Special Report: Light Rail

A Line-By-Line Critique of Whitehead's Latest Fearmongering Anti-LRT Form Email

Shame on Whitehead for abusing his power and circulating this scaremongering nonsense.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 10, 2017

Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead has been shamelessly spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan ever since not long after the Province called Hamilton City Council's bluff and actually agreed to provide full capital funding for the LRT plan that Council developed and submitted as a funding request.

His latest ploy is a throw-everything-you-can-think-of-against-the-wall-and-hope-something-sticks canned email response with a long list of disingenuous, misleading, hand-wavy and mutually contradictory objections calibrated to maximize fear and uncertainty about the success of the project (not to mention the fact that it is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors).

Let's dive in.

Former director of transit stated when he brought forward a Rapid Ready Report that the implementation would realign our transit system build rider ship in preparation of LRT. That report was supported this term of council.

I assume from my parsing of this word salad that he's talking about the HSR Ten Year Strategy, which would be in its third year this year ... if Council didn't just vote to suspend implementing it after jacking transit fares up 18 percent in the first two years.

Inspiring leadership there.

‎Current tax levy for Conventional transit for 100s km service is 46 million dollars

Not sure what he means here, but I assume he's talking about how much property tax money the City puts into transit. The total transit operating budget is $60 million, which also includes the Provincial gas tax.

Of course, our share of Provincial gas tax keeps shrinking each year because it is partially based on ridership growth and we keep failing to invest in growing our transit ridership. (For example, the recent vote to stop implementing our Ten Year Transit Strategy after just two years.)

Current B line cost 5.2 million dollars

Here he is deliberately only counting the B-Line express route, and not all the other bus routes that serve the same LRT corridor. The four main bus routes serving this corridor cost the city $18.2 million to operate in 2015.

current B line revenue. 2.2 million

Again, he's still pretending that LRT will only replace the B-Line express and none of the other bus service along the corridor.

Current Rider ship 444 peak hr peak direction

Yet again, he's only talking about the B-Line express and ignoring the other routes serving the corridor.

20000 cars diverted on King street (will impact local streets)

I'm not sure where he pulled this number from, but the LRT traffic modelling has found that overall traffic congestion will get worse without LRT than with LRT, since all the additional trips from new population growth will have to be accommodated in cars instead of rapid transit.

Five years of construction.

This is unlikely, given: a) the two kilometre James North spur has been removed, b) Waterloo Region is building 18 kilometres of LRT in just three years, and c) the construction is likely to be phased so each segment will be under construction for much less than five years.

over 400 heritage properties on King Street

This number is pure FUD. According to the Cultural Heritage Screening Report (Appendix C of the Environmental Project Report Addendum):

The cultural heritage screening process undertaken as part of the Hamilton LRT Project identified 141 [Conditional Heritage Properties] within the Project Study Area, as well as 16 adjacent protected heritage properties. Of these 141 properties, it was determined that the Hamilton LRT Project would not impact the heritage attributes of 87 properties. As such, 54 properties will undergo Cultural Heritage Evaluations to determine whether or not they have cultural heritage significance.

In other words, there are 54 properties that might have heritage attributes that might be impacted in some way by LRT and are going to undergo heritage evaluations as part of the LRT design and implementation process.

But I guess just stating "400 heritage properties" apropos of nothing sounds more alarming so Whitehead goes with that instead.

Now, where was City Council's passion and enthusiasm for heritage when they voted to approve the demolition of 18-28 King Street East?

Moving along:

International village will virtually have no car traffic except to access a parking garage

International Village currently has two lanes of westbound traffic and zero lanes of eastbound traffic. With LRT, it will have one lane of eastbound traffic to serve businesses on the south side of the street, enhanced rear laneway access to serve businesses on the north side of the street, and two lanes of high-capacity rapid freaking transit with LRT stations on either end of the BIA.

Canadian Urban Institute study indicates only 1% growth years after LRT implementation. They also included former Scott Park school site as a tax generator (no longer the case as it is being used for new school and recreation center)

The CUI study was conducted six years ago and explicitly notes that it made highly conservative assumptions about assessment growth. Even so, it found a much larger overall economic development with LRT than without it.

Distribution of new taxable assessment without LRT and with LRT (Image Credit: Canadian Urban Institute)
Distribution of new taxable assessment without LRT and with LRT (Image Credit: Canadian Urban Institute)

original plan included East Gate.

Actually, the original plan provided multiple options for the Province to fund, including a phased approach with the first phase ending at Queenston Traffic Circle. Whitehead voted to submit this request to the province, and he also voted to accept the funding when the province responded.

It is a destination location and links nicely with the blast network and the mountain.

The BLAST network that Council just voted to delay for at least a year? That BLAST network?

Also, Whitehead is sucking and blowing at the same time here. He's complaining that LRT is too expensive and lacks ridership, and also complaining that it should be longer. If it did extend to Eastgate, it would be even more expensive to operate.

It provides opportunity for park and ride. (This is material to the success of the LRT corridor. Not an add on to be considered at a future date.

There is very little evidence that park-and-ride is essential for successful LRT. What is essential is a robust local transit service that links effectively into the system, which Council just voted to delay.

Successful LRTS go from destination to destination.

And of course the B-Line LRT corridor is a "train to nowhere", as Whitehead recently told the Province on TVO's The Agenda With Steve Paiken, and then attacked a resident for calling him out on it. Inspiring leadership there.

The billion Dollars is debt financed at a cost of approximately 40 million annually for thirty years for this project.

The Province is going to finance the money no matter what. If they don't finance it for investment in Hamilton, they will finance it for investment in another city whose Council does not have their heads up their asses.

Hamiltonians who pay provincial tax will help fund rapid transit elsewhere but not in Hamilton.

Only one tax payer

NO. If we are talking about municipal public spending, there are 235,000 taxpayers. If we're talking about provincial public spending, there are 7 million taxpayers.

Would you rather have to pay 1/235,000 of a bill or 1/7,000,000 of a bill?

Loss parking meter revenue and higher corridor maintenance is 8.2 million dollars is an annual financial impact.

Now he is literally nickel-and-diming a billion dollar project.

Much of the corridor maintenance cost is money the city already spends to maintain the corridor today, and lost parking meter revenue will be more than offset by new tax assessments in publicly owned lots that are sold and developed.

Plan 22 trains 4- 6 minute headway.

No. The plan is for 12 trains, eventually adding trains as ridership increases.

Original city staff report. Pegged the Operational and Maintenance cost at between 14-16 million dollars.

According to Paul Johnson, the operating and maintenance cost will be similar to Waterloo ION LRT, which is $9 million for an 18 km line.

Revisions of plan could have a total annual financial impact to taxpayers close to twenty million dollars.

This number is pure FUD.

Rider ship in Hamilton has dropped by 430,000 this year and has dropped in the last three years. Rider ship is dropping on public transit across North America

Ridership has declined slightly in many North American public transit systems in the past year - except in cities with LRT systems, which are growing in ridership.

Hamilton's transit ridership dropped last year in large part because Council imposed a punitive 18% fare increase over just two years with hardly any service improvements.

The service improvements were supposed to come this year with new public investment in transit, which Council voted to delay. Inspiring leadership there.

Uber, Ride Share and technological changes in mode of transportation all threaten future rider ship.

No one can predict exactly what new technology will do, but the most likely case is that it will continue the trend away from universal personal car ownership and toward a more multi-modal transportation buffet in which more people use more transit as part of their transportation mix. This will be especially true in cities with excellent, reliable, high-capacity rapid transit.

In any case, no matter who or what drives a car or how it is powered, it still takes up space on the street and there is a limit to how much vehicle traffic can be accommodated on Hamilton's east-west streets.

There is simply no way to accommodate significant growth in population density along the LRT corridor without making more efficient use of our scarce public right-of-way, i.e. rapid transit. This is why the LRT traffic modelling found that overall congestion will get worse without LRT than with it.

LRT is not dynamic or adaptive.

LRT is a fixed investment, high capacity and reliable, which is why it acts as a magnet for private investment in more people living and working along the line.

Once self-diving vehicles are ready for mainstream use (in maybe 10-15 years), it will be possible to purchase new self-driving LRT vehicles or retrofit the existing ones.

Vancouver has had self-driving LRT vehicles on their Skytrain system since 1986, running on a separated right-of-way. Incidentally, Vancouver's system is the same system Hamilton could have had, but Council in its infinite wisdom voted in 1981 to turn the Provincial funding down and reject the new rapid transit system.

I have only touched the service and did not want to overwhelm you with even more risks.

And by "risks" he means pure FUD.

I have a responsibility to ensure we make the right choices. I do not have all the answers nor to I pretend to. I wish to enter a discussion eyes wide open.

All the more reason to submit the Environmental Project Report Amendment to the Province for review so the process can move forward and we can finish getting the answers we're still waiting for.

Dr Longo former Chair of a International Livable Cities Organization asked me to take him for a walk along King street. He asked me, when was Jackson Square built? I told him early seventies‎. He explained to me that it was thought to be a wonderful strategy in the early fifties by American planners as Urban Renewal Strategy. Early sixties they determined the strategy was a complete failure yet we built Jackson Square years later. His advice to me was not to gravitate and jump on bandwagons it is necessary for me to do my due dilegence an not take a leap of faith."

Yes, Council has a history of making bad choices after they have already been proven to be bad choices. Killing this LRT plan - AGAIN - would be yet another milestone in that long, stupid history of opportunity squandered on the altar of malicious parochialism and spite.

Shame on Whitehead for abusing his power and circulating this scaremongering nonsense. Ward 8 residents - and indeed residents across the entire city - deserve better leadership than Whitehead's opportunity-destroying antics.

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 VivSaunders (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 14:20:27

Might interest you to know that he tweeted out he's going to vote in support of sending EA addendum to the province.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 16:14:25 in reply to Comment 121189


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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 15:44:14 in reply to Comment 121189

When was this? Just checked his feed and I see no sign of it.

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By VivSaunders (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 16:50:47 in reply to Comment 121191

On April 9th @PaulSeczek said "...so I assume you will be voting yes on April 19". Terry replied directly to him, and only him, "correct!"

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted April 10, 2017 at 16:28:51

Current Rider ship 444 peak hr peak direction

Additional talking points. When you exclude all other routes, B-Line is only 1 bus every 10 minutes at peak period.

  • That 444 is only for six buses, as there are only six B-Line buses per hour
  • This almost maxes-out the said six buses.

Many people, as a result, catch the #1 instead, missing out the full B-Line bus that has filled up full halfway along its route.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 17:05:18 in reply to Comment 121193

That can't be right. An articulated bus has a max loadout of 120 passengers. 6x120=720. 444 is only 2/3 capacity; not "almost maxed out." At any rate, this is a huge revenue loss for the beleaguered HSR and the current B-Line makes it all the way to Eastgate and beyond.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 21:15:10 in reply to Comment 121197

I don't know what the figures are on paper, but I ride that route daily, and I find the 120 number impossible. They are really inefficient in terms of space; I find I'm always having to sidle past folks. Another problem with these buses is the fact that you have one point of entry. They're pretty quick getting from stop to stop, but the loading process is really really slow, and they're just as cumbersome for people with disabilities as any other bus. LRVs allow for multiple points of entry, for faster loading, and they're accessible for all.

Comment edited by Dylan on 2017-04-10 21:17:03

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By VivSaunders (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 17:15:02 in reply to Comment 121197

46 seated and 31 standing = 77 per 18m articulated bus x 6 = 462 according to TTC website.

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By VivSaunders (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 16:59:56 in reply to Comment 121193

Oh that's funny! Never realized the number he was quoting was full buses so it could never be any higher in his stats. Thank you for this info Mark. Makes a big difference in the discussions.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 16:41:26

Where can I find the full, unedited version of this grammatical and factual nightmare?

I am supposedly on his email distribution list but never receive these near-spam emails.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 17:39:31

Note that, based on Waterloo's operating costs Hamilton's operating cost would be something like 11km/18km * $8M = $4.9M, actually saving money compared to the current B-line operating cost of $5.2M. And LRT would provide a far superior service and attract more riders, lowering the net cost to the city.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 19:42:48

This behaviour of Terry Whitehead is consistent and disturbing. Ryan, thank you for writing this article. For a previous example of exactly the same behaviour, please see my article on Terry Whitehead's claims about Herkimer Street. Hamilton deserves better than this.

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By john1242 (registered) | Posted April 10, 2017 at 21:10:02

Paul Johnson likes to compare Kitchener-Waterloo LRT to Hamilton's LRT

19 KM $552.1 million cost 14 trains $118.8 million PROJEct cost $650.9 million cost/km (650.9/19) 34.25 million .SNC--Lavaalin victoria cost/km estimate $62 million Total Project cost $670.9 million 17km bus rapid transit line (BRT) $149.1 million

TOTAL PROJECT COST $818.0 Million What is Hamilton getting LRT 11 KM From Queenston Circle to McMaster University For $1 Billion A this cost why not LRT Eastgate Square to McMaster University for made in Hamilton LRT not Metrolinx /Wynne's plan. Check ION Kitchener.Facts.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 11, 2017 at 09:12:09


Using the TTC's capacity numbers is ok BUT BE AWARE, they have a tendency to under count when it comes to standing space. Generally the TTC uses a metric of capacity in a vehicle measured by the number of seats plus the maximum number of standee passengers. This is done by using the passenger per square metre metric, which the TTC uses as a maximum of 4 people per square metre x the availability of actual, standing space in square metres.

Using 4 passengers/sq. metre is okay but most times, TTC buses during peak hours are packing 4.2 to 4.3 passengers/sq. metre of space for standing passengers. In most cases when measured scientifically in studies usually by the CUTA and the APTA, 4.3 people/sq. metre is the point most North Americans start to really complain and when transit properties really start to loose choice passengers. These metrics also apply as well to station passenger platforms for rapid transit services. In North America half (50%) of the population will easily panic at any number above 5.15 passengers/square metre of standing passengers. This level is sometimes reached on the TTC's Yonge Subway Line between Bloor and King Street stations during peak times.

When you see, usually in the fine detail for transit vehicle brochures for bus or rail vehicle designs especially train builders, using counts of 6-8 passengers/square metre. This number is usually used to help calculate weight tolerances for vehicles not passenger capacity performance.

When it comes down to Light Rail Vehicle builders, they tend to be more accurate when it comes to this market (far fewer outrageous numbers) because they sell so many of these designs world wide. The 3 largest selling LRV designs world wide, Bombardier's Flexity LRV Family of products (3000+ plus built and on order), Alstom Citadis LRV Family (1700+ built and on order) and Siemens Combino/Avenio & S70/200 Family of products (2500+ built and on order, 1500+ in North America alone), have so many example vehicles available as examples, any claims made by these builders that are false or overblown can quickly be checked and confirmed because due to the fact that, there so many different transit properties each company has sold to. If there is a real problem with the design or the vehicle itself (beyond manufacturing and teething issues), it becomes quite obvious very soon.

However, all the biggest rail vehicle producers for the North American market Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, Kiniki Sharyo, Stadler, CAF, and Breda have used this as a capacity determination measure for some rail vehicle designs at times, to bump up the numbers on certain products to make it look good and induce sales. Bombardier has been notorious for using this metric on their brochures and promotional material for their Innovia 300 Automated Light Metro Transportation System (Vancouver's Skytrain and the Scarborough RT). Bombardier has been using this metric to artificially bump up its actually very, very low capacity numbers on this product when compared to other Subway/Metro/Heavy Rail products both available from Bombardier and other rail vehicle producers.

On top of all this, regardless of how many people an individual rail vehicle can carry, electrical capacity can put a limit on everything. Debating Vancouver's Skytrain actual capacity in terms of passengers is further complicated because, the actual line can only handle so many trains per hour because of severe limitations of the electrical delivery system. Currently Vancouver's Expo Line runs at a limit of one train every 109 seconds as determined by their operating certificate issued by transport Canada. There is much debate locally that the automation operating system could handle one train every 75-90 seconds! Unfortunately, the electrical system which powers the trains can't. Upgrading this system to even add 5-10% more capacity will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. So each "Skytrain" line of the Vancouver system (not the Canada Line which has an even lower capacity) is limited to a frequency of service of one train every 109 seconds or a peak hour passenger capacity of about 14,500-15,000 passengers/hour/direction.

Complicating things is the actual amount of standing space on a vehicle. This can vary greatly depending on the seating configuration used. One other point is that, vehicle producers which used to be stalwarts on accuracy regarding these numbers lately, have stretched these claims to sometimes unbelievable proportions. They can stretch and exaggerate these numbers as well as the best used car salespeople anywhere. The TTC is actually very conservative when it comes standing space and IMHO tends to underestimate it by 10-20%.

Even when engineers and planners try to fix things its never perfect. In an attempt to simplify things, planners and engineers have switched to use a number between 4-5 passengers per metre length of vehicle, times the length of the vehicle (don't include the length of the operators cab) to help calculate standing room numbers. Unfortunately, this also can greatly distort standing space both positively and negatively because of seating configuration and especially, wheelchair space. Is it part of the seat count or part of the standing space count? Do you count it at all if its part of the standing space number? The jury is still out on this one. I bet you guys never believed just calculating vehicle capacity was this complicated!

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