Special Report: Light Rail

Light Rail Generates Highest Return on Investment: Transport Minister

Speaking at a luncheon at Sarcoa Restaurant organized by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Murray presented an evidence-based case for investment in great civic infrastructure, explaining that beautiful, well-made infrastructure in the right locations del

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 03, 2014

In a lunchtime talk last Friday, Ontario Transport Minister Glen Murray stopped just short of telling Hamilton we'd be crazy not to invest in Light Rail Transit (LRT).

Glen Murray (Image Credit: Richard Allen)
Glen Murray (Image Credit: Richard Allen)

Speaking at a luncheon at Sarcoa Restaurant organized by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Murray presented an evidence-based case for investment in great civic infrastructure, explaining that beautiful, well-made infrastructure in the right locations delivers tremendous returns on investment.

Murray was in Hamilton to announce that the Province has put out a tender to build a $44 million GO Train station on James Street North, across the street from Liuna Station.

James North GO Station location (RTH file photo)
James North GO Station location (RTH file photo)

LRT Generates Economic Development

Murray extolled the economic benefits of LRT, pointing out that it produces a much higher return on investment than bus rapid transit (BRT) by attracting new private developments around the line.

He demurred, "I am not endorsing types of technology here, I am not a salesperson for Bombardier." Then he added that the City has "been working on a plan that is both an economic development plan, a cultural plan, a fiscal plan and a transportation plan" - the city's Rapid Ready LRT plan for the east-west B-Line between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.

Murray put up an image of Portland, Oregon's LRT system with new economic development around the line. "Portland was a lumber town that went into deep decline and depopulated. Portland now has the highest per capita GDP on the west coast. It has not one Fortune 500 company, not one. It is home to more small and medium enterprises than any other. You know, as Mayor Sam [Adams] in Portland says, people go to Los Angeles to get rich, they come to Portland to be prosperous."

(This reflected Murray's earlier comments on the Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML on Friday morning, in which he noted that BRT does not attract much economic development.)

Attracting Young People

Murray noted that the job recovery in Ontario is driven by small, entrepreneurial companies being started by young people with university and college educations. Pointing to Portland's LRT, he said, "This is the kind of infrastructure that you need to attract that young creative class.

"This is the first generation where most young people don't want to own cars and are not owning cars. So walkable friendly neighbourhoods are also important." The audience applauded.

"You can see how the urban landscape changes around these kinds of things, and we can talk about GO or bus rapid transit or LRT, but you can see the dynamic of this environment." One problem is that we don't have local examples of modern LRT systems. New systems are being built in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa and on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto, but many people don't know what to expect and are afraid of the unknown.

Talking about LRT in other parts of the world he said, "Every place that's done it, once there's one up everyone wants more of it."

Local Leadership

Murray then pointed out that it takes "local leadership" to make the decision on how and where to invest. He said it is not up to Queen's Park to tell Hamilton's leaders what to choose.

However, he went on to show how cities can calculate the economic uplift that comes from LRT investment. He often reiterated that to make good decisions, cities need to focus not just on the cost of a project but on the return on investment.

After the talk, Murray noted that transit investment in economically depressed urban corridors produces the biggest uplift because there's so much potential for improvement.

He said that he would be willing to go with Hamilton's leaders to Ottawa to ask for a Federal contribution to Hamilton's rapid transit system, noting that the Federal government will not contribute to an infrastructure project that has already been announced.

He also noted that tax-increment financing (TIF) is one way to help cover the capital cost of a public infrastructure project without imposing any burden on the property tax levy, based on the future value of the economic uplift that comes from the project.

Innovation Economy

During his talk, Murray also drew a parallel to Pittsburgh, another city whose economy was formerly based on steel that has reinvented itself and rebuilt its tax base around education and creative entrepreneurialism.

Like Hamilton, Pittsburgh still makes lots of steel but it is no longer a significant source of jobs. Manufacturing by itself has stopped being a significant source of jobs. Rather, employment is growing in the innovation economy, which cities need to cultivate through post-secondary education and great civic infrastructure.

"If you're actually going to have job growth and not just GDP growth, you have to open it up, and that's why universities and colleges are the single most important cultural, social and economic institutions in our society today," he said.

Citizens, not Whiners

A recurring theme in his talk was a sharp distinction between thinking and acting as citizens - people who are invested in their country and community and want to work for its betterment - as opposed to mere "taxpayers" or "consumers".

He spoke about the construction of the beautiful High Level Bridge as an inspiring example of the understanding that "making beauty necessary and making necessity beautiful was important, and that our public works shouldn't be, you know, stretching tax dollars so far that every GO station, every college, every library looks like a fertilizer factory. But we are manifesting in our public works, in our public buildings, the expression of our civic pride and great design."

Before the 1970s, which Murray characterized as the beginning of "the age of whiners", civic leaders understood that beautiful cities attract and retain passionate people. "They built a city that people want to live in and be part of."

Murray attacked the "taxpayer" meme head-on, pointing out, "I pay about 25 percent less taxes than my father did." At the time, Canada spent 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure. "That's how all those buildings got built."

He went on, "Then in the 1970s, that great age of citizenship [got] took over by the age of whiners." Provincial infrastructure spending dropped to just 0.25 percent of GDP.

He said the government has now restored infrastructure spending to 2 percent of GDP. "We built everything in this country that we own and love with that level of commitment."

Local Leaders Missing

It was disheartening to note that, aside from Mayor Bob Bratina, there were only four out of 15 City Councillors in attendance: Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie, Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, Ward 3 Councillor Bob Morrow and Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge.

Mayor Bob Bratina, front, with Councillors Jason Farr (left) and Bob Morrow (right) behind him (Image Credit: Richard Allen)
Mayor Bob Bratina, front, with Councillors Jason Farr (left) and Bob Morrow (right) behind him (Image Credit: Richard Allen)

For those members of council who don't already understand that LRT is a necessary investment in economic development and sustainability rather than merely an expensive bus, Murray's talk would have been highly informative.

Also notably absent were any senior managers from Public Works, the department that actually builds and maintains Hamilton's critical infrastructure, or from Planning and Economic Development, the department whose job it is to understand and explain why Hamilton needs LRT in the first place.

Hamilton's LRT plan has effectively been left to wither on the vine. Its mayor doesn't support it, most Councillors won't stick their necks out for it and the staff teams who developed it have been dispersed (Justin Readman, the rapid transit project manager who shepherded Rapid Ready to completion, is now working for Waterloo Region on their LRT system).

Almost no one is explaining or promoting LRT to Hamiltonians. Without a champion pushing the plan forward, fear and misinformation are slowly taking over the public discourse.

People who don't understand the economic development impact are asking why we don't just build a cheaper bus system. People who don't know the east-west route of the B-Line already has 13,000 rides a day claim we don't have enough ridership for LRT.

And of course, anti-LRT political opportunists who do know these things exploit the relative paucity of public information to sow uncertainty and doubt.

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 randomguy (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:25:46

I don't disagree with Murray's ideas, but this is a bit disingenuous:

"It has not one Fortune 500 company, not one." A shoe company's headquarters are in Beaverton which is pretty close to downtown Portland and I'm sure a lot of Portland residents work there.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:26:31 in reply to Comment 98131

^N I K E

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:49:35 in reply to Comment 98132

...thought that as well. However, I still see the point. Doesn't seem like a city that's flush with head offices. Though (like most large U.S. cities), may have a few more big shooters (ie. Paul Allen) than what an equivalent Canadian city may have. (Just an assumption based on massive gaps between rich and poor -- more massive there than here.)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:36:44 in reply to Comment 98132

Sorry about the spam filter. If you register an RTH user account, your comments are not filtered for likely spam words.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:44:00

Thanks for the summary. Still, despite the misinformation and lack of civic leadership on the issue, these feel like strong steps in the right direction.

It feels to me like the case in favour of LRT is becoming too strong to be ignored and/or refuted. (Kudos to Raise the Hammer and other grassroots efforts that have helped engage and educate.)

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 11:58:14

Why are we not considering BRT?

The LRT all-or-nothing rhetoric is driving us to the nothing result.


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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:57:48 in reply to Comment 98136

That report was authored by BRT lobbyists and consultants, who are being funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to promote BRT systems across the US. To their credit, they are quite upfront about their agenda. From their website:


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By anon (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:30:00 in reply to Comment 98136

We did consider BRT - there have been years of research behind the city's decision to choose LRT. Better service, lower operating costs, much better ROI - there are huge advantages to LRT and the disrutip of installtion of proper BRT versus LRT is basically the same. In other words, on a line with ridership levels that already justify LRT why would we half-ass it?

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:31:27 in reply to Comment 98140

"disruption of installation"

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:39:22 in reply to Comment 98141

Installing a full BRT would also be disruptive as it would require station platforms similar to LRT, physically separated lanes and generally a new concrete road surface to sustain the very high frequency of heavy articulated bus traffic.

The only additions for LRT would be the overhead power lines and rails in the concrete track bed. There is really not too much difference. And remember that LRT is infrastructure with (at least) a 40 year life span. Two years of traffic disruption is not a really heavy price to pay (and dozens of cities have already done it). And, due to the excess capacity on Hamilton's main arterials, the disruption should be much less than in most other cities.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:27:25 in reply to Comment 98136

This "why are we not considering BRT" argument is a dodge. The City and province have been considering BRT since 2007, but the full weight of evidence clearly indicates that BRT does not attract anything like the economic development that accompanies LRT.

Full BRT - with dedicated lanes, stations and enough vehicles to offer similar capacity to LRT - is not much cheaper to build than LRT. The study you linked found that top-of-the-line BRT combined with exceptional land use policy (including drastically limiting downtown parking) can in the best case leverage impressive ROI compared to the lower capital cost, but the report neglects to consider operating costs.

BRT requires about three times as many vehicles (and vehicle operators) as LRT to carry the same number of passengers, which drives operating costs way up. Given that the Province is expected to cover the capital cost and Hamilton will have to cover the operating cost of our system, we should be optimizing for what is going to contain the costs we have to carry on an ongoing basis.

Finally, the study compares two most successful outlier systems - Portland's MAX LRT and Cleveland's HealthLine BRT - instead of comparing the normal case for each system. The study argues that much of the development around Portland's MAX line was unrelated to the LRT, but fails to apply the same analysis to the development around Cleveland's BRT, even though there are also a number of contributing factors at play in that system.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:13:06 in reply to Comment 98138

The study also did not include operating costs when determining the system costs.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:37:47 in reply to Comment 98138

The construction costs for BRT that I have seen quoted are 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of LRT. Are those numbers inaccurate? Are we pricing BRT construction comparisons at the Gold, Silver or Bronze standard?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:48:34 in reply to Comment 98142

I don't know exactly how ITDP weighs the criteria it uses to determine whether a given system is Gold, Silver or Bronze, but in general, a full BRT has physically separated dedicated lanes and stations where people can prepay for tickets for fast boarding. Given those costs, we'd looking at a BRT that would cost 1/3-1/2 of the cost of LRT to build - but a lot more to operate.

And again, the study draws its dramatic conclusion by comparing the best-performing BRT with the best-performing LRT. When you look at the full set of systems - even the systems the study compares, the BRT systems cost less to build but attract commensurately less economic development. (And still cost more to operate.)

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:11:41 in reply to Comment 98144

If we are going to spend 1 Billion in transit infrastructure with the dual goal to improve livability and spur investment, is it better to invest in 1 LRT line or 3 BRT lines (Escarpment, Mountain and Downtown)?

How much would a segregated BRT line increase investment, density and livability on the Mountain? Would the investment be spread over a far more diverse and longer area with 3 BRT lines compared to 1 LRT line? would increasing population density and reducing car usage on the Mountain be a good thing for Hamilton?

We live in a city divided by geography, attitudes and politics. By including the Mountain in the short term transit improvements offered by spending across the whole city with BRT, we can bridge the many differences that exist in Hamilton. Our current and mid-term political reality is that the will across city for improving only one part of the transit map simply does not exist.

Spread the investment across all the city with BRT and we can leverage much more political will. The current strategy has resulted in isolating the Lower City, which plays into the hands of Transit spending opponents. Once again, the all-or-nothing LRT rhetoric is leading us towards the nothing result. We need to change the conversation to include more options.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:52:20 in reply to Comment 98146

I find it ironic that this is the argument that the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) and other LRT advocates used to support Transit City over subway expansion. Except in Toronto, of course, the argument was that you could build several LRT lines for the cost extending the Sheppard Subway to the Scarborough Town Centre and thru to Kennedy Station.

As has been stated by others the argument for LRT instead of BRT is more complex than just how much can be built for a given amount of money. The King-Main Corridor in the lower city is different than Upper James or Mohawk in terms of potential ridership and redevelopment. LRT on King-Main addresses multiple objectives: it improves reliability and speed (if implemented properly); can handle ridership growth; has lower operating costs (per rider); and has greater potential to spur mixed-use intensification along its corridors. BRT on King-Main would address the first point, but not the others ... and the existing B-line already runs full during peak hours.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-03-03 13:53:55

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:43:24 in reply to Comment 98146

From where I'm sitting, the only people I see engaging in 'all-or-nothing' rhetoric are LRT opponents who are attempting to divide the city by portraying LRT as something that will only benefit downtown. It is important to remember that B-line LRT is only phase 1. Phase 2 is A-line LRT. The best way of ensuring that the mountain and suburbs enjoy the benefits of higher order transit in the future, is to ensure that the first phase is successful. As B-line already has the ridership to justify investment in LRT, it offers the best chance of success, and thus the best chance of ensuring the expansion of LRT to other parts of the city.

While the study's conclusion that TOD's mode is irrelevant to its ROI is contentious, one thing the authors make very clear is that, rather than mode, the chief determinants for success involve strict planning policies to encourage mixed use, walkable development along transit corridors - specifically strictly limiting parking to encourage transit use - as well as the development potential of the land along those corridors.

The only way we would ever achieve an equivalent ROI from BRT vs. LRT, is if we are willing and able to make and implement what would be dramatic zoning changes (including draconian parking measures) in the lower density areas you would like to see covered in an initial phase. I would imagine support for BRT on the mountain would diminish considerably once people saw the kind of zoning restrictions and land use patterns that would have to be put in place in order for BRT to achieve the same success as LRT. The study's authors would be the first ones to agree that without those policies in place, BRT's equivalence to LRT in terms of its ROI vanishes.

Comment edited by highwater on 2014-03-03 13:55:02

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 14:31:46 in reply to Comment 98151

"The study's authors would be the first ones to agree that without those policies in place, BRT's equivalence to LRT in terms of its ROI vanishes."

Then how about if RTH engages the institute in an interview to find if they feel that way?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 14:50:00 in reply to Comment 98157

That's a great idea. However it doesn't change the fact that the conclusion of the study is that development potential, and planning policies that encourage mixed use, walkable development at the expense of cars, are more important to the success of TOD than the particular transit mode.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 16:05:44 in reply to Comment 98159

In addition to excellent supportive planning policies, the BRT systems that delivered good development ROI ratios were those "Gold" level systems that were permanent, high quality systems. These systems involve very large capital investments, up to 1/2 that of LRT, and require special road surfaces, physical separation, dedicated signals, and LRT style platforms that allow travellers to pre-pay. This permanence is necessary to convince developers to investment, and this sort of high quality permanent infrastructure is not typical for most BRT systems.

But for Hamilton, the key point is that although the ratio of development money to money invested in the system can be higher for top level BRT, the total development dollars LRT attracts are still higher (higher NET benefit, which is what the Metrolinx study concluded). And the operating and lifecycle costs are far lower. LRT is also non-polluting at street level, quieter and higher capacity per vehicle. In Hamilton's particular case, the vast majority of direct costs would be paid by the province, the city would likely pay the operating and lifecycle costs, which makes LRT a much stronger choice.

And it has to be remembered that most of those musing about BRT, years after multiple studies on Hamilton's system directly compared BRT and LRT and concluded LRT would provide the highest net benefit, often don't really mean "Gold level BRT", they mean "not LRT", "cheaper" or "some more buses". I haven't heard anyone on council speak enthusiastically about BRT ... they only like it because it seems cheaper than LRT and less "disruptive" (if it is just a few more buses).

I imagine that most of those bringing up BRT would eventually object just as much to spending $200-400 million on a "disruptive" BRT system if it ever seemed like it might actually get built.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-03-03 16:16:32

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:24:35 in reply to Comment 98146

The B-Line is the first phase of the BLAST network because it is the route that will make the most immediate benefit from rapid transit investment: it has the highest transit ridership in the city (13,000 rides a day, which would put Hamilton in the middle of the LRT pack on opening day), and the economically depressed TOD corridor along the B-Line has the biggest potential for quick and dramatic uplift.

That investment will, in turn, benefit the entire city by putting more money in city coffers, reducing the pressure to expand the urban boundary, increasing the growth of new employment opportunities in the city and redeploying existing transit resources more widely in other underserved areas.

Once the B-Line LRT is up and running and proven to be successful, the next phase is already to extend it north-south along the A-Line, a goal shared by both the City's plan and the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan.

That is how you build a successful network: you start from the area with the strongest immediate case and then expand from that basis of success. If we half-ass it with BRT in one place where LRT is already warranted and another place where rapid transit is not yet warranted at all, we will spread too little money too widely and fail to achieve a critical mass anywhere.

Finally, the conversation is where it is today because an enormous amount of work has already gone into researching and developing the city's plans - work that you conveniently ignore when you call for us to consider an option that was already studied closely and rejected as an inferior alternative.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:39:14 in reply to Comment 98149

Mtn politicians should be ashamed of themselves for not only opposing this with unfactual premises, but for also not pumping up their constituents with the news that 3 of the ultimate 5 LRT lines will be on the Mtn. They're so addicted to roads, they have no problem leaving out this vital fact.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:44:05 in reply to Comment 98149

No need for snark Ryan. I did not "conveniently ignore" anything. Do we want to listen to each other or just shut each other up? I've followed the LRT literature since the City hall open house, and I wasn't convinced that it was going to happen then, and it looks less likely now.

I'm also not suggesting we "half-ass it" with one BRT line first. I'm suggesting we construct a whole BRT network of 3 lines on at the same time.

And I also think that a well designed BRT is not half-assed at all. Studies prove that it is a popular, effective, cheaper and viable alternative to LRT.

I want the investment to happen here. I'm willing to pay more in taxes and fees. It's looking unlikely that it is going to happen if we focus on just one part of the city for the next 15-20 years. I think LRT has been unfairly exploited as THE local political wedge issue this election season. First it was the Red Hill. Second it was the Stadium. Next... LRT. We need to get the whole city interested if we are going to get transit improvements. One LRT is not accomplishing that. I'm sorry, many people have worked hard on it, but it's losing traction quickly. The next Provincial election may change Hamilton's LRT fortunes, hopefully that ballot day will be coming in 2014, that way we can get a clearer picture.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 14:48:05 in reply to Comment 98152

Do we want to listen to each other or just shut each other up?

I am listening to you and happy to engage you in discussion. You claim the city isn't considering BRT, and in response I point out the city and province have both already done exactly what you request and concluded that BRT costs less to build but delivers limited benefits and costs more to maintain.

I have addressed the arguments you raise head-on, and I ask you to do the same.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-03-03 15:04:56

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 18:26:06 in reply to Comment 98158

What I am claiming is:

-That Hamilton will likely miss out on any Provincially paid transit infrastructure improvements if LRT continues to be presented as the one and only option

-That local politicians have perverted LRT into the wedge issue de jour after McGuinty pulled the plug on full Provincial funding

-That the inability to consider other transit improvement options plays perfectly into the hands of the politicians that morphed LRT into a wedge issue for their own benefit

-That other options that cover the whole city in a rapid fashion sooner than 15 years may have to be put into play to shut-down those using LRT as a wedge issue

-That a similar amount of money can unite the city with BRT, instead of dividing it as we are now seeing with LRT

-That LRT proponents have been out-played by the opposition, and an alternative plan to transit improvements needs to be put together

Ryan, you are so focused on three letters side by side that you haven't seen what I'm actually worried about. No kidding, LRT is better, duh... thanks for pointing that out to me. How likely is LRT considering our political climate of division, that is my concern. The more people shout for LRT downtown, the more our Mountain, Suburban and some Mayoral candidates use it against us.

I was at a presentation by Ward 3 candidate Matthew Greene at the USW 1005 hall. Guess what was the hottest topic, almost the only topic discussed in the q&a portion? LRT. There were no questions of support, only anger. The word 'Elite' was used in conjunction with LRT proponents many times. Somebody has spun the transit message the opposite direction that it was intended. We've lost control of the LRT message to the point where I doubt it will ever return. That's why a back-up plan and strategy needs to be formed. If LRT support has become the political third rail in Hamilton, how can we ever make it happen.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 18:57:10 in reply to Comment 98161

What I don't understand about your position is how BRT would fix the problem. BRT can be used as a wedge issue just the same as LRT. It still requires championing by council and our mayor, and if we do convince the province to build it, its still going to be the B-line first and the A-line at some indeterminate point in the future. All the reasons people oppose LRT are also reasons they might oppose BRT - even on cost, LRT is better because Metrolinx is planning to use provincial revenue to fund it and it is cheaper to operate. At the end of the day, switching to BRT is not going to provide what is lacking in making higher-order transit happen in Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:41:10 in reply to Comment 98162

because ultimately the same people asking for BRT instead of LRT will be the same ones opposing BRT if it was approved and planned to be constructed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 20:21:47 in reply to Comment 98162

Exactly this.

The people calling most vehemently for us to consider BRT instead of LRT are the same people who don't see the point of higher order transit in general and are using BRT as a way to grind away at the case for LRT. Their arguments are mostly fatuous, based on bad information and slippery reasoning. They're the people who screamed bloody murder about the half-assed transit-only lane - and not because it was half-assed but because it existed at all.

The Liberal candidates, Mirza and Luksik, who wrote last Monday's op-ed and their supporters don't actually seem to know what BRT is - they talked about it like it's just an express bus. By that definition, we already have BRT on the B-Line! Say goodbye to the new private imvestment Hamilton desperately needs to become economically sustainable again.

By the time you have a BRT system with anything even approaching the transformative impact of LRT, your capital cost is close to half the cost of LRT and your operating cost is way higher - and all the disruptions and constraints thst suburban cut-through motorists decry about the LRT they haven't actually experienced are still there. Do you think the people undermining LRT will suddenly become champions what the going gets tough on BRT?

Have no doubt - if we give up on LRT we are giving up, period. Damn it, I'm not ready to give up yet. There have been too many squandered opportunities, too many self-inflicted wounds, too many defeats snatched from the jaws of victory. If the real message of LRT investment is being lost, the answer is to fight like hell to being it back, not to capitulate meekly to misinformation, fear and the collective self-loathing that says we don't deserve better.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-03-03 20:45:11

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:51:49 in reply to Comment 98152

Three well-designed BRT lines would be just as, if not more costly than B-line LRT, and far less likely to give us the necessary ROI to justify the initial cost, let alone the higher operating costs.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 12:00:16 in reply to Comment 98136

Please read the pdf linked to the right of the page.


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By YHMDesigns (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2014 at 13:22:25

Glen Murray draws the distinction between citizen and consumer more articulately than I have been able to. A pedestrian-friendly downtown Hamilton well-served by transit is a good thing regardless of where you live in the city. LRT is a worthwhile capital investment for the many reasons cited in the article above (and that's far from the first time they've been itemized). The B-Line is a sensible start because the density is there to support it. Later expansion across the city is also logical. Others appear to see the B-Line LRT as a luxury that would simply get in the way more than anything else. Of course it is expensive, and we will end up paying for it one way or another. But that is how all capital projects go. Why is this one the lightning rod? Ultimately, one cannot refute facts. The facts support LRT, so why don't our civic leaders and representatives?

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:22:44

To Mr. Janitor, I believe that you, as much as anyone else in this conversation wants rapid transit - of some kind. However, it appears to me that the difference between you and those who support (and actively fight for ) LRT is that you have given up the fight and waved the white flag. You are willing to settle for the second best option for Hamilton. Maybe BRT is better for some communities but not here. Studies have proven it, the public has been consulted and supports it as does council, the Chamber of Commerce, McMaster etc. Because a few ill-informed, uninformed or actively mis-informed (thank you, His Worship, the Mayor) people take up space in the Spec is in no way representative of community support. Frankly, I'm surprised that the Spec published some anti-LRT letters and Op-Ed pieces that are based on false information or as you say, trying to create a 'wedge issue' (especially since their own editorials support LRT). At the first sign of any oppositions, some councillors have chosen to head for the hills. Good. I hope they stay there. That is not leadership.

Kevlahan, McGreal and many others, myself included, won't capitulate to ignorance of the facts and whining naysayers and settle for a system, that, as pointed out numerous times, will do little to encourage development and will cost more to operate (which we will be on the hook for). The fact that we are still debating this is a testament to the leadership vacuum and timid council members without the intestinal fortitude to stand by their earlier convictions. Sad but true. The Province is handing the City a tool that will not only help move people efficiently, but even more important, help Hamilton grow and develop. Those parochial-types in the suburbs who complain that it is only for 'downtown' are sadly missing the point. What is good about being smug and comfy in your enclave in the 'burbs while your downtown collapses? "You can't be a suburb of nothing" to quote Oklahoma Mayor Mick Cornett. Helping the core is helping all Hamilton, including all of the amalgamated Hamilton. Whatever happened to the 'common good'? Instead of constantly being negative, why not convert your passion and anger in to helping spread positive, accurate information and rationale for LRT. Clearly you have put some time and energy into this. We need you on the front lines, not retreating to the safety and comfort of a compromise position (and a poor one at that).

A second thing. You called Ryan out for what you felt was a snarky comment: "Finally, the conversation is where it is today because an enormous amount of work has already gone into researching and developing the city's plans - work that you conveniently ignore when you call for us to consider an option that was already studied closely and rejected as an inferior alternative." To be fair, you did not mention it either by neglect, oversight or intent. Ryan may have attributed motives to your comments but never the less, if 'snark' was intended, it is way less snarky than your subsequent comment: "No kidding, LRT is better, duh... thanks for pointing that out to me". So let it go.

FInally, I question the pedigree of the study you provided. LRT supporters want a system that is best for Hamilton, and at one point BRT and LRT were compared side-by-side, (again LRT won hands down). Your use of studies with possible hidden agendas does cast suspicion. I did some digging into the history of ITDB. In the past, it has partnered with the Transportation Research Board, which itself has an interesting history that nowhere includes any mention rapid transit. In fact, there are numerous references to pavement, asphalt, highways etc. You can guess why they support anything with three different letters - namely BRT. (see excerpt below)

History TRB was established in 1920 as the National Advisory Board on Highway Research to provide a mechanism for the exchange of information and research results about highway technology. Renamed the Highway Research Board (HRB) in 1925 … In 1974 the Highway Research Board became the Transportation Research Board. Since then, TRB’s portfolio of services has expanded significantly … of ongoing research programs such as the Long-Term Pavement Performance studies. More recent additions have included new cooperative research programs in airports, freight, and hazardous materials transportation, and the second Strategic Highway Research Program.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 05, 2014 at 01:53:43 in reply to Comment 98167

Road-related research may have been the focus of the Transportation Research Board's predecessors, but the range of topics they're involved in expanded greatly in recent decades. Today TRB also supports a tremendous amount of research and discussion on public transit as well as other modes like air, rail, marine transport, and pedestrian and cycling issues as well. For example, they have had a Transit Cooperative Research Program since the early 1990s, and there are a number of transit-related committees (see the main public transportation page: http://www.trb.org/PublicTransportation/... )

Take a deeper look at their website, because the "about" page really doesn't convey the breadth of TRB's interests. The sessions at their annual meeting - which is actually a big conference attended by about 10,000 people - cover just about every transportation issue there is.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2014-03-05 01:54:46

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 04, 2014 at 11:08:13 in reply to Comment 98167

Your use of studies with possible hidden agendas does cast suspicion. I did some digging into the history of ITDB. In the past, it has partnered with the Transportation Research Board, which itself has an interesting history that nowhere includes any mention rapid transit. In fact, there are numerous references to pavement, asphalt, highways etc. You can guess why they support anything with three different letters - namely BRT.

I think we should be careful about judging the ITDB's 'agenda' solely through the filter of our own debate. There's no doubt that in the Hamilton context, BRT is the more regressive choice, but it would be a mistake to extrapolate from there that the ITDB has a regressive agenda. From what I can tell from my admittedly cursory research, in most of the cities the ITDB has been working with, where the polarization around public transit makes Hamilton's debate look like a peace festival, the choice isn't between LRT and BRT, but rather BRT and more highways, making BRT the progressive choice by far. In that kind of climate, I don't begrudge them their advocacy. They are firmly on the side of rapid transit after all.

While there are legitimate questions about their methodology in this particular study - the most glaring being not factoring in BRT's higher operating costs - there are some important takeaways for Hamilton. As I mentioned in my other comments, the authors make it clear that BRT only rivals LRT in terms of ROI when certain conditions are in place. If we accept the authors' premise that B-line BRT would be just as successful LRT, that doesn't change the fact that those conditions are not in place in two out of the three lines being proposed, significantly diminishing the ROI on an investment that would be at least as costly as B-line LRT.

Given this, if LRT opponents are truly opposed on economic grounds, and not simply anti-urban bias and perceptions of 'elitism', they wouldn't even accept two, let alone three BRT lines as an alternative to one LRT.

Comment edited by highwater on 2014-03-04 11:17:10

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:28:39

How do you justify the need for 3 BRT lines? I don't think the need is there now. Besides, Minister Murray said it himself, there is little, to no, development associated with BRT as there is with LRT. You miss out on a significant game changing aspect of LRT

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By OntJoke (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2014 at 18:05:42

This Liberal Government is poorly organized, Wynn can't lead, and her projects are spiralling out of control.

It has become obvious that the Ontario Liberals have lost control of said projects by the raising costs and confusion around them.

PanAm is a sham and BigMove is about nothing but Toronto. Same story as the last 30 + years.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2014 at 18:54:41 in reply to Comment 98183

So the problem is which of three proven failures do we have to choose from? I suppose the ONDP get the advantage since it's been the longest time since they ruined the province, and they had the strongest excuse since there was a pretty bad recession going on.

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