Special Report: Light Rail

Urgent: Transit Plan is LRT Killer

Staff and Council need to hear loud and clear that they can't decide Hamilton's future behind closed doors.

By RTH Staff
Published March 05, 2015

Hamilton was ready for light rail transit in 2008. Now senior city staff are saying we're not ready - and they have devised a plan to make sure we don't get it.

This Friday, Councillors will receive the HSR Ten Year Local Transit Strategy [PDF], a staff report that has the potential to slam the door shut on LRT in Hamilton. It was created without public consultation and is very different from what Council directed staff to do back in 2013.

Council Needs to Hear From You

Council needs to hear from you before they vote. If we submit this funding request and the Province agrees to it, that will most likely be all the Provincial money we get for Hamilton transit for the next ten years.

This plan re-writes Hamilton's rapid transit submission to the Province without any public input, deprioritizing rapid transit altogether.

Based on the total population of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Hamilton's share of the $15 billion is around $1.35 billion. If we submit a capital plan of $302 million over ten years to the Province, we will be leaving over a billion dollars on the table - money that more ambitious cities will be happy to take.

By the time we get around to asking for capital funding for our LRT plan, the $15 billion in Provincial money earmarked for rapid transit will all be gone.

Staff will present the Transit Strategy to City Councillors at their General Issues Committee this Friday. The Strategy was only made public last Friday, and no public consultation went into developing it.

Hamiltonians have not had any opportunity to learn about this plan or to understand what is at stake if we accept it.

Two Things

We are asking you to do two things:

1. Please take a few minutes and tell Council not to rush into adopting this Strategy:

http://hamiltonlightrail.ca/statements/new

2. If you can, please attend the General Issues Committee meeting on Friday:

Staff and Council need to hear loud and clear that they can't decide Hamilton's future behind closed doors. Demand public consultation and careful examination of this Strategy before we make a decision that slams the door on LRT in Hamilton.

22 Comments

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 08:25:53

From my brief scan of the Ten Year Plan, it seems to be housed within the context of supporting the Rapid Ready plan and reiterates the Provinces promise of full capital funding of LRT.

Is the concern mainly just that the Province will fork over the 300 million and then say, "that's all you get"? Can't this request for funds be made contingent on the Province also following through on the 811 million?

As is stated above, Hamilton is due far more than 811 million of the 15 billion and we should not leave money on the table.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2015 at 08:36:55 in reply to Comment 109967

It is framed as supporting Rapid Ready even as it effectively blocks it. Council directed staff to look for places to invest new local money in local service expansion while looking to the Province for rapid transit investment. Instead, we're asking the Province to pay for our local transit expansion - which they'll be happy to do for $300 million instead of giving us $811 million for LRT.

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By Simon Mangan (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 09:01:09

Well, no wonder Chris Murray was so quiet at the Useful Knowledge LRT presentation.
Thecity continuing to give out mixed messages guarantees that we are heading for an epic fail.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 09:58:31 in reply to Comment 109969

"Well, no wonder Chris Murray was so quiet at the Useful Knowledge LRT presentation."

Well, lots of us were quiet during the event. For starters, Mr. Seiling had a seemingly bottomless cache of information, of anecdotes, of observations over the life of Waterloo's LRT adventure. (In fact, no slight intended to the other two panelists present on the stage after his presentation, he could have been answering questions for another hour, solo.) As well, audience members were asked to keep their comments/questions brief. Further, there were all kinds of people in the audience who remained 'quiet' who could have provided input, but chose not to. I'd tend to offer Mr. Murray some thanks for showing up...but maybe I'm a little more generous than most. (It's a little sad that when someone like him shows up but is quiet, it's seen as a negative. And if they don't show up, it's seen as a negative.)

Frankly, there were some questions that deserved to be asked but weren't (I'm speaking of myself here), because the tone of the room really was, as was pointed out, a 'choir being preached to', and so my sense was that it would be seen as somewhat déclassé to have asked them. And so I too, remained quiet.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 06, 2015 at 03:05:24 in reply to Comment 109976

So, we were preaching to the choir, but the room was full of LRT opponents who were too afraid to ask contrarian questions? That's a pretty funny choir.

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By UjustBS (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 10:49:45 in reply to Comment 109976

Because you just is a coward.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 09:18:29

But isn't that exorbitantly priced 200 million dollar storage and maintenance facility planned to be used for future LRT? The intent is for the 302 to facilitate and make the 811 a better investment. If its sold to the Province that way, and it's noted that per capital that's still a couple hundred million shy of Hamilton's share of the 15 billion, could this not be a positive?

I will note that I hate the idea of a fare increase and that $200,000,000 can build you a 50 storey tower in downtown Toronto. How that amount of money is necessary for a storage facility in Hamilton is beyond me.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2015 at 09:35:55 in reply to Comment 109970

The Strategy doesn't say anything about the maintenance facility being set up for future LRT. In fact, it suggests that the facility could be built at 330 Wentworth Street North, which had previously been the staff-recommended location for the LRT maintenance facility.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 09:41:05 in reply to Comment 109972

Thought so, which is why I thought a future conversion was the intent. Well that's something that I would certainly like them to clarify.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 10:37:30

Once the bus facility is built it will stay a bus facility. A rail maintenance facility is a very different animal from a bus garage. Once you have a bus garage it will stay a bus garage. Everything from how the floor of the facility is constructed to the equipment actually used in a rail facility is different from a bus garage. In the past, old streetcar barns could be converted to buses because of the similar sizes of the two vehicles but, not now. The shear size of the modern LRV's used today in the North American market start at 27-30 metres long (Siemens S70/S200 Model) going through the 28-42 Metre long mid size models (Bombardier Flexity Family of Products) stretching up to the 48 metre long, eventually 59 metre long monsters that Ottawa will be using (The largest and second largest version of the modular Alstom Spirit Citadis) make conversion from bus to rail operations inside these facilities difficult if not nearly impossible. All these are the length of the individual rail vehicles not the length of a multi vehicle operating consist or a LRV train. Although, Waterloo's Ion LRT Line will be initially operating with single car consists or trains as does Toronto's legacy streetcar network (a design trade off to allow these vehicles to operate on the TTC's tight surface curves but disallowing multi car consist operation).

Toronto's Flexity Outlooks (the legacy streetcar replacements) and the Flexity Swift LRV's for the Eglinton, Finch and Sheppard LRT lines both models at 30 metres long are relatively speaking small to average sized for new LRV's operating around the world. Only in the new mixed traffic streetcar operations popping up in North American cities like downtown Portland and the new ones soon to start up in Washington, Atlanta, Cincinatti and Kansas City have individual vehicle lengths 18-23 metres (60-75 feet) anywhere near the length of a modern transit bus. However, there is no confusion these are not LRT systems but mixed traffic streetcars. Consider that, most buses are 12 metres long (standard 40 footer) and stretch to 18 metres (the length for most standard articulated buses) the size differential between modern LRV's and modern surface buses is quite large.

Even the rare Bi and Tri articulated Buses (not legal in Canada or the USA) which stretch from 23-30 metres in length and were both proposed by Ottawa's OC Transpo and Pittsburgh's PAT Transit for BRT operations realized that, they have very different maintenance and operating requirements compared to standard bus operations. Even when cities like Ottawa and Pittsburgh both highly experienced in BRT operations, tried to operate them in the 90's, both federal Canadian and American departments of transportation put too many conditions for even their Busway only operation plans to be sucessful. Implementation became so difficult that both operators programs were shelved. Both BRT operations in Ottawa and Pittsburgh found that, along with the extra safety requirements, the relatively high purchase and very high operating costs (compared to other transit buses) associated with these very large road vehicles meant, it was easier to concentrate on more conventional things like, improved single articulated bus operation and double decker bus operation. So if you think that a bus facility can be re-purposed as a rail maintenance facility later without very high conversion costs being associated with the project, think again!

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 20:58:39 in reply to Comment 109977

Maybe the reason the cost of the bus facility is so high because it is being designed to accomodate rail vehicles in the future?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2015 at 21:17:03 in reply to Comment 109992

I suppose it's possible, but there's nothing in the Transit Strategy to indicate that this is the case.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 12:19:54

There just isn't the political will to go all in on LRT yet. It's a shame because it could help this city in many ways. It could even help give Hamilton an iconic sort of identity. But this is still a cool city - I won't say 'great' - but it has an edge that I like and still will after the LRT boat has sailed.

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By Lyon (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 13:46:43 in reply to Comment 109980

The strategy of Collins et al. was to kill LRT from day 1 and now Collins will pretend this is a win-win and that he's aggressively pushing for GO train expansion to Stoney Creek, even though that was never in question. SOB.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 13:43:45

We should change our city slogan.

Hamilton: The city with potential.

That sign on the side of the 403 will be just as relevant in 100 years as today.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 15:29:29 in reply to Comment 109983

Hamilton: The city with unrealized potential.

Fixed it for you.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 14:20:46

LRT is dead ... long live it's possible future return (i.e. in the future that is not now). Is that the message?

If we take anything away from this and the UKS event it is that we need to focus on taking the discussion on the road -- i.e. out of the core. I don't know the logistics, but nothing will change if we wait for Council and City Staff to be courageous, etc. It's necessary for citizens to boldly go where politicians fear to tread. Perhaps, citizen to citizen is the kind of messy, but necessary exercise to get from A to B (or some unknown C). We know that when asked by pollsters a majority of Hamiltonians want better transit. That's a good starting point for a conversation ... just don't wait for Fred to do it. He's not spending political capital on difficult issues apparently.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-03-05 14:21:23

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 14:46:06

So I wrote to council Tuesday evening. Only two replies: Green and Mayor. So either I have an accurate poll of all council or the silent majority all agree with me and as such didn't respond.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 15:23:58

All the discussions I have seen at council, and discussions I have had with councillors themselves, is that the $302M request is in addition to the $811M for LRT.

In fact, at my budget delegation Clr. Whitehead and (IIRC) Clr. Jackson asked me specifically if I thought the combined $1.1B ask, 800 for LRT and 300 for expanded bus service, was a good idea and I said yes. The plan is clearly to ask for both as the total funding request.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 18:43:02 in reply to Comment 109988

I don't buy it.

These guys wouldn't even take the 100 grand already given to them by Metrolinx to fix our only bus lane. They aren't going to ask for, or spend, $1.1 billon on anything other than more 5 lane roads across the countryside.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 08:16:06

So I've found that the $302 million request was carried 11-4, but does anyone know who the four were who voted against?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2015 at 09:22:39 in reply to Comment 110047

My guess is Mayor Eisenberger and Councillors Aidan Johnson, Jason Farr and Matthew Green.

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