Light Rail

All-Day GO, City 2011 Work Plan, and 'Feasibility' of LRT

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 19, 2011

In my recent interview with The Hamiltonian on LRT, I wrote in part:

As for all-day GO Train service: to my knowledge, Council has never directed the mayor to pursue this as a priority, but Metrolinx and the Province have indicated that it is one of their priorities.

In response, Peggy Chapman, the mayor's chief of staff, contacted The Hamiltonian to advise them of the "Senior Management Team (SMT) 2011 Work Plan (CM11005)" report, which defines a 2011 work plan for the senior management team, which includes City Manager Chris Murray and the General Managers of the major city departments.

One of the action items under the sponsorship of Planning and Economic Development General Manager Tim McCabe is:

Aggressively pursue all-day GO Service to a station on James Street North

This work plan was approved by Council.

I was not aware of this, and I appreciate Ms. Chapman contacting The Hamiltonian to provide this clarification. I'm happy to stand corrected that staff are acting under council's direction on all-day GO train service.

GO vs. LRT a False Alternative

However, there is nothing in the report Chapman referenced to suggest that LRT should be downgraded or deprioritized.

This summer, after Chris Murray advised Council that he decided to "suspend all current direct and indirect activities of the Light Rail Transit Initiative other than any work activities required to be completed under the agreement" with the Province, Metrolinx replied:

[B]oth rapid transit initiatives planned for Hamilton - the Hamilton LRT and all day GO Train service from Toronto to Hamilton - are viable and can co-exist. Hamilton's current rapid transit situation is not an 'either-or' scenario.

In fact, Metrolinx was not aware of the City Manager's decision until after it was publicized.

'Feasibility' of LRT

Another thing that jumped out at me was Chapman's statement, "The City Manager's commitment to LRT was to bring a feasibility report to Council this year".

That term - "feasibility report" - struck me. Just last week, Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin tweeted the following to me in regards to LRT:

@RyanMcGreal When Council completes the prov funded feasibility study #hamont they can determine how they want to proceed. We'll listen... [sic]

Here's the thing: the City did a two-phase feasibility study on LRT back in the spring and summer of 2008. The conclusion of the feasibility study was that Hamilton should proceed with "the functional design, detail design and construction of the B-line rapid transit corridor ... utilizing Light Rail Technology."

This conclusion was approved unanimously by Council, and staff began working with Metrolinx and the community to plan and design the B-Line LRT.

Meanwhile, Metrolinx conducted their own feasibility study, a rapid transit benefits case analysis that concluded LRT would cost more but provide a bigger overall benefit.

The "prov[incially] funded" study that McMeekin is talking about is actually a class Environmental Assessment (EA), which is required for a large capital project like an LRT line. The Province gave us a $3 million grant to complete the EA as part of our LRT planning.

In fact, not long ago the Liberal government changed the rules for a transit-related EA to make it shorter and faster - on the assumption that transit projects are intrinsically beneficial to the environment.

City staff haven't been studying the feasibility of LRT in Hamilton - that was already done years ago. They were actually designing the system.

So why is everyone suddenly talking as if we don't yet know whether LRT is a good idea for Hamilton?

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 Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 09:51:05

Goldfish memories and a 20th century world view?

And hey, while we're talking about provincial money for transit solutions, maybe our budget-obsessed elected officials can remind me again how they spent the "$3-million provincial pledge for a platform, ticket kiosk and lighting for a GO train stop east of the old James Street North train station holds great potential for the downtown core and the city as a whole."

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2012 at 12:00:06 in reply to Comment 69839

I'm not sure I caught this announcement the first time out, almost two years ago, but I thought maybe it's worth noting.

The all-day GO Train service that the government has proposed for Hamilton "would involve 10 trains each way between the proposed new Hamilton station and Union Station in Toronto". In other words, Hamilton's current train service level will increase by 250%, to 14 outbound trips a day.

That's basically hourly from 5am to 6pm, filling the space between the existing rush hour service.

And 20 months later when they were again announcing all-day GO trains for Hamilton, the Liberals seem to have omitted the finer points of the plan:

If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, has an official planning document or a senior official voicing a commitment, could you link to it?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 10:16:10

Wonder how many of them thought that approving this would mean disbanding all but 1 member of the LRT team?

I also continue to wonder how exactly they're aggressively pursuing all day GO. What are the city staff actually doing right now?

Final question of the day, has all day two way GO train service helped Burlington become a bedroom community for Toronto? They've had it for several years now, going to and from downtown Toronto, and I only see marginally more people getting on the train at Burlington as compared to Hamilton.

Any way we can get a breakdown of where Burlingtonians commute to, to compare and contrast to that of Hamiltonians? I'm thinking the presence of all day two way GO train service will not have as much of an impact as the mayor might think.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 16:51:35 in reply to Comment 69845

Not sure if you are referring to Burlington Go Station at Fairview and Brant specifically or the 3 Burlington stops as a group. I did not pay enough attention to tell which stop had more passengers than the others. If you are referring to the 3 Burlington City stops then you are way off. The last time I took the train into Toronto by the time we left Burlington the train was pretty much full. When we left Oakville it was standing room only and I guess that is why the train then was express to Union Station.

Burlington is no doubt a bedroom community of Toronto. As is Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughn, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Markham, Ajax and even Oshawa. I probably missed a few more. Even K-W and Orangeville have their fair share of commuters heading to Toronto every day. Toronto is the destination city for many miles around.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 21:20:02 in reply to Comment 69866

Trains are often quite full once they leave Appleby, and surely by Bronte. There are quite a few people from Hamilton and Niagara who drive to either Burlington or Aldershot to catch the train as well, boosting the "Burlington" count.

One hurdle that GO will have to face with eventual expansion into east Hamilton and Niagara is that, barring massive traffic congestion on the QEW or a huge increase in the cost of driving, it will still be much faster and easier to drive to the Burlington stations than it will be to hop on the train at Centennial, Fifty Rd., or points east and take the long route around the bay through the city. Their price structure may have to reflect that as well to provide incentive for south-of-the-lake drivers to use the service. I expect GO will adjust their connecting bus services as well.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 10:56:24 in reply to Comment 69845

"I'm thinking the presence of all day two way GO train service will not have as much of an impact as the mayor might think."

But the Mayor likes trains...

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 10:55:44

and I only see marginally more people getting on the train at Burlington as compared to Hamilton.

I don't know what trips you take, but Burlington is one of the busiest stations on my commute, along with Oakville. For a while there, ridership at Burlington was so high that they put up signs asking people to go to Appelby station and take it from there because there was simply no more parking. Now they have a multi-level parking garage at Burlington and the lots are still pretty full.

Final question of the day, has all day two way GO train service helped Burlington become a bedroom community for Toronto?

If the number of 3-series bimmers in the Burlington and Appelby lots is any indication, I'd say that Burlington is solidly a Toronto bedroom community.

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By shenanigan (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:15:56

More shenaningan's from the mayor's office. If they keep you jumping around they can muck up the water enough that no one knows what to trust anymore, then LRT die's a quiet death.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 12:42:00

Both Bob and Peggy think they can wish away the problems they create by playing with words and not actually addressing the content and intent of the words Bob speaks.

Glad Peggy emerged from the Dome of Silence to try to correct, incorrectly I might add, the words of an engaged citizen (aka misguided vigilante).

Just wait till she starts screening calls on Dear Leader's Cabal 14 show. First time caller, long time listener.....

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By TnT (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 23:19:25 in reply to Comment 69854

Graham, I have to ask: Are you able to watch the call in show? If so, you are made of sterner stuff than I!

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By Dreck (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 19:49:09 in reply to Comment 69854

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-09-19 21:21:48

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 13:55:09 in reply to Comment 69854


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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 13:14:41 in reply to Comment 69854

Either they think we're stupid, or they think they're smart, or a bit of both, but all the attempts at spin that come out of that office are so transparent, shabby, and amateurish, that you would have to laugh, until you remember that these people have the power to do real damage to our city.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 13:48:16 in reply to Comment 69855

"They think" is the key. I'm not sure how much thinking is going on in the Mayor's office. Action seems to precede thinking, thus the need to lash out at citizens who critique ill conceived "policy" announcements. A lot of the spin has the sink of desperation to it.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 02:11:58 in reply to Comment 69857

This pretty much sums it up:

I still love that for certain people the 'blogger' represents everything that is wrong in our brave new world. It drives them insane that their imagined gatekeepers no longer have the power to keep out the riffraff, and that now everyone can potentially not just publish but be heard.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 14:16:21 in reply to Comment 69857

A lot of the spin has the sink of desperation to it.

And insecurity. Hence the targetting of Joey Coleman and Ryan. Can you imagine the mayor of any other major city obsessing over the words and actions of private individuals like this? It's so high school.

When I was in high school, I was bullied by my music teacher who was also my band and choir leader and a prominent figure in our local arts community, so he had a considerable impact on my young life. Once I got over the pain and confusion, I realized I should be flattered by the fact that a grown man was expending considerable time and energy to go out of his way to make my life miserable. It soon became a perverse badge of honour and a source of humour in my family and social circle.

I can't help seeing the same dynamic in the disturbing attacks on 'bloggers', 'dissidents', and 'vigilantes' coming out of the mayor's office. Ryan et. al. should be flattered.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 15:23:43 in reply to Comment 69861

Bullies be bullies. Few grow out of it.

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By JM (registered) | Posted September 20, 2011 at 08:31:42 in reply to Comment 69862

i find it hard to believe that Bob was (would have been?) a bully growing up........

Comment edited by JM on 2011-09-20 08:32:08

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 14:00:04

It is important to recognize that in spite of the misguided 'clamor' surrounding the disbanding of the LRT team - important planning work (which has direct bearing on the LRT if/when it comes), continues to be done by the council and staff with fair amount of scrutiny and diligence.

And even if the LRT fails to materialize on account of cost or lack of funding - this on-going work would clearly assist in intensification of urban areas.

A detailed read (pages 16 to 22) of this Planning Committee Report of July 05, 2011: -- would bring about a better appreciation of the different stages involved in urban intensification and LRT planning.

The snarkiness shown towards Councillors Clark and Collins and the Council here -- was so unnecessary given that it was based on an yet another newspaper story -- just as the original call for clamor was based on the 4 lines of a newspaper story pushing a totally different issue.

Comparing these two article above, to the questions posed by Councillors in the above Planning Committee report -- will help an average Hamiltonian in separating 'media spin' from the genuine concerns and diligence exercised by Councillors.

Councillors and staff working on such complex ventures with uncertain funding conditions surely deserve more than such baseless accusations of being rudderless and adrift.

Mahesh P. Butani

(this comment was originally posted -here- on the Hamiltonian.)

update: One fatal flaw in the RTH/LRT lobbyist thinking is that they assume intensification/development growth is only possible with LRT. One needs to visit Sao Paulo or Curitiba, Brazil to understand how intensification really happens and how transportation needs are met with what types of systems, at what stages in a city's growth.

To truly understand the deep politics that is being played with this LRT issue - one needs to see what is really going on behind the scenes in Toronto with its LRT/Subway debate. See Fenton Report on Transit

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-19 14:41:52

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By Curitiba (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 17:19:47 in reply to Comment 69859

The lessons of Curitiba and it's visionary mayor Jaime Lerner are well worth looking at. My favourite quote of his, which our current leadership could learn from is, "The dream of a better city is always in the heads of its residents."

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 16:45:27 in reply to Comment 69859

this on-going work would clearly assist in intensification of urban areas.

Except that LRT is one of the main drivers of intensification. If wide, one-way truck freeways was the ticket, we'd look like Vancouver.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2011 at 07:40:47 in reply to Comment 69864

"Except that LRT is one of the main drivers of intensification. If wide, one-way truck freeways was the ticket, we'd look like Vancouver." ~ jason

This is like saying:

"Religion is one of the main drivers for uniting mankind with god. If wars was the ticket, we'd look like the US".

Such thinking ends up saying nothing about religion, nor about god - besides erroneously connecting religion to the notion of god, and gratuitously connecting wars to the US.

Correctly framed, it would be:

"LRT is recognized as one of the drivers of intensification in some cities. Whereas primarily LRT is used to address some of the transportation needs in many intensified cities."

While, wide one-way truck freeways are always an abberation in all inner-cities, it is a poor counter-point to bring to most arguments.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-21 07:44:46

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 17:03:35 in reply to Comment 69864

What drives the intensification of Vancouver is not LRT. Nor is it the reason in Toronto. Or Edmonton, Calgary, Portland St. Louis, Chicago or any number of other cities that have LRT. Jobs is what drives intensification. People want to live at a reasonable distance from their work. The reason those cities all have LRT is because they are highly developed and have high a density. This intensification is independent of LRT. That is why Mississauga is just now getting its first stretch of LRT, as is Detroit. I think you have gotten your cause and effect backwards. LRT and other transit options are density dependent. We just do not have the kind of density to warrant the expense of a costly LRT system. If you really want to throw a lot of money at an unnecessary system than please throw it at a subway line.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 19:52:07 in reply to Comment 69868

We just do not have the kind of density to warrant the expense of a costly LRT system.

The numbers indicate otherwise. Especially when compared to other cities that already have LRT

Portland was a rather divy town about to embark on an LA freeway expansion when they decided to opt for LRT. Along with zoning changes and a firm urban boundary, the rest is history.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 20:26:45 in reply to Comment 69876

And Portland was bigger, a lot bigger. And Portland was the destination city for miles around. And Portland was not a semi suburb of another larger city very close. And Portland had a downtown with lots of jobs. And Portland is one of the top 25 media markets in the U.S.A. and we are not even considered a media market we are lumped in with Toronto. Their LRT was built to bring people from the suburbs to a busy downtown almost like a GO Transit. Other than that we are very similar, almost identical even.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 14:15:31

B-Line Nodes and Corridors Land Use Study Main Street, King Street and Queenston Road between McMaster University and Eastgate Square

The City of Hamilton B-Line Nodes and Corridors Planning Team recently held a series of design work shops or charrettes with citizens and local architects to create concepts for possible future development along the B-Line corridor. These conceptual designs for buildings and public areas were created for six locations along the corridor with six different groups and six different architects. All six concepts can now be viewed on the City of Hamilton web site at:

You are invited and encouraged to visit the website to view these visions for the future of the corridor and to provide your comments.

Your comments will inform new policies on uses, building heights, densities and urban design elements along the corridor. They will help staff answer questions such as: What should new development along the B-line corridor look like and how should it relate to existing neigbourhoods?

Please provide your comments via the form on the website or by e-mail at by Monday October 3rd, 2011.

Please note that these are conceptual designs only which are intended to illustrate ideas and explore design issues for possible types of development in the future. They are to be used as tools to invoke discussion and are not in any way to be seen as actual development proposals or approved City policy.

Thank you to all of those who volunteered their time to develop these design concepts! Staff Contacts:

Christine Newbold – Senior Project Manager (905) 546-2424 x1279

Ken Coit – Senior Urban Designer (905)546-2424 x1220

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 16:25:17

Thanks Peggy for clearing that up but what about all the other crap that's going on? I didn't see her correction for any of the other issues McGreal brought up.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 16:47:42

update: One fatal flaw in the RTH/LRT lobbyist thinking is that they assume intensification/development growth is only possible with LRT. One needs to visit Sao Paulo or Curitiba, Brazil to understand how intensification really happens and how transportation needs are met with what types of systems, at what stages in a city's growth.

For someone who is as sensitive to being misquoted on trivial items as you are, I'm sure you'll be able to provide a citation where the RTH group (staff, not anonymous responders) has suggested that the only path to intensification is through LRT. If not, I'm sure you'll apologize for such a slanderous statement.

A "lobby", by it's very nature, focuses on pushing one item, hence their focus on LRT to the exclusion of all other means of intensification. I know Ryan has always been a big proponent of two way streets, mixed use zoning and a variety of other intensification issues that I have forgotten because I'm not nearly as passionate about it as he is.

That being said, a well designed LRT system tends to provide intensification along the route, would you not agree? And since someone else offered to pay for it, you'd have to be pretty foolish to turn down the opportunity to implement something as potentially transformative as that. But instead we apparently want to focus all of our energy on all day GO service!

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 23:06:42 in reply to Comment 69865

Most importantly, there is a fat wad of cash coming from outside of the city going towards this project.

Comment edited by JonC on 2011-09-19 23:07:09

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By Lightsyder (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 22:53:39

So do you think it's all day GO transit that makes Burlington/Oakville into "bedroom communities" for Toronto, or is it other factors (i.e. their proximity, their large swaths of suburban homes, relatively "new" cities, low property taxes by virtue of having such new infrastructure, and good highway connections?

I also wonder whether the lack of sports teams, large concert venues and sports venues, and post secondary institutions compared to Toronto might also contribute to the integration of those communities with Toronto.

I don't think the lack of all day GO train service is what is holding Hamilton back - it just isn't.

While we have a feasibility study that tells us LRT IS WORTH BUILDING I haven't seen anything about the costs and benefits of all day GO service, and what its predicted benefits, if any, will be.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 11:37:15 in reply to Comment 69885

It is all a matter of cause and effect. Mississauga, Brampton and all the others were bedroom communities before GO Transit came along. The reason we have GO Transit is because there was a demand to get people from these communities into Toronto. That is the way it works everywhere. Portland is often held up as a shining example for their LRT and other. Their LRT started to bring commuters into the core, where the jobs are, from smaller outlying communities. If my memory is correct the first line went to Gresham about 15 or 20 km east of Portland's core. LRT or any transit is not the cause of the bedroom community or of the intensification but is the result of those things. That is why LRT in Buffalo failed so miserably. They never had the jobs and therefore the commuters downtown to support such a project. Now they are stuck with it. If and when their downtown changes into a big job place where people need to commute to every day then and only then will it actually become something truly useful.

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By littleLRTmouse (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:51:16

I do not know Hamilton to such an extent, that I would be able to recognize its GO stations from a set of photographs. However I'd like to comment on the raised subjects. (1) All day GO does not have to become a reality on specific date or from specific station. GO/METROLINX/CN should show to everyone, that they are committed to completion and progress towards that goal without complicated SMT items. What can be done towards that goal? High speed switches,heated switches,improved signalling,two-way traffic on all tracks,higher speed of GO trains in general,space considerations for future electrification and such. (2) There is REALLY no such thing as specific LRT technology. The LRT acronym can mean anything and does not point to a specific solution. The LRT advocates make a switch from one level (?) of LRT to another without even considering or acknowledging the switch had been made (It is similar to comparing TGV with GO).
On one side of spectrum you may find T.O. Fleet Street or Queens' Quay and on the other side of spectrum a video from Folsom (CA,USA). I suspect that in all likelyhood Hamilton will be on level with "Fleet street" but never on par with Folsom. Which means, that at least one if not two lanes of auto-traffic will have to be eliminated either fully or partially thru both corridors.

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By littleLRTmouse (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2011 at 13:59:13

I have actually reviewed plans for Hamilton and I have found them pretty good. My point is, that from the perspective of general public the LRT advocates have themselves confused the issue. We live "near" proposed T.O.Sheppard East route and many people were quite sure,that something "light" and "flexible" would be built. My wife spoke to a gentleman and he thought,that nothing would have to be disturbed along the route. When he was told, that all hydro poles,all centre islands (for crosswalking), all sidewalk panels,all utilities and such would have to be re-laid, he wasn't quite sure. And that it what I find disturbing - the accent is on "light", whereas modern vehicles are anything but light - 30 tonnnes per 30m of length is not light. An addition of LRT drastically changes nature of the street or so-called corridor and shouldn't be taken ligthly - if it will ever succeed in Hamilton (and elsewhere), it will need dedicated help from some type of NGO (like in Grenoble), who will be helped by experts and who will successfully lobby all levels of govt. for very long time. I appreciate the efforts of groups like RTH, but I doubt they will ever succeed. One comment:It is interesting,that Jerusalem hes recently opened its first LRT route, but strangely it goes zig-zag thru the city,same for new route in Copenhagen. LRT routes in Paris are almost like shooting stars from the Metropolis. We in T.O. have seen recent debacles on Rocensvales and St.Clair.W - please be mindfull of these.
I wish you good luck.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2011 at 17:17:00 in reply to Comment 69907

For the record, "light" rail means light as opposed to heavy rail (freight, GO, subways etc), A single empty freight car can weigh 30 tons, and a locomotive 3-4 times that.

Here's a question: how many people can that 30m of light rail cars carry? If you put them in cars at the standard King St occupancy rate, how long would that line of cars be? How much would it weigh? And what would the final price tag be?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:57:07 in reply to Comment 69908

That's such a silly argument. One could counter with if you lined railway tracks everywhere a car can drive, how much would it weigh and how much would it cost.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 09:10:00

Monthly "town hall" on CHML for the next hour: 905-645-3221

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By little LRTmouse (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:31:16

I have a simple argument in my mind. If a citizen group like RTH or official group like METROLINX want to build an LRT route (or routes) thru Hamilton (or M'ga/Brampton for that matter),then these groups should be given good and regular access to media (incl. TVO or CHCH,local dailies or weeklies ), where they will every week examine post-PCC (or post-WWII) evolution of the technology incl. scenes from fmr. COMECON. The "light" vs. "heavy" can be examined at that time. Then John and Jane Q.Public will be able to form an informed opinion and finally make a decision. As I mentioned before - citizens' support for LRT in T.O. collapsed,when TC (transit city) staff announced,that instead of simple left-turns there will be many complex U-turn-plus-right-turns. They didn't even have "guts" to publish their proposal inside nearby affected shopping mall. Please remember above all - RTH proposes to spend some $800M to $1.5B,while construction within corridor (A) may go on for more than 5 years! Thank you and good luck!.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 17:10:58

With the U.S. Congress fighting over spending and the debt ceiling, high household debt and an ongoing current account deficit, it looks as if the U.S. will eventually fall back into recession.

If that happens, our exports will slow, leaving only the government or the consumer to take up the slack. With historically high household debt in Canada, the odds are Harper will be forced to push a LOT more money into the economy, lest he wants a 9% unemployment rate.

I wouldn't be surprised to see things like LRT fast tracked in this scenario.

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By GO Platform Schmatform (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2011 at 17:22:15

On Wednesday, the union accused the government of deliberately sabotaging its members’ right to strike by delaying its original mid-September GO bus strike date, using an 11th hour delay tactic at the Ontario Labour Relations Board to stall a no-board report, a prerequisite for legal strike.

A Monday ruling by the labour board appears to support the union’s assertion. It calls “the timing of this late blooming employer objection … inherently suspect.”

On Aug. 30 Metrolinx went to the labour board, claiming the essential services agreement it had signed with the union in March — the same agreement that had been in place since 1996 — was not legal. That delayed the no-board report that basically begins the countdown to a strike.

Metrolinx told the labour board and union that it needed a new essential services agreement, one that would designate some GO bus drivers as essential so they would be available in the event of a disaster. Hypothetical and real examples cited by Metrolinx included “a serious nuclear problem at Pickering or Darlington, a 9/11 terrorist event, the Mississauga train derailment, the Superior propane explosion, the 2003 hydro black-out,” according to the labour board ruling.

“This was a blatant attempt to circumvent the law of the land by the McGuinty government to prevent a potentially embarrassing strike during the election,” said Ray Doyle, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587.

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