Special Report: Light Rail

A Legacy of Missed Opportunity: The Hamilton Rapid Transit Plans That Could Have Been

History shows that today's LRT opportunity for Hamilton could once again pass us by, as so many previous opportunities did. But with leadership, this once-in-a-generation opportunity need not be squandered again.

By Karl Andrus
Published June 23, 2016

Generational Trend of Missed Opportunity

Before the local Hamilton municipal government procured the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) in 1960, the City commissioned a study of the HSR, public transit and future trends.1 This launched what has turned into a generational trend of missed opportunity for Rapid Transit in Hamilton.

The experts behind that report predicted correctly, "If the downtown core of Hamilton is to continue to prosper, the use of automobiles will have to be restricted in the not too distant future. This in turn will require that transit facilities be greatly augmented."2

They envisioned a vibrant downtown with little to no traffic in the centre core fed by a "subway or some form of rapid transit."3 They predicted a need by the 1980s, when they imagined the population exploding to half a million citizens (we are estimated to currently sit at over 560,0004), for a Rapid Transit line running east and west through the lower part of the city from Highway 102 (Cootes Drive) to Highway 20 (Queenston Road and Centennial Parkway).5

It also recommended north-south rapid transit routes. "In addition, two north-south routes, in the vicinity of James and Ottawa Streets, from Burlington Street up the Mountain to Mohawk Road would be required."6

The cost for this system to taxpayers if started when recommended would have been about $298,100,000 ($2,441,439,000 in 2016 dollars for Subway)7 or $75,100,000 ($579,150,000 in 2016 for light rail transit or elevated monorail).8

The owner of the HSR, Mr. Farwell wrote an open letter to the city during the consideration to buy the system. He warned, "The railway, in the future, as in the past, will be confronted with many problems inherent in a growing city. Examples of these are expansions into new areas, traffic congestion, enlargement of the one-way street system and... rapid transit."9

Years of Conversations

Conversations around this idea continued for years. The Spectator archives bristle with articles about traffic needs10 and congestion throughout the 1960s and '70s.

However, civic planners did not give much thought to using transit routes as tools to draft development patterns.11 No real funding or leadership came forward from the local governments to address the growing need.

1968 saw the outlay of $200,000 ($1,352,000 in 2016 dollars) for a Feasibility Study Needed for a Rapid Transit Plan.12 This was to make a proper bid to become the site of Canada's first experiments in some new form of mass transit.13 This, like other studies, was to show the best routes for a new system and how many passengers could be expected in future.14

Rapid Transit study from July 1970
Rapid Transit study from July 1970

In 1970, yet another study was commissioned for $27,166 ($170,059.16 in 2016 dollars).15 On February 25, 1970, Alderman Bill Powell sarcastically summarized the apathy to Rapid Transit studies by saying, "If we could get ten cents on the dollar for all the studies we've done and not carried out, we could solve a lot of our financial problems."16

In March 1970, the Hamilton Planning Board study argued again that "a Rapid Transit system was needed, and suggested eight possible alternate routes."

Momentum for Rapid Transit seemed to be growing. The Province under Conservative Premier Bill Davis looked to Hamilton for a test site and in October 1971, responding to the city's request, promised funding of $238 million ($1,447,040,000 in 2016 dollars) for a Linear Induction Motor (LIM) system - a kind of future electric elevated train.17

A design by Krauss Maffei AG of Munich to be implemented by the North American Express Monorail Corporation was considered.18 The tentative plans called for 17.3 miles (28 km) of rapid transit, linking Mohawk Road at Upper James with Burlington Street through downtown. Another line was to run from Mount Albion Road to Highway 2 and Main Street in the West.19

Familiar Objections

The local Governments and a small number of critics resisted the funding offer and focused on requests for a subway system or electric train system instead. Some in the city thought the money would be better spent on a better bus system or the Dial-A-Bus program, a concept of personalized pickup and delivery.

Robert Clark of Foundation Engineering CO., called rapid transit systems and people-movers "airy-fairy nonsense." He rebuked the province's offer to build Rapid Transit, with demands for an electric rail system. He pitched this deflecting project, much like Toronto's streetcar system, for $200 million (or $1,160,000,000 in 2016 dollars), 75 percent to be paid for by subsidies from the Ontario Government and the other 25 percent from local dollars.20

Critics also said the costs of a space-aged train were too hefty for the city, and that the system was ugly and would lower property values. Others pressured the government for 100 percent funding.21

Arguments about cultivating demand first, pursuing other alternatives, and raising privacy concerns of citizens near the line stirred in more confusion of the city's need.

The reports for Rapid Transit continued to pile up in city archives, and the revised proposal was for a scaled-back monorail system. In 1973, phase 1 of the proposed monorail would cover a 6.5 mile (10.5 km) route connecting the mountain, downtown and east end industrial area. Funded by the Regional, Provincial and Federal governments, the cost would be $37.4 Million (or $181,390,000 in 2016 dollars).

Phase 2 would have connected the Airport to Stelco, perhaps with equal cost. Dreamers even imagined the line extending out as far as the Stelco Nanticoke complex.

Delaying acceptance of the Province's offer, local governments sank more money into studying the issue further. In October, 1975, they spent $209,000 (or $1,212,200 in 2016 dollars) on studies.22 Ironically, that year local politicians and public servants attend the Canadian Roads and Transportation Association (founded as the Canadian Good Roads Association, which up to 1970 was basically concerned with the improvement of the country's road network) four-day convention.23

Through 1973-77, the debate raged and several alternative plans were touted. The monorail proposal continued unbuilt, as did all of the alternative proposals, touted by opponents, despite a Provincial offer to pay 75 percent of any transit plan.24

New Proposal

In 1978, the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC), an Ontario Crown Corporation (eventually owned by Bombardier25), pitched a space-age blend of subway train and streetcar, closer in design to modern LRT, that might meet with Hamilton's ever-switching rapid transit plans. The system was later installed in Scarborough as RT and Vancouver as SkyTrain and is still running to this day.

Vancouver Skytrain at Rupert Station (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Vancouver Skytrain at Rupert Station (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

The UTDC proposed an Intermediate Capacity Transit System for Hamilton, believing that Hamilton was the perfect fit for this system. UTDC President Kirt Foley said in October 1978, "We didn't want to produce a solution looking for a problem. We studied more than a dozen potential applications to be sure we could meet all their needs with our product."26

Mr. Foley said UTDC had been looking at Hamilton for several reasons. The city had an effective downtown plan, it offered a good model for conversion from buses to rapid transit, and had the escarpment with grades that posed a serious challenge for conventional trains with rotary motors and steel wheels.27

The original plan, for around $111 million ($285,270,000 in 2016 dollars) seemed an answer to all Hamilton's concerns. Funding was to be provided 45 percent from the Province, 45 percent from the Federal Government and 10 percent from the local government.28 The plan for phase 1 was to run the line from Gore Park to the Mountain with a stop included at the TH&B station for out-of-town connections.

A major regional study from 1976 concluded that a corridor from the Jackson Square area to the central Mountain, possibly the area near to the New Lime Ridge Mall, was the highest priority at that time for rapid transit, so this route was chosen for Phase 1.29

The government of Ontario provided the first $3.5 million ($10,982,000 in 2016 dollars) to study the routes and provide a detailed plan for the system. They also considered alternative routes to propose to council.30

Office space was secured and staff hired, and a UDTC subsidiary was retrained along with consulting firms to perform the urban design traffic engineering, structural design, architecture, environmental assessment, public participation and route planning. (At the same time Hamilton was studying the proposal, Vancouver approved a much-larger version of the same system.)

The alignment of the system was left to a survey of Hamilton residents, with various proposals for entry into the downtown core. Open houses were launched and the public was engaged for consultation. Councillors issued statements about their excitement for the potential of the project and the system.31

Opposition Forming

At first, everyone was excited to see movement on the decades-old need for Rapid Transit, but dissent began with a single regional council member, Flamborough Mayor Betty Ward, openly questioning aspects of the requested system and proposing various what-if and why-not scenarios.32

An opposition group was formed called Coalition on $ensible Transit (CO$T) from six Hamilton groups.33 Interestingly, one of those groups was the Durand Neighbourhood Association. Mary Kippen, chair of the group, boldly claimed, "Our aim is delay implementation of a rapid transit system - hopefully forever."34

Polls showed strong support for the line region-wide at 61 percent and even in the city proper at 59 percent.35 Support for the line came from suburbs and outlining towns.36

The social impact study from the last major Rapid Transit debate noted, "It is interesting...that a geographical split on the issue occurs between the 'inner' wards (3, 4 and 7) which tend to be 'opposed' and the outer wards (1, 2, 5, 6 and 8) which tend to be 'in favour'."37 Ward 8 supported the project by 59 percent, Ancaster 72 percent and Dundas 64 percent. They saw the benefits in terms of jobs, lower congestion rates, and reduced tax burden through urban densification.

Misinformation and Fear-Based Arguments

But a co-ordinated campaign by a small minority of citizens and government representatives managed to shift the public message and doom Hamilton to another 35 years of debate on Rapid Transit. The death of a thousand stings began. The strongest opposition was driven by those in the Primary Impact Area, who were firmly against the Rapid Transit at 81 percent.38

The arguments they raised when surveyed about why they opposed the line indicate how terrible a job the pro-LRT voices and the UDTC did in communicating the benefits. Fears included concerns about costs, despite the project only costing the area 10 percent of the total or $14 a year for ten years based on a $5000 home.39 Others worried that the line might bring waves of crime and graffti to their neighbourhoods.40

A letter writing and petition campaign was started. This forced the region to set aside a whole day of council to consider the 78 written and oral arguments against the system from concerned citizens and groups in the area.41 They laid out the tried-and-true gambit of anti-Rapid Transit arguments: the reports are wrong or biased,42 buses are good enough, too much cost in tax dollars, what about subways, it will look ugly, and my taxes will go up.43

Questions that were raised included: Will it bring urban crime to my neighbourhood? and Why aren't we using other technology?44 People were led to believe they would be thrown out of their homes, costs would spiral out of control45 (despite the Province's assurance it would cover any overage and pay for the system's operation until ridership levels met projections),46 and that construction or the system itself would transform the downtown into a wasteland.47

Hamilton Mayor Bill Powell called it a rapid transit "system from nowhere to nowhere."48 Those opposed to Rapid Transit disingenuously fanned the flames. Even legitimate concerns were coached into NO voices rather than informed YES voices contributing concerns to the process.49

A project that would have brought Hamilton into the future was doomed by misinformation and naysayers. On December 15, 1981, the region voted down the proposed system. The Ontario Government withdrew the funding for Rapid Transit and nothing appeared to take its place.

The Federal Rapid Transit dollars shifted to Vancouver, which even took our cast-off equipment, and the Province's focus changed to GO Transit expansion.

Decline of Public Transit

In 1982, Economic groups like the Task Force on Economic Recovery requested a "Second look ...for rapid transit."50 Their "Hamilton Can Work Better" campaign called for the development of new high-rise residential homes in the city's core areas.51 They believed development would help promote a thriving commercial sector and provide homes for the expected influx of employees in the new offices buildings being built downtown. Rapid transit was viewed as the cornerstone of this new development.52

Doug McCaw, a commercial realtor and task force member, went so far as to criticize the "philosophy that prevails among certain well-organized minority interest groups that in essence amounts to: 'We've got our home, the heck with anyone else."53

Yet the neglect of public transit continued, with transit funding and ridership falling steadily throughout the 1980s. Deferred maintenance and a lack of investment resulted in the removal of the last electric trolley bus infrastructure in December 1992,54 replacing the electric vehicles with polluting diesel buses.

Electric trolley bus on Main Street at the Delta (Image Credit: Transit Toronto)
Electric trolley bus on Main Street at the Delta (Image Credit: Transit Toronto)

In the 2000s, citing environment and smog concerns,55 the City began procuring hybrid diesel-electric buses56 at $553,285-$822,63457 each ($664,968-$988,686.52 in 2016 dollars).

For decades, funding increases to the HSR have not kept pace with inflation.58 In 1986, the year the Rapid Transit system to the mountain would have opened, the HSR budget was $40.57 million59 ($79,055,000 in 2016 dollars) with 31,482,000 annual ridership.60 By 2005, the HSR budget had only grown to $55.84 million ($64,496,000 in 2016 dollars) - a decline in inflation-adjusted funding.

Neglect of investment and lack of council leadership in public transit and Rapid Transit opportunity saw ridership fall to 20.9 million in 2005.61

As other transit systems around the world have seen a continued investment in Rapid Transit and growth in ridership, Hamilton continues to lag behind. Unlike Hamilton, other medium-to-large cities allocate their Federal Gas tax funds into investments in public transit. Rather than a system people might choose over a car, the HSR is left to wither, becoming a system viewed as used only by those who have no alternative.

By 2011, ridership was only up 3.4 percent, despite other regions like Waterloo seeing a 47.2 percent increase and Brampton a 68.6 percent increase.62 Even car-loving St. Catharines saw a 17.4 percnt ridership increase from 2006-2011.63

Meanwhile, the anti-rapid transit predictions of the downtown core decaying into a wasteland did indeed become true. However, the unbuilt rapid transit system itself can hardly be blamed. (Today, due to the dedication of active citizens, members of our arts community and forward-thinking city officials, the downtown is undergoing a renaissance.)

New Opportunity

In 2006, on the assumption that Provincial funding would not be forthcoming, the City proposed upgrading the B-Line express bus into some form of bus rapid transit. However, in 2007 the Province announced the MoveOntario 2020 initiative, promising light rail transit lines in Hamilton and establishing Metrolinx to coordinate regional rapid transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

In 2008, Council established a Rapid Transit office and directed staff to undertake a rapid transit feasibility study. That led to a proposed network of five rapid transit lines across the city using the existing B and A express bus lines as a start (the network is called "B.L.A.S.T.") and the development of the Rapid Ready LRT plan for the B-Line.

Council voted to accept using Rapid Transit for the first part of the BLAST network. Votes continued in agreement with this plan through 2007-2012 as the city passed motion after motion favouring Rapid Transit.

In February 2013, Council approved asking the Government of Ontario to fund a full B-Line LRT at a cost of $875,183,183.61 (in 2016 dollars),64 as long as the Province agreed to cover 100 percent of the capital cost.65

In May 2015, the Ontario Government committed to full capital funding66 of a hybrid plan to build most of the east west B-Line (from McMaster University to Queenston Traffic Circle) and a small part of the A-Line (on James Street from King to the West Harbour GO Station and the waterfront).

The federal government has now also committed to $120 billion in infrastructure funding over ten years, with a focus on socially and environmentally sustainable transportation projects like rapid transit.67

Vocal Minority Opposition

Throughout the recent history of this city's opportunities to grow Rapid Transit, the various proposals are constantly opposed by a vocal minority and a silent, unengaged citizenry. How much longer are we going to put off investing in our future? Why can we not learn from the past?

The longer we delay investing in tomorrow, the more it will end up costing us when we finally do! If only previous generations of council had the forethought to invest in the future of our city - imagine what the city would look like if they had acted. Imagine what it will look like 20 years from now if we exercise leadership and invest today!

This once-in-a-generation opportunity need not be squandered again. Let your councillors know that you will not tolerate disingenious questions and attention-seeking rhetoric. Ask them to take a clear stand on this amazing opportunity. Demand they show leadership and lead, and stop pretending to "ask tough questions".

History has shown that this opportunity could once again pass us by. The sage experts who penned the study on procuring the HSR for the city in 1960 wisely said: "One price that must be paid by any city dweller for the privilege of living in an urban community is some restriction on his individual freedom of action for the general advantage of all residents. This has been the case since the dawn of civilization."68 Except in Hamilton.


1. Report to The Corporation of the City of Hamilton Concerning The Hamilton Street Railway Company and its wholy owned subsidiary The Canada Coach Lines, Limited by Norman D. Wilson,M.E.I.C., M.T.P.I.C., M.I.T.E, Cameron K MacGillivray, F.C.A and Kenneth A. Foulds,Q.C.1960.

2. Experts Report Traffic Must Be Restricted, Hamilton Spectator, February 3, 1960

3. Report to The Corporation of the City of Hamilton Concerning The Hamilton Street Railway Company and its wholy owned subsidiary The Canada Coach Lines, Limited by Norman D. Wilson,M.E.I.C., M.T.P.I.C., M.I.T.E, Cameron K MacGillivray, F.C.A and Kenneth A. Foulds, Q.C.1960.

4. Statistics Canada actually estimates the CMA population for the area at 771,700

5. Report to The Corporation of the City of Hamilton Concerning The Hamilton Street Railway Company and its wholy owned subsidiary The Canada Coach Lines, Limited by Norman D. Wilson,M.E.I.C., M.T.P.I.C., M.I.T.E, Cameron K MacGillivray, F.C.A and Kenneth A. Foulds,Q.C.1960.

6. Ibid.

7. 19 total miles of subway 11 miles from Cootes to Centennial Parkway 4 and 4 for the up the mountain spur lines. Cost based on Young subway 7.4 km(4.6m) for 67million in 1954 for the 12-station line built using the "cut and cover"(All Rolling stock, stations etc using cut and cover method of ~14 million a mile with 5 million for tunneling). ~$298,100,000 in 1960 or2,441,439,000 in 2016 Dollars.All 2016 dollar estimates are listed for discussion and could be out by +/-20 million dollars depending on calculations used. The amounts themselves are designed to stir conversation about lost opportunity and not the minutiae of infrastructure inflation calculation. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto-subway/ lists cost of subway line

8. 19 total miles of elevated monorail/light rail surface same distance at $3.5 million a mile (high end cost estimated in Hamilton Spectator Article, A Modern Marvel, Aug 17th, 1962) + 5 million for tunnels up the mountain 71.4M in 1960= $579,150,000 in 2016 Dollars Inflation calculated from http://inflationcalculator.ca/ based on CPI release from Statistics Canada.Tunnel estimates based on Hamilton Area Rapid Transit Study,July 1970 based on Tunneling done in Thinly Bedded Limestone at Naticoke, Ontario for Ontario Hydro Electric Commission

9. Give Advice On Operation, Spectator Nov 16, 1959

10. We Need Rapid Transit, by William Lyttle, Hamilton Spectator, Sept 11, 1968

11. Our Traffic Needs, by William Lyttle, Hamilton Spectator, Sept 12, 1968

12. $200,000 Feasibility Study Needed For Transit Plan, Hamilton Spectator, Nov 14, 1968

13. Transit Test Tube, Hamilton Spectator, Sept 17, 1968, plus Report on Rapid Transit Submitted to the Hamilton Transit Planning Committee - August 1969 Prepared by the Transit Planning Work Group

14. $200,000 Feasibility Study Needed For Transit Plan, Hamilton Spectator, Nov 14, 1968

15. Rapid Transit Study, Hamilton Spectator, Feb. 25, 1970

16. Ibid.

17. If Hamilton goes out on a LIM..., Hamilton Spectator, November 23, 1971

18. Monorail proposal for city, Hamilton Spectator, July 1974

19. Ibid. + Hamilton Area Rapid Transit Study, Physical Feasibility Report, July, 1970

20. Electric transit urged for area, Hamilton Spectator, April 7, 1972

21. Space-age train costs too hefty for city, Hamilton Spectator, February 12, 1973

22. Transit study timed to link with region's official plan, Hamilton Spectator, Oct 4, 1975

23. Hamilton's rapid transit problems on agenda, Hamilton Spectator, October 9, 1973

24. Stephen Wickens, Toronto transit: lessons from the past, February 3, 2012 - Bill Davis offers a 75 percent subsidy for new infrastructure and 50 percent toward operating deficits

25. Wikipedia contributors. Urban Transportation Development Corporation. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 28, 2016, 19:05 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Urban_Transportation_Development_Corporation&oldid=717615838. Accessed June 23, 2016.

26. Why this city was chosen, Hamilton Spectator, Oct 28, 1978

27. Ibid.

28. Rapid Transit Project: Final Report Summary, Metro Canada Ltd, 1981

29. Hamilton Rapid Transit Development Programme, Recommended Prioirty Corridor Within The Basic Trunk Network, Phase III - Stage 1, September 1976

30. Councillors impressed by UTDC transit technology, Hamilton Spectator, March 12, 1980

31. Ibid.

32. Rapid transit study off track, Ward Warns, Hamilton Spectator March 4, 1981

33. Ibid.

34. Florence Sicoli, Coalition takes aim on transit proposal, Hamilton Spectator, 1981

35. ITCS Social Impact Study, October 1981

36. Adam Mayers, 61% favour transit system: study, Hamilton Spectator, October 23, 1981

37. ITCS Social Impact Study, October 1981

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid.

41. Rapid Transit 1981, Special Council Agenda: Opposition Presentations, December 2, 1981

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.

46. Rapid Transit Project - Final Report Summary - Metro Canada Ltd - 1981

47. A phrase repeated in Council meeting and Spectator articles throughout the debate, Mountain News, May 13, 1981

48. Rapid Transit 1981, Special Council Agenda: Opposition Presentations, December 2, 1981

49. Ibid.

50. Second look urged for rapid transit, Hamilton Spectator, September 9, 1982

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. A Short History of the Hamilton Street Railway's Streetcar and Trolley Bus Operations, http://transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4751.shtml

55. City of Hamilton Green Fleet Implementation Plan https://www.hamilton.ca/citydepartments/publicworks/fleetservices/green+fleet+plan.htm or http://www.cleanair.hamilton.ca/default.asp?id=55

56. Report to Mary and Members Committee of the Whole, Don Hull, June 29, 2006, Lists 2006 prices for 40-foot Hybrid (Diesel/Electric) Conventional Transit Low Floor buses from the lowbidder,NewFlyerIndustries,atanupset net unit cost of $553,285 and/or 60-footArticulatedHybrid(Diesel/Electric)Conventional Transit Low Floor buses from the low bidder, New Flyer Industries, at an upset net unit cost of $822,634

57. Ibid.

58. GIC 2013 Budget submission section 4.7, February 21, 2013

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid.

64. Council Minutes, September 14, 2011 Item 8.4 - Notice of Motion - Reuest for Confirmation of LRT Commitment from the Province

65. Emma Reilly, Hamilton council says it's all or nothing on LRT funding, Hamilton Spectator, May 2, 2013

66. Ontario pledges up to $1-billion for Hamilton LRT, work to start in 2019, The Globe and Mail, May 26, 2015

67. Federal budget 2016 spends up to $3.4B in public transit to address 'lost productivity,' but falls short of Via Rail demands, Financial Post, March 22, 2016

68. Report to The Corporation of the City of Hamilton Concerning The Hamilton Street Railway Company and its wholy owned subsidiary The Canada Coach Lines, Limited, by Norman D. Wilson, M.E.I.C., M.T.P.I.C., M.I.T.E, Cameron K MacGillivray, F.C.A and Kenneth A. Foulds, Q.C., 1960.

Selected References

Karl Andrus has returned to his hometown of Hamilton after attending Brock University majoring in History. He is a proud son of journalist and local activist the late Kate Andrus. He lives in Stinson, loves the vibrant and growing city, is former Co-Chair of the Stinson Community Association, VP and of Community atthe Hamilton Community Benefits Network and is active in many local groups and initiatives.


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By higgicd (registered) | Posted June 23, 2016 at 13:15:33

This is great. I dug into the same thing a while back, and drew up a few maps from all the included alignment options in the planning documents. I made some (awful looking) maps but never found a use for them until now! 14 in total: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qfwz1k2536h4u...

This one was my favourite - a few of them used the Jackson Square roof as a looping point.

Hamilton ICTS Option 3

Comment edited by higgicd on 2016-06-23 13:18:31

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 23, 2016 at 14:29:13 in reply to Comment 119540

This is a great article. Well done, Karl.

I've never understood the fascination with Limeridge Mall as a "transit hub." It's the total opposite of transit-oriented development, and it's far away from every other major potential trip generator on the Mountain (Mohawk College, Juravinski Hospital, St. Joe's West 5th, and the airport are the ones that come to mind.)

The easiest way to bring higher-order transit to the Mountain would be LRT/BRT from Mohawk College to MacNab, with a transit-only James Mountain Road. John St. could accommodate the car traffic displaced from James. Wouldn't even lose lane capacity -- at present one lane each on James and John is more or less taken up by buses anyway.

Mohawk College is a way more sensible transit hub than Limeridge.

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By JPDanko (registered) - website | Posted June 23, 2016 at 15:33:25

Absolutely fascinating read - and with footnotes, FOOTNOTES that reference actual publications!!! Its almost like you were trying to prove the facts stated by referencing their sources...

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted June 23, 2016 at 16:12:20

Incredible detail. Thank you.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 23, 2016 at 21:37:28

Fantastic article. Well done. Nice to see this whole series of plans in one place. That quote by Bill Powell should be erected on the walls of council chambers:

If we could get ten cents on the dollar for all the studies we've done and not carried out, we could solve a lot of our financial problems.

Absolutely as true today as it was then.

Amazing that we have a few councillors in 2016 hoping to go down in the history books as the next 'Betty Ward'.... the woman I'd never heard of before .....

Comment edited by jason on 2016-06-23 22:26:54

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 08:39:25

Excellent article which really puts the current project in perspective and gives the lie to the claims that we are somehow "rushing" into this!

It is not just that we've already spent eight years planning and consulting on this project (and millions of dollars), but the City has been told by its staff for over 50 years that we need serious rapid transit, we keep planning and studying and then shooting ourselves in the foot.

In the process, we've turned down many hundreds of millions of dollars in external funding.

In the meantime, we've starved HSR for funds, spending 14% less than 30 years ago and shrinking ridership by 26% even though our population has grown by 67%! The process continues to this day, with council deciding to put zero new levy or federal gas tax dollars into the system and try to fund improvements entirely through fare increases.

It really is a terrible record and shows we should not believe those who have suddenly had a late conversion to the buses and claim we need to grow the bus system before building LRT. The Main/King route is the one very busy part of the system with rapidly increasing ridership demand that can't be met and building LRT there is obviously the best way to boost transit overall.

Turning down a $1 billion investment is no way to boost transit!

One slight correction, Council voted in 2008 not just to pursue "Rapid Transit" but to pursue B-line LRT as the top priority, provided the capital costs were covered by the Province.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-06-24 08:41:53

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By ref_erendum (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 09:12:59

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.

Comment edited by ref_erendum on 2016-06-24 09:13:14

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 13:13:44

It's quite ironic that the LIM motors that were so much better than rotary motors of the time especially on hills! The exact opposite is now true, LIM Motors are less powerful and more expensive than there easily replaceable "can" type rotary motor models on modern LRV's today! This is a problem that Translink in the lower mainland of BC is having to explaining away the huge increases in the cost of maintenance for the Skytrain System especially now, as the original Expo Line ages past 30. The newer generation of cars although better than the original Mark 1 Skytrain Cars, are still very expensive to maintain compared to LRV's.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2016 at 13:22:27

Kudos Karl, for such a well-researched article, complete with massive numbers of footnotes.
Thank you!

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By ref_erendum (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 16:14:38 in reply to Comment 119552

"The City and Metrolinx have consulted extensively with the residents of Hamilton and are continuing to consult through the rest of the design, implementation and construction phase."

Absolutely false they have started knocking on doors ONLY RECENTLY ! Ask the businesses on King East and West and it is only in the past two weeks they are visiting residents and businesses.They have been doing a terrible job of alleviating peoples concerns.

13 stops on a main route does not seem user friendly when each stop is one kilometre apart, that is really convenient for a 16 year old lol

Apprently we beg to differ on every area of your Metrolinx and the City"s hypothetical success of this system imposed on Hamilton Taxpayers.

Not a single piece of information rings true with the LRT's systems in each and every city. I gather my information from free thinking individuals not on any ones payroll to advance their goals. Not a single stat regarding ridership is truthful and has only been juggled to advance this project.

"Successful cities with thriving downtown cores have very expensive parking, because they are highly desirable trip destinations with highly competitive real estate markets. "Free" parking is actually very harmful for a city, as UCLA economist Donald Shoup documented exhaustively in his book The High Cost of Free Parking."

Interesting point we have a very unsuccessful downtown core with high parking fees and prime real estate and Yet the lots are filled with cars at Limeridge, Eastgate,and Centre Mall. Or are these simply Go Station parking lots ? Maybe there should be a parking Tax levied on these mall parking lots being highly successful in filling up .

Your ridership claims are simply hypothetical Mr. Dixon's traffic study proves these number wrong every time .

Sadly you believe the propaganda of Metrolinx and The City of Hamilton . I am surprised you never adressed the profiteering that will take place with insider investors picking up key properties if this LRT goes through . Do you really think 2.9 million dollars is a reasonable price to pay for the old city motor hotel? A prime example of all the planning this boys club has in wasting tax dollars.

You have responded to every one of my issues with the same LRT Group Think, with a well scripted response in making my examples a lie yet sadly you have only been repeating the Metrolinx script handed out to everyone >

I rest my case ! ;-0)

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By StanArd (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 16:27:13

I seem to recall, and correct me if I'm wrong, that one of the concerns with the 1978 plan was the environmental impact on the escarpment and the Durand neighbourhood. Certainly Hamilton does have a history of "shooting itself in the foot" when given opportunities to progress.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 16:49:44

When I was in planning school many years ago, there was a special urban planning collection in our library. That report was there. I remember reading it thinking, wow they turned that down and put in Scarborough! I really loved the RT then that's why I feel so conflicted now. It's a niche Light Metro technology that is slowly being made obsolete by newer LRT designs. Even Bombardier has down graded the development of it's Innovia ART 300 Automated Light Metro System and moved most of its component construction to the plant in Pittsburgh were it builds and develops parts for airport people movers and monorails systems. Unless more contracts are received for it they have threatened to sub contract vehicle construction to non Bombardier facilities.

Its not even in the Bombardier website as a rail vehicle but its marketed as a whole separate Transportation System. The current roster has 28 ART 300 (Mark 3) Skytrain vehicles being built/assembled in Montreal and tested in Kingston for delivery to Vancouver as well as a 56 vehicle order for Kuala Lumpur. Which by the way, are the only 2 major users of the system for basic public transit. The rest of the systems were build and developed as one shot Airport Shuttles that although successful will most likely never be expanded (New York and Beijing). Other orders were as an expensive people mover to an amusement park and a light form of rapid transit extending service at the end of a metro line (Yongin South Korea). The Scarborough RT will be taken out of service and replaced with either by LRT or subway soon. The Detroit People Mover is constantly being threatened to be closed down and is now facing serious rail line maintenance issues. Technically Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has order it as well but its a highly modified version using standard electric rotary motors instead of LIM units, and a non Bombardier Automated rail line operation system. Although each of the 47 cars is a 2 section unit similar to the ART 200 layout its actual body design is unrecognizable as a Bombardier Innovia product.

All current orders (131) will be complete and delivered by 2018 after which there are no more orders. Montreal may build a system but details are scketchy and no construction is expected until 2019 at the earliest. The system was to be partly financed by Quebec's pension system (they will provide $3 Billion out of $5.5 Billion total cost) and they planned to have it operating by 2020 which seems pretty unlikely for a 67 km system. The Federal and Quebec Government are expected to pay up to 40% of the project (20% or $1.25 Billion from each branch of government). Both the Feds and the Quebec government are studying their options. Montreal also wants a $1.8 Billion extension to its Blue Line Metro.

Modern large Rail Transit Vehicle builders need a minimum of 400-500 units on order to keep production line open and moving. The days are over when a car builder can sell only 100 units every 5 years or so and have it considered a success! Compared to even Bombardier's own Flexity Family of LRV's (which are the LRV's planned for Hamilton's LRT line), Bombardier has delivered or has on order, over 3100 Flexity LRV's in 68 cities around the world since there first order in 1997. The Flexity Freedom, Flexity Swift and Flexity Outlook-Toronto sub models were specifically designed for the North American Market. While the original Flexity, Flexity Classic, Flexity Outlook, Flexity Vienna and the new Flexity #2 sub models were sold for Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. North America requires a higher crash worthiness standard than the rest of the world for LRV's and thus most o the major LRV producers have a North American specific design. Each of the sub models comes in 70% Low Floor or 100% Low Floor configurations with 3,5, or in some sub models a 7 section design can be ordered. All the designs are modular and can have new sections added to existing LRV's if a transit operator decides the current fleet is too small and doesn't want to order a whole new fleet of vehicles. The new sections are added at the transit operators own maintenance facilities and don't require the vehicle to sent back to a Bombardier factory. This modularity is one of the big advantages of modern LRV's compared to a product like the ART 300 Innovia Light Metro System. The LRV's can also use/add Bombardier's Cityflo 650 Automation system just like the Innovia Trains and operate without drivers if needed. However, due to regulations and safety requirements, these types of operations would greatly increases the cost and complexity of the rail line the vehicles run on.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 16:54:17 in reply to Comment 119552

The B-Line is not overcrowded. And even if it were which is more cost effective: adding another articulated bus or building a $1 billion train down the centre of the city? Not to mention that the stops are over 800m apart. The HSR buses that travel down King stop every couple of blocks.

How does the HSR make up the fares on its busiest route? Metrolinx will own and operate the LRT and will be competing directly with the HSR. That's a big hit at the fare box.

Finally, the problem, Ryan, is the budget. $1 billion will NOT be enough to build the proposed LRT. Metrolinx has already let us know that there will be a "scope ladder". As the budget over runs accumulate pieces of the proposed LRT will disappear. Is it asking too much for a little transparency. Let us see the scope ladder NOW so we can decide if this project is really even worth it? LRTs cost an average of $110 million per km. That means at 11km this project is ALREADY overbudget by $210 million. So let's apply that over run to the scope ladder and see what comes out. I mean, it's already been shorted from Eastgate. How much shorter does it go? The funds are public. Let's see the scope ladder:


And have you even read the Mac report? It concluded that many of the recently built LRTs across North America should never have been built and 3/4 went over budget.

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Comment edited by JimC on 2016-06-24 16:55:09

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By Mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2016 at 19:02:48 in reply to Comment 119577

Factual/context correction only, not bothering on the other items.

Absolutely false they have started knocking on doors ONLY RECENTLY ! Ask the businesses on King East and West and it is only in the past two weeks they are visiting residents and businesses.They have been doing a terrible job of alleviating peoples concerns.

Ryan meant the public consultation sessions, not the door knocking (which you are right, only recently started -- construction does not start till 2018-2019).

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2016 at 19:38:37 in reply to Comment 119580

The B-Line is not overcrowded.

If you live near Sherman, downtown-bound buses have often been full at student+work peak. Oftentimes my spouse missed two full busses zooming by. Sure, additional buses can (and should be added), but LRT is preferable as an actual user myself.

Not to mention that the stops are over 800m apart.

The 600-800m spacing keeps the LRT at a very brisk speed. That said, there are spacing aberrations like the gap between Scott Park stop and Ottawa St stop -- the Delta station needs to be added back to the route. We do advocate adding about two or three more stops.

The HSR buses that travel down King stop every couple of blocks.

There can still be an allstop bus on Main St which almost likely defacto becomes 2-way with this LRT plan. This bus could turn onto King when east of Delta. Basically, the route that the LRT does not take.

How does the HSR make up the fares on its busiest route? Metrolinx will own and operate the LRT and will be competing directly with the HSR. That's a big hit at the fare box.

Not necessarily, as LRT has amplified connecting bus routes (paper) -- the bus network needs to be upgraded/updated to fit the LRT in order for this to happen. There should not be an adversarial relationship between HSR and LRT -- there is a lot of upside potential for HSR here if done properly.

Finally, the problem, Ryan, is the budget. $1 billion will NOT be enough to build the proposed LRT. Metrolinx has already let us know that there will be a "scope ladder".

They showed us part of the scope ladder as asteriks next to the waterfront LRT stops.

As the budget over runs accumulate pieces of the proposed LRT will disappear.

Currently, the good news is that the Metrolinx LRTs, with the exception of Bombardier-related delays, is that they have generally keeping construction on time and on budget for the large part. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is currently on track and on budget.

Is it asking too much for a little transparency.

No disagreement there.

Let us see the scope ladder NOW so we can decide if this project is really even worth it?

Patience - I heard it is coming - The new plans are coming out Septemberish which should probably include more detailed info.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-06-24 19:39:00

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 24, 2016 at 21:18:29 in reply to Comment 119577

I rest my case ! ;-0)

Ok, good for you. Gilberts has a huge, half empty parking lot. You've got your dream of free parking. Go stare at the beautiful asphalt and leave the city building to the experts.

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By HamiltonTransitHistory (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2016 at 12:57:08

Awesome Work

One nitpick. "They predicted a need by the 1980s, when they imagined the population exploding to half a million citizens (we are estimated to currently sit at over 560,000)" This was a population of half a million in the Old city of Hamilton ALONE, not counting the populations of Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, etc, and certainly not counting Flamborough.

This what the proposed Hamilton RT route would have looked like through the downtown core http://www.trainweb.org/hamtransithist/i... http://www.trainweb.org/hamtransithist/I...

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2016 at 20:44:22 in reply to Comment 119593

Love all the info on your links. Amazing to read, and also kinda depressing. This city hall has been our own worst enemy for decades. Hoping this is the time where history changes and we finally get our act together.

Comment edited by jason on 2016-06-26 20:44:53

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By ref_erendum (registered) | Posted June 30, 2016 at 07:53:54 in reply to Comment 119585

What case is that ? You mention ONE retailer on King street I am talking about all of King street and the high parking charges eliminating businesses that require parking for their customers in the core. ( I guess their free parking for 50 years on Kings street did not help them to survive. ) I really don't think you have any case to stand on Jason. You simply want to waste tax dollars for something that goes nowhere. That will run empty most of the times and cost taxpayers millions of dollars to repair and maintain. Even the population numbers are too high to be believable unless we annex to St. Catharines. Busses are the only way to go in this city and electric ones at that !

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted June 30, 2016 at 08:05:47 in reply to Comment 119616

I am talking about all of King street

Maybe you should zoom in on this map and specifically take note of those businesses actually on King and James (the LRT routes) before you speak on behalf of 'all of King St'. The 1960's are over. Step aside and let the city finally move forward.


you'll notice massive cluster of support by those most impacted by the project. It's called having a vision for the future and being willing to deal with a couple year inconvenience for decades of success and city-building. Enjoy your parking lot.

Comment edited by JasonL on 2016-06-30 08:06:33

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By ref_erendum (registered) | Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:17:55 in reply to Comment 119617

Jason I have gone well past the 60's and the Logo poster shows me most businesses that stand to benefit from the LRT are NOT on the KING street route. Talk to the small businesses from Queenston to MacMaster that rely on street side parking. Gone entirely, delivery by UPS Fed Ex and Purolator will not be able to stop, as well as emergency vehicles and snow removal and Garbage collection. I have a hard time really believing that councillors should sign any agreements until they are in black and white. To tell me nothing is finalized only tells me that this is not good for the City and it's residents. It's is like giving Metrolinx a blank cheque. Infrastructure for this corridor is well over a billion dollars and we are going to build an LRT as well as infrastructure for the tidy sum of a billion. Time to stop dreaming and just take a look at Gore Park this is what council is all about ! BRT is a much better proposition for a city that is growing slower than all of the PROJECTIONS out there and that's all they are is projections. Time to move on from this wasteful project and step up to reality .

Comment edited by ref_erendum on 2016-07-20 11:18:12

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