to charge from each ... and let public opinion or the next election determine whether the choices are politically acceptable. From that we'll get to see how skilled a politician she really is ... what kind of leader has been elected.
Comment edited by RobF on 2014-06-19 21:38:47
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:59:35 in reply to Comment 102668
By Hyperbole (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 05:38:54 in reply to Comment 102656
jason sez: "70% of Hamiltonians working in Hamilton, and the vast majority of them, downtown."
Really? I've never heard such a thing. Shouldn't that mean the "vast majority" live near downtown too then? Guess the suburbs are a ghost town!
By Mr. Spock (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2014 at 21:04:31 in reply to Comment 102651
By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:49:18 in reply to Comment 102652
Meanwhile Toronto, K-W, Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton etc... are all building higher-order transit systems for the people who want to get from A -> B in their cities. But in Hamilton? Never!
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:54:56
according to the links provided, only 15% of those working in Hamilton work downtown. why then do we need a train to run from eastgate to mac? the more I read the less I see any need for this LRT.
By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:07:35
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoB-zERCcAAp_9U.png Sobering debt pic (can't seem to paste it). But go ahead-- I benefit from this thing, relatively speaking. I'll sell on green light.
By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:19:58
And McMaster, at the terminus of the proposed LRT line, has over 35,000 students and staff (and a hospital).
So, even if we count only employees and students downtown and at McMaster their are about 60,000 potential commuting riders.
And we could add in another few thousand students at Columbia College and Westdale as well as the about 70,000 residents in Wards 1 and 2.
Well over 100,000 potential riders is a pretty promising base, especially as this considers only the western half of the LRT line, and there is huge potential for growth which will be accelerated by the LRT line all along the route (as shown by the land use study).
Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-06-19 12:29:43
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 13:34:23 in reply to Comment 102678
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 19, 2014 at 16:34:02 in reply to Comment 102690
Why are you doing this? Why post so much dreck that doesn't even vaguely approach reality. It's not like you're getting obscure statistics wrong, you're getting basic facts that anybody who has even visited downtown Hamilton would recognize as wrong. How does this help your argument? How does this contribute to the conversation?
By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 15:56:04 in reply to Comment 102690
Of the seven Columbia student residences, two are downtown, three are on Main West and the two mountain residences are served by the 33 Sanitorium bus, which the students take downtown before transferring onto the Main/King bus routes. The buses are crowded with Columbia students going downtown in the afternoon.
I don't know where you get your information about where Mac students and staff live ((only a relatively small proportion live in Westdale), but many McMaster undergraduate students currently take the King/Main buses (they are jam packed in the mornings), many graduate students live downtown, and many others live in the GTA and would be able to get the Mac by transferring from the proposed all-day Go buses to the LRT. And, of course, LRT would encourage even more students and staff to live near the line.
Students also travel downtown for shopping and entertainment and there will be increasing traffic between McMaster's four sites in Hamilton (Main Campus in Westdale, Innovation Park at Longwood, Downtown campus and new Medical Campus all of which are directly along the LRT route).
Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-06-19 16:02:02
By H2 (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:42:30 in reply to Comment 102700
Nicholas - Don't bother with this troll. We've done the ridership analysis and our DAY ONE current ridership makes the system successful based on a comparison of other successful north American cities. Even modest ridership growth that is expected would push success even higher. If the north american benchmark of success isn't proof enough, then there is something more fundamental here. This clown doesn't think we are a city that deserves LRT and you can't convince someone who thinks that little of Hamilton to aim higher. Waste of time, move on.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 20, 2014 at 18:48:29 in reply to Comment 102756
As the next article points out, there will also be an induced demand effect. If LRT is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of travelling along its route, lots more people will use it.
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2014 at 10:04:37 in reply to Comment 102700
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:49:14 in reply to Comment 102743
They could walk, too. It's only about 45 minutes from Downtown to Westdale to walk. We could just shut down the HSR altogether, and just have everybody without a car walk. After all, if the bus is a good-enough alternative to LRT, why not walking as a good-enough alternative to the bus?
By Andreas (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2014 at 14:09:53
I really appreciate Raise the Hammer keeping the pressure on the LRT question. The time is definitely now to make sure we have a mayor and a council that supports building the city of Hamilton to the best of its ability. From what I see we have three main mayoral candidates in McHattie, Eisenberger and Clark, and I think Clark is the only anti-LRT candidate. Why can't we poll the various candidates for council and see who is pro and anti? I wonder if we can try to make the argument for LRT-skeptic suburban and rural Hamilton voter. Sure they may not live downtown, but key benefits remain:
-> improved flow of person-car-equivalents (a transportation planning term not mine) through the downtown core,
-> increased Hamilton tax base due to businesses and investment along the LRT line,
-> less pressure to develop on green fields, due to downtown revitalization
-> less pollution, buses & accidents downtown,
-> improving the image of Hamilton as a city,
-> building the B-line will make the case for a North-South LRT A-Line
-> real transportation options for low income, students and seniors that can't drive
There are plenty of reasons why we need to keep the pressure on our politicians to show real leadership and do the right thing.
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