Hamilton Light Rail has engaged in years of extensive community outreach, making presentations to community groups across the city and building support.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published July 24, 2014
This article has been updated.
M. Adrian Brassington has written an op-ed in today's Spectator that largely consists of a complaint against Raise the Hammer and its readers for annoying him with endless evidence-based arguments and studies that show the B-line light rail transit (LRT) is a feasible and prudent investment in Hamilton's future.
His piece totally ignores all of the public engagement and demonstrated support for LRT.
As a founding volunteer of Hamilton Light Rail who spent dozens of hours of my own time giving presentations to a huge range of groups throughout the city and volunteering my time to the City on an advisory committee, I am pretty angry at his claim that pro-LRT people just sit and write boring blogs.
He claims that Councillors are "managers not leaders", which is the first time I've read this job description, and that they have neither the "time nor the inclination to investigate what might be".
This is downright bizarre, since councillors are called on a regular basis to make decisions about "what might be", from building a stadium to planning an aerotropolis to deciding on an urban boundary extension, not to mention making big infrastructure deals with the province, like a $75 million highway interchange in Flamborough.
But what I really don't understand is Brassington's plea that LRT supporters "need to take the cause to the people".
Doesn't he know that we have done precisely that?
We designed a presentation and "took it to the people". I personally and other LRT advocates, entirely voluntarily, made presentations to Councillors, neighbourhood associations, McMaster students and administration, BIAs, Rotary Clubs and business groups all over the City.
Every group that I presented to was convinced by the evidence and officially endorsed LRT in a letter to Council!
Formal support for LRT includes such leading municipal and community organizations as the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, the Hamilton Spectator editorial board, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, Clean Air Hamilton, the Downtown Hamilton BIA, the International Village BIA, various neighbourhood associations and community councils and the McMaster Students Union, as well as thousands of residents from across the city.
Brassington should at least get his facts straight before claiming that LRT supporters don't go directly to the people.
Similarly, the Hamilton Light Rail website has collected over 1,300 expressions of support from Hamiltonians throughout the City, including over 150 in the past few days alone.
Even worse, Brassington seems to have forgotten that City staff themselves "took it to the people", gathering comments from an unprecedented 1,884 residents in every corner of the City ... and found massive support for LRT.
Rapid Transit Preference by Ward (Source: City of Hamilton)
They also formed a Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee made up of volunteer stakeholders from all over the City to help talk to residents and include a wide range of interest groups. I was a member of that group as well.
Against this massive amount of public involvement and engagement, Brassington seems to just know that "The vast majority of Hamiltonians either haven't paid much attention to media coverage of LRT, are entirely disinterested, or are against it."
How does he know this? Has he himself gone out and talked to ordinary Hamiltonians throughout the City about LRT as Hamilton Light Rail volunteers and City staff have done?
And surely, as a lifelong transit user and someone who has read all the studies and evidence himself, he knows enough to make up his own mind.
The fact that he opens his article by confessing that he is "neither for nor against LRT" is hard to believe. What would it take to convince him to take a stand?
Finally, Brassington suggests that pro-LRT supporters are insane (or at least wasting their time) because all the studies, articles and community engagement we've done have not convinced Council (and the community) to support LRT and yet we stubbornly keep at it.
This is also factually wrong: the campaign has had some important successes.
Council does officially support LRT, and has voted to support LRT with full provincial funding in every motion put before it since 2008.
The Province also supports LRT for Hamilton, and has promised it in the 2007, 2011 and 2014 elections.
Metrolinx has decided Hamilton's rapid transit is one of their top priority projects for the next wave of Big Move investments.
HLR and City staff found massive support for LRT throughout the city when they actually went out and talked the people, just as Brassington is demanding.
Does he want us to keep re-doing this public engagement over and over endlessly, just to make sure? Why is the bar so high for this particular project?
At some point it's time to say we've done everything we can, and it is time to make a funding decision.
There will always be some people who are opposed to LRT or just don't care. That is no reason to ignore the studies, reports, evidence and broad public support that has already been demonstrated.
If you have not already done so, please visit Hamilton Light Rail and add your statement of support for this transformative project.
Update: updated to add link to the Spectator op-ed.
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