Comment 86574

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2013 at 09:05:54

Give us back our L. That’s L as in Light, as in Light Rail Transit. Not Rapid Transit. Not Bus Rapid Transit. LRT.

The pursuit of LRT for Hamilton is the stated objective of city council. The chamber of commerce agrees. Homebuilders agree. Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) agree. Urbanists agree. Downtown developers agree. Yes, it’s hugely expensive and it’s not going to happen in the next year or two. But Light Rail Transit remains a viable and worthwhile objective.

Why, then, did provincial transportation authority Metrolinx officially change the acronym for the Hamilton project from LRT to RT? The official answer from Metrolinx is that it was changed based on the belief that residents — that would be us — don’t know what LRT means. Really? We’ve been debating, talking and visioning light rail in this city for at least five years. We defy Metrolinx to come up with a significant percentage of the population that doesn’t know that, and know exactly what LRT means. That rationale is bogus.

The transportation authority also says the change was made in consultation with Hamilton officials. Which officials? The city manager doesn’t know anything about it. Neither do councillors involved in the LRT project. Neither does the person in charge of public works, or the city’s director of transit. Metrolinx won’t say who it consulted with, so we’re left to speculate. Was it the mayor’s office, given his unwillingness to champion the LRT vision? If not, then who?

Some will argue simply changing the acronym isn’t significant. Maybe. But people who should know disagree, pointing out that the sudden change, unique among cities pursuing LRT, muddies the waters and may suggest there is cooling on LRT and willingness to simply accept BRT. That is not the case. On Feb. 25 a massive report goes to city council in its general issues committee incarnation, in which transit staff managers make an impressive case for the city’s continuing LRT aspirations. (More on that later this week.) There is no indication council, or the numerous LRT proponents throughout the city, are backing off or softening their resolve.

So again we ask: Why the change? And why the change without consultation with key stakeholders in Hamilton? It is significant. It does muddy the waters and may well put Hamilton on a different playing field as compared to other municipalities — Mississauga comes to mind — that continue to vigorously pursue LRT.

So, Metrolinx, reverse this. It was easy enough to change in the first place, so it cannot be difficult to change it back. Call it what it is. Yes, there are questions requiring answers, especially around who pays for what.

But just about every progressive mind in this city recognizes the value and potential LRT offers. Give us back the L.

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