Special Report: Light Rail

Lack of Vision Cripples Hamilton's Transit System

With vision and leadership, our current council could be building legacies worthy of naming rights instead of focusing on potholes.

By Sean Burak
Published December 19, 2014

According to this article, there is a shortage of buses on mountain routes.

Ward 7 Coun. Scott Duvall said his office has received numerous complaints from students and parents about HSR buses driving past waiting riders along Mohawk Road during morning and afternoon rush hours.

"We don't have enough buses," he said. "I'm getting a lot of complaints. There is a problem up there."

Duvall said students have been late to class because they couldn't get on the crowded bus. He said complaints about overcrowding, infrequent bus times, transfers and longer times for buses to get to their destinations began when school started in September.

Hamilton started seriously talking about higher-order transit in 2007. If city hall had handled the light rail transit (LRT) file properly from the start, we could have been well on our way with installation by now. We could even have had a portion completed before the Pan Am Games.

If this were the case, we'd be closer to a future where the B-Line would be properly serviced for the first time in decades, and scores of buses would be freed up to be redeployed on other routes across the city.

Instead, we have dragged our feet and accomplished nothing. Will the city continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into automobile lanes we don't need and overpasses to nowhere while investing the absolute bare minimum into transit?

Will we really tell the province "no thanks", and let them buy LRT for Burlington instead? And then will we go back to the province a year later and complain that Hamilton was overlooked by the higher levels of government?

We need to stand up and shout for our piece of the pie while it's there, else we'll be the ants scrambling for crumbs later.

Council keeps talking about being committed to LRT - but we all know that the "100 percent funding" caveat is an exit strategy, not a commitment. If the province requires one penny from Hamilton for any infrastructure related to higher order transit, council has left an opening to pull the plug.

This is not a reasonable position. It's no wonder the province hasn't committed to us. They are not so obtuse that they consider this wishy-washy "if and only if" position as strong support. Looking at it from their perspective, would you commit to Hamilton knowing that they have such a strong exit plan?

What is council's transit plan? LRT with an ejection seat, but otherwise... nothing? We can't change the past but we can start making up for our mistakes right now. All we need is Council's leadership.

The longer we put off transit investment, the more expensive it is going to be to do it later - and in the meantime our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow as we fail to shift any mode share from cars - the most expensive transportation option of them all.

The residents of Hamilton deserve a choice in how they move around. Will Council finally give it to them?

The time for leadership is now. Does anyone on Council care to leave a legacy in this city other than a footnote in wikipedia that says "longest time served"?

We once had leaders with world-class vision who left us a city bursting with infrastructure that still bears their names to this day. With vision and leadership, our current council could be building legacies worthy of naming rights instead of focusing on potholes.

The era of the drive-thru city is long over. Please, Council, help propel us into the progressive future that our hard-working citizens deserve.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:36:37

Great article, Sean. I share your frustration.

A telling comment that I heard from Wednesday's Council meeting re: the bus lane was Judi Partridge saying that she "takes care of HER residents and has not heard any positive feedback about the bus-only lane". Whaaat? Since when are councillors supposed to myopically focus on only their own ward to the exclusion of anything else in the entire city?

The question needs to be asked of all council and individual councillors: What is your vision for transit in this city? If not LRT, then how would you resolve the growing issue of inadequate service?

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By Move (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:32:03

Send the mayor and council an email with this article or the like. We need to apply the pressure.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 16:37:55 in reply to Comment 107245

This was actually originally an email to council that has been reprinted here.

Terry Whitehead responded in three words:

"Your kidding right?"

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:52:12 in reply to Comment 107251

Likewise, last week I sent him this article and highlighted the huge line-up at the bus stop on Main Street:

https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2...

His response: 'stop being myopic'.

Apparently it's myopic when hundreds of people wait over an hour for the bus as they get passed by continually (and have been for over a decade), but it's a serious problem that needs immediate fixing when students on the Mountain are passed by for the first time ever.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 09:39:48 in reply to Comment 107251

Even the contraction didn't get traction.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:56:52 in reply to Comment 107251

Was that Terry or his hairpiece talking? That thing has a mind of its own.

Actually, what bothers me most is not the glibness of his remark but the poor grammar.

Comment edited by DrAwesomesauce on 2014-12-19 22:00:20

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By kidding??? (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:04:14 in reply to Comment 107251

What an a-hole.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 17:15:34 in reply to Comment 107251

Oh goody.

As it happens, I just sent my own e-mail, linking your piece and discussing similar issues.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:52:06 in reply to Comment 107245

agreed. Although they've proven they only listen to 'feedback' that lines up with their auto-only biases. Feedback that is for proper city building is called whining, entitled, myopic and doesn't count as real feedback.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2014 at 16:06:25 in reply to Comment 107248

Likewise, 84 personally written letters in support of two-way conversion is not enough to get Council to actually carry out the two-way conversions they had already approved more than a decade earlier.

But four or five emails about water fountains at the stadium counts as a "public outcry".

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By kidding??? (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:03:20 in reply to Comment 107250

So where's the accountability then? I'm peeved off at this, esp. Whiteheads response.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:48:42 in reply to Comment 107257

there is none. They just happily plod along pretending the rest of the world hasn't figured out how to build healthy, successful cities.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 12:11:55

Normally poor grammar (especially lack or misuse of apostrophes) drives me crazy, but in this case, it's the entire lack of respect in the reply. I guess the feeling of job security is quite cushy at this point in the term.

I notice that in the listing of Sub Committees/Volunteer Committees, there is no listing for a Transit Volunteer Sub-Committee. Therefore, there is no organized conduit from the general public to City Council for suggested improvements. This should change.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 16:33:08 in reply to Comment 107273

So, as is common practice here, let's put you on the spot to take it upon yourself to make it happen:

When will you volunteer to start it up? Be bold. Go out and become a community activist!

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