Light Rail

LRT 'Ten to Fifteen Years Away'

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published October 26, 2012

The Silhouette, McMaster's student newspaper, has published an article titled "LRT plans go off the rails". It paints a discouraging picture of a project that started with excitement and momentum but has slowly foundered under political uncertainty and a lack of political leadership.

It cites Don Hull, the City's Director of Transportation, which looks after HSR and rapid transit, saying LRT is ten to fifteen years away.

So senior staff are assuming that LRT would probably not go into service until 15 years from now (i.e. 2027!). The City and Metrolinx had originally planned for LRT to be in place for the Pan Am Games in 2015, and later for LRT construction to begin just after the Games ended.

Now we're being told the line might be in service 20 years after the original promise in 2007. This is getting ridiculous!

We've slipped back 12 years in just of a couple of years of "planning"? Talk about keeping expectations low and dragging the process out.

Complete Streets on Hold

Worse still, while the City is constantly pushing back the possible implementation date for LRT and feeding uncertainty over whether it will ever happen, it is simultaneously telling us we can't consider complete street improvements or two-way conversion on Main and King because these streets will be impacted by LRT.

If it really is going to be at least 10 to 15 years until LRT is built, we have plenty of time to try out two-way conversion and other complete street improvements long before LRT is a consideration.

Metrolinx actually recommended conversion of these streets to two-way to enhance LRT.

The divided bike lanes on Dunsmuir, Howe and Seymour Streets in Vancouver were originally six-month pilot projects. It is time for the City to stop using the lack of progress on some projects to stall progress on other vital projects.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:17:11

More delay evident in today's Toronto Star:

"Some Toronto councillors are threatening to try to stop the city from signing a master agreement with Metrolinx and the province to build four LRTs.

The councillors say the agreement gives Metrolinx too much authority over the project's scope, particularly the placement and distance between stations. They fear that as costs rise, Metrolinx will cancel some stations or build them so far apart the TTC might have to run buses along routes...

The exact location of the stations, which will cost about $100 million each, won't be confirmed until around the summer of 2014."

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By Bibendum (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 20:00:39

"As many of the Move 2020 projects have not yet begun the physical construction, investors should only focus on regions where they know the projects are moving ahead or are already completed. With that in mind, the key areas in these regions that will or have been positively affected are:

First Tier: Neighbourhoods located near the on and off ramps to the Red Hill Valley Parkway. These include: McQuestern East and West, Barton, Nashdale, Kentley, Glenview East, Corman, Red Hill, King’s Forest and Albion Falls.

Second Tier: Includes areas that will also be positively impacted by the easier access and traffic flow created by the Highway 8 link to the Red Hill Valley Parkway. This will allow commuters from as far away as Toronto and Oakville to cut key minutes off their drive.

Third Tier: Areas that are within 800 meters of the proposed LRT and GO train stations in Hamilton. These areas will move up to second tier once the official announcements are made as to exact locations, then eventually move to first tier once the actual construction begins. Communities impacted by future LRT lines include: Ainslie Wood, Cootes Paradise, Westdale South, Beasley, Corktown, Kentley, Greenford, Green Acres Park, North Glanford, Ryckmans, Mewburn, Sheldon, Kennedy East, Allison, Greeningdon, Balfour, Bonnington, Yeoville, Rolston, Buchanan, Mohawk, Southam, Centremount, Durand, Corktown, Beasley, Central Hamilton, North End, Ancaster, Mohawk Meadows, Bruleville, Burkholme, northern Crerar, northern Rushdale, Hill Park, Lawfield, Crown Point, northern Homeside, Ancaster, Leckie Park, the Elfrida growth area, Corman, Riverdale, and Winona.

There may be some negative effects on properties located in the immediate vicinity of certain stations such as nuisance, property crime, noise, loitering, vandalism, and increased traffic."

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By Bibendum (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 14:56:26 in reply to Comment 82334

I get a kick out of the fact that REIN's most hotly tipped neighbourhoods are along the Red Hill Parkway and the positively impacts of "the easier access and traffic flow created by the Highway 8 link" -- Highway 8 of course being Main East.

Regarding "the Elfrida growth area":

The Elfrida lands are generally bounded by Mud Street, Second Road and Hendershot Road on the east, Golf Club Road on the south, Trinity Church Road on the west, and the existing urban boundary (west side of Centennial Parkway) on the north.

Ultimately, they will become home to 3,000 residential units, shopping areas, schools, parks and all the other things that make up a neighbourhood.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 01:02:53

This is understandable given that the province is now in the throes of soul crushing debt. LRT is certainly a benefit for the city, but a high priority it should not be. Getting Hamilton off of combined sewers, upgrading the Woodward treatment plant and fixing the Randle Reef are the major projects I'd like to see Hamilton focus on at this point, rather then chasing a luxury that the province sadly can't afford now because...well McGuinty sucks.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2012 at 09:50:34 in reply to Comment 82379

I get that, personally... but we're not seeing this kind of pragmatism with respect to Metrolinx promises to other regions.

If LRT has to be off the table as a belt-tightening measure, that makes sense. I just don't want to see Hamilton take one for the team (justified because our one-way streets reduce congestion) while the rest of the province gets their shopping list of transit solutions.

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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 10:06:15

With Mississauga’s population continuing to swell and a gridlock “crisis” growing along with it, city councillors were put in a frenzy Wednesday by a staff report on the city’s transportation needs.

“We’re willing to take that density,” Councillor Nando Iannicca said, addressing the province’s high expectations for population growth in Peel. “But you’re building our GO Train stations, right? We know this is where growth belongs, but we have to say to the province: ‘Help me help you.’”

That was the theme as councillors questioned how Toronto could get $8.4 billion of the $9.5 billion already allocated as part of Metrolinx’s first wave of the $50 billion Big Move strategy planned for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over 25 years, while Mississauga waits for the crumbs.

One asterisk: Government promises are always made "subject to fiscal capacity."

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2012 at 12:37:40 in reply to Comment 82391

I don't justify it, I mean that's how they justify it. Didn't a previous article discuss how Hamilton isn't a priority for Metrolinx because we don't have a congestion problem? And obviously we don't have a congestion problem because we've chosen to prioritize road throughput beyond all other concerns, regardless of the damage it does.

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By Kanellos (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 13:49:21 in reply to Comment 82397

One potential complication is the hiccup that could come if interest rates rise.

Post-recession, interest rates have been at historic lows:

There are numerous upsides to this phenomenon, one of which is that infrastructure investments should in theory be easier to finesse.

The flipside, of course, is that the debt the province has ($272B as of Sept 30, 2012) could easily become more substantial if rates move. And they're liable to move.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 18:53:42 in reply to Comment 82397

I would barely call cutting funding to an LRT system that does not yet even exist Austerity. I would call doing so, spending prioritization more then anything, especially when other transportation projects that are more concisely planned then Hamilton's (like Toronto's expansion and Waterloo/Kitchener/Cambridge) are going forward, when your own article states it isn't an elimination of LRT but instead a much lengthier projection, when existing public transit already fills the niche LRT provides (albeit not as effectively I will completely admit) and is politically contentious in Hamilton, because as much as many hate to admit it, a large body of the Hamiltonian electorate doesn't desire or cares for LRT, even if that lack of desire is out of ignorance.

My view though is the projects I listed are direct, major causes of various public health risks (IE: Toxic Fish populations, blue algae blooms, perpetual swimming warnings and potential flood damages), is a massive scar to our city's image (having the 2nd worst environmental area of concern in our country) and whose costs to resolve will accelerate overtime far quicker in comparison to an LRT system which fundamentally is an improvement to an existing service, which will likely reduce a somewhat indeterminate amount of emissions, has a cost of implementation isn't likely to increase by anywhere near as high a rate and while much further down the road can reduce transportation costs, still possesses a very high start up cost.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-29 19:22:00

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 19:31:29 in reply to Comment 82400

I wouldn't be too concerned with the rate going up at this point as far as it's effects on the economy. I think it's pretty safe to say, with how long this rate has been so low, that any economic benefit that the low cost of lending could make, has pretty much been realized at this point.

However the effects of the rate effecting existing debt levels I would be concerned about, although I would resolve them through tax increases and freezing existing spending (no cutting though and still adjusting wages for inflation/cost of living). Sadly tax increases are typically the cyanide pill of a government, which I wish wasn't the case. As far personal debt, well I'd like to think we have strong enough regulations to prevent a lot of this from causing an issue. However apparently bad debt is going down amongst Canadians now.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-29 19:43:33

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 10:10:37 in reply to Comment 82397

So if this was your family budget and you didn't have enough revenue coming in, what would be the first thing you could do prior to finding new sources of revenue?

Stop spending maybe?

$150 million for a stadium, $800 million for LRT (which it appears we're going to be on the hook for at least part of), $100+ million for the cleanup of randle reef, millions for an aerotropolis, all in a post-manufacturing steel town with apparently no clue how to find its footing in a ultra-competitive global economy and move into the 21st century?

Some will say we need to spend this money, it is investment and for sure some of it should be spent (enviro clean up and sewers would be my priority) but there are larger global forces at play here, forces $13 an hour Canada bread jobs or James St. artist's studio galleries aren't going to do much to counteract. We need to be very careful how and what we spend our money on, the global economy is shifting right under our feet and there is very little municipal or even provincial governments can do to change that or buffer us from the brunt of its “equalizing” affects.

LRTs, while very nice, are a luxury for a city and province in the state ours are in. We are struggling to keep up with maintenance cost requirements for our current infrastructure and our current and future economic and employment prospects are less than rosy. We cannot afford to continue “planning for tomorrow” while falling behind today. An LRT right now would be akin to putting an addition on a house with a rotting foundation paid for on credit by a single-income family working on contract.

Over the decades there has always seemed to be some project that would “change Hamilton” but what we have now after all the money spent in this city is a broken down, pollution filled, poverty stricken city. The arenas, halls of fame, arts and entertainment venues, museums, city funded business parks and sundry other municipal projects have done little to stop the downward trend of Hamilton. The fundamentals in this town are too messed up.

In Hamilton we are reaching for the brass ring while standing in sewage (literally).

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 10:44:10 in reply to Comment 82460

Efficient transit is a fundamental requirement of moving into the 21st century. The stadium is a luxury. Aerotropolis is a simple case of feeding the pockets of land speculators who have been expecting windfall up there for 20+ years.

We need to attract high end jobs to our core, and make it dense and efficient. This has to include attracting residents. And good transit, good bike infrastructure, good walkability and livable neighbourhoods are absolutely necessary. They are not negotiable in the "post industrial future". So we either build it now or we build it later or we completely fail as a city. The sooner we do it, the cheaper it is and the sooner we start to reap benefits.

Instead, we put these things off and do asinine things like build roundabouts in farmland, approve cloverleaf intersections where all we need is a stoplight and fight the province on land use planning in order to convert an area the size of the entire bay to industrial use for industrial users that will never ever arrive (aerotropolis for anyone who doesn't recognize the reference).

LRT is not a luxury. It is not a single project that will "change Hamilton". But it has to be part of a greater strategy that we start implementing IMMEDIATELY.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 10:59:16 in reply to Comment 82405

Agree with you on Randle Reef. We need to address it today. Not tomorrow, not next week.

Regarding the sewage treatment - the reason we are "up sh*t creek" so to speak is because of the sprawl development we are intent on building.

LRT is one very large piece of a giant puzzle that, when complete, will mean more dense living. This density will allow us to continue to grow while stopping the addition of impermeable surfaces (sprawl). In fact, with proper planning we could even remove hard surfaces where they are unnecessary. What if an entire lane of Main Street was converted from asphalt to a permeable surface on which rails were built?

1mm of rain on 1 square metre produces 1 litre of water. One lane of Main from James to John is 900 square metres. So for each mm of rain that falls, just this one section of asphalt lane being converted to a permeable surface would save 900L of unnecessary sewage treatment.

How many lanes of how many streets are completely unnecessary in this city? And what would it mean to our bottom line if we didn't need to plow these lanes, fill the potholes, repave every 10 years and treat the rainwater that falls on them as sewage?

And if we had LRT and a proper transit system, could we have even fewer lanes?

Of course this kind of thinking is poisonous to most people, but they are in line with the rest of us screaming about taxes.

We need to be practising "ounces of prevention".

Aside: Do you have a rain barrel? We all should. Every drop of water we can keep out of the sewer will allow us to avoid the huge costs of upgrading treatment facilities.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-10-31 11:00:11

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By kiely (registered) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 13:30:03 in reply to Comment 82472

The foolhardiness of spending what you don’t have still applies to both Ryan. We are broke, we are in debt and have more money going out than coming in, with speculation of balanced budgets still just that, speculation. Currently this country’s only answer to recouping our lost revenue is increasing taxes, on the already over taxed cutting our already overstretched social services and raping our land of all its natural resources as quickly as we can with any method available (fracking, oil sands, etc…). I would like to see some better economic fundamentals in this country, province and city before we continue our spending on the hypothesized “future” while our present decays and crumbles.

If you find no economic wisdom in that, so be it.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 13:35:06 in reply to Comment 82468

LRT is a luxury if your existing bus network is sufficient or can be efficiently expanded to meet current demand Sean, ours probably is… we certainly don’t lack lanes or suffer from the congestion that can hamper bus transit especially on the proposed B-line. If we start getting the density and long touted change to the core okay, if the pennies are there do it. Until then do the simple and cheaper stuff, bike network, walkability, livable neighbourhoods, those things don't cost a billion dollars.

An LRT is nice (I worked for Bombardier I am converted, but I also know the true cost of these things and that their benefits can often be “oversold”), right now with the current economic conditions in this city and province it is very difficult to get people to buy-in to LRT and champion LRT. I think that is a confirmed fact about now isn't it?

We need to prioritise our spending. As a city we just appear to want everything and are not capable of prioritizing anything. Let’s get our existing infrastructure up to snuff, let's clean up our environmental mess, let's stop whole sections of the lower city from flooding when it rains, let’s kill the expensive and unnecessary aerotropolis, let's get a clue at city hall, let's star CREATING those high end jobs in this province, and then when the arrow is pointing up, maybe we can buy some nice toys ya?

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By density (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 13:45:03 in reply to Comment 82483

The answer to all of this is density.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 08:57:01 in reply to Comment 82487

These considerations are complicated when your investment draws on funding and logistical planning from two levels of government (and possibly the credit ratings of same). Hamilton could certainly close its $200 million infrastructure gap with borrowed money and move unilaterally to reinvest in our sewers, roads and bridges, as long as they weren't banking on matching funds from senior levels of government. That formula can sometimes turn a sprint into a three-legged race. Or, as is currently the case, a peanut race.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2012 at 09:45:37 in reply to Comment 82484

This is chicken/egg. You say "If we start getting the density and long touted change to the core".

This does not just happen by magic. We need to make planning decisions to create incentives for intensification. LRT is part of this and we can't just shelve it because it's too expensive. Infrastructure costs are always front loaded. An investment in our future. Why is LRT not viewed the same way?

We built a highway through the red hill creek even though nobody was trying to drive cars through it beforehand. We are planning to build an overpass at clappisons because we expect more traffic in the future. We are planning sewer expansions because we expect more toilet flushes. Some brainiacs want to spend a half billion MINIMUM on aerotropolis because there might be a warehouse that wants to locate up there someday. We don't bat an eye at these. But with transit, we aren't allowed to plan for the future (and use it to shape our future)? Why?

With transit it's always "wait til we are overflowing and then add a bus".

With transit we have to be cheapskate reactionaries?

With highways we just build them. This induces future demand and shapes our landscape.

It's time for a different shape.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 11:52:07 in reply to Comment 82504

According to Bratina, we even converted our streets to one-way based on future projections. There were no congestion issues at the time.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 15:46:47 in reply to Comment 82504

It is my belief we need to be cheapskates period.

Don't be smug - there's a financial crisis in Canada

From article:

But if we add the federal debt to provincial debt, unfunded liabilities for health care and some other programs — in the vicinity of $2 trillion — Canada today faces a debt problem that is comparable to the U.S. and the nations of Western Europe. By any standard, that is a crisis.

Go to Spain and see all the public infrastructure (including rail and transit links) they purchased with borrowed money from the EU... how'd that work out for them?

Money doesn't grow on trees, not even when it is government money and you want to buy transit with it.

We're spewing untreated sewage into red hill creek but want an LRT. Let's get real about priorities and how much money we have. Let’s begin prioritising what we need with a focus on first fixing the infrastructure and problems we already have and then we can pursue sensible improvements that may indeed include LRT. But let's get our finances in order first! All I see is spend, spend, spend, in this city and a lot of it is on crap we don't need like stadiums, aerotropolis, sprawl, etc...

You want me to simply ignore our cavalier budgeting and have us spend another billion on a transit project, for a city with bigger problems than lack of public transit, all in the hope that it will be a key component of the long-overdue Hamilton renaissance (i.e., gentrification). I simply can't buy in to that from my perspective and I’m not alone.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2012-11-01 15:47:21

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 06:30:53

Minister Chiarelli achieves a cabinet trifecta: Transportation + Infrastructure + Municipal Affairs

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 06:49:03 in reply to Comment 82526

One hitch in all of this is that governments invariably apply stimulus in a way that immediately accelerates growth, thereby goosing employment and staving off precipitous drops. So you typically end up with a geyser of public money going to the first best option, what are judged to be "shovel-ready" projects. These are often doled out with a view to political even-handedness more than needs-based or long-range criteria. While support for the status-quo seems to be prevalent (and there may even be compelling psychological reasons for this choice), that shouldn't preclude alternatives from contention. If Hamilton had laid sufficient groundwork for LRT in the early 2000s, we might be working on the B route today.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 06, 2012 at 19:19:21

Here is the link to an article titled "Metrolinx searches for cash to pay LRT" by Kevin Werner in the Hamilton Community News today:

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