Special Report

Anti-Urban Outlook Drives LRT Opponents

It's time to develop a narrative around LRT that speaks to its great potential for Hamilton and that portrays Hamilton as the city it is and the city it can be, a narrative that revolves around hope, determination, ambition and vision.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 30, 2010

The debate over Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) proposal is entering familiar territory - the same territory we covered during the stadium debate.

It starts with an important issue that generates considerable public interest. A progressive consensus backed by evidence emerges. Promising sounds are made by various levels of government.

Hamiltonians get a growing sense that the deal is done.

Then the process starts dragging on. A final decision is delayed. The province mysteriously shuts up, leaving the municipal government with no clear idea of what's going on.

But the deal is still done, in the minds of most people. Council votes have been taken, the Spectator and the Chamber are on board, visiting experts on urban issues extol the benefits of the city's stated preference.

People move on. After all, there are other issues to think about, and not just municipal ones, either.

That's when the naysayers, the NIMBYs, the exceptionalists and the anecdotalists see their moment. "Now, now," they say knowingly, "let's be realistic. This is Hamilton. What works in other cities might work well there, but it won't work here, because..."

That moment has arrived for LRT in Hamilton.

A trickle of negative, emotional (and simply unfactual) letters to the editor has started appearing in the Hamilton Spectator. Bill Kelly is casting doubt on LRT's benefits, asking, "Is Hamilton even placed in a position to see [the] economic growth [from LRT]?" and featuring a professor from the University of Waterloo who says that LRT works in Salt Lake City, but won't work in Hamilton.

Unless LRT opponents are countered, light rail transit in Hamilton will join the list of projects that would have, could have, should have changed Hamilton for the better - until they died.

Some LRT opponents are worried about personal inconveniences like traffic congestion during LRT construction, or own car-dependent businesses they worry will be negatively affected by LRT. These are honest concerns that should and will be addressed, though some short-term pain in the interest of long-term gain is inevitable.

Other opponents have been swayed by the LRT criticism they've heard and read, and are susceptible to changing their minds if they can be convinced of the evidence in favour of LRT. Others are simply ignorant.

But the most dangerous and committed opponents of LRT are those that have an anti-urban outlook. They believe that Hamilton is a failed city and as such is not worth investing in. They want Hamilton to be a conglomeration of bland suburbs, a so-called "bedroom community".

Their strategy is to create is a division between the suburbs and downtown. They argue that LRT is only in the interest of downtown, even though a vibrant downtown is in the interest - including the financial interest, from a distribution of taxes perspective - of people who live in the suburbs too.

LRT is too expensive, they claim, and it only benefits the downtown.

But downtown has had to live with the ongoing fare raises (and corresponding ridership decreases) at the HSR. Downtown has had to live with what Hamilton spends on roads: $70 million this year and $82 million last year, much of it spent on roads that downtown residents never drive on, including the burgeoning stock of sprawl-servicing roads which the city must maintain.

Hamilton spent $439 million building the Red Hill Valley Parkway and the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. In addition to those capital costs, both of those suburban roads generate significant annual maintenance costs, which are born by taxpayers, not fare-payers. Area rating does not apply to roads, but it applies to public transit, so while suburban Hamiltonians pay less for public transit they use less, a tax break is not given to downtown residents who rarely or never drive down the Linc or the RHVP.

Worst of all, however, are the downtown freeways which choke neighbourhoods, pollute the air, and outright kill people whose principal fault was to get in the way. Although we've spent billions developing a ring road system to channel trucks around the city, truck routes still criss-cross the downtown (though progress has been made).

The residents of the lower city deserve LRT, and building it in the lower city benefits everyone. And once the B-line is built, we can build the A-line and make mountain residents happy too.

People are frightened by emotions but comforted by facts. LRT opponents evoke emotions using anecdotes, sarcasm, unsubstantiated predictions of abject failure, strawman arguments and inflated costs. These can be countered by facts, and if you need some, Hamilton Light Rail is a rich source.

But they also need to be countered by positive emotions. It's time to develop a narrative around LRT that speaks to its great potential for Hamilton and that portrays Hamilton as the city it is and the city it can be, a narrative that revolves around hope, determination, ambition and vision.

Hamilton is not a failed city. Downtown is not a lost cause. By basing our decisions on evidence, by staying focused on progressive initiatives like LRT, and by encouraging city council to act decisively, we can turn Hamilton into the envy of municipalities across Southern Ontario.

Please consider contacting the media and your councillors and local MPPs. LRT is vitally important. As progressive Hamiltonians with a vision for this city, let's keep the heat on until the deal is well and truly done.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 30, 2010 at 22:48:53

and we wonder why these old, tired media outlets are going under.
CHML needs a serious wake-up call.

They continue to refer to this massive appetite for change that Hamilton voters displayed during the election. Really?? Only ONE person was voted onto council who wasn't there previously (not counting spots that were vacated). And that one person was someone who's viewpoint meshed perfectly with CHML's.

ONE person out of 16 is great change? CHML actually thinks they know what's going on in Hamilton, when in reality they are in their own little bubble completely disconnected from reality. The Spec operated in this manner for decades until just recently, but it appears to be too late as they had already lost my generation as possible customers.

Today's Spec had a hilarious light rail letter. And the person was serious. He/she said that Hamilton can't have LRT because the trains can't go up hills. LOL. Yea, Hamilton's 500 foot 'Mountain' is the tallest point on earth.
And we're supposed to feel bad for these organizations when they go belly-up?? Wake up, and get back in touch with reality.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-11-30 21:49:49

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 30, 2010 at 22:50:32

by the way, great letter Ade!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 01:06:09

And that one person was someone who's viewpoint meshed perfectly with CHML's.

Brenda Johnson's viewpoint meshes perfectly with CHML's?

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By wentworthst (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 03:34:15

"It's time to develop a narrative around LRT that speaks to its great potential for Hamilton and that portrays Hamilton as the city it is and the city it can be, a narrative that revolves around hope, determination, ambition and vision."

Me, I love Hamilton for the downtown (and those potentials) most of all.

I've lived in 6 cities over the last 15 years (worked in many more), from as sleepy as Orangeville to as exciting as Amsterdam. We bought here-- a fantastic Victorian downtown-- and have never been happier with where we live.

This pretty much is Amsterdam, most days it sure looks and feels the same... Call it, Canada's Amsterdam.

See, when I worked in Holland, folks we dealt with from other cities would ask "Why live in Amsterdam? It's so dirty; it's got prostitution and drugs and poor people..."

But it is a beautiful city (and where they live is boring). Amsterdam is just Holland's Hamilton; sure, maybe an old, gritty and strange port. But an exceptionally amazing one for those same reasons.

Yeah, there's work to be done... But its good work!

Comment edited by wentworthst on 2010-12-01 02:36:20

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 06:05:30

Call it, Canada's Amsterdam.

In the debate over whether Hamilton should build a network of bike lanes, a Hamilton squelcher once told me, "That might work in Amsterdam, but this is Hamilton!"

Now I have a response for him.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 06:23:22

Wow...I've never heard Hamilton compared to Amsterdam. I'll have to go back and have a closer look. Great comment, just the same.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 07:57:57

And the person was serious. He/she said that Hamilton can't have LRT because the trains can't go up hills.

Wow. Were they hurting for letters that day?

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-12-01 06:58:22

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 08:23:28

Given that letters are curated/moderated by an editor before publication, is it acceptable to publish a letter that contains provably false empirical claims just to maintain "balance" in opinions?

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 08:29:34

Yes, newspapers seem to print a proportionate representation of the letters they receive from both sides of an issue, which is why it's important to get a letter sent in, even if it's not published. Perhaps that's the best the anti-LRT crowd had to offer.

Write in, folks-- even one letter composed of one pithy sentence helps bump up the numbers!

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-12-01 07:40:16

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 08:42:20

I think I know what the next Our City Our Future campaign has to be!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 09:32:34

highwater...I was referring to Mitchell...the one person who lost. Sorry for the confusion. LOL

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 10:20:22

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 10:21:20

Here's what I don't get: do people living on the Hamilton Mountain like commuting to Mississauga? Wouldn't they rather have the destination be just down the mountain instead of an hour away in bumper-to-bumper traffic?

So why do they dump on attempts to rescue Downtown and create employment in the core?

That said, I think a lot of the ill-will towards LRT that I'm hearing is coming from people who have less specific complaints about the concept itself and more that they just don't trust the municipal government to be competent, particularly with such a mega-project.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 11:51:55

LRT will only be used by people who currently use the HSR.

Like most arguments against LRT I've seen, this is empirically false. In the US over the past several years, the strongest annual rates of transit ridership growth have been in cities that had build LRT systems - as much as 10% annually over the past couple of years, with equivalent reductions in driving.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 12:06:30

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By And While You are At It (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 12:51:06

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By JM (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 12:52:24

I live on the Hamilton Mountain and commute to Mississauga..................... and no, I don't like it. Would love to have more opportunities to find a job in the core, and live down there as well!

JM

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 12:57:14

PxTl, I was thinking the same thing - the opponents I'm most worried about are the ones who are so cynical they're not willing to believe in anything coming from the city. I might feel the same way if I hadn't seen this all getting organized before City Hall jumped on board. Most of these people have rather simple complaints (routing, funding etc), and can be convinced. We just need to work a little harder.

As for those of whom Adrian speaks, they require much less work. I'm not a big fan of off-hand dismissals, but if their greatest feat is naming our city, I don't know what else we can offer up. I personally can't think of a better reason to support LRT than 'this is Hamilton, after all'.

As for the dirty, drug-infested, crime-ridden cesspool known as Amsterdam, I love it too. I'm really not sure that most people who whine constantly about how dirty our town is have travelled much. Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcellona - these are not terribly safe places to be after dark. And yet, they thrive. It isn't about waiting until cities are safe and perfect to do something worthwhile - it's about doing it anyway.

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By urbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 13:08:48

It isn't about waiting until cities are safe and perfect to do something worthwhile - it's about doing it anyway.

Quote of the day Undustrial!

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By LRTSupporter (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 13:36:50

Look, I am an LRT supporter but the financial question has to be answered. It isn't a minor issue or simple complaint as Undustrial states. Unless we can answer these questions, it will never be supported.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 13:40:42

Which question? How much will it cost to build? How much will it cost to operate? Who will pay for it? They're straw man questions because they are being asked and they are being answered, the city is doing a planning and design phase right now and Metrolinx is working with them closely. The province already said they would pay the "lions share" of the bill and now that Toronto is pulling the plug on Transit City it should be easier for Hamilton to get to the top of the list. The people who oppose LRT don't care about the facts, they just want to sling enough mud on it to make the average joe start to have doubts, once that happens council will fold like a cheap card table and the Hammer will be back to square one. Twenty years from now people will write "Remember when..." stories about how Hamilton had another chance to build a modern LRT ("Remember when..." we had that chance in the 80's?) and blew it. Frig, what a screwed up city we live in.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 13:57:40

@Undustrial -- very true. You could say the same thing about some of the in-demand areas of Toronto. In fact, I know a very successful director who sought out a west-downtown Toronto neighbourhood for it's uhhh, "mosaic" shall we say. He stated he loved the nice urban setting that had some close proximity to a healthy dose of 'character'.

Even where I'm working, I know a few cases where that sought after young, creative, successful-type is locating in downtown Hamilton...and loving it.

Personally, I'm a 'burbanite (for various reasons, many borne of compromise) that would relish the opportunity to commute via public transit to work in downtown Hamilton. Thankfully (..and this is a matter of my own opinion) I feel I'm informed enough to understand the dynamics that show the 'burbs over-indexes in the benefits paid for by taxes. Thus, I whole-heartedly support the reinvigoration of our downtown. (And, even selfishly seeing that a thriving downtown would ease my own tax burden -- not that we'd ever see a drop. But resources and upgrades could be more frequent, functionality and aesthetics would improve and, thus, ("but what about me?!?!?) my property values would likely rise in relativity to improved (perceived) quality of life and proximity to opportunity.

This is what needs to be sold to the average sleepy suburbanite. Generally, people aren't living in the suburbs because they want to concern themselves with other people's problems. Quite the contrary -- hence the 12 foot fences and privacy shrubs. But, not all can be painted with that brush. Many are quasi-real estate investors or seeking familiarity from their own childhood lifestyle...or, it simply floats their boat. Many of these folks do see the world beyond the end of their driveway. But, selling the idea that a better downtown Hamilton means something to the dude in Dundas could help move these initiatives along.

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By nic (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 14:52:28

IF you really wanted to see the core take off ...take this quote
Call it, Canada's Amsterdam.

and actually do it !

legalize soft drugs ( pot & hash) and create a 'red' light district downtown ... Watch the property values soar and crime decrease...
It may seem bassakwards but the tax and licensing revenue would be astounding ... I lived in Kensington Market for twenty years , and i've witnessed it ... sure there was no defacto law but the effct was the same ... the biggest complainers would be the people selling dime bags in gore park

BTW these skill testing math question really make me think!

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 15:27:15

There is only one question that must be addressed clearly and unequivocally and with solid relevant empirical evidence, and it is not a question that will be posed by a letter to the editor or by Hamilton Council. It is the inevitable question to be posed by the Metrolinx board: Will LRT in Hamilton attract sufficient fare-paid ridership to make it a viable operation?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 15:42:22

@realitycheck

You mean will it pay for itself, in terms of fares paid by riders?

Absolutely not.

But no transit system, not roads or subways or busses, does that.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 16:11:50

Pxtl, Reality check didn't ask if it would pay for it's self. Why do you feel the need to put unnecessary words in their mouth? His question was if the fair paid rider numbers would be high enough to make it a "VIABLE" operation. If your answer is still "absolutely not" (I'm not saying that it is.. is it?), then we might as well close the book on LRT right now.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 16:13:13

I guess the question I have is related to realitycheck's: assuming the eventual property investment around the LRT, will the tax base increase enough to pay for the system in 30 years?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 16:30:22

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By Ancopa (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 17:37:11

Will LRT in Hamilton attract sufficient fare-paid ridership to make it a viable operation?

Well that's a pretty vague question. What exactly do you mean by 'viable'? That question can be interpreted in a number of ways in this context. Please clarify.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2010 at 17:55:52

Will LRT in Hamilton attract sufficient fare-paid ridership to make it a viable operation?

The current readership on the overburdened B-line is enough to justify LRT. Total riders will only continue to grow with an LRT that can accommodate it. LRT readership growth routinely exceeds even optimistic projections.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 18:08:35

Ryan >> The current readership on the overburdened B-line is enough to justify LRT.

If that's true, why don't you go to the banks and take the risk of funding LRT. The HSR was started as a PRIVATE business, so you could follow in their footsteps. If you aren't willing to do this, it indicates you realize that LRT will not make money, it will lose millions. Actions speak louder than words.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 18:21:47

A Smith, Your suggestion echos my thoughts. I wasn't planning on posting about my thoughts, but I was thinking along similar lines to you. I was thinking to myself that if Ryan is positive that LRT is going to be, without a doubt, great for Hamilton because of all the undistributed proof that he loves to offer up, I wonder if he would be willing to be held accountable if it is a horrible failure.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 18:43:30

A Smith,

I asked this question of you on another thread which you have ignored so I am re-posting it here.

You asked,"The question to LRT supporters is this, why should taxpayers fund a system that will disproportionately benefit property owners who live near the line? If these people will be the prime beneficiaries, why can't they finance it, rather than taxpayers?"

To which I responded," I think your question is valid up to a point, however if we apply that thinking then why didn't the homeowners and property holders on Stoney Creek Mountain fund the Red Hill Valley Parkway?"

Can you please answer my question about the RHVP using your logic about the LRT.

Thank you.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 19:25:21

I wonder if he would be willing to be held accountable if it is a horrible failure.

I wonder if you would be willing to be held accountable for your horrible trolling. Stop pretending to care and stop wasting our time.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 20:31:29

I just spent 5 days in Edmonton and their LRT is working very well. So well in fact, if Hamilton built an LRT I would stop using my vehicle to drive to work.

And the proposed system here is far superior to Edmonton's system....

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 21:37:57

SpaceMonkey >> I wonder if he would be willing to be held accountable if it is a horrible failure.

I would settle for an answer to a simple question.

MrJanitor >> I think your question is valid up to a point, however if we apply that thinking then why didn't the homeowners and property holders on Stoney Creek Mountain fund the Red Hill Valley Parkway?

I agree 100%. If the RHVP was in such great demand by business and consumers, why did taxpayers need to finance it? It could have been operated as a toll road. The great thing about a toll road is that you only pay if you use it.

z jones >> Stop pretending to care and stop wasting our time.

If you believe that LRT is a great investment, why don't you and other LRT supporters work with property owners to raise the financing. You can spearhead the project, arrange a fee based on property value appreciation and enjoy the fruits that come with taking risk.

Make some calls, show some passion and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 22:19:14

Stop being such a bully ZJones. ZJones said "Stop pretending to care and stop wasting our time" and was awarded with 6 out of 6 up votes. His comment was far more insulting and less thought provoking and it is up voted while my comment was down voted. I find your comment insulting ZJones and the idea that so many of you back up this sort of behavior disappointing.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 22:29:18

I live here and I care. Just because I think critically about things, ask questions and want to gather as much information about something before for taking a stand on an issue, doesn't make me a troll. Based on the posts in this thread people like ZJones are, by definition, much more of a troll than I am (and I'm not). Some of the posters here, and what seems to be the general attitude of this website, are going to get a reputation for labeling anyone that asks questions and may not agree with Ryan's views as being a troll. Just so you all know, I support the idea of LRT in general. I was really excited and happy when I first heard about LRT. I care enough and was excited enough that I cancelled plans to attend the information session at city hall to learn more about the LRT plans. It wasn't until I saw the plans that I started to think to myself "oh no... this is so not what I thought it was going to be" and I started to ask questions and become skeptical about if the plans, as laid out, would work for our city. I think what some people are having trouble understanding is that just because someone isn't sold on the current plan for LRT in Hamilton, or has some concerns about certain parts of the plan, doesn't make them a NIMBY or a evil person who is trying to sabotage Hamilton. I think it could actually be argued that people who are asking questions and not sold entirely on the current plan, and want to see changes to make it better care MORE about it than people who just willy nilly agree "LRT good... must do" because that's what they heard somewhere. So in summary, I'm in total agreement that when done right LRT can be GREAT for a city. I'm just not sold on the current plan for Hamilton and I'm worried it might do more harm than good when considering a long term view point. If we're going to go through the trouble and spend the money to do this thing, lets do it RIGHT!

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 22:43:45

One thing I was wondering about. Perhaps some of you have an answer for me. I was thinking about the tunnel that would have to be dug for the A line to go up the mountain. That must be super expensive. What about, if instead of that tunnel, the money was used to dig a tunnel from Burlington St and James St N, through to the 403, coming out around Kay Drage Park. That would effectively get almost all of the truck traffic off the city streets and would make for a true ring highway. Has this been considered in that past? If not, what are people's thoughts about it?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2010 at 22:49:53

David Colacci, that's what happens when people educate themselves and experience a system instead of just reading the Rob Ford playbook of how to keep your city sucking.

Lloyd Ferguson even came back from Portland and Charlotte all geared up for LRT when he experienced the systems.
This could be Hamilton's time to shine. While TO embarks on a plan to destroy their city the way many others, including ours, did back in the 50's and 60's Hamilton can now step into the future. Think ahead 5 years if Hamilton can build our E/W LRT line while TO takes away bike lanes, rips up streetcars and starts a 10 years subway project to nowhere (Scarborough). Hamilton will start looking much more progressive and livable than our gridlocked car-centred city down the highway.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 00:05:02

Spacemonkey, i think you are getting the drift of this crowd. If you look in the right column under Blogs, you will see in the previous discussion, they have a great deal of difficulty grappling with the money aspect and will hurl all kind of invective at any doubters such as myself. As the headline says, any opponent is now tarred with the 'anti-urban' brush. Check out the arguments previous, I've no time for repeating myself except to note, once again, that simple interest on a billion is $10 million for each percent of interest rate and i wonder what poverty activists think of gambling such money on these speculative ventures.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/1999/...

PS. I love Ryan's little double Freudian spelling slip - he wants to spend a billion to increase readership! (@16:55:52) Ya. Just a game. No responsibility. Like Thatcher said, socialists love to spend other people's money.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 06:12:11

If I thought A Smith had any interest whatsoever in an honest discussion, I would be happy to discuss his arguments. However, we have had this exact same debate many times, and A Smith refuses to acknowledge that there is anything more to economics than the first chapter or two of The Wealth of Nations. (The real Adam Smith would be appalled.)

Transit is a public good, with very large and well-documented positive externalities. Like other public goods, including roads, education, and investment in innovation, the free market tends to under-invest in transit because the direct investors only capture part of the benefits and the rest flow to society as a whole.

Every economist to the left of Friedrich Hayek understands this, but libertarian trolls on the internet clearly want nothing to do with it and prefer to gum up real discussions with cargo cult theorizing.

SpaceMonkey, I clearly responded to your question about ridership and your response was to shift focus into insinuations. I suspect people upvoted Z Jones' comment because they believe you're concern trolling.

As for the A-Line tunnel, there's no reason the city can't route that line right up the Claremont Access, which has a grade gentle enough that an LRT can easily navigate it. They're not even at the planning stage for that line yet, so the point is moot for now.

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By Edward Graydon (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 06:20:32

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By Horsekick (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 07:22:21

Edward, I can't for the life of me imagine why you weren't elected mayor....

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 08:40:37

Love the embedded links Ryan, very Justin Raimando!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 08:55:12

I had to look up that reference, mrjanitor. With a registered RTH user account, you, too can embed links all over the place!

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 08:59:59

Someday I will learn how to use RTH properly, still don't know how to get the cool blue box when quoting another post!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 09:30:04

To quote someone else, enter a greater-than symbol followed by the text on the same line:

> Someday I will learn how to use RTH properly

It displays like this:

Someday I will learn how to use RTH properly

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By BLiner (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 09:42:11

@DavidColacci

The LRT will mirror the current B-Line for route and stops. Here's my challenge to you; Stop driving your car now and start taking the B-Line.

What's stopping you? Please don't tell us that tired old line; "I don't like buses, but if you put it on rails I'll love it." I was on the B-Line on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings this week, and it's not so bad.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 10:56:33

Actually, the LRT B Line will have a few different stops than the current B Line. The LRT will run two-ways on one street instead of this annoying split between King and Main, thereby saving passengers from having to figure out where to walk to catch the corresponding train. LRT will be in it's own lanes with it's own stop lights, greatly speeding up the trip LRT will have sliding doors that open for a period of time and close. No more having an entire bus held up by some guy standing on the sidewalk asking the driver 7 questions about the HSR. No more lineup to get on with transfers, tickets etc.... LRT will have more seats and space for extra people LRT will be a much more smooth, comfortable ride.

LRT is nothing like the current B Line.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 11:02:28

What's stopping you?

It's not very fast, it get's stuck in traffic, it's bumpy and uncomfortable, it's way overcrowded (how many full buses have passed me standing on the bus stop), what did I forget? (I do use the bus but these are big pain points for me)

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 11:11:16

Ryan, stop wasting everybody's time with your loony monorail scheme. Taxpayer dollars surely aren't meant to fund transportation infrastructure. Why couldn't it just be funded by banks, like all of our roads? And really, the fact that you aren't personally assuming a few hundred dollars in liability proves you're not really serious, anyway.

End sarcasm.

Seriously, as someone who has been a part of several anti-road protests where people did put their homes on the line (or rather, the government threatened to take them and people didn't back down), talk of personal liability in these matters scares me a lot. At what point are some of the people dumping billions in automobile-related costs on the public going to take responsibility for their overwhelming share of these expenses, as well as the death and destruction which result?

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 11:59:44

Some people were asking what I meant by viable when I asked if LRT would attract enough fare-paid riders to make it viable. Let me clarify. While the lion's share of the LRT's capital costs will be covered by Metrolinx, there will be an annual operational cost associated with running the LRT after it has been built. The question that Metrolinx will have for this city before writing a cheque to build the LRT is whether it can fund its operation. In order to answer that, we need to see what the estimated operational costs will be and how thoses costs will be covered.

As we have seen in recent news articles, HSR's current budget is already hard-pressed to meet the ridership needs on its buses as it is. The new LRT needs to generate enough income to cover its operational costs or else it will become an additional strain on a transit operational budget already at its breaking point. The city must demonstrate that there will be an increase in fare-paid ridership and other LRT-related revenue streams sufficient to cover the operational costs associated with the LRT system. This is what I mean by viability.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:06:38

@realitycheck:

As we have seen in recent news articles, HSR's current budget is already hard-pressed to meet the ridership needs on its buses as it is. The new LRT needs to generate enough income to cover its operational costs or else it will become an additional strain on a transit operational budget already at its breaking point. The city must demonstrate that there will be an increase in fare-paid ridership and other LRT-related revenue streams sufficient to cover the operational costs associated with the LRT system.

I think you meant to say:

As we have seen in recent news articles, Public Works' current budget is already hard-pressed to meet the maintenance needs on its roads as it is. The new RHVP needs to generate enough income to cover its operational costs or else it will become an additional strain on a roads operational budget already at its breaking point. The city must demonstrate that there will be an increase in tolls and other road-related revenue streams sufficient to cover the operational costs associated with the RHVP system.

We don't ask our roads to pay for themselves. We pay for them out of general tax revenues (which is dumb, but it's what we do.) Why hold public transit to a higher standard?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:12:02

I think it would be interesting to discuss alternative funding mechanisms for LRT... city bonds or something. If there was some sort of investment opportunity I would certainly consider it. Even Mr Smith would be happy to see individuals and private companies helping to pay for the rails.

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By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:13:12

If you compare the bus ride with a train ride you will notice people reading while riding on the train. That alone tells that the train ride is more comfortable. We pay for quality things - cars, houses, etc.
LRT is mostly about the qaulity of life and it's one of the most prominent way to show the city life quality, if you want to attract to DT. It's also a solution for tight DT traffic. Also one bus - one driver, while the train can be long enough to pick up as many as there are.
It's true that when I have a choice of bus ride vs street car I choose street car despite the bus stop closer to my home. And when there is no choice but the bus I'd better stay home or look for other alternatives (subway, etc. even if takes longer).

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:25:47

The GTA has gotten commitments of $8 Billion from the province.

Hamilton has about 1/10th the population of the GTA. So by that metric, we should be seeing about $800 million for LRT.

So, what are the odds we'll see a dime?

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By BLiner (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:38:22

I think people need to consider the following;

- LRT will only be to replace the current B-Line. There will still be buses running to service the inbetween stops.
- The LRT trains will only be as long as the platform built to service it
- I read on the bus everyday, so I know it can be done

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:44:13

This is what I mean by viability.

You raise a valid point. The city is currently in the process of analyzing these questions through the planning process, but a general benefit to LRT is that its per-passenger operating costs are significantly lower than buses:

  • Fuel costs are lower
  • Vehicle capacity is much higher
  • Less vehicle maintenance required
  • Vehicle lifespan is 3 to 4 times longer

I don't have the hard numbers to do a full analysis, but given that LRT ridership routinely far exceeds even optimistic projections, an LRT in Hamilton can significantly reduce the average per-capita operating cost. Further, people become more willing to take buses as feeders to LRT, so an LRT can help fill existing buses and reduce their per-capita operating costs as well.

Nevertheless, it seems clear that a successful LRT introduction will ultimately mean the City spends more overall on transit than it does now. However, the net benefit will far exceed the net increase in cost.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:56:04

Ryan, I really think you have the wrong impression of me and my intentions. When you said that you "clearly responded to (my) question about ridership", you were actually responding to RealityCheck's question. I didn't ask any questions in that post. I was just making note that Pxtl's response to RealityCheck was off the mark. I think you (and everyone else) got the wrong impression about my post regarding the thought that crossed my mind. I don't think that you should be held accountable (that would be a ridiculous thing to expect) if LRT turns out to be a failure (I hope that it doesn't). I wasn't trying to shift focus or insinuate anything. I was speaking directly to ASmith, trying simply to let him know that a similar thought crossed my mind, to let him know that he wasn't alone in his thinking. If there was a PM feature here, I would have used that. I hope one day, you'll see that I'm here for the right reasons. I've given up on trying to convince the others of such.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:01:27

Also, Ryan, I wasn't trying to make a point about a tunnel. Please read that post again and pretend that someone like MrJanitor wrote it. I think that your impression of me may cloud your judgment of my intentions and my posts sometimes. I was, honestly, curious what people think about this idea and if it has been considered in the past. That's it. No hidden agenda, no making a point. I'm just a regular guy asking a question(really!).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:24:17

SpaceMonkey, sorry for my confusion over RealityCheck's original comment. I'm a bleeding-heart liberal at heart and am willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, but RTH has had a serious issue with trolls lately and some of your comments have come across as particularly trollish. If that's not your intention, wonderful. Let's try to have a respectful discussion that plays nicely with the evidence and moves toward a better understanding of the issues.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:46:59

Thanks Ryan, I really do appreciate it. I suppose that if there have been a lot of trolls around, it would be somewhat understandable that some of the things I say, might be thought of as trollish. I hope that they won't come across that way anymore. I assure you that if everyone here treats me as fairly as they would someone who agrees with them, my posts will seem more like what they are... an attempt at thoughtful discussion. Thank you. I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:56:27

@SpaceMonkey,

I don't know if a tunnel was considered, but the city did do some serious planning at one point for a Burlington St - 403 highway linkup. One of the big problems, as far as I recall, was that there is really no room around the 403 for an interchange -- unless Kay Drage Park and/or the waterfront trail along Cootes were sacrificed. Not to mention that the section of the 403 between Highway 6 and Aberdeen already has an awful lot of interchanges that cause a fair bit of weaving.

IANAE, but I think the engineering challenges of sinking a tunnel under Burlington Bay (or under the North End Neighbourhood), all the way west to Hamilton Cemetery, and under the cemetery to the 403 would be easily as difficult as up the mountain. And it would involve a fair bit of destruction of public space (Kay Drage, etc.) and rip a fault through an established neighbourhood (the North End.)

By contrast, LRT on the median of James Street could just disappear into a tunnel somewhere around St. Joseph's Hospital and emerge on Upper James, with no disruption to surrounding built-up areas.

On another note -- and I'm not trolling, either -- the city did recently spend hundreds of millions of dollars on highway projects that were supposed to relieve congestion downtown. I don't think it has worked so far.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:36:46

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:49:36

I've been happy to sit back and read this very interesting debate for past couple of days, especially since A Smith (who I think is often unfairly targeted for his/her views) was involved, but that last post was brain-meltingly obstinate.

No mention of public good? If billions of investment spread around downtown, an increase in the city's tax base, a reduction in traffic, and the mitigation of the environmental problems with idling cars and single-person car trips doesn't somehow work towards the public good, I'm not sure what will satisfy you, Smith.

I think Ryan's done an admirable job in describing how an LRT downtown, even one you might never use, will still improve your quality of life as a Hamiltonian. Maybe not as much as it might improve my life, and maybe the "benefits" you see won't be crudely measured in dollars and cents.

But this isn't a Randian utopia yet--it's a mixed-economy that re-distributes resources to fill disproportionate needs. That's why there will always be some disproportionality in the investment of these resources and their expected benefits. As a Canadian citizen and Hamiltonian, I tacitly agree to my tax money being pooled and directed to (ideally) improve the lives of people who may live nowhere near me, and I don't resent that. Neither should you.

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By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:54:54

"Why should taxpayers risk their capital, when it's the property owners along the route that will benefit disproportionately from an LRT? "

This is probably what bugs you the most, and you do not want to see the benefits for the city as a whole.
May be I should ask why I pay for public schools that I do not need, health care that I do not use. Is that where you try to direct the discussion ?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 16:52:56

John Neary - You said "We don't ask our roads to pay for themselves. We pay for them out of general tax revenues (which is dumb, but it's what we do.) Why hold public transit to a higher standard?"

I guess the answer is that the vast majority of residents in this (and most North American cities) use the automobile as their prime mode of transport. Even in Europe where cities are much more transit friendly they are seeing a rising automobile ownership rate. Transit on the other hand is for a much smaller segment of the population.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 16:58:48

Borelli >> No mention of public good? If billions of investment spread around downtown, an increase in the city's tax base, a reduction in traffic, and the mitigation of the environmental problems with idling cars and single-person car trips doesn't somehow work towards the public good, I'm not sure what will satisfy you, Smith.

Ryan has made specific claims in his article in the Spec in support of an LRT, not one of which was based on promoting the "public good". Instead, he mentions numerous times that LRT is about getting new private investment...

1) "It provides an anchor around which Hamilton can attract billions of dollars in new private investment"

2) "we have hard numbers from cities across North America and around the world proving that LRT really does attract the investment Hamilton needs."

3) "When a city builds LRT and streamlines the regulatory investment process... a walkable stretch of land about half a kilometre to either side of the line — the return on investment is impressive."

4) "For every dollar the city invests in building LRT, developers invest up to $10. That translates into real, sustained growth in the city’s property tax base"

5) "As residents, commercial businesses... transform from a hollowed-out, underinvested pass-through... into a real centre that attracts both investment and people, and generates steadily rising property tax assessments."

6) "Even if you never come downtown and have no intention of ever setting foot on LRT, you should still support light rail in Hamilton — if only because a lively, economically healthy downtown means less pressure on your property tax bill."

Read his article again and tell me what his main theme is. He never mentions the words traffic, environment or poverty. It's a piece aimed at selling people on the ECONOMICS of LRT.

That being the case, why can't Ryan answer MY question regarding the economics of LRT? That's his primary argument in favour of LRT, at least when talking to the unquestioning public, so why bring up "public good" now?

If the economic case for LRT is so positive, why not answer my question and prove me wrong, instead of bringing up the separate issue of the "public good"?


Lovelt >> This is probably what bugs you the most, and you do not want to see the benefits for the city as a whole.

I would rather more money go to poor people. There was a recent poll that suggests that poverty, not LRT, is the primary issue amongst voters, so why not address this issue first?

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By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 19:48:12

"I would rather more money go to poor people. There was a recent poll that suggests that poverty, not LRT, is the primary issue amongst voters, so why not address this issue first? "

Of course, but you need money to support poor. And money's generated by businesses. But businesses do not want to come because they do not see good conditions for them to prosper. And here it comes - we do not have enough good stores, boutiques, cafe's. So if I have to drive anyway the distance does not matter much. So money went to Burlington Best Buy this time.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 22:28:42

As an anticapitalist, I can definitely see the importance of critiquing the investment argument. It raises a lot of questions about whether "success" is being created, or simply shifted. And whether rising property values are doing more to support people (by raising tax revenues and building equity), or simply making the area less affordable for most people around. Most importantly, perhaps, is the question of whether the project is still worth hundreds of millions of tax dollars if it isn't generating investment in this fashion (cough Stadium cough), or if those investment revenues are not being shared among those who bore the costs.

What's obvious is that LRT does have benefits which go well beyond such investment. First and foremost, it is the most efficient way in which to move people. This makes sense monetarily as an alternative to buses or cars/roads, as well as in terms of energy, space, and personal commitment (you don't need to leave your train parked while you're at work). It addresses poverty by investing in transportation for those of us who can't afford cars, but also appeals to those who have money but would like another alternative.

The one problem is the extremely high initial capital outlay, but sometimes such things require them(solar panels, etc). Why such an objection to infrastructure which actually provides a return on investment, instead of just making an imposing visual statement to nearby highways.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 22:59:14

The us vs them tenor of this debate changes no minds and moves no goalposts. My comments are here, fwiw.

http://www.robertinnes.ca/LRT2.html

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 06:39:14

Bob, your personal attacks are getting increasingly ridiculous. I posted that comment from my phone and its auto-correct feature, trained by a writer/editor, changed "ridership" to "readership" on me. A simple query would have resolved the matter, but instead you started from an assumption of malice and proceeded to the most negative interpretation possible. That is not debating in good faith, and it makes respectful discussion impossible.

You're welcome to disagree with me over whether LRT is a good idea for Hamilton, but there is absolutely no call for your ongoing defamatory accusations against my motives and integrity. It goes against the RTH user agreement and it goes against basic decency.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 06:47:42

that last post was brain-meltingly obstinate.

I've observed a certain amount of sympathy for A Smith here lately, mostly from readers who have started following RTH more recently. I've tried to debate with A Smith enough times over the years to discover by painful repetition that every argument sooner or later gets to "brain-meltingly obstinate". It's a waste of time because Smith's intention was never to engage in good-faith discussion.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 08:05:55

It's a waste of time because Smith's intention was never to engage in good-faith discussion.

I've recently tried, as you can see in the chain of comments I just linked to. The problem I've found isn't just that he's obstinate and manages to sidestep any particularly valid point you might happen to make, but that he also has a poor grasp of the economic theory he espouses and so far as I can tell, has no clue how business is actually conducted in the real world. As I just said to him in that thread,

I don't think you have a grasp on the finer points of the motivations, rationale, and logic of business and businesspeople. I don't think you understand how business is done, in general, or in this city. You're a "capitalist" insofar as you believe in an economic theory but not in the practical sense of having capital or knowing what to do with it if you did.

In summary: I gave A Smith a shot, it was disappointing and pointless, so I'm done.

From Bob Innes' site:

There you have it. A Freudian slip gives away his entire incentive. Readership.

Bob, now that Ryan has explained what actually happened when he posted his comment (my wife constantly complains that when she spells the name of our daughter when using our iPad, it replaces her name with "solace"), I expect you'll be correcting the article on your website? I'm sure you understand it would be the height of hypocrisy to criticize this site for bias but then fail to correct egregious and defamatory errors on your own.

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By Auto Correct (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 08:54:44

I just wasted 20 minutes and now my office mates are wondering why I'm laughing so hard I have tears in my eyes and stomach pains. Damn you, DamnYouAutoCorrect.com!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted December 25, 2010 at 03:29:20

Article in last week's local Burb weeklies (weak-lies)talks about solutions for gridlock, & traffic congestion. The only solutions that really got a mention involved more roads for more cars, & another on ramp for a hwy. that has pretty much reached capacity @ peak periods.
This makes as much sense as pouring more water into a full glass.

Increased public transit got One Sentence, near the end of the story on the 2nd. page.
(Nothing much doing on that front except "more studies in the ahhhh... future".)

How does that saying go about, 'A fool is a person who keeps on doing the same things over & over, & expects a different result'?

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