Hudak Threatens to Nix LRT, Bratina Unfazed

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 29, 2013

An article in the Globe and Mail notes that Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak would focus regional transit dollars on subways in Toronto and cancel LRT and other rapid transit projects elsewhere in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

Some GTHA mayors, like Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, are upset about this and have called Hudak out for "interfering" with their plans to anchor and focus dense, mixed-use development around their respective rapid transit plans.

Then you have Hamilton's mayor.

In Hamilton, where a future LRT could be nixed by Mr. Hudak's plan, Mayor Bob Bratina said the current plan is to begin with buses and that it would be "likely many years" before ridership warranted light rail.

"The Ministry is well aware that our Rapid Ready transit plan begins with enhanced bus service to grow ridership to ultimately support LRT," he said in an e-mail. "Our first concern therefore is a funding partnership with the province to set the plan in motion."

So Bratina is still clinging to his Bizarro-World interpretation of the Rapid Ready report, which endorses Hamilton's plan to build the east-west B-Line LRT.

As City Manager Chris Murray explained to Council, the purpose of Rapid Ready is to make the case for the Province to fund LRT, "and if they choose to for whatever reason defer it, then we're saying we're still there wanting to see the other investments made as well."

But Bratina keeps pretending the report says we should do those other things and then, maybe one day years from now, we should think about doing LRT if it makes sense.

As for his claim about ridership: according to the March 2010 HSR Operational Review, buses operating on the east-west LRT route already carry 13,000 passengers a day. In other words, we have more than enough ridership to justify LRT right now.

More to the point, LRT systems tend to outperform even optimistic ridership growth projections. For example, Charlotte NC's Lynx LRT line, which opened in 2007, was supposed to carry 9,100 daily passengers on opening and grow to 18,000 by 2025.

What actually happened is that ridership had already reached 18,600 by the first quarter of 2008. Nearly three quarters of Lynx riders were new to public transit.

Other cities are now trying to get their LRT system construction plans fast-tracked because Hudak has said he would respect existing contracts. But in Hamilton, our mayor has spent the past three years trying to undermine, stall and delay our LRT plan, which Council approved back in February and the Province says it will build once financing is in place.

It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Hamilton is left out as the only major municipality in the GTHA without a rapid transit plan because our chief magistrate and ostensible champion incomprehensibly refuses to fight for funding from Queen's Park.

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 lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:31:59

Why do we allow him to speak on these matters if his view does not meet the majority of council's? "Personally, I am not sold on the benefit, but our council, staff, and many citizens in Hamilton's business and engagement community believe in and support this initiative." I have a standpoint, but it's not met by the majority of decision makers.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:39:55

It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Hamilton is left out as the only major municipality in the GTHA without a rapid transit plan because our chief magistrate and ostensible champion incomprehensibly refuses to fight for funding from Queen's Park.

It's no accident why Hamilton was virtually frozen in time the past 50 years in the midst of Canada's most prosperous region. Partly due to industrial collapse. A lot due to horrid leadership. The next 50 years looks to be no different.

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By facepalmer (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:42:09

The worst part is if Hudak wins he says he'll fund his transit plan using existing tax revenue so that means Hamilton will help pay for rapid transit we won't be getting. Hooray! Great job Bob!

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 10:43:47

btw, enough of this idea that 'enhanced buses' will somehow cause people to fall all over themselves running to the bus-stop every morning in such huge numbers that we'll need LRT lines all over the place. Transit ridership can grow with better service, bus-lanes, signal-priority etc.... but if the Mayor really wants to 'grow ridership', plop down a couple LRT lines and stand back.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 11:01:17

Imagine Hamilton's lower city with 100,000 more people packed into its neighbourhoods.

Keanin Loomis can imagine that new world. In fact, the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce says it has to become a reality if the city's economy is to grow.

Loomis told The Spectator's editorial board Tuesday that pushing the city's population to 650,000 over the next 20 to 30 years will provide the "critical mass" of people needed to support the controversial LRT transit plan and, in turn, growth of the economy.

"We're still short of that critical mass in many parts of the city," he said.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2013 at 11:10:24

Let's be fair here. Do the Liberals have any intention of actually funding an LRT here? They promised it in 2007 and as far as I can tell we are moving backwards. Sure they'll jerk us around like today and say Hudak will cost us LRT, but really they just keep it moving forward and keep it nebulous and funding their priorities in Toronto (where they are in an actual battle for seats).

Bratina has been a problem to be sure. If we had a leader that pointed out what Toronto has received per capita in transit capital funding and that Hamilton should receive funding commensurate with that, maybe we would be farther along and maybe we would get more citizens on board because of the fairness issue. Look at the Scarborough subway funding. Scarborough's population isn't that much more than Hamilton and if we got the same capital funding per capita (and from the feds too) we could build a LRT. The sad fact is, there will always be a project in Toronto that will get priority.

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