Special Report: Light Rail

Need For Provincial LRT Investment is Both Plain and Obvious

Failure to seize the opportunity for massive provincial capital investment in our transit infrastucture would be devastating for the city.

By Craig Burley
Published December 22, 2014

My fellow downtown business owner Sean Burak has had some very good and trenchant thoughts about the chronic underservice that plagues our transit system and makes it difficult for transit-first travellers (such as myself) to get around the city.

Rendering of light rail transit on King Street (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
Rendering of light rail transit on King Street (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)

I visit clients all over Hamilton, and commute daily from my home in Ainslie Wood to my office downtown by bus, car and bicycle. Good transit is critical to the success of my business.

I want to reiterate Mr. Burak's frustration with the lack of adequate bus service. Even the nominally well-served B-Line routes face crushing crowds, including in evenings and especially on weekends when there is no B-Line Express service.

Attempts at bus/bike multi-mode trips are sometimes nearly impossible, as the infrequently-spaced route 5 weekend buses already have full bike racks.

All this makes trying to get around the city a huge amount of trouble.

It is no wonder that HSR has seen a 25 percent decline in ridership since 1990, when municipalities and transit systems everywhere have been desperate to boost ridership to take pressure off their overloaded and hideously expensive roads.

Most of all, though, I want to underline the message that failure to seize the opportunity for massive provincial capital investment in our transit infrastucture would be devastating for the city.

LRT on the B-Line will provide significant knock-on effects for HSR operations, the ability to redirect bus service to other routes being only one example.

This is all good. But the bottom line remains that Hamilton - as a community and as a municipality - must be committed to appropriate, growth-oriented investment in our transportation infrastructure.

The smartest growth of all is in moving people with municipal transit. Not just the smartest, either: also the cheapest, cleanest, greenest and most pleasant.

I understand that not everyone shares my view that a less intransigent attitude to the Province on funding issues is politically savvy. But please do remember that this can only be a debate over tactics and politics. In terms of strategy and policy, the need for this investment is both plain and obvious.

I urge Council to reiterate its support for a full commitment from the City, the Province and Metrolinx for B-Line LRT as outlined in the City's Rapid Ready LRT report.

This article is adapted from a letter to City Council.

Craig Burley is a tax lawyer in Hamilton. You can follow him on twitter @craig_burley. Comments here are not legal advice.

10 Comments

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 09:08:15

The piece (Craig is me) is adapted from a letter to Council, and is intended more as a hortatory piece aimed at them rather than one addressing the policy issues on the LRT debate for the public. Nevertheless, it sums up a few important points about where we now stand. But rest assured I'd never want to treat the public with the same fact-free presentation you need for politicians when putting across your views.

If people would like to take me up on any of the points mentioned, I am happy to have a more involved discussion of them (and the evidence for them) here.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 09:28:11 in reply to Comment 107307

Thanks for this - hopefully it inspires others to write. It only takes a few minutes, and if they never hear from those who want (and need) better transit, then better transit may never happen.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 10:32:06 in reply to Comment 107308

And thank YOU for giving me the spur to say something. Your point about underservice on our bus routes suddenly touched the 25% decline in ridership that had been pinging around in my head, and it made a spark.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 10:19:47

Great letter. Well said.
I posted this comment the other day in another transit article and it fits here as well:

A great read once again for those who read it back in early 2013, or those who have never read it:

https://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/1EF...

Our Rapid Ready report. Amazing to see we have sitting councillors opposed to virtually everything in this report:

transit lanes transit signals complete streets safe cycling network multi-modal transpo options proper urban development Great strong language used at times as well to warn the city about what will happen if we continue to grow our population, but not make other modes of transport attractive, safe and convenient. Yet, we have heard from councillors already this term who only want driving to be the convenient, safe, attractive way to get around Hamilton. So wish we had term limits.

Also, a great stat in this report: Hamiltonians spend $680 million per year on gas for their cars. Council has zero vision to see the massive economic potential if even 1/6th of that total was able to be redirected elsewhere into the economy.

It's a shame that there aren't basic requirements for a so-called public service job, such as understanding and cooperating with the city's own planning documents and goals.

Some on council have tried to use the contents of Rapid Ready as their defence for wanting to do nothing but build more sprawl and highways. As you can see, folks who actually read it, will take away a completely different message.

EDIT: Just opened twitter and saw this: https://twitter.com/SmartGrowthUSA/statu...

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-22 10:27:51

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:12:39

Excellent thoughts. Here's hoping that the 10 is expanded to evenings and weekends in time for its 30th anniversary in August 2016.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:39:15 in reply to Comment 107321

I really hope so. We desperately need weekend B-Line. The crowding on the 5 routes on Saturdays and Sundays is madness.

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By Hope (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 17:56:38

RTH wrote earlier that there is a new culture in the public works dept. Maybe they will talk some sense into Collins et al.?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 19:03:52 in reply to Comment 107338

I hope so. Council endorsed the Rapid Ready report, which is a brilliant report of how we need to build a complete, safe city for all transportation modes throughout the city.

Staff merely need to remind council to do their jobs properly.

More than that, the mayor role is huge in cases like this. Surely he can convince Collins/Whitehead etc... to focus on the good of the city for even 3 years of their term. Then they can go bananas with all the parochial electioneering stuff leading up to yet another election run.

Term limits....sigh......

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-22 19:04:06

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By No (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 22:49:40 in reply to Comment 107342

Term limits

Enough of this. Term limits are not the answer. You have yet to provide a good case for this. Maybe you could write an article on that, rather than rehashing the same couple of types of articles. Just a thought, thanks.

Comment edited by No on 2014-12-22 22:50:29

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By Lewis R. Trent (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:14:24

I blame the city and HSR for spending the last 7 years putting all their eggs into the LRT basket when they could have been forming the BLAST spine using our current fleet is buses plus new Quick Wins buses.

Build up the ridership outside of the B-Line, increase the presence of a Rapid, Reliable Transit System before begging for a billion dollars.

This site site is also to blame for putting all it's eggs into the LRT-education campaign rather than educating Hamiltonians on a reliable rapid transit system using what we currently have.

BLAST can be implemented today. Yet we whine and moan that we can't get our billion dollar toy ("...but torontoooooo has one!!!")

Now we look like idiots with a 3 million dollar report for just one route.

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