Hamilton received a vitally important wakeup call last week. First, new Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig called on Hamilton to make its case for Light Rail Transit, congratulating Hamilton's "evidence-based" planning.
Then, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Chair Richard Koroscil, who sits on the Metrolinx Board, told Hamilton to put its focus back on LRT after a summer of stadium snafus. "We need the private sector, public-interest gropus, the entire community speaking up" in support of LRT.
The Hamilton Spectator picked up the theme and challenged Hamilton to "get re-engaged and energized about" our LRT plans in an inspiring Saturday editorial.
The Spec editors put it best in their closing statement:
Quite simply, LRT has a much bigger upside than a new stadium, and deserves the requisite amount of public attention.
Despite the recent focus on stadium-related issues, Hamiltonians are still thinking about LRT. The City recently issued a call to residents to sit on a rapdit transit advisory committee, and 230 citizens applied for the 26-seat panel.
It didn't take long for Mayoral candidates Larry Di Ianni and Fred Eisenberger to notice the attention LRT was getting.
In a press release issued on Sunday, Di Ianni's campaign announced plans "to launch a community wide lobby effort to ensure Hamilton gets its fair share of government funding for rapid transit." Di Ianni also plans to change Hamilton's current LRT plans "to include areas of the city beyond the proposed LRT lines at Eastgate Square and McMaster University."
The press release quotes Di Ianni saying:
The current LRT plan excludes every area of our community except for the old City. This is not how you build consensus and support - it's not how you build a City. We need to engage our entire community in LRT and future transit plans.
Also on Sunday, Eisenberger's campaign issued a press release announcing his plan to assemble and lead "a SWAT team of government relations professionals and civic and community partners" to secure LRT funding from the Federal and Provincial governments.
Eisenberger kept his statement upbeat, calling LRT "an economic uplift of historic proportions" and citing Portland, Oregon as "the poster child" for transit-oriented economic development and noting that the local real estate industry is noting proximity to proposed LRT stops. "The LRT is already driving up property values and it isn't even built yet."
RTH has contacted all the candidates to ask: Do you support Hamilton's LRT proposal? If so, what will you do to ensure Hamilton's success in building LRT? If not, why do you oppose it?You can read all the candidate responses as we receive them on the RTH Elections site.
Mayoral candidate Bob Bratina also supports LRT, but argues that the top priority is to "convince Council to support it financially", noting that while Council supports LRT, that support depends on higher levels of government covering the cost.
Bratina adds that this priority also entails "convincing the public in all parts of the City the value of LRT, and ensuring that the selected route is the most effective and productive."
Mayoral candidate Edward H.C. Graydon questions "the usefulness of light rail" and believes "much more pressing issues exist." He believes a higher priority should go to "tackl[ing] the issues that the steel plants place on our health".
Mayoral candidate Andrew Haines opposes LRT, arguing that: the HSR can "provide timely, effective and economical service to Hamiltonians" without it, we cannot afford the installation cost, streetcars can still be delayed by road congestion, and the money for an LRT can be more effectively spent on health care for seniors.
Haines also argues that LRT has been "shoved down our Hamilton throats in a very similar way to how the 'Stadium' debate has been shoved up our Hamilton butts", and decries what he calls "the spin-doctoring surrounding the LRT system".
A September 17 report by the Canadian Urban Transit Association concluded, "Investment in transit shows an impressive economic return," with a cost-benefit ratio of 2:1 for transit investment.
"The report shows that transit investment reduces the amount of public money that must be spent on everything from health care to municipal services such as water and wastewater," stresses CUTA Chair Charles Stolte. "For the average Canadian, this means lower taxes, more jobs, and a higher quality of life."
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