Special Report: Light Rail

New Hamilton Light Rail Engagement Campaign

Now, more than ever, citizens need to demonstrate the vision, courage and leadership to look past the politicking, hand-wringing and fear-mongering and see this once-in-a-generation opportunity for what it is.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 16, 2016

Hamilton Light Rail has relaunched with a new engagement campaign we never thought we'd have to undertake: to make sure Hamilton City Council takes yes for an answer.

A year after the Province committed 100 percent full capital funding for the LRT system Council had repeated requested, now a disruptive faction of Councillors is seriously considering saying No, thanks and walking away from a billion dollars in rapid transit investment.

Last week, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla introduced a motion to reaffirm Council's support for Provincial LRT funding, which Council had formally requested in two votes in 2013 and another vote in 2014.

Since the funding announcement last May, Council has also voted to establish an LRT Office, convene an LRT Sub-Committee, receive multiple reports from that Sub-Committee and sign a Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) [PDF] with Metrolinx to complete a Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Amendment for the LRT route.

It was widely assumed that the vote to reaffirm - yet again - Council's support for LRT would be a shoo-in. But instead of approving the motion, a 9-6 majority of Councillors jumped on a snap deferral motion to put off a vote until this Wednesday's General Issues Committee (GIC) meeting.

Map: votes for or against the LRT Deferral motion by ward
Map: votes for or against the LRT Deferral motion by ward

The justification for this deferral was that the May 18 GIC will also receive the latest report from the LRT Sub-Committee, which includes the preliminary LRT alignment, which was publicly released in late April.

A nasty swirl of opposition to the LRT plan has been building for the past week, with Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins saying he opposes the plan and several others publicly wondering if they should should continue to support it.

Collins has mused that Hamilton could use the money on general transit funding or roads instead, but the Province has already shut that down by making it clear that the billion dollars can only be used for LRT.

"Investments under the Moving Ontario Forward - Inside the GTHA fund are directed to rapid transit projects that will help improve mobility and manage congestion in the region," stated Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer in an email.

He stated the province has "committed" $1 billion for the capital construction of Hamilton's LRT. The province and Metrolinx respects the "importance" of the city's decision to support transit improvements and will "work collaboratively" with Hamilton to "advance work on the project."

Collins and company already know this, but that has not stopped them from trying to mislead Hamiltonians in their efforts to derail this project.

To recap: the City of Hamilton spent five years developing an LRT plan, asked the Province for full capital funding, received full capital funding, established an LRT office and LRT sub-committee, and signed an agreement with the Province to collaborate on an LRT design and EA Amendment in order to implement the system.

It is incomprehensible to imagine that Council would today be in a position where it might turn around and say, "No, thanks" to a billion-dollar investment a year after the Province came through with the funding we requested!

Yet here we are.

Hamilton Light Rail was founded on the understanding that in a large, complex, transformative project like LRT, it is necessary for citizens to lead by engaging directly with municipal and provincial leaders to make the right decision.

Now, more than ever, citizens need to demonstrate the vision, courage and leadership to look past the politicking, hand-wringing and fear-mongering and see this once-in-a-generation opportunity for what it is.

Please take a few moments to send a message to Council and the Province affirming your support for LRT and calling on Council to do the same:

If Council loses its nerve and turns down a billion dollars in transformative rapid transit investment, the effects on Hamilton's future prospects for growth and revitalization will be absolutely devastating. We simply cannot afford to screw this up!

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 09:18:38

The LRT campaign has needed a public education strategy from the start. It has been way too quiet, allowing half-baked notions and misconceptions to become accepted as facts. This project needs billboards, with facts, displayed throughout the city. The chamber of Commerce should be stepping up regularly to inform the business and wider community. One of the central duties of the city's LRT office should be ensuring that the benefits of this system are properly communicated to the public. Education is the key.

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By Dad61 (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 15:25:19 in reply to Comment 118578

Why should we go ahead blindly without all the information. Remember we had LRT in Hamilton for many years and it was said to costly to keep and upkeep. I for one don't want to go through his again and waste my tax dollars. This will not do anything for traffic but cause lane reducing. The one goes sat to west , true numbers of riders is not high enough for a cost effective investment.
I am for reducing emission and congestion, but this is not the way.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 21:02:13 in reply to Comment 118674


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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 20:02:57 in reply to Comment 118674

I don't think streetcar systems from more than half a century ago are a relevant comparison. Fortunately urban planning has come along way in those decades, just not in all municipalities.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 09:39:36 in reply to Comment 118578

You can expect all campaigns will pick up pace by many parties greatly as the year progresses.

Anne-Marie Aikens, social media PR spokeswoman of Metrolinx, confirmed to me that Metrolinx will be launching their Hamilton LRT social media soon. This will be the full professional information campaign. An example of an information campaign is the one ongoing for Toronto's Crosstown LRT.

The Citizen Advocacy (hamiltonlrt.ca, heavily social media) and The Initiative (hamiltonlightrail.ca, LRT existential initiatives) are complementary, and Nicholas Kevlahan collaborates in the Advocacy as well. However, both are also supported by many local volunteers, many with full time jobs, myself included, and without city/government funding. That said, campaigns are picking up!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-05-16 09:46:15

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 09:47:26 in reply to Comment 118580

Also very important that these different groups stay on message. The last thing we'd want to see is conflicting information being distributed from sources that are working toward the same goal.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:08:20 in reply to Comment 118581

Totally agreed!

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:20:55

This council is consistently anti-progress, anti-transit.


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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:49:29 in reply to Comment 118584

Image at link:

infamous bus lane infographic

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:23:38

In my opinion, The Usual Suspects are not going to be able to derail (pun intended!) the LRT project altogether. But what they can do is be disruptive and try to blackmail the project into "compromises" that turn the implementation into a disfunctional implementation.

We've seen this already. International Village will no longer be a car-free zone. There will not be protected cycle lanes such as are being implemented on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The James Street spur will have neither the LRT nor cyclists protected from car drivers, because car parking is more important. Etc, etc.

The haters cannot kill the project outright. But they can and will try to make it a crappy, sub-optimal disfunctional implementation.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-05-16 10:23:58

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By Yup (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:31:46 in reply to Comment 118586

This is exactly what's happening, all in the name of I Told You So.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:34:47

I really don't understand how LRT routing as planned does anything to improve traffic congestion? It simply covers Wards 3 & 4, services only those close to the route & serves only those who already currently use bus service! Maybe my biggest question, how did they arrive at $1B without any Capital cost quotes & have they liberally factored in inflation as completion at best is estimated 2024? Who pays if it's one & a quarter or one half billion? I know pro-LRT advocates simply want to take what they think is a gift and don't want a lot of the cold hard questions answered! Granted, these questions should have been raised years ago by Council? I don't know if I'm pro or anti LRT as no one has provided solid facts.

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By Yup (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:35:45 in reply to Comment 118588

I agree that it seems a lot of people are just holding their nose and accepting a dysfunctional routing for what was going to be a huge transit opportunity for this city.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:55:59 in reply to Comment 118588

It's my understanding the $1B is derived from an earlier professional costing of $800M. But the delays in granting the LRT and the A-Line requirement, bumped this up slightly to $1B.

Usually, Ontario’s alternative financing and procurement (AFP) model is what is used now. This is what is currently used for Ottawa, Waterloo and the Eglinton Crosstown LRTs (the latter by Metrolinx).

All of which are all currently on budget (at the time of this writing), as I understand it.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 10:55:37 in reply to Comment 118588

Your questions have been asked and answered in a variety of City and Provincial reports and at the time of the funding announcement. There's nothing wrong with asking hard questions, but it is important not to ignore the answers that have already been given. Remember this is a project that has been studied and designed and consulted for over eight years!

It's too bad the City has not kept up the public engagement for the past four years or so.

The LRT routing services what is already by far the busiest transit corridor in the City and the area with the biggest potential for economic uplift given that it is already serviced land but with lots of under-developed properties (e.g. surface parking, one storey commercial).

The economic and social benefits for this route were originally analysed six years ago in the 2010 Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis, which followed an earlier 2008 City study that led the City to vote to pursue LRT with full provincial funding of the capital costs. Note that the 2010 BCA already included an overall costing for the project.

The goal of LRT is not to decrease traffic congestion compared to what it is now, but to allow the city to reach its economic potential given its existing street corridors since there is not reasonable potential for new streets. In other words, to use this space to move more people more efficiently which can only be accomplished with higher order rapid transit.

The City's 2007 transportation Master Plan had already noted that to accommodate further population and economic growth the City would have to prioritize means of transport other than private motor vehicles, since the existing road network can just not handle the anticipated growth.

The original McMaster to Eastgate alignment was fully costed in the 30% engineering design which would have been enough to tender the project. The Province modified the design by terminating it at Queenston and adding the Jame St spur to the new West Harbour and the costing of this was included in the new project scope.

The Province has taken predicted inflation into account and said that if necessary the project would be modified to keep it within the $1 billion budget. They have said very clearly that they will be responsible for designing and building the project and managing its budget.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 10:59:47

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 11:13:55 in reply to Comment 118594

We shouldn't forget that in 2007 Hamilton was originally promised two rapid transit lines and the City decided the top priority would be the B-line (Main/King corridor from McMaster ward 1 to Eastgate ward 5) with the second priority being the A-line (waterfront to the Linc or even to the airport). Consultation and planning for the A-line had already begun in 2010/2011 before the original Rapid Transit office was effectively shut down.

By terminating the B-line at Queenston Traffic Circle LRT and adding the A-line spur from Gore Park to downtown the Province effectively decided to blend these first two priorities. (Note that the implications of the shorter B-line were already analysed in the 2010 BCA and the 2013 Rapid Ready Report.)

In further phases, the A-line could be extended south to the mountain and the B-line could be extended east to Eastgate or further into Stoney Creek and west to University Plaza or further into Dundas.

There is also a conceptual plan for three other lines (mostly on the mountain and into Waterdown) called BLAST.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 11:27:36

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:19:45 in reply to Comment 118597

We also shouldn't forget that the original 2007 Council supported rapid transit plan led to millions being spent on what was referred to as the Phase 1 Rapid Ready project - the Eastgate bus terminus and long term lease arrangements of those lands

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 11:03:29

It is noteworthy that Wards 1-4 has a total population of 112,015 as of Census 2011.

This is almost 25% of population concentrated in just 5% of Hamilton's area (All wards). Currently, it is the best possible targeting of a limited $1bn initial funding, even better density metrics than A-Line. Obviously, we'd love it if $1bn could cover all 5 proposed LRT routes, of the entire BLAST network, but that obviously isn't possible.

The LRT has to obviously begin somewhere.. But $1bn is only for Phase 1, and it is not build-and-forget. Ottawa just approved Phase 2 of their LRT in 2013 -- five years before finishing construction in 2018 -- they are still building their first LRT. Hamilton's possible equivalent could be a resounding 2018 election that includes funding for a Phase 2 extension -- six years in advance. Or even 2022 election, of course. In other cities, some incremental extensions gets built immediately or almost immediately after the completion of the original route. The same may actually end up happening to Cambridge sooner than later, especially if the ION LRT is a resounding success.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-05-16 11:03:40

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 11:32:57

The major problem is that cost overruns have not been addressed. Calgary's LRT ballooned to $1.5 billion from an original estimate of $700 million. Who will pay the overage when Hamilton's LRT exceeds $2 billion (which it most certainly will.) And we'll have to add a new line to the budget for the life of the system for operation. Since most LRT fares will be subsidized (Mac students and those on social assistance) the line won't be self sufficient. Also, ask yourself this: if Hamilton had $1 billion with no strings attached do you really think our priority would be to put an existing bus route (B-Line) on rails? It's a ridiculous concept overall. And don't forget that funds coming from the province (which is broke) ultimately come from us. It's not like Ontario only collects tax dollars from outside the City. Finally, If we really had any foresight we'd realize that the transportation paradigm is already changing. Autonomous self driving cars (SDC) will be standard by 2024. Private car ownership will be a thing of the past. Collectively owned electric cars will be shuttling passengers around. Scoff if you like, but this system exists today in London. Mac is building SDCs today on Longwood; UBER has a tender out now for 100,000 SDCs; and Apple, Google, Ford, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and GM all expect to release SDCs by 2018. By the completion of the LRT in 2024 it will already be obsolete.

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-05-16 11:45:46

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:46:21 in reply to Comment 118598

Are you aware that several other Ontario LRTs are currently on budget (Ottawa Confederation, Kitchener-Waterloo ION LRT, and Toronto Eglinton Crosstown LRT) -- using Ontario’s alternative financing and procurement (AFP) model is what is used now. While there is no guarantee against cost overruns, it should be more resistant to cost overrun than the Edmtonton LRT that, I do agree, had definitely its own messups.

Now... as a fan of self-driving cars too, and as a computer programmer who understand some of their complexity -- here's some pertinent information, which I posted in another forum.

Yes, the SDCs will arrive by 2020s....but will you be able to send an empty vehicle unattended in a middle of a sensor-blinding snowstorm to pick up your kids, without it being smart enough to call the police/emergency if a drunk driver crashes into it at night (with the kid inside) while self-chauffering your kid back home? It's going to take a while longer to build "trust".

In case you didn't know... Level 4 isn't going to happen by 2018.

Useful information about NTHSA self driving capability levels

Level 0 -- Your old manual-shift car

Level 1 -- Your newer car with cruise control.

Level 2 -- That fancy car with automatic lanekeeping and adaptive cruise.

Level 3 -- You can safely text behind the wheel, but must intervene in an alarm.

Level 4 -- It can self-valet empty. It also can drive your kids unaccompanied to hockey practice in the middle of a snowstorm.

Tesla Autopilot is nearly Level 3; although legally it must be treated as Level 2 with full attention mandatory, and working/surfing/texting still not allowed. Eventually we may reach a point where Level 3 self-driving vehicle drivers are legally allowed to do light (interruptible) work like reading, watching movies, texting, etc, but must mandatorily intervene, say, within 10 seconds of an alarm (seatshaker, wheelshaker, klaxon alarm, etc).

Level 4 self-driving cars is going to be a big, wonderful, beautiful, very fancy Pandora's Box, with both rainbows/unicorns and skull/crossbones beaming out of it simultaneously, both utopia and dystopia. You will yank the giftwrap off the Pandora Box, suddenly causing it to pop Jack-In-A-Box style in a beautifully kablooey pop in a big shower of confetti/glitter -- figuratively speaking.

  • Efficiency -- With the prospect of empty vehicles going home to do tasks for kids or spouses, this could be a traffic disaster for freeways. Legislation may be needed if people abuse the privelage of sending empty vehicles dozens of miles.

  • Moral -- Cars that are faced with an unavoidable fatality decision are going to decide whether to save the occupants or pedestrians. Picture the scenario of a baby stroller suddenly running in front of the car at the last second, from behind roadside newspaper boxes (unavoidably unseen by the car's sensors until too late; now a fatality has to happen). Car must instantly decide to crash into baby stroller OR suddenly veer into a parked car/lamppost 1 meter to the side. Legally solve this. Now consider the sole occupant of car is your child being soccermomed unaccompanied to school. Whose life goes? Whose Responsibility? Legislative? Insurance? Etc.

  • Manned/Unmanned interactions -- Unmanned vehicles interacting with manned vehicles (bicyclists, drivers, buses, ambulances, police cars). How can a police car pull over an empty vehicle for an expired plate? Will governments be comfortable legally allowing empty vehicles? Will police be? Etc.

  • Regulatory -- What you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do. People without a driver license stepping into a car? Drunk people stepping into the backseat of an empty self-driving car? How old must be children to go unaccompanied in a driverless car? Mailicious passengers trying to damage a self-driving taxi into causing an accident? Are you allowed to sleep for 8 hours in the bed at the back of a self-driving RV, or truck cab of a self-driving truck? What about self driving public transit (uber scale? carpool scale? minibus scale? large bus scale?) Etc. Etc. Etc.

  • Robustness -- How many redundant sensors and cameras must a self-driving car have (e.g. safely function at damage/loss to 25% of sensors? 50% of sensors? 75% of sensors?), so they don't cause accidents when flying road debris damages a camera. This also affects regulatory and insurance, and creates ideas of futuristic safety testing regimens, to ensure they can survive major damage and still safely recover.

  • Insurance -- What the insurance companies are willing to let you do with a Level 4 driverless car. Including all the above.

Safety -- Can a level 4 self-driving car safely drive in the middle of a blinding record rainstorm or major snowstorm blizzard, while carrying children that don't know what to do in an emergency? Even Google Car is currently unable to drive reliably in a rainstorm at this time. Level 4 chauffers (like unmanned Uber) isn't going to be legal until you solve this.

  • Security -- Must be upped massively. Hackers. It's already happened. Hackers remotely kill a jeep causing the car to almost park itself on a freeway! And hackers have already blinded driverless cars. Laser pointer tricks a driverless car.

  • Cost -- The cost of solving all the above, factored into your car's sticker price, your government taxes, and your monthly bills (including insurance). It may be so expensive that most carowners will give up carownership, and just hail a neighbour's empty unused car, coming over to your house Uber-style (as a result, conveniently paying a part of that neighbour's car bill!). We will see a hell of a lot of Level 3 soon (Tesla Autopilot is already almost Level 3).

We will even see Level 4 in designated areas (e.g. campuses, special lanes, designated roads, etc), maybe not too long after, but would not include the necessary intelligence to self-taxi people yet.

But the full legally allowed Level 4 self-chauffering freedom will build up like the Big One (the earthquake) for a VERY LONG TIME, and then go pop in a spetacular fancy Pandora Box of wonderfulness.

When will full Level 4 freedom occur?

Predictions vary widely, but is completely possible because of difficult thorny steps, it may not be until the very rough neighborhood of 2040s/2050s/2060s/2070s before we finally solve ALL THE ABOVE BULLETS to drive your children in the middle of a snowstorm, for 100% complete freedom on all Canada roads -- i.e. wide-open public roads (rather than private campuses or special lanes) -- and the old manual-drive cars on the roads fall apart and being retired -- before we see GTHA roads full of full Level 4 freedom self-driving cars. It is really a BIG step, because of all the above.

TL;DR Main-corridor rapid transit will never become obsolete in the era of self-driving cars. Transport Canada cites only 1700-2200 cars per lane per hour on a freeway lane, and less than half that in city lanes (typically closer to 600-800 per lane per hour). At only 1.4 occupants per car average, that is not nearly as many people as LRVs.

The current design of Hamilton LRT allows it to be able eventually move up to 10,000 people per hour (up to 2-vehicle consists, 2 minute headways, but will start up as sole vehicles initially). The Calgary's successful C-Train LRT (3-vehicle consists) successfully move 18,000 people per hour per direction in one lane. This is more than non-grade-separated bus lanes are able to do (even traffic-prioritized BRT). Densification cannot happen in Hamilton downtown without first-order rapid transit (BLAST network, including LRT and BRT routes), that is able to move grand-total-number-of-people on King than today's cars alone.

Yes, driverless Uber-style self-hail vehicles may conveniently pick you up on a button press, but just like a ride to a Toronto subway stop in Toronto is sometimes a faster way to get to Toronto downtown, rapid transit routes (LRT) will be a faster way to get crosstown during peak as congestion gradually get worse in the 2020s+. Easier to convert key corridors to rapid transit use (LRT) now, than when it's already overflowing with vehicles (self-driving or not) that can only move a few hundred individuals per hour per lane.

I love the amazing tech developments of self driving vehicles, but unfortunately self driving vehicles do not equal congestion free utopia in the decades to come.

It's simple mathematics. Which guarantee self-driving vehicles is unable to replace main-corridor fast urban rapid transit.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-05-16 13:56:45

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 17:36:03 in reply to Comment 118622

Actually Calgary is up to 4 car trains and Edmonton has 5 car trains now.

As I often tell people SDC's (Self Driving Cars)can't change the laws of physics! If the road is too busy during peak periods now, the SDC will not stop the road from being overcrowded in the future unless, there are fewer cars or they become a lot smaller! It will probably only get you and its passengers to the centre of the traffic jam faster and more efficiently.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 18:23:17 in reply to Comment 118633

I always find it bizarre when people claim that self-driving cars will make mass transit is obsolete. As you say, just because the car is self-driving doesn't mean it takes any less space on the road. It might actually take more space as shared cars will need to travel to the next customer.

Whichever way you look at it, putting 250 people into the space of one car which typically carries 1.1 people is going to be more efficient (each car takes about 35m of space on a street using the 3 second rule travelling at 50 kmh) which is about the length of one LRT!

What self-driving shared cars on demand would reduce is the need for car storage since, like taxis, they would be in use far more of the time than a private vehicle which spends 95% of its time parked. That means a lot of wasted space for parking at origins (home) and destinations (work, shops, entertainment).

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 16:17:03 in reply to Comment 118622

I did find that very interesting. Thanks for the informative post. So what level are these cars then: http://www.cnet.com/news/you-can-now-sign-up-to-take-a-driverless-car-for-a-spin-around-london/

Also, I think you're underestimating the rapidity with which technology is changing. The DARPA Grand Challenge was first run in 2004. Twelve years later and we're at Level 3. Google is testing Level 4 now. I would absolutely bet on a Level 4 car from Tesla or Apple by 2024. It's just my opinion but it is eight years away and engineers are solving the problems on your list as we speak.

At any rate, maybe you're right and there is still value in an LRT but I'm still concerned about cost overruns. It's my understanding that they'll be handled by modifying the scope of the project. We've already seen it shortened; the Eastgate to Queenston Circle line has been dropped which doesn't make any sense when you consider that there is an existing transit hub at Eastgate and Queenston is not a destination for many riders. The James Street spur was shortened from the waterfront to Liuna Station and I expect it to be dropped entirely. Calgary's LRT cost around $195 million per kilometer. Even with the best case estimates of $100 million per kilometer the Hamilton LRT would cost $1.1 billion. All I'm asking for, and I don't think it's unreasonable, is a realistic estimate for the cost and a corresponding map showing line truncations per hundred million dollar overage. For example, once we hit $1.1 billion everything east of Kenilworth will be cancelled; once we hit $1.2 billion, Ottawa Street. I feel like that would really help everyone understand how crucial keeping this project on budget will be. It shouldn't be a problem if the City is confident in its estimate. I'd also like to know where ground will break since the line may be shortened. No sense starting at Queenston Circle if we end up not being able to afford to make it out to McMaster. We'd need to start construction in the middle of the line and extend outward in both directions. We all know that government capital projects often go over budget; sometimes by 100%. I honestly believe the final capital cost of this project will approach $2 billion.

Finally, I don't feel that selling Hydro One to fund LRTs around the province was a good idea. Morally, Hamilton has grounds to refuse the funding. I know this is wishful thinking that the City would do the right thing but by accepting this money we're complicit in what will prove to be a devastating decision for many people; I can barely afford to keep my lights on now and rates are only increasing. I'd love for Ontario municipalities to send a message to the province instead of divvying up the spoils. Hydro infrastructure will never be brought back under the public umbrella once it's sold and that's just wrong; even if it means LRTs for everyone.

But if it's going to happen regardless then please shut down the affected lanes now and make them bike only before the construction phase so I can at least see some benefit. The fact that bike lanes are not included in this design is a huge oversight.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 08:12:53 in reply to Comment 118629

Hamilton's LRT is mostly on street service with physically segregated private right of way for the trains and signal preference at intersections. Signal modifications either shortens red lights or lengthens green lights when a LRV (Light Rail vehicle) is close to the intersection. There will be a special train only signal for the LRV so it crosses the intersection first before the other vehicles.

You are right Calgary's West Line project went way over estimates. It was a victim of an older but far cheaper design being retrofitted with many newer features and designs that were deemed necessary by the people of Calgary. Drivers wanted many of the surface running sections eliminated because they felt it that the older design didn't reflect the modern traffic and road conditions in Calgary. So instead of surface running on streets as much as possible they started adding very expensive bridges and fly overs and hard to construct private right of ways. Then a 2km sub surface section was added, that was 2-3 metres deep to make residents happy about avoiding train noise in their quiet neighborhoods. Not quite a tunnel but it also increased the budget by an extreme amount. 2 stations in this corridor suddenly needed escalators and elevators, which I can tell you greatly adds to the cost of the stations because you have to structurally change the station designs as well as add the elevators and escalators. Many of the stations on the West Line had huge commuter parking lots added during this phase as well, greatly adding to the cost for land purchases.

Remember the times they are changing, the era of driving everywhere and living in very low density far away single use neighborhoods is coming to and end. For environmental reasons yes, but mostly cities just can't afford to build like that any more. It doesn't produce enough taxes and we can't keep using more of our commercial and industrial taxes to prop up tremendously financially efficient residential areas. It doesn't mean that we will all live 40 story apartments but a much greater variety of housing types is preferred and at a higher but not necessarily a Manhattan type density.

Much more money spent on regular surface transit and higher order transit including LRT is a must. But so is more bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure. Instead of 80-85%% of the transport budget spent on roads and 90-95% of the road space used for single use vehicles, we have to adopt a more European like system mix. We just can't afford sprawl car only cities like this anymore. I work as a urban planner, we have to change now! There is no more time, the only real alternative to this approach is to charge suburbanites the real cost of servicing their communities. Which would in many cases mean massive tax increases for suburbanites. Currently many of the costs associated with sprawl development get paid from commercial and industrial taxes not just the residential tax base, who cause the bills in the first place. This leaves little extra money for commercial building services or we have to raise their property taxes to try and keep up. Keep this in mind, we can't keep building suburban sprawl for another reason. The best land for development is also our best farm land. We are running out of Class A farmland in Ontario. We have paved over more than 50% of it for sprawl.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 17:10:28 in reply to Comment 118629

"Finally, I don't feel that selling Hydro One to fund LRTs around the province was a good idea."

Chiming in to agree that the sale of Hydro One itself was a bad idea. However, that horse has left the barn. That said, higher-order transit (LRT, subway, commuter trains) is definitely my #1 preference where funds should go at this stage.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 16:34:04 in reply to Comment 118629

The BCA in 2010 did do rough cost/benefit analysis of different shorter and longer options for the route.

The estimated costs are actually very conservative (i.e. very high) compared to other systems (e.g. in France the cost per km has only been around $37 million per km) so I think the chances of over-spending the $1 billion estimate are fairly low.

I would expect the easiest option to deal with a major cost over-run would be to cancel the James St spur (since the detailed design hasn't been done yet), but you should ask Metrolinx's Hamilton office about this during the consultation. I expect it will depend on the precise details and situation of the project as well as the staging of the construction.

It would have been great if they used other revenue tools to pay for infrastructure spending (e.g. road tolls, congestion pricing, parking levies, sales tax, development charges) but they were seen as politically unpopular. The Province asked municipalities which revenue tools they would support and the answer was unfortunately "none of them". That didn't leave them much option on raising revenue to build some of the 30 year backlog in deferred transportation infrastructure in the GTHA. The money has to come from somewhere.

By the way, it would be very easy to automate LRT vehicles as they run on tracks, have defined stops and their movement is integrated in into the traffic control systems. We'll probably see that very soon as well.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 16:36:24

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:00:02 in reply to Comment 118598

Again, the Province has stated clearly that it will be responsible for ensuring the project is kept within the budget. They explicitly stated the City will NOT be liable for any cost overruns.

It is simply not true that most LRT fares will be "subsidized", especially as LRT has been shown to attract wealthier residents who refuse to take the bus. It is also not fair to say that Mac students fares are subsidized: they have negotiated a deal with HSR where all students pay a reduced pass for 8 months whether the students use it or not. The HSR did not negotiate this on a subsidy basis, but on its business case!

Hamilton accounts for about 4% of the Province's population, or 9% of the GTHA's population so yes, we will pay 4% to 9% of the cost! Sounds like a pretty good deal to me (compared with K-W who had to pay 33% of the cost from city property taxes AND their contribution to the Province's contribution!).

Autonomous cars will be coming, but there is still not enough space on the roads in medium and large cities for everyone to travel by private vehicles.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 12:01:41

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:21:01 in reply to Comment 118600

Where/when did the province explicitly state that the City will not be liable for any cost overruns? I haven't heard of a firm revenue agreement for the LRT, so the City could lose the revenue generated by the current B-Line.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:55:57 in reply to Comment 118620

This was stated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Province and the City of Hamilton. The full details are available at:


In particular:

Metrolinx will pay for the Project including the costs to design, construct and commission infrastructure and assets owned by Hamilton that need to be relocated to build the Project and any taxes exigible thereon


Metrolinx is the owner and developer of the Project with responsibility for and control over: (i) scope, (ii) budget, (iii) scheduling, (iv) planning, design, and construction, (v) acquisition of the real property required for the Project except as otherwise specified, and (vi) engaging in public consultation. The determination of who will operate and maintain the vehicles and be responsible for certain matters ancillary thereto, including maintenance and operating costs, will be determined at a later date and included in future definitive agreements.


The Project will be designed, built and owned by Metrolinx and operated by or on behalf of Metrolinx on lands in the City of Hamilton which Metrolinx will either own or in which it will have real property interests.

and regarding revenue sharing:

It is anticipated that when a determination has been made regarding the operator and/or maintainer of the Project, the revenue arrangements (including without limitation arrangements for the fares and costs) and matters pertaining to service integration will be documented in future definitive agreements. Hamilton has an expectation that any negative impact on the Provincial gas tax received by it as a result of the LRT will be taken into consideration in discussions on operating and maintenance costs.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 14:03:55

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 14:35:19 in reply to Comment 118623

Ok so the City won't be on the hook for anything over $1B, but Metrolinx could reduce the scope of the project to ensure that it comes in under $1B as per this article.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 14:52:41 in reply to Comment 118624

That's right.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:10:46 in reply to Comment 118600

Twelve months. (They added four months' coverage for an additional $6 per FT undergrad.)


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:16:45 in reply to Comment 118617

Thanks for the update that they upgraded to a 12 month pass in September 2015.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 14:43:25 in reply to Comment 118619

As part of that referendum, the undergrad fee increase also bankrolled the reduction of headways on 51-University (10, down from 15).

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:08:27 in reply to Comment 118600

It is also not fair to say that Mac students fares are subsidized: they have negotiated a deal with HSR where all students pay a reduced pass for 8 months whether the students use it or not.

So those students who walk or ride a bike to class are subsidizing those who take public transit. That's still a subsidy.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-05-16 12:08:50

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:14:25 in reply to Comment 118602

What I meant is that the HSR is not subsidizing the passes.

It is true that this pass means that students who only want to drive, walk or cycle to campus subsidize the transit costs of those students who choose to take transit. But note that any student can choose to take the bus.

This is a cross-subsidy between students and an incentive to take transit, rather than drive, for example. Note that cyclists can use the bus for part of their trip by putting their bikes on the front racks.

There will be a referendum on having a $15 student bike share pass in the Fall, modelled on the transit pass. Again, this will not mean that bike share will be subsidizing students, but the student pass would permit upgraded bike share service to campus and allow the system to grow (and encourage more students to cycle). And yes, it would mean that non-cyclists would be subsidizing cyclists (although there will be an opt out possibility for students who really can't ride).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 12:17:56

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[ - ]

By bobby2 (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:13:26

Re: kevlahan & Ryan's comments above, this is the first time I've read detailed & understandable information Re: LRT. Where I was pretty positive LRT is a bad investment, I now need to reconsider my opinion!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:15:49 in reply to Comment 118603

Thanks for your understanding and for keeping an open mind.

I just wish the city had been more proactive about explaining the case for LRT and all the studies and analysis that have already been done to back up the case.

It shouldn't really be up to citizen's groups to get the city/province's information out there!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-16 12:18:36

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:37:59 in reply to Comment 118605

I also appreciate the information that has been provided by the citizen's group. To be honest, I have a greater trust in the oversight and vision of citizens who volunteer to educate the rest of us. Please keep up the great work!

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By stone (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:17:37

The suburban councillors seem to to have it in their heads that if they kill the LRT they can split up the 1BN amongst their respective wards but the province is saying the money is only for LRT. Metrolinx and the Province don't seem too concerned(or surprised) by any of this nonsense.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:53:15 in reply to Comment 118606

Hamilton's backward council is known among all levels of government. They knew this would happen, but thankfully care enough about the future to forge ahead anyhow.

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:32:37 in reply to Comment 118606

I think that little bit of news from the province might have swung the pendulum back to supporting the LRT at Council. The province making it very clear this is for the L in RT and won't be available for a B in RT should certainly change how the discussions may have gone on Wednesday. Good news!

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[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 12:51:24

If Chad Collins believes so strongly in the $300 million 10-year transit plan, he should offer up the $300 million for the new GO Station in his ward to pay for it. I wouldn't agree still (because I believe local tax dollars should be invested in local transit systems), but at least could respect the opinion and strategy, instead of this usual classist mentality to poach from the poor inner city wards as they are about to see their first large investment in over half a century or longer.

Comment edited by jason on 2016-05-16 12:52:00

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By Change (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 13:29:13

I believe that everyone knows that any change is difficult, moreso for some than others.

The solution is not to remain entrenched in some 1950's transit paradigm. It is change like this that will drive business back into our city. Look at the uplift that K-W is already witnessing.

The only certainty in all of this is that we cannot continue to embrace sprawl planning and development that is predicated on the premise of single occupancy vehicle movement. It is IMPOSSIBLE to build enough road capacity to satisfy this model. Sadly, any expenditure associated with expanding our already overbuilt road network is barely me with a shrug.

You need to design cities for people not cars.

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By Paradigmman (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 19:42:54 in reply to Comment 118621

Right. Lets go back to 1800's technology in the age of Musk.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 22:28:36 in reply to Comment 118637


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 23:02:06 in reply to Comment 118641

That's about right for $5 an hour.

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By Patience (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 19:52:53 in reply to Comment 118637

Well the flying cars are on order.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 19:38:14 in reply to Comment 118621

What is really infuriating is how James North is being designed for zero occupancy vehicles.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2016 at 21:26:19

A vote of support is not enough. We need some skin in the game. Let's put $150million into the pot so that we can get the extra B line stops needed and extend the A line to the Hunter GO station. This is not the time to be on the defensive. We spent $150 million dollars on a stadium that holds 20k people nine times a year. How about spending the same amount on something that will be used by 20k people a day.

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By I live in Dundas (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 22:34:19

How is this LRT transit going to get me from Dundas to the west mountain?
My taxes will go up, I will pay for this transit mess in a roundabout way via my taxes, and I will still be driving my car to work at the end of the day.

Think the Springfield Monirail is still for sale?

PS... Didn't we just take the rail lines out of the ground between Hamilton and Dundas a few years ago?
What will the cost of rail maintenance be? Isn't that why the transit authority scrapped the rail lines back then?
How many HSR employees will lose they're jobs when the LRT fires up?

Such a mess

Hey I have an idea, let's fix the existing roads before we mess everything up and go broke.

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By Motorman (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2016 at 23:01:33

If you knew anyone who had a business along the bus lane only route they too were against it. There was no positive impact only loss of business just as it will be for the years of construction. I've been through the construction of a street car line with right of way and businesses closed. Places sat empty waiting for the construction to end. Traffic was chaos as where there were left turns allowed now no more. This is the reality that the people and businesses along the LRT line will face for years. I wonder how many people wanting this mode of transport really live along the route. Not many I'm sure

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 20:34:26 in reply to Comment 118643

There will be businesses that fail, and businesses that boom during and after the construction. Bringing hundreds of high paying jobs into the core for five years will certainly benefit many. I live along the route. With half the shops currently boarded up along King east of international village there's only one direction to go.

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