Light Rail

Letter: Take a Leadership Role on LRT

By Michael Borrelli
Published July 06, 2011

Dear Councillor Farr:

Recent media reports have inspired me to write you to express my ongoing support for a Light Rail Transit line in Hamilton. It seems as though council is beginning to waffle on the idea of a east-west light rail line that has been extensively studied over the past three years, and which was unanimously endorsed by council in 2008 as a preferred option for our city.

As you well know, many of those councillors still represent their wards today, so this uncertainty regarding a a project that would be so transformative for downtown, including Ward 2, worries me greatly. It is all too reminiscent of the flip-flopping that characterized last year's search for a Pan Am stadium site, and as a Ward 2 resident, I do not want to see yet another beneficial project slip between our fingers.

It is with this in mind that I hope that you will consider taking a leadership position on the issue of LRT in Hamilton. As we've seen in some (formerly great) American cities, the hollowing out of a city's downtown is often the first step towards a long, painful decline.

I would love for Hamilton's lower city to avoid the same slow death currently afflicting Detroit and Cleveland, but this means taking proactive steps now to ensure that downtown is a desirable place to live and invest.

Study after study has demonstrated the city-building benefits of LRT, and surely it is this optimistic vision of the city that inspired your colleagues on council to support LRT in the first place.

Taking a leadership role on this important initiative need not be overly difficult, or involve re-inventing the wheel. As a new face this term, I am confident that you are able to rise above some of the existing cleavages on council in order to re-direct your colleagues' attention to the many proven benefits of a well-planned transit system that includes LRT.

Investment in this plan could be the biggest thing to happen to downtown Hamilton in a generation, but if media reports are accurate, it will not happen without a dedicated champion for the project.

I will keep this short, but let me re-iterate: please consider acting as an advocate for LRT on council, and impress upon your colleagues the positive vision that accompanies this large investment in our city's future.

I acknowledge that financial considerations are important, but as council demonstrated by investing Future Fund monies in the Ivor Wynne refurbishment, funding for projects of this magnitude must be viewed as a long-term investment that can pay enormous dividends if done properly.

Thank you for your time, and I wish you the best in continuing to represent the best interests of the residents of Ward 2.

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.


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