Light Rail

Letter: A Business Owner Clamours for LRT

By Letter to the Editor
Published July 14, 2011

Dear Mayor Bratina and Councillor McHattie,

I am both a resident and business operator in Ward One. I would like to inform you of my support for light rail along the B Line.

1) I grew up in Vancouver. The impact that the rapid transit had on that city was transformative. When the Light Rapid Transit line (now the Skytrain) opened in 1986 the city simply changed for the better.

Development flourished on both commercial and residential properties. The Skytrain became the main choice of transportation for all major events (football, soccer, hockey and basketball). After 25 years of Skytrain service, rental units and businesses live and die by their proximity to the stops.

I followed the rapid transit debate in the 1980s. The naysayers there and then used all the same jargon that Hamilton naysayers are reciting today. All of the Vancouver naysayers were proved completely wrong. Today every political party and Vancouverite passionately supports their rapid transit system.

Please demonstrate this kind of vision for Hamilton's rapid transit today by speaking out for the B-Line LRT.

2) I am the caretaker for The Staircase Cafe Theatre. The Staircase has been a Hamilton fixture for well over a dozen years. We have weathered many exceptional economic challenges that affected every business in Hamilton. The possibility of a rapid transit stop within walking distance of our theatre is, without a doubt, the brightest light that has ever shone for us.

I can tell you without a second thought that our purchase of the two properties adjacent to The Staircase is in anticipation of a nearby rapid transit stop. My partner and I both grew up in Vancouver and fully expect to see an increase in property and business value for everything within walking distance of a rapid transit stop.

So while big developers may not be clamouring at city hall's door, I can attest to at least a quarter million dollars of property investment directly related to the 'possibility' of a rapid transit line. Speaking out for the B-line LRT will help solidify this kind of investment along the entire route.

I have attended both public information sessions, and the two local charrettes for B-Line LRT. Intelligent, articulate and organized citizens have listed all kinds of reasons to support this amazing opportunity. I have simply outlined two very personal ones here. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

cc: Council, Chris Murray, Alana Fulford, Bill Kelly

Hugh MacLeod

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By Locke (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 10:38:21

Well said, Hugh.

As another transplant to Hamilton (15 years now) and a small business owner I'll be sending a similar message... Only I'll also be adding that I'll be watching this situation carefully to determine if we should be investing our next 15 years in Waterloo instead.

Craig Hermanson

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By Vod_Kann (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 18:46:24 in reply to Comment 66145

I still like the "I moved my business here for LRT" campaign if it can get off the ground.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 14, 2011 at 14:18:33 in reply to Comment 66145

Dang that city has it together. I work in KW, and frequently look at what they get right. We don't need to go to Pittsburgh or Boston or something. We are getting our own ass handed to us by a region not that far away.

My single greatest observation about KW is that the aristocracy there spends their money on really interesting things. Not just 'naming opportunities' but actually building things. Waterloo Children's museum is a great example. This town can't even get it together to build a (spectacular) museum for their own children. :)

If you are looking towards KW, then I suggest you look very hard right now. I suspect they will have their LRT running before the Hammer.

If LRT does not go through here I probably won't wait around for the 3rd chance. :)

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By RichardDenOtter (registered) - website | Posted July 14, 2011 at 11:38:55

Great example of what Rapid Transit does to the city. Property values in Richmond grew exponentially as a result of skytrain service coming to the area. However, Skytrain is not quite comparable to the proposed Hamilton LRT, because it is faster, and does not stop at traffic lights. It is essentially the "subway" of Vancouver. If we could get it in Hamilton, it would have an even deeper impact as it would be faster and cheaper than driving.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 16:34:02

Hamilton is not Vancouver. Vancouver is a metropolian area with 2.5 million people where many people commute into the dt to work. Hamilton is not on that scale. We need to be realistic.

How supportive of LRT would you be if it resulted in an increase in your property taxes of 20%? You would have to pass that cost onto your customers. How successful would your business be under that scenario?

I have been to the Staircase and it is an asset, but comparing Hamilton to Vancouver is nonsensical and you are completely ignoring the costs. When I go to the Staircase I drive there. LRT will not make me leave the car at home because transit will still take to long. If a dedicated lane for LRT increases traffic conjestion along king street - making it hard for me to get there by car I will find another theatre to go to. Sorry but that is the truth and many other people will do the same. You need to be aware of this as I don't want to see the staircase go under.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 11:18:05 in reply to Comment 66177

There are some legitimate concerns about our LRT ambitions. None are what I would consider deal breakers and interestingly I have heard few if any anti-LRT advocates mention any of the real potential pitfalls.

It is just the same old fear-mongering and strawman arguments posts like this make.

I do believe the LRT project would benefit from some two-sided discussion, but not of this variety.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2011-07-15 12:42:41

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 14, 2011 at 18:58:56 in reply to Comment 66177

I am not ignoring anything. I am an advocate of safe efficient roads. We chose a building near major arteries with onsite parking. I have no delusions nor the intention of stopping people from driving. Our buildings are bike commuter friendly. When our 'bike fence' is removed we will make sure to have a good bike rack on site. We would love to see people walking along Dundurn and King more.

I remember listening to talk radio in Vancouver with people saying that the taxes would sky rocket, that criminals would pour into the city, that the money should go to a bridge, or wider highways. On the other hand others said that the Skybus was being put in for 'developers to make money' and would lead to terrible things like increased density, and destroy the environment. The reality is always somewhere in between the rhetoric. LRT will not save Hamilton from idiots, and it will not bankrupt the city either. I think that supporting LRT is worth the risk.

In 1986 Vancouver's population was no where near 2.5 million. Loosely looking at Vancouver's proportional population, length of track, and style of construction, Hamilton's LRT investment is comparable for the smaller city that Hamilton represents. Metrolinx does not intend to bankrupt Hamilton, the lion's share of the capital will come from Metrolinx, and the ongoing cost of operating the system cannot conceivably increase our taxes by 20%. If it does and we don't want it anymore you can pave it in, and just deal with the amortization payments. To date no city has done this with their rapid transit system in the last 50 years.

I appreciate your concern for The Staircase. Nothing lasts forever. I have seen this little theatre survive SARS I and SARS II, The Ecoli outbreak, Gulf Invasion Two, 911, Afghan Invasion, the snowpocalypse, World's Bike Race, the Great Black Out, Walkerton, the Dot Com correction, the Depression of 2009, etc. These kinds of things keep people indoors, regardless of cars, LRT or bikes. So much of how people act has to do with perception, LRT is good for perception, it will help this city specifically, and I hope you can trust my experience and judgement that the risk is worth it.

If the tax burden does become too much it will likely be from increased property values of a blossoming city. Hopefully you can manage to stay here if that happens. The Staircase needs every customer (biking, hiking, driving, hopping, train riding) it can get.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:59:59 in reply to Comment 66190

In 1986 the population of Vancouver CMA was 1.38 million 3x Hamilton's current population. Vancouve was also was of the fastest growing metro areas in Canada between 1986-1996. Vancouver is the hub of British Columbia, a gateway to the asia-pacfic and the largest metro in the west.

Hamilton can not make similar claims.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:51:38 in reply to Comment 66190

"...the lion's share of the capital will come from Metrolinx,..:

And where does Metrolinx get its money from? Santa Claus?

"...If it does and we don't want it anymore you can pave it in, and just deal with the amortization payments"

And how much do you think this is going to cost us? First we pay to build it, then mwe pay to destroy it. What else could we have done with that money? I remind you that Hamilton has one of the largest tax burdens in Canada. LRT won't fly because of it.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2011 at 01:47:10 in reply to Comment 66217

Let's just put you down as a no. Got it. :)

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 18:54:35 in reply to Comment 66177

Capitalist, Vancouver's Skytrain wasn't built yesterday.

Vancouver's entire metro population was closer to 1.2 million when Skytrain was being planned and built. Moreover, this number takes into account a far greater surface area than the one which usually delimits Hamilton's (i.e. Hamilton-Burlington).

The Skytrain is widely credited (together with Expo 86) with helping Vancouver emerge from its reputation as an economic and cultural backwater, which it most certainly was in the late '70s and early '80s. From this perspective, Hamilton appears to have even more going for it now from a rapid transit perspective than Vancouver did before Skytrain was built.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 16:49:12 in reply to Comment 66177

And for every driver who says "I refuse to go because of transit", there will be several who say "Hey, transit!".

It's been demonstrated to work not just in Vancouver but in many other cities as well. I realize that no other city is like Hamilton so nothing will ever work here, but maybe, just maybe, we can try something...

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By Fred STreet (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:36:47

This kind of a campaign is an excellent idea, but -- and forgive me for being blunt -- the non-profit-by-another-name business model of The Staircase ( + makes them a less-than-forceful lever (not to mention that they're currently in an 8-week summer vacation mode). It may be a while before LRT arrives even if political will is overwhelming. Unapologetiuc exterior lighting and signage legible from beyond 10m would improve visibility and, perhaps, foot traffic as a result.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2011 at 01:54:16 in reply to Comment 66209

What campaign are you talking about?

Well the amount and type of signage, as well as lighting, is determined by the city. But I do appreciate your marketing advice. However I don't think that The Staircase's signage alone will improve foot traffic on Dundurn. Removing the trucks has helped though.

We are a community theatre that gets by on our own hard work. All our resident programs are running through the summer, and the cafe is torn apart for a renovation. Sorry if our summer downtime was an inconvenience for you.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 10:12:32

The connection to GO was in that 1km loop. Just not rail:

"The preferred "W" route that would have gone forward in 1981 had its southern terminus at the Canadian Tire at Mohawk/Upper James, an underground station at Mountain Plaza Mall, tunnelled through the escarpment to an elevated stop by St. Joseph's Hospital, slipped over to Hughson and headed north until it hit the TH&B (where it didn't stop), chased the rail line west to loop around Hunter/MacNab, ran around the Family Court and then headed over to the transit island on MacNab (elevated station), then east on King to James, north on James to King William, east to an elevated stop across from the Rebecca St bus station [GO TRANSIT], then up Catharine to an optional elevated station between the Ramada and the Connaught, over to the TH&B and back into its mountain lair."

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2011 at 14:19:10

By "campaign" I was referring to the overaching "business community clamouring for LRT".

As to the signage, I was referring to the mottled rust-on-rust panels atop the Staircase's entranceway. I'm not perturbed by their legibility, but some potential users might be. (By the ame token, I was simply suggesting that lighting the facade might help the building stand out to potential clientele who might not have been already aware of the existence of The Staircase.) I took these to be conscious decisions and had not realized that the city had regulated the level of obscurity.

My deeper point about the business model of the establishment was not intended to be dismissive of the energy, conviction, hard work and boundless love that such an undertaking requires of all with their shoulder to the wheel. It was merely to point out that the politicians who are waffling at the moment are doing so because they view LRT as bringing little in the way of an attendant/reciprocal real estate development boon. They're more likely to be thinking in terms of job growth stats and condo blocks than community theatre and coffee houses.

That's not a vote in favour of one over the other, and I certainly don't begrudge you summer down-time and don't feel it to be an impediment to being able to access the venue's programming. Just an (admittedly ill-esplained) observation.

Enjoy the weekend and have a great summer!

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By David B. (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2011 at 19:43:30

LOOK MOM, IT'S A TRAIN DRIVING ON OUR STREETS! NO SON, IT'S A BUS! * IF people are so impressed with the look of the proposed LRT train photo's, why not build new buses to look like them? This way, no rail tracks or overhead wires will be required, they can drive almost anywhere on rubber tires, they can be towed away when they break down, they are not prone to be struck by lightning or die when the power grid is down, they don't connect to arcing overhead power wires that are known to cause annoying "snap, crackle & popping sounds" on Radio's & TV's, they are a
much cheaper alternative to build and operate, the streets don't have to be bastardized with rails to accomodate them, other vehicles don't have to dodge around wet slippery rails, they can stop on a dime, etc., etc., etc.! (db) :-)

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