Special Report: Light Rail

Mayor Says He Will Champion LRT Now

Mayor Bob Bratina has just stated that he will now champion LRT with full capital funding in his dealings with the Province.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 28, 2013

Last summer, McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL) released a study on the opportunities and challenges of implementing light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton. The study concluded that a successful implementation needs good land use planning and street redesign to promote active transportation.

Pointedly, the report also noted that a successful push for LRT requires a "political champion" who "can help to realize success by marshaling resources, building coalitions, and resolving disputes."

Mayor Bob Bratina has mentioned the MITL report several times in public addresses since last year, including at a recent talk to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

However, until now Bratina has refused to champion LRT, claiming that it would be "highly speculative" and that he cannot advocate LRT to the province without council direction.

Council has taken several votes in suppport of Hamilton's LRT plan as the city's preferred rapid transit option, including as recently as last October, when Councillors approved a motion to establish an LRT task force with the Chamber of Commerce that would "encourage Senior levels of Government (Provincial and Federal) to fund LRT in Hamilton".

New Position After Council Vote

It looks like Bratina's position has now changed. Following Monday's unanimous Council vote to submit the City's LRT plan to Metrolinx and request 100 percent capital funding, the Mayor now says he has a council mandate to advocate LRT.

In an email response to RTH today, Bratina wrote:

Council has now provided direction with the expectation of 100 per cent of capital funding and that will be our position dealing with the government.

Asked specifically whether he will "champion" LRT, Bratina responded, "Yes." Let's hope this will be the beginning of a new phase in the City's political push to get LRT approved and funded through Metrolinx.

Metrolinx

The province has confirmed that Hamilton's LRT line is part of the next phase of Metrolinx regional transit projects, the original Metrolinx capital funding has run out. The regional transit body will release an investment strategy in June that will identify funding sources to pay for the next phase.

However, Metrolinx caused some consternation recently by renaming Hamilton's plan from "LRT", which they called it as recently as last November, to "RT".

In an email to RTH, Metrolinx spokesperson Malon Edwards clarified the change: "while planning is still in progress for LRT technology, no final decisions have been made on technology." This leaves open the possibility that Metrolinx might come back and say it will only fund a rapid bus system instead of LRT.

Metrolinx said it made the name change in consultation with officials from Hamilton, but refuses to say who at the city participated in those consultations. Repeated requests from RTH for a response have gone unanswered.

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 18:09:34

FOUR MORE YEARS! HOUR MORE YEARS!

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 18:29:19

Did the mayor just learn that no platform is required to board the LRT?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2013 at 18:37:33

A provincial election is in the winds, and there's a new leader in the provincial liberals trying to distance herself from McGuinty and curry favour from the left. Bratina obviously got new orders.

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By J (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 19:56:54 in reply to Comment 86913

that new leader is also saying some very encouraging things about transit. Bratina is absolutely right to change his tune accordingly. Now the question is whether the meanspirited Spec, especially that weasel Dreschel, will take the high or the low road.

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:51:55 in reply to Comment 86916

Your childish name calling has played right into the message of Dreschel's column today. Congrats!

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 16:45:36 in reply to Comment 86974

So now it's mean to say a mean person is mean?

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 17:16:29 in reply to Comment 86983

No but I believe it is name calling when you refer to somebody as a "weasel" is it not??

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By brendan (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 18:59:02

That, or he's planning on failure: "Council gave me direction to get 100% funding. I know we won't get 100% funding, so I will be rid of LRT and look like a good guy when the province doesn't cross it". -my cynical impersonation.

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By The Truth (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:23:36 in reply to Comment 86914

That's exactly what he's saying.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 19:10:20

The man continues to baffle.

But no matter what other motives he may have (e.g., covering bases for Election 2014), and despite that this is very late, this is good.

I just hope he knows that a "champion" competes.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 22:53:10 in reply to Comment 86915

This mayor is no champion for anything except his re-election. He's not a pro-active thinker, not an innovator, and certainly can't lead and inspire.

I've been digging into what Hamilton is all about since moving here. I have read many times in many places that the mayor "baffles" or "puzzles" the citizenry. From my perspective as a #HamOnt newbie, the mayor is cut too much slack. I hope you experienced Hamiltonians will continue to discuss a mayoralty candidate who is a true champion and leader.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:08:46 in reply to Comment 86921

You hit the nail on the head regarding his character as mayor.

This mayor has probably received more public scrutiny and generated more public discussion about his actions than any other in history. Thank the internet and the rise of social media for that - other mayors may have done so in a more private manner or over a coffee shop table, but there have been countless discussions online on various sites about him (and some of the local media outlets do seem to be taking him to task more than his predecessors).

There are probably many who do cut him slack. But I think the engaged public does not.

Bratina does not listen though. He does not discuss. Not with citizens, and not with his own council, despite repeated criticisms over it and multiple opportunities to change his approach and begin having real two-way conversations.

Outside of the mayor doing something that would get himself ousted, there may not be a lot people can do except continue to talk, get their voices heard in the media to amplify their thoughts and ideas, push their councilors to do so in council on their behalf (another challenge, since some of them are just as stubborn), talk to other community and business leaders to push them to raise their voices, and just maybe convince some new candidates to run for election in 2014.

If anyone has other thoughts, please share. Perhaps I'm not thinking critically enough ;-)

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2013-03-01 12:13:25

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:20:08 in reply to Comment 86921

Ya, if people can be baffled and puzzled by a clown maybe critical thinking isn't their thing.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 20:13:57

Well...I don't think anything is bound to kill LRT faster then Bratina championing it. Given it's Bratina, expect him to declare LRT a high emission health hazard next week.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 20:25:43

Wynne has been supportive of transit but emphatic that there is no more money to be had. My guess is that whether we're demanding 100%, 7d% or 50%, the city unlikely to see new provincial infrastructure funding until 2018, unless it can be used to buy Hamilton Centre for the Liberals. We don't even have funding for all-day GO, and that's up first.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:58:13 in reply to Comment 86918

Thats why Metrolinx is currently touring the GTA and talking to locals about alternative methods of funding. The province may not be able to fund it with their current budget, but new sources of income may change the story.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 10:33:59 in reply to Comment 86937

I worry the "New sources of income" (i.e., taxes, tolls, fees) discussion is going to make this an even more divisive issue than it already is and delay progress even further. Just for the proposed cost of the Hamilton LRT we need to find another ~$65 per Ontarian. If there is no money left in the pot and new sources of income are required to fund the remainder of the Metrolinx grand plan we are going to have a very long fight just for transit funding ahead of us.

When you need to find additional methods of funding, beyond the already burdensome tax load placed on the citizenry, for essential infrastructure like transit it implies a long history of fiscal mismanagement by our governments and does not bode well for the future investment in public works. Remember we aren’t just wondering how to pay for new infrastructure we have been deferring maintenance on much of our current infrastructure for many years as well. In our current political/economic paradigm we aren’t even maintaining what we have while we struggle to find ways to pay for what we need.

I have a hunch we are going to need more than just new ways for the government to suck cash out of our pockets if we want this to work.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:19:31 in reply to Comment 86952

The challenge is massive. We definitely need more than just new ways of raising money... we need some new ways of approaching and discussing the problem and some adjustment in priority-setting (which are massive challenges on their own as well)

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:16:25 in reply to Comment 86952

I think it's time for Mayor Cupcake. Seriously. I am not kidding. Doesn't matter who is paying for it we are all still paying for it.

It's time to pay up for past mistakes no matter who made them, and start over knowing that we never want to be in the position we are in again financially.

Then we start paying things ourselves. The stadium should be an example of why we don't want to rely on outside sources to build the things we dream about having within our community. We lose almost all control and we are left with this feeling of owing people something.

Time to be self-sustaining. I wonder what the trickle affect might be across the province and the country if communities start to look at ways to all get involved to reduce costs.

How vulnerable are our communities/country with the amount of debt we carry? Really can't judge households when those that lead us can't manage their own budgets.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2013-03-01 12:17:54

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 23:04:06 in reply to Comment 86918

Wynne has already met with Harper concerning a national transit strategy.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/in-first-meeting-with-harper-wynne-pushes-for-national-transit-strategy/article9051572/

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 23:05:40 in reply to Comment 86922

From the article...“Infrastructure is one of the issues that I’ve said very clearly that I’m going to be raising with the federal government – particularly infrastructure and transit funding. I think that it’s extremely important that those two go hand in hand,” she said. “It was a very short meeting and it was a very positive meeting and I hope that there will be more to come.”

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 05:10:55 in reply to Comment 86923

Hamilton could be gold if red or blue is the new orange. But funding is still at issue for senior government.

http://business.financialpost.com/2012/11/13/budget-deficit-will-be-wiped-out-a-year-later-than-expected-flaherty

Then again, self-interest only gets you so far. Despite being home to the Premier, the Minister of transportation and the federal government, Ottawa did not see 100% capital funding. It did, however, see in-kind contributions that substituted for gas tax transfers. In the GHA, that shift would be felt in the HSR budget as well as roadwork, traditional beneficiaries of the gas tax stream.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-digs-in-for-light-rail-line/article6014928/


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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:12:08 in reply to Comment 86926

"Ontario municipalities have recently received confirmation of their allocation amounts for the Gas Tax Extension period (2010-2014), with Hamilton to receive approximately $123.8 million over the four year period, or $30.95 million annually... Beyond 2014, the federal gas tax funding revenue sharing of approximately $750 million a year was committed as a permanent source of infrastructure funding for Ontario’s municipal governments by the 2008 Federal Budget. This amount reflects the equivalent of 5 cents a litre and no escalator mechanism was included in the funding permanency commitment...Based on the Municipal Funding Agreement eligible project and expense eligibility and the 2010 Tax Supported Capital Budget, staff project that the two eligible project categories for the 2010-2014 extension period be Roads & Bridges and beginning in 2011 the addition of Public Transit with financing recommendations to be provided in associated capital budget plans."

"Federal gas tax funding may be used for environmental sustainable municipal infrastructure (ESMI) projects that contribute to cleaner water, cleaner air and reduced greenhouse emissions. Eligible project categories include public transit, water, wastewater, solid waste, community energy systems, capacity building and local roads and bridges where sustainability outcomes can be demonstrated."

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D42C35D2-1D0C-4E23-B576-E9C6A2C1D257/0/Mar24Item82FCS10021FederalGasTaxAmendingAgreement.pdf

Table 1 of Report FCS10021 shows that from 2005 to 2010, Federal Gas Tax funding had Solid Waste (eg. Greencart Program Implementation, CCF Construction & MRF Upgrades) to the tune of $40.4 million, Roads and Bridges to the tune of $40.5 million; and Community Energy Systems (ie. City Hall Rebuild Project) to the tune of $30.7 million.

None of the Federal gas Tax funding appears to have gone into transit during that period, though the above passage suggests that some funding was going to transit in 2011. Five months after the above report was published, Report PW10077 recommended that "a permanent commitment of $3 million from the Corporate Federal Gas Tax (FGT) reserve be approved to fund replacement buses." There was no budget for new buses this year, so I can guess what came of that recommendation.

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/93DE0286-F26E-4C28-BBA1-F5BBEE7F09BD/65081/Aug10EDRMS_n91232_v1_7_5__PW10077__Transit_Operati.pdf

The above report also recommended "that the allocation of $3.7 million in Federal Gas Tax for the replacement of lost Ontario Bus Replacement Program (OBRP) funding be referred to the 2011 Capital budget process for the consideration of Council," which suggests that the province is playing a shell game.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 07:33:36 in reply to Comment 86926

Federal goverment is a joke if they you cut back on thoses fighter Jets we whould have some more money for inferstructures

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By J (registered) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 22:13:28 in reply to Comment 86918

but she's been voicing the idea of new funding sources. Even mentioning tolls used to be political death. If the NDP now would get behind this then a miracle could happen. The ball's in Horwath's court.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 07:29:04

This Mayor is all about tactits to get voted in again

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By DundasGuy (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:45:13

I want to ride on the downtown choochoo.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 10:59:22 in reply to Comment 86948

Then you'll have to wait for Christmas time and meet Santa at Gore Park.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 18:51:17

the downtown choochoo can take Mac students to visit Santa's reindeer

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2013 at 14:52:05

Boarded buildings. For Sale signs. Vacant lots.

A faltering industrial block carries a downbeat vibe in central Kitchener, where Ottawa Street meets King Street and Charles Street. Signs of decay overshadow signs of life from a few small businesses.

“It’s not quite blight, but it’s not many steps from it,” says David Moore, who once worked on the block, just as his father did. “Something has to happen.”

Politicians and urban planners feel they have a solution — street-level electric trains running past the block by 2017. They have cast the area as a target for redevelopment sparked by the $818-million rail transit system.

Regional council’s plan is to lay tracks on Charles Street and build a passenger platform at Borden Avenue. It’s hoped this will increase property values and persuade investors to erect chic new residences and businesses.

Moore, 68, knows the block has seen better days. His father, Mark, briefly ran an auto paint shop there in 1954. The block was a thriving place then. David was almost 10. His dad would send him to the grill on the corner with a dollar to buy burgers for his workers.

Four decades later, Moore returned to the same block to work in an auto-parts store. He worked there until 2002, eating lunch in his car just steps from where he used to visit his father. “Talk about full circle,” he says. “It was really strange.”

By then, the block was in decline. On the street, prostitutes would sometimes ply their trade, leaning into cars looking for men to hire them for sex.

New hope emerges in a planning study released in January. It bills the train platform at Charles and Borden as “the gateway to a significant new urban village” including the block and streets beyond. This bright declaration is partly a sales pitch to catch the attention of developers.

Look again at a neighbourhood you might have overlooked, the sales pitch goes. It’s near the downtown, near the Iron Horse Trail, at a major intersection and beside a future rail transit line. You could replace decaying houses, vacant lots and underused buildings with charming townhomes and attractive parks.

“A lot of the buildings are now vacant or somewhat dilapidated. So it’s at that point in its development really where it’s ripe for a change,” explains Kevin Curtis, a regional planning manager who works to revive urban areas. “It’s a nice little package. Hopefully with some time and some investment and some work, it will be a lovely bit of an entranceway into that part of Kitchener.”

The sales pitch has yet to land a developer. Planners are persuaded it’s more than wishful thinking. “If you look at some of the travel paths and opportunities, and the opportunities for land assembly, they’re pretty compelling,” regional planning commissioner Rob Horne said.

Restaurant owner Ning Yang would like to see rail transit bring more customers to the block. “For the business, it’s good,” she said. Yang runs King Fish and Chips at King Street and Borden Avenue, a small business trying to make a go of it amid shuttered properties.

Yang wonders, however, if transit passengers and new residents would enjoy her fare. Most of her patrons are older, drawn to fish and chips as a traditional food. Younger people seem less keen.

Redevelopment would please Mary Holmes, even as she doubts the rail transit plan. She grew up on the block during the Second World War when it was a lively mix of family homes and small industry at the edge of the city. It was called Wendell Avenue then, before Charles Street was created.

Merchants hatched chickens, made soda and built household goods in small factories while children played in yards in between.

“I think that might be quite wonderful if it came back to life,” says Holmes, 77. “It’s not a bad area of Kitchener. It just needs to be rejuvenated. I probably would look at that and smile and be pleased.”

Today, her former house is a wreck, boarded and for sale. She remembers when it was the centre of attention. Everybody gawked as the factory across the street moved the house across the road to where it sits today. The factory, gone today, needed land to expand.

“My mom didn’t have to do anything except make sure all the dishes were very solidly on shelves,” Holmes says. “They put it up on rollers and rolled it across the road. It was awe-inspiring. It was just something that we had never, ever, ever heard of. The whole neighbourhood was out.”

While she remembers her childhood fondly, Holmes is unsentimental about her former house and other decaying buildings. “I’ll be very happy if those places are sold and ripped down now because they’re just horrible buildings,” she says.

The block was first developed for industry early in the 20th century. Business promoters had a grand dream, to build cars and make Kitchener into the next Detroit. That never really happened. Yet for decades, the block prospered, anchored by smaller businesses such as Norton Drinx, which made soda, and Onward Manufacturing, which made vacuums and cabinet hardware before relocating.

“Onward — they brought the first home vacuum cleaners to Canada,” local historian Rych Mills says. “I did a speech a while ago and I said that every woman in Canada should be mentioning them in their prayers, each night.”

The rise and fall of Norton Drinx anticipates the neglect that permeates the block. Charles Norton Sr. brought his soda-making business to the outer edges of King Street early in the last century. The family lived on the block beside their business.

It was a small, but recognized, operation. Charles Sr. died in 1927 and his son, Charles Jr., took over. In a 1937 history of Kitchener, the soda firm is listed as a peer among prominent manufacturers such as Kaufman Rubber, Doon Twines, Dominion Shirt, John Forsyth Shirt, Greb Shoe, Huck Glove and Ontario Glove.

Mary Holmes grew up steps from the soda factory. She recalls Ruth Norton, widow of Charles Sr. “She seemed like she was ancient. I think we were all a little afraid of her,” she says. Once in a while, Charles Jr. “would give us each a little bottle of cream soda if we were all playing outside. It was such a treat for us.”

Ruth Norton died in 1944. By 1949, Norton Drinx was out of business. Charles Jr. died childless in 1955. Today the firm is little remembered, except by people who collect antique soda bottles. But its legacy includes an unusual twist.

Currently, regional council is acquiring dozens of land parcels to make way for rail transit. Planners have discovered, to their surprise, that long-dead Ruth Norton is the last registered owner of a strip of vacant land beside the planned rail transit line.

Taxpayers require less than one square metre of the property to make way for trains, but may need a court ruling to acquire it. The Charles Street property lacks a civic address and has had no legal dealings in almost seven decades.

Over time, an abutting owner may have lawfully acquired ownership of it. A For Sale sign is planted there today. Regional government says a law firm is acting for a potential owner. Planners have searched wills and contacted executors to alert any potential heir to the Norton estate, and have sent expropriation notices to multiple people.

“The land title issue relating to the Charles Street property will require a court application in order to correct,” regional solicitor Debra Arnold says. The land registry “must be amended to reflect the current and correct owner and the region will deal with this owner in acquiring these lands.”

However it’s resolved, the Norton property hiccup is not expected to delay rail transit. Think of it as another small puzzle in a block with a jumbled past and uncertain future.



http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/895915--rundown-kitchener-block-has-a-chance-for-a-brighter-future

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 00:42:59

“Metrolinx says local funding counts” by Andrew Dreschel on the spec.com tonight: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Dreschel’s article contains new information from Metrolinx about its plans to prioritize 10 municipal rapid transit projects into Groups A, B and C (with Group A being the most ready for implementation) and the criteria and scoring system it will use. A local funding commitment will apparently be one of the requirements to elevate any of the 10 competing rapid transit projects into Group A.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 15:26:30 in reply to Comment 87014

Except for the Downtown Relief Line, that's already been placed on the list for Group A, because you know Toronto needs more fully funded transit - they didn't get enough in the first round.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 02:58:33 in reply to Comment 87014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XQbBxIHbHQ

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By alhambra (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 15:27:29

LRT supporters should be banging at the door of Andrea Horwath. She holds the balance of power and is currently hanging it all on lowering car insurance rates. This is an anti-transit policy. Maybe because Hamilton is safe NDP territory no one feels the need to give us anything. But the NDP could get LRT built in Hamilton tomorrow if they wanted to. This should be the focus of the campaign, put some pressure on the NDP and make them understand they can't count on us for free votes.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2013 at 16:09:54 in reply to Comment 87019

Yup. I'm frequently disappointed in how little interest Horwath seems to take in the municipal politics. It seems like either way we lose - if we elect a back-bencher, then they're whipped by the leader and have no say in parliament. If we elect a leader, then they're too busy with province-wide politics to pay attention to issues directly related to their riding. How do we get somebody who will fight for Hamilton?

And yes, the NDP's platform of lowering household expenses seems to sometimes run counter to their environmentalist side - last election they were focusing on heating expenses, this time they focus on car insurance. Both of which would effectively be a subsidy on fossil fuels. Mind you, they're absolutely right about car insurance being inexplicably and unfairly expensive here in Ontario, but I don't really get why this is the hill they want to die on.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-03-04 16:12:43

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