Special Report: Light Rail

Eleven Hours and Forty Minutes of Sound and Fury, Signifying One Very Important Thing

Because Council has definitely voted to approve the LRT project, it would require a "reconsideration motion" and a two-thirds majority vote to overturn that decision.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 26, 2016

The most important thing to come out of yesterday's eleven-and-a-half hour heroin coma of a General Issues Committee meeting was the fact, hammered home by City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petrovski, that Council has, in fact, clearly voted to implement the Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan on three separate votes.

Here is the City Solicitor, answering Ward 8 Councillor Whitehead:

Certainly, Council did make a decision to implement the LRT. And that decision, I think, is reflected not only in the August 2015 meeting [when Council approved the staff report "Fostering the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project"], but also in the [Memorandum of Agreement between the City and Metrolinx] that was entered into, and then the Real Estate Protocol that was entered into.

Because Council has definitely voted to approve the LRT project, it would require a "reconsideration motion" and a two-thirds majority vote to overturn that decision.

As a result of this clarification, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla withdrew his contentious motion to re-affirm Council's support for the LRT project, since the motion is unneccesary and a vote against it would be procedurally meaningless but politically dangerous.

The other important vote was to release the legal opinion of Integrity Commissioner George Rust-D'Eye, who agreed with the City Solicitor's determination that Council has voted to implement the LRT system.

Detail from Rus-D'Eye's legal opion with respect to the LRT
Detail from Rus-D'Eye's legal opion with respect to the LRT

Rust-D'Eye's report also argues that a Council vote to defer the LRT project to a ballot question on the October 2018 municipal election would similarly constitute a reconsideration of Council's decision to implement LRT and would also require a two-thirds majority vote.

The rest of the meeting was more or less pure theatre - and what a theatre of pain it was! We must give a huge kudo to the indefatigable Joey Coleman of The Public Record, who livestreamed the entire shambles even as the City's official livestream repeatedly went off-line.

Setting the Stage

Before the meeting, a small, vocal anti-LRT group organized an effort to fill the gallery with LRT opponents and present a number of anti-LRT citizen delegations to the committee members.

In response, various groups of LRT supporters came together to make sure the small anti-LRT voice was not allowed to dominate the meeting. As a result, the gallery was packed with 150 residents, the vast majority of them there to support LRT. Out of 26 delegations, 19 were supportive. (Note: I made a delegation on behalf of Hamilton Light Rail. You can read the text of my delegation.)

When the meeting began, the councillors spent the first half-hour debating the order in which they should proceed through the agenda. This should have been a tipoff that the meeting was going to turn into a gong show.

It was actually Whitehead who argued that the delegations should be moved forward so that the citizens should not have to wait all day to get the chance to speak. The Committee eventually agreed that the staff presentation would go first, then delegates would be allowed to speak, and all questions from councillors would wait until after the delegations were over.

Of course, Whitehead also insisted that he had the right to question a delegate if his name was mentioned, and Mayor Fred Eisenberger agreed that a Councillor is always allowed to raise a point of privilege.

The Chair, Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly, set the tone for the rest of the meeting by constantly interrupting her colleagues to speak "through the chair" and lecturing the delegates that the five-minute speaking time would be strictly enforced.

Skelly also ordered the 150 audience members not to applaud after a delegation. When the audience applauded anyway, she started passive-aggressively announcing the next speaker during the applause so no one could hear her.

LRT Update

Oh yeah: nearly lost in all the sound and fury was an actual project report from LRT director Paul Johnson. Johnson presented an update on the LRT Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), which you will find under item 5.1, Presentations in the agenda for the meeting. (We can't link directly to the report because the City's Council/Committee meeting website is unusable-by-design.)

It turns out Metrolinx has already spent or committed $60-70 million on implementing the LRT project that Council approved. So far, the project is on track to hit all the major milestones for completion: Environmental Assessment amendment completed in early 2017, construction bid awarded in mid-2018, construction starts in 2019, service begins in 2024.

One important point that came out of the meeting was that the Operating and Maintenance details cannot be finalized until a bid is accepted. This is because the Metrolinx procurement model actually awards a bid to Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Maintain the service, not just to build it.

Maintenance Facility

Metrolinx and City staff are working to secure a site for the Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility (OMSF) and they have settled on a roughly wedge-shaped piece of land immediately west of the CP Rail line between Aberdeen Avenue and Chatham Street, a little east of Longwood Road.

Proposed OMSF location
Proposed OMSF location

The site is around 6-8 hectares (15-20 acres) in size, within a kilometre of the LRT line, has the right site configuration and compatible adjacent land uses, and will have minimal impact on the surrounding community.

LRT vehicles would travel between the OMSF and the main LRT line via tracks running from Main Street West along Longwood Road South and Frid Street. The short distance to the line means less cost to build the access tracks.

LRT vehicles would be travelling to and from the OMSF early in the morning and late at night, so they will not impact rush-hour traffic on Longwood.

This location would also allow the city to complete the Frid Street connection between Longwood Road and Chatham, which has been in the works for years but is unfunded.

LRT Construction and Utilities

Most of the LRT line is running on a right-of-way that is 20 metres wide or less. Staff have catalogued 20 km of municipal utilities located within the LRT right-of-way:

The deepest pipes are ten metres below the surface.

All of these utilities must be relocated from the LRT right-of-way into around 3.5 metres on either side of the line.

Staff are currently undertaking subsurface utility engineering investigations so they can get a clear picture of exactly what lies under the roadway and what will need to be replaced.

Metrolinx will be replacing the existing utilities on a like-for-like basis. If Council wants, it has the opportunity to pay the differential cost to increase the capacity of these utilities. (That added cost can be recovered through development charges on new developments around the LRT line.)

Intersections

At major intersections, vehicle turning movements will be allowed in all directions across the LRT tracks.

Typical major intersection
Typical major intersection

On smaller side streets, vehicles will only be allowed to make right-turn-on and right-turn-off movements. However, major intersections will also allow u-turns so that vehicles from side streets that want to turn left can do a right turn followed by a u-turn.

Typical side street intersection
Typical side street intersection

Typical side street intersection with u-turn at major intersection
Typical side street intersection with u-turn at major intersection

Traffic

Traffic modelling has found that westbound vehicle trips will disperse to adjacent streets north and south of King. The one area of significant concern is from Cannon/York to Dundurn and the Highway 403 access.

Map: where will the traffic go
Map: where will the traffic go

Johnson said that staff are still working on developing strategies to mitigate the area of concern. (Ahem: convert Main Street to two-way.)

Moving People

An LRT vehicle can hold 130 people comfortable - or up to 200 people at "crush capacity". 130 people is equal to two and a half buses or, at two passengers per car, 65 cars. (In fact, during rush hour, the average occupancy of cars is significantly lower than two people per car.)

Cars, buses and LRT to carry 130 people
Cars, buses and LRT to carry 130 people

The LRT vehicles we will be using can also be coupled, so a single driver could carry 260 passengers - or up to 400 at "crush capacity".

The simple fact is that we are going to need LRT to continue to be able to move people through this corridor. Staff estimate 12.4 million to 15.1 million annual boardings on the B-Line in 2031 (currently, the current total ridership on the various bus routes along the corridor is around 9 million annual boardings.)

That is expected to increase to 16.8 million to 20.3 million annual boardings by 2041.

Pedestrian Connection to Hunter GO Station

Johnson noted that the Hunter GO Station will continue to be an important regional transit hub, and Hughson Street is planned as a higher-order walking corridor between the Gore Park LRT station and Hunter. Hughson will prioritize pedestrian traffic with streetscape design, tree planting and wayfinding.

Hughson Street redesign
Hughson Street redesign

Environmental Studies

Because the route is changed slightly from the original design that was submitted with an Environmental Assessment (EA), several studies have to be revised: cultural heritage, natural heritage, contamination, air quality, hydrogeology, noise and vibration studies are underway.

Property Acquisition

Metrolinx is leading this process. 43 properties have been identified as priorities, and the owners have been notified. Metrolinx will meet with the owners to negotiate the sale of their property (in whole or in part). Where the owner is not willing to sell, Metrolinx will expropriate the land at fair market price.

Risks and Opportunities Assessment

The City's Audit Services Department is undertaking a high-level Risks and Opportunities study for LRT, coordinating with department leaders across the city government to look at what challenges and opportunities the LRT project creates for the various city operations and initiatives.

Public Information Centre

Last month, the City held seven public information centres, which drew 861 attendees. Of those, 349 provided detailed feedback through a response form. Of those, only 57 recorded opposition to the project.

A major feedback was the need for an additional station in the Gage Park/Delta area, and staff are looking at how to incorporate a stop here.

Residents also suggested some additional pedestrian crossing locations, preferred to locate the McMaster terminus on the north side of the street (for easier access to campus), supported adding bike lanes on Main Street West, and preferred retaining the ability to make left turns at Paradise Road.

Promotional Video

City Manager Chris Murray presented a short video recently produced for the City explaining the LRT plan and how it fits into the BLAST network of rapid transit lines across the entire city.

The B-Line and A-Line spur are the necessary first phase of that citywide network.

Real Estate Study

Mark Conway of NBLC Real Estate Consultants gave an exciting presentation on Hamilton's prospects for transit-oriented development around the LRT line.

He started by noting that every market is different, but that Hamilton's market is on the cusp of change toward more high-density development.

He explained that LRT transforms a real estate market by improving market demand for property around it, increasing the viability of planned or proposed projects, and increasing the competitiveness of the city compared to other cities.

Already, property values along the LRT corridor are rising faster than the city as a whole. Over time, as the LRT is built and goes into operation, development growth in Hamilton will accelerate, and especially around the line.

LRT increases the interest of developers and stimulates demand to develop derelict, vacant and underused land around the line. When the right zoning and land use framework is in place, LRT also encourages more dense, compact, land-efficient developments that are cheaper for the City to serivce.

The kind of land use that LRT encourages is also more appealing for the young professionals that the city is trying to attract. Young people want interesting cities with a high quality of life and great transit.

Profesional companies, in turn, tend to follow the talent pool they are trying to attract, so a city that does better at attracting young professionals will also do better at attracting new offices to employ them.

It also encourages an increase in the supply and diversity of housing types and price ranges, including both condo and rental units, and hence providing more housing opportunities to more people at a range of prices.

With more developments and more people looking to live, work and invest around the line, that creates a positive impact on local retail by increasing the number of customers who are accessible to the business.

He stressed that development growth will start slowly and then accelerate over time. He also pointed out that development growth will first start to accelerate in the downtown core, then north and west, and then gradually extend further east.

Then Things Turned Ugly

The first real indication of how ugly this meeting was going to get happened at the end of Johnson's presentation. The last page on the overhead screen - a list of questions that Councillors had submitted to him prior to the meeting - was left off the printed package Councillors received.

Johnson apologized and said he'd arrange for Councilors to receive a copy of the list of questions. Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge took a cheap shot: "That's been happening a lot throughout this whole project - we just don't have information."

The audience booed and muttered about this unprofessional attack on staff, but instead of calling out her colleague for violating the Council Code of Conduct, Chair Skelly chastised the audience for making noise.

Once the delegations were over, Council began to question staff, and things turned really ugly.

Whitehead single-handedly mopped up literally hours of the meeting in what can only be characterized as a histrionic filibuster against the facts.

He rattled out volley after volley of increasingly ridiculous "questions" with absolutely no interest in actually listening to the answers or learning anything that might challenge his preconceptions. He made ridiculous demands of staff, repeatedly putting them on the spot to produce answers for his fishing expeditions.

He argued with everybody about everything. He argued with LRT director Paul Johnson over every aspect of the plan, including dredging up the Main vs. King debate yet again.

He argued with the representative from transit consultant Steer Davies Gleave over whether their ridership projections were credible and even tried to spring a gotcha over whether Steer Davies Gleave failed to accurately predict ridership on the Union-Pearson Express. (The company provided a range of ridership projections at different fare prices but did not set the initial fare. When Metrolinx reduced the fare from $26 to $9, ridership increased five times.)

He argued with the real estate consultant over whether their development growth projections are valid and whether people actually want to invest and live around LRT.

He argued and argued and argued with the City Solicitor and the Integrity Commissioner over whether Council actually voted to implement the LRT (it did), and whether Whitehead's sense that Council was "tentative" in its support means reversing course would not actually require a reconsideration motion (it doesn't).

Whitehead physically miming the death-grip in which he endlessly held staff
Whitehead physically miming the death-grip in which he endlessly held staff

He argued with Skelly over points of order and privilege. He went on and on and on, endlessly. His first round of questions sprawled for more than 90 minutes (so much for the five-minute time limit), and he was back for more several bouts over the course of the eleven and a half hour day.

It got so bad that even Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson, arguably the most mild-mannered member of Council, became visibly exasperated, saying, "That's not fair. Come on!"

Chair Skelly asked him to move on but still failed to rein him in, and he was allowed to continue grandstanding and sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

Seriously, his relentlessly bullying behaviour needs to be observed to be understood. There is really nothing else remotely like it on this Council.

Whitehead was certainly the Obstructionist-in-Chief, but he wasn't the only offender among Councillors who were trying to confuse and undermine the project - though in fairness, no one else consumed even a fraction of the amount of time that Whitehead swallowed into the void.

Skelly tried to argue that the City could have built out the entire BLAST network with buses for the cost of the LRT, even though the Province has repeatedly said they don't fund local bus service and the LRT money cannot be reallocated to a different project.

Partridge kept asking whether Council still had any "off-ramps" for the project, even though she couldn't explain what she meant by an "off-ramp". (And note the confused analogy of trying to bolt an "off-ramp" - something that goes on a highway - onto a rapid transit project.)

And all of this, just to receive Rust-D'Eye's report and withdraw Merulla's motion.

Incidentally, the City pays Rust-D'Eye $350 an hour, so having him sit there through 11.5 hours of pointless showboating cost the City $4,025.

In fairness to Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, he had had earlier tried to get the committee to move the debate over Rust-D'Eye's report forward so he could leave sooner. However, that would have required a reconsideration of their previous vote on what order to follow the agenda, and Ferguson's motion failed to receive the two-thirds majority it needed.

That, in turn, is as good a metaphor as any to understand the outcome.

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 Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:03:14

Linking directly to reports... is that not fixed now? Is anyone unable to access Paul Johnson's report here?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:04:13 in reply to Comment 120321

Trying that again... Paul Johnson Report

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:16:16 in reply to Comment 120322

For a (sometimes much) longer lasting link, before you open documents in the siretechnologies site, right click the PDF document logo and select "Copy Link". (Do this instead of opening the document and copying the browser bar)

This will work as long as the base document is not updated (which it often is, as presentations emailed late are added). It will still get broken anyway, but at least it might last longer.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-10-26 14:17:14

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:33:38 in reply to Comment 120322

It is working for now, but see that "/cache/" bit in the link? That means when you click on a link to a specific report, the website generates a temporary link to the report and saves the link in a cache. After a little while, the cache is cleared and the temporary link stops working.

The most fundamental job of a website is to have Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) that point to resources. This website has gone out of its way to create a special functionality that breaks the fundamental relationship between a Uniform Resource Locator and the resource it is supposed to locate.

There are not words.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2016-10-26 10:35:47

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:40:59 in reply to Comment 120326

They may have done this to prevent a user from seeing an outdated page because their own browser has caching enabled. If the url changes then they would be forced to download the most recent document instead of having their browser display the cached one.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:55:43 in reply to Comment 120329

That seems like an extremely cumbersome solution to a marginal problem. In any case, it's a basic web server configuration setting to specify how long browsers should cache a given URL.

Also, the cache for Tybalt's link has now expired and the link is dead.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:07:24

"Skelly tried to argue that the City could have built out the entire BLAST network with buses for the cost of the LRT, even though the Province has repeatedly said they don't fund local bus service and the LRT money cannot be reallocated to a different project."

More than this: BLAST is only BLAST if it is Rapid Transit. The whole point of it is that it is a rapid-transit network, not something done with ordinary bus transit.

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2016-10-26 10:07:49

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:10:41

One last thing: the "Moving People" graphic. This always bugs me, the reflexive use of two people to a car.

Rush-hour average car load along King and Main Streets (this is from my own counts over several years) is just about 1.25 persons per vehicle. That group of cars needs to be about 60% longer.

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By JPDanko (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:30:13

I wasn't able to hear all of the delegations, but with the ones I did see I was really struck by a common theme - the pro LRT side was overwhelmingly positive, broad and looking towards a better future for the city as a whole, while the no LRT side was consistently negative, clinging to the past and focused on individual local complaints.

I think this pretty much sums up the entire debate (if you can even call it a debate).

The other theme that really stood out for me is that even with the level of unprecedented support for this project - it's still not enough. Everyone - and I mean every single group or organization that is usually blamed for undue influence on council supports LRT. Contractors, developers, home builders, real estate associations, the Chamber of Commerce, unions, business, transit advocates, cycling advocates, poverty advocates, environmental advocates, community associations, educational institutions, healthcare institutions, and ... the general public ... all want council to just build it.

Even the few that are against it enough to show up to council are mainly business owners who will be directly affected by construction - they're not even against LRT - they're just against 4 years of construction on their front door - that's totally understandable - but can be mitigated.

It's so frustrating that this should be such an amazing good news story for Hamilton - by continuing to bicker about a decision that has already been made, we're wasting 3 entire years of positive economic growth that should be absolutely exploding before construction begins - while working on updating the rest of the transit network.

Instead it feels like even when we win we loose - but I feel a whole lot better about it after seeing all of those brilliant delegations #yesLRT

BTW we need to schedule a #yesLRT social event - it was really cool to meet a bunch of people I've only been in contact with online.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:52:16 in reply to Comment 120325

Well said, JP. And I second the idea that we should have a #yesLRT event. Happy to help a steering committee: anyone who'd like to plan such a thing with me can email me at craig@craigburley.com and I will create a mailing list.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 10:29:06 in reply to Comment 120346

Contact me, I know many #yesLRT

The best thing to do is make it a Facebook Event (can be a Private one).

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By JPDanko (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 21:03:43 in reply to Comment 120346

Awesome! I was just thinking that we pick a date and a venue to all get together for drinks - sometime before the holiday season.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:36:27

That is disturbingly disfunctional. What is Mr. Whitehead trying to achieve with his behaviour? Is his approach one of, "I am not getting my way, so I am going to waste everyone's time and money with the political equivalent of a two-year-old's temper tantrum"?

Or is he just a Silvio Berlusconi style narcissist?

What is deeply disturbing is his disrespect for truth and honesty by just making up non-existent "facts" that have no reality outside of his own head.

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By guelphite (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:26:58

Credit to Eisenberger and Merulla for what time they did manage to speak on the ridiculousness of both the double-standards of Hamilton's infrastructure planning and due diligence of councilors, respectively.

I watched the whole thing live but by the end I was having a hard time following the back and forth on the legal opinion mentioned here: "Whitehead's sense that Council was "tentative" in its support means reversing course would not actually require a reconsideration motion (it doesn't).

Hopefully I'm reading this correctly as Terry's intuition that council voted tentatively doesn't mean that it would not require a two-thirds motion?

Edit: that question is probably redundant considering the conclusion of the rest of the article, suppose I am asking that at this point there is no likely opportunity for a simple majority vote in the future that can serve as an "off-ramp" for LRT?

Comment edited by guelphite on 2016-10-26 11:41:55

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:48:33

So there aren't enough votes to stop the project but what happens when the environmental assessment comes to a vote? Will this simply be treated as a vote on LRT as a whole?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:59:24 in reply to Comment 120330

That's where things get, um, interesting. Since it voted to ratify the Memorandum of Agreement, Council now has a procedural mandate to "proceed expeditiously, diligently and in good faith and in a co-operative and collaborative manner to negotiate and enter into a definitive agreement or agreements [...] to facilitate and expedite the construction and completion of the Project."

To my thinking, that means it would require a reconsideration motion and a two-thirds majority to reject the EA Amendment or the Master Agreement on anything other than legitimate, good-faith grounds that the agreements are somehow unacceptable.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:58:19

I'm anti-LRT for a few reasons:

-The City is all in before Operation & Maintenance cost liabilities are determined. Potentially a huge property tax hit? Hmmm, remember Dad saying, nothing real good comes for free?

  • McMaster students make up a large portion of rush hour riders, however, currently they have unlimited HSR access for either $139.00 or $182.00 per year depending on their program. Virtually free riders. How does this effect LRT fares? Large(r)Property tax payer subsidies?

_ Eight year project (2024 completion date), will likely result in massive avoidance to areas of downtown anywhere near the 5 year construction zone. In the end only conveniently serves those close to the LRT line or people have to catch a HRS Bus to LRT line which is back to old system which LRT was to solve?

  • Fair disclosure, from childhood to retirement always depended on a car. Can't stop visualizing family of four, Mom dragging one or two of the kids to grocery shop for the week. How close is any stop to the grocery store? Finally got many, many bags of groceries, still dragging one or two of the kids, got to get it all on LRT vehicle , get off and cart all this for a block(s) home. Replace car with LRT? Don't think so!

  • Finally, If project starts to go over budget from $1B, the project will be scaled back. Might, just might not have the LRT line everyone thinks they are going to get!

Please, yes there are also lots of pluses for a modern LRT System!

Comment edited by bobby2 on 2016-10-26 12:19:53

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:22:29 in reply to Comment 120331

The City is all in before Operation & Maintenance cost liabilities are determined. Potentially a huge property tax hit?

Metrolinx really wants this project to be a success, and they are negotiating an agreement that the city will be willing to accept. Do you really think they're going to try and force Council to accept an agreement that screws the city over? They know Council still has the power to reject a bad agreement.

Also, the City is hardly going "all in" on this project. All we're doing is accepting the Province investing $1 billion in Hamilton. Contrast Waterloo Region, which is putting in $250 million of their own money on their project.

McMaster students make up a large portion of rush hour riders, however, currently they have unlimited HSR access for either $139.00 or $182.00 per year depending on their program. Virtually free riders. How does this effect LRT fares? Large(r)Property tax payer subsidies?

McMaster students (and faculty, and staff) make up a significant portion of rush hour riders, but remember that the B-Line corridor is close to self-funding its operations from fare revenues. Given that LRT has a significantly lower operating cost per passenger, the line is more likely to generate an operating surplus than to require an operating subsidy.

Eight year project (2024 completion date), will likely result in massive avoidance to areas of downtown anywhere near the 5 year construction zone.

Construction will most likely be staged so that any given intersection is only closed for a short period of time. Therefore the impacts on local business are likely to be temporary - and there are already plans being developed to mitigate those impacts through a coordinated strategy to support those businesses through the construction phase.

Meanwhile, once construction is over those same businesses stand to benefit enormously from being on an LRT line that is attracting new investments, new developments and an increasing population of residents and employees.

It's short-term pain for long-term gain, as most business owners along the line already recognize. (More than 300 businesses have registered their support for the project.)

In the end only conveniently serves those close to the LRT line or people have to catch a HRS Bus to LRT line which is back to old system which LRT was to solve?

First, the number of people living and working close to the LRT line will increase steadily as new developments bring more residents and jobs into the corridor.

Second, the bus system will be reconfigured to that it integrates with and feeds more directly into the LRT backbone, benefiting transit users across the city.

Third, this is the first phase of a citywide network of rapid transit lines. You have to start somewhere, and the best place to start is the route that has the best prospects for rapid transit success: high existing transit ridership, compatible building form and large amounts of developable land.

Fair disclosure, from childhood to retirement always depended on a car.

Fair enough - it's hard to imagine someone choosing a different lifestyle - but people living in cities all over the world do choose a more urban lifestyle that is not dependent on every adult in the household owning a car.

Young people are increasingly disinterested in owning cars - they want to live in interesting communities where you don't need a car to get around. Meanwhile, an aging population means more and more seniors won't be able to drive - they will also need to have the ability to live in a place where they can still access amenities and social interactions.

How close is any stop to the grocery store?

The King and Dundurn station will stop right in front of Fortinos. The King and James station will stop right outside Jackson Square, which contains Nations. The King and Wentworth station will be a couple of blocks from the No Frills on Main.

And of course, as more people move into the LRT corridor, the market will respond with more grocery store options.

Replace car with LRT? Don't think so!

And yet in cities all over the world, people enjoy a high quality of life without needing a car to go everywhere.

It might mean going car-free. Or it might mean going from two cars to one car. (My own family is a one-car family, and I enjoy the $7-10,000 a year we save from not having to own a second car.)

Stop thinking in absolutes and start thinking in a gradient of lifestyle options.

Finally, If project starts to go over budget from $1B, the project will be scaled back. Might, just might not have the LRT line everyone thinks they are going to get!

This may be your least persuasive argument. You are saying you reject putting out a request for bids on a project because there is a slight chance that none of the bids will come in under budget. Talk about planning for failure!

First of all, most Metrolinx projects are completed on time and on budget - including projects roughly similar in complexity to Hamilton's LRT. Second, if the project has to be scaled back then it will be scaled back. Phased LRT is still better than the status quo, which is unsustainable in any case.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 18:05:37 in reply to Comment 120342

Metrolinx projects are completed on time and on budget?

Toronto Union Station Renos: 2 years overdue, $160 million over budget
Presto Rollout: triple its original budget at $700 million according to the AG. You read that right. Originally budgeted at $250 million. Final cost projected to be $700 million and Metrolinx refuses to confirm that that will be the final price tag
Spadina Subway extension: $800 million over budget and a projected open date 2 years overdue

That's off the top of my head. All Metrolinx projects. All over budget. I will say UPX was on time and on budget. The bad news is that it continually loses money. Imagine that. A train from Union to Pearson in a city of over 2 million and it can't even break even. Wow. Metrolinx. Top notch. UPX president had to resign over that one.

Ryan, put your money where your mouth is. I will bet you $10,000 that the Hamilton LRT will be over budget which means that it will be trimmed since the $1 billion is a hard cap. The James St spur will not be built. And I hear what you're saying about phased LRT better than none but it may surprise you to learn that the provincial debt is projected to be $350 billion by 2020. There will be no further funding for municipal transit projects. I promise you.

I echo bobby2: an LRT is nice to have and one day will even be necessary. But now is not the time. The province needs to turn its finances around first. The money simply isn't there.

I'm a Hamiltonian, born and raised, and I'm seriously considering moving out of this province. The situation in Ontario can't be sustained indefinitely. We're broke. Our debt is the largest subsovereign debt on planet Earth. Twice the debt of California with half the population. Cuts are coming. To healthcare. To education. Increases to hydro are also coming. A 1% increase in interest rates means Ontario will pay another $350 million a month on interest alone to service its debt. What do you think Hamilton will look like in 20 years if Ontario is bankrupt? Look at the big picture. We have a moral obligation to refuse this funding and tell the province it needs to start managing taxpayer money more carefully.

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-10-26 18:11:58

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 13:14:38 in reply to Comment 120355

One sure way to bankrupt Ontario is to not invest in it. Put all the money in the bank and sit there like retirees on a pension. The difference between Ontario and a retiree is that retirees will die one day but Ontario will still be here and our kids need to live here.

Ontario's GDP was over 700 billion in 2015 and it keeps going up (3% = 21B annually). If you keep listening to the official opposition ( don't care which party ) or think tanks like the Fraser institute you will see nothing but doom and gloom.

Also, you don't want to wait for the day when LRT is 'necessary'. You need to anticipate growth and have what you need already in place when that time comes.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 11:03:21 in reply to Comment 120355

Surface LRT projects historically cost-overrun much less than subway projects.

Also, not just transit, the LRT project doubles as a major economic development project -- which will help pay down Ontario's debt over the longer term indirectly by improved business, more local employment, residential densification -- also see my other reply.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 12:16:23 in reply to Comment 120365

I think a point has been lost in the cost debate - and I may be wrong - but isn't the 1 billion dollars simply the amount allocated to the project? It seems like a lot of people are running on the notion that the line has been estimated to actually cost 1 billion dollars to build. More likely, Metrolinx came up with their most pessimistic estimate for the cost to build and then added X millions of dollars on top of that. I wouldn't be surprised if they over-estimated by orders of 100's of millions. It increases the likelihood of coming in under budget.

Already we see this in play where the underpass needs to be built at Gage. This is a major added element of the project but that extra cost will still keep the total cost so far under the stated 1 billion.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 12:29:09 in reply to Comment 120368

This is exactly right. While some people like to assume that government is composed entirely of incompetent crooks, the engineers and planners who have developed this project are professionals who know what they're doing. The funding envelope is conservatively high and assumes unexpected challenges and other contingencies.

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By blatchdk (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 14:53:07 in reply to Comment 120369

However,

The more we argue against a project currently running and require new designs and complete re-engineering just for the sake of doing it, we will run closer to the complete budget limitation set out. I'm not saying we should let the project run freely, but opposition for the sake of opposition increases costs.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 05:41:49 in reply to Comment 120355

That's off the top of my head.

Thank you for your helpful demonstration of the availability heuristic - the cognitive bias in which people make decisions based on how easily they can recall examples to mind. You remember reading about those projects because they were newsworthy. You don't remember reading about all the other projects that were completed on time and on budget because they were not newsworthy and did not get media coverage.

Ryan, put your money where your mouth is.

My money is already where my mouth is. I live and work in Hamilton, I own property here, and I am actively involved in civic affairs.

We're broke.

The absolute dollar amount of Ontario's debt is high, yes, but our debt-to-GDP ratio is a more reasonable 40%. It's still high, and we absolutely need a strategy to reduce that ratio, but we're not heading for a cliff.

The best way to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, of course, is not to try and shrink the numerator but to grow the denominator. Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio was over 100% in 1945, and it shrank to just 16% in 1973 almost entirely through economic growth.

The GTHA is stuck in a transportation purgatory of sprawling, low-density land use and epic traffic congestion. The cost of that arrangement is staggering - $1.5-5 billion a year in wasted productivity and opportunity cost in missed urban agglomeration benefits.

The benefits of investment in higher-order transit are wide-ranging. By increasing the efficiency of land use, municipalities can provide utilities to more people at lower cost (compared to the high cost of building and maintaining low-density infrastructure).

In addition, higher-density land use coupled with rapid transit means more people have access to a wider range of services, amenities and job opportunities, which means the market for labour and services operates more efficiently, matching people with jobs more effectively.

Higher-density land use also puts more people into regular contact with each other more frequently, which increases the opportunity for innovations, new business ideas and economic growth and development.

In addition, more lively, walkable neighbourhoods and higher transit use means more people get more daily exercise, while shifting transportation movement from cars toward emissions-free LRT reduces air pollution and reducing dangerous speeding reduces the risk of collisions and serious injuries. All of these factors will reduce pressure on health care costs.

Meanwhile, interest rates are historically low and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Most of Ontario's debt is long-term debt with locked-in rates, so this is the best time we're ever going to have to invest in building our structural economic capacity so we can grow our way to a lower debt-to-GDP ratio.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 20:40:14 in reply to Comment 120355

I'm perplexed why a few transit projects costing a bunch of money is so upsetting, yet we didn't hear these complaints the last 50 years when we spent trillions on highways and mega wide roads regardless of their cost or annual maintenance costs.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:15:54 in reply to Comment 120342

Ryan, you are obviously a very smart young man, obsessive about LRT & obviously make some good points! I think I even said in an earlier post, lots of positives as well for LRT even though I'm anti-LRT.

I'm simply a retiree, my wife & I live off of Pension & hope you can appreciate, Pensions do not increase to match the many annual increases to live in Hamilton, in particular property taxes.

Our taxes pay for many services that we have never used or will use, but happy to contribute to the good of all in Hamilton within reason.

I am concerned about any new major projects for our City from a Gov't with so many past financial mishaps, think we all know them without repeating.

Hope you don't believe for a moment that $1B of Ontario taxpayers money is free, we all , being part of Ontario, paid for it & this LRT is not going to come to Hamilton without a huge additional cost to us somewhere.

Long term debt for Ontario is several hundreds of Billions of dollars & the Liberal Gov't just keeps adding to it & someone has to pay the piper. Transit improvements are great, for Hamilton, nice to have but not a necessity for many years out.

I've always believed in paying our family way as we went along & think Ontario Gov't should as well.

We have two daughters, four grandkids & they are going to be stuck with paying all this debt so a few downtown people can save 10 to 20 minutes a day on their commute!

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 10:45:22 in reply to Comment 120349

Thank you for your carefully-thought-out respectful words, I appreciate intelligent #noLRT dialogue.

I drive a car too. I've grown up depending on a car. I've lived in suburbs in my childhood. I've also spent some time happily car-less without feeling too inconvenienced, and other times happily car-owner. So I have come to an appreciation of multiple lifestyles. (I share widespread concerns about Ontario's debt, but also agree with Ryan here.)

In a thought exercise -- I have noticed people have said they wouldn't backtrack on an RHVP widening if 5% of the budget was spent and the new estimate suddenly showed a 25% cost overrun. I tell them that is how we feel -- we really want LRT to be on-time and on-budget, but a 10% overrun doesn't turn all #yesLRT to #noLRT in exactly the same way that people passionate about the RHVP, wants to see it widened at all costs. Some will angrily tolerate a 1% increase, others 5%, and others irresponsibly no-limit. I definitely don't want taxpayer waste, either, and we better do our goddamndest best to have an LRT that isn't screwed up -- in a manner of speaking.

Many agree in the "...It looks like LRT is coming anyway, I don't like it, but let's try to get the best possible results out of it..." perspective. Originally, the Hamilton LRT plan had a plan to pass by our large Gage Park without a stop! Lots of residents advocated for it, myself included -- helping massively amplify awareness. Now they've announced at the GIC that they are working on bringing the Gage Park station back. Yes, even this #yesLRT will criticize the LRT plan.

Overall, I feel LRT actually provides better taxpayer return than RHVP, given the Hamilton LRT is also hugely an economic development project, not just saving commute time for those who live near the corridor. More jobs locally, more new businesses locally, etc. I invite you to read about my Kitchener-Waterloo ION LRT tour at http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2959 -- where there is a huge business boom in part thanks to LRT -- this is one of the ways LRT will be helping pay down Ontario's debt in coming years. Also, since densification will occur near the LRT routes, this increases total taxpayer revenue per square kilometer with a bigger population.

I understand that not everyone agree with this view; but hopefully one can understand (even if not agree) why I came to this perspective.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-10-27 11:00:06

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 09:27:15 in reply to Comment 120349

I have two young children of my own and yes I too feel the cold sting of taxation regularly! However, I would feel better knowing that my taxes were going towards a real project that can uplift this whole city and leave a legacy that will continue to pay dividends for decades.

I certainly do not want to leave my kids with a world that is choked in traffic and pollution, 2-hour commutes and road rage. If we proceed with this project I'm convinced that Hamilton will be a better place for it. We'll attract more investment, more jobs and therefore more opportunities for our kids - and grand-kids.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 05:43:33 in reply to Comment 120349

Thank you for your kind words. I prefer "committed" to "obsessive" but your point is taken. I believe my reply to JimC also applies to your concerns about Ontario's debt.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2016 at 07:59:41 in reply to Comment 120359

My best fiend is a family doc. Year to date (August 30th) 20% income cut. What you see about our debt is the tip of the iceberg. The debt is not sustainable. (But that is just being availability heuristic I suppose.) Use examples to buttress your argument and there is always some logical fallacy you can find with a quick google search to shut down an argument. Family docs losing income is just anecdotal but sooner or later Greece is not an anecdote. Anyone who does not recognize the crisis in Ontario finances is being willfully blind.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 27, 2016 at 12:42:59 in reply to Comment 120359

Yes, "committed" much better description than "obsessive"!

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By vanilla0o (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:00:57 in reply to Comment 120331

I do appreciate you coming on to share your thoughts :) However, I just have to point out a few things...

  • fair point, however, the city will have an increased number of businesses and residents to contribute to the tax base BECAUSE of the LRT. Yes, people do want to live in this community and with better access to transit it will only get better. The zoning around the LRT line will have density in mind and that increase will help bring many more tax payers (who are already here and more are coming!) that will put funds into the system for operations.

  • I will not avoid the construction zone downtown or in Westdale. The reason I live downtown is because I love it here. Gore park is a mess (I know, smaller scale, but still) and I'm still in and around the area the same as ever before #SoBiHamilton. Also, Dundurn station is right next to the Fortinos on King and Dundurn. Get a double stroller, throw your groceries in the bottom and hop on the LRT! Maybe Dad needs to get a grip and start helping with the family grocery shop and Mom can go without the kids (not meant as an insult, I just think that's insane to expect of a woman in a family with 2 adults...single moms already do this as one of the demographic groups who may actually not be able to afford a vehicle!).

  • Projects are always over budget, but the $1B is one hell of a start when Hamilton has been needing to develop higher order transit for years now. We don't want to be stuck like Toronto or Mississauga without a proper transit system and kicking ourselves because we had a chance, but didn't think it was worth $1B to get it rolling.

Comment edited by vanilla0o on 2016-10-26 13:36:13

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:14:00 in reply to Comment 120331

Looks like you have to decide between a cargo bike or bike trailer.

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By SSnowling (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:19:43 in reply to Comment 120332

Or do like I do:

  • take transit or SOBI to grocery store
  • get groceries
  • take cab home

Easy, and still cheaper than owning a car.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 11:14:36 in reply to Comment 120340

Or rideshare, or carshare, or spouse pickup.

We are a one-car household. My spouse often SoBi or walks to go shopping, and I pick him up when he checks out. I can visit a different store or do a different errand (like pick up a large parcel at Shopper's Drug Mart) while waiting for him to finish shopping.

In various periods of my life, I've been happily a carowner, and I've been happy car-less. I can appreciate both ways.

I used VrtuCar in Ottawa, and Autoshare in Toronto, instead of having a car. But living in Hamilton, the car is more essential -- and that's simply wrong. There should be better choice. I don't want being without a car to be painful -- I didn't feel that way in Ottawa (With their excellent BRT system and large VrtuCar car-share system) nor in Toronto (With TTC and GO), but here in Hamilton, one is far more leg-ironed to a car to feel mobile.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-10-27 11:16:43

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By vanilla0o (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:34:17 in reply to Comment 120340

Once the LRT is in, I plan to simply hop on the LRT after work (after using TTC and GO Transit) at Dundurn, grab groceries for 2-3 days for two of us, and walk home.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:26:33 in reply to Comment 120332

Hmmm, think I may have a better idea. Take my folded inflatable passenger balloon in my backpack, do my shopping, phone Terry Whitehead to meet me at the store & use his hot air to inflate my balloon & float home!

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By vanilla0o (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:30:18 in reply to Comment 120333

high five his head is so full of hot air, you might not even need a balloon.

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By blatchdk (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:43:24 in reply to Comment 120333

It's one thing to be anti-LRT, but do you support Terry Whitehead in his actions in the meeting yesterday?

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:21:26 in reply to Comment 120335

Absolutely not, Terry Whitehead has lost most of his credibility with his excessive rants and was totally out of control yesterday. But, I also think the Mayor, who I have voted for every time he ran has not lead Council on this issue in a great way. It's great to be pro-LRT but you still need to ask the hard questions so you know exactly what you are recommending to tax payers. Sorry, think Fred has fallen short in that regard.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:55:56 in reply to Comment 120341

This isn't the first time I've seen this charge levelled. I hope those who oppose the project, especially for specific operational reasons, keep a steady communication going with their city representatives and most importantly the LRT office... the more we address concerns the better the final design for the community.

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By OliverV (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:39:59 in reply to Comment 120333

Are you implying a cargo bike is completely impractical? I do 90% of my errands on one with my 2 year old and we both love it.

Students do pay a very low price transit passes, but far from all of them are daily riders. I would be interested to know how the HSR determines the rate it charges for these passes.

Also, not sure if your comment around the single mom doing groceries with the kids is implying that the majority of cars driving in the corridor are filled with families doing grocery runs? I doubt that ignoring riders in this situation would hurt ridership numbers, though taking transit with one or more children for running errands is far from impossible.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:40:39 in reply to Comment 120334

The King of the Netherlands takes his children by cargo bike.

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By blatchdk (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:46:16 in reply to Comment 120334

Actually, some input on that. All full time students have to pay into HSR, but something like 60% use the HSR at all let alone regularly. That allows for non-speculative income to the HSR for around 20,000 people.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 13:30:17 in reply to Comment 120336

How would anyone know it's 60% as pass is just shown, not swiped? Even if 60%, that is 12,000 rides per day during mostly rush hour that is virtually free. Seniors are $265.00 per year, again virtually free. I'm just saying how do you pay for LRT Services with these types of rates for so many. t all sounds like a huge property tax subsidy coming with LRT.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2016 at 05:48:02 in reply to Comment 120343

Again, under the current system the B-Line corridor already comes close to being revenue-neutral in fares against operating costs, and LRT has a lower per-passenger operating cost than buses.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:42:22 in reply to Comment 120343

Perhaps we should end the huge property tax subsidy for car drivers, who currently pay zero to the city for using the very expensive roads. Roads paid for by my property taxes.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-10-26 14:43:07

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[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:00:18

So let's get this straight. Currently along King you can only turn in ONE direction at ALL intersections, side streets, driveways, parking lots.

No LRT people keep saying that LRT will restrict the directions in which we can turn on and off King Street.

According to the diagrams above, with LRT we will now be able to turn in ALL directions onto and off of King Street at signalized intersections. We will still only be allowed to turn in ONE direction from side streets, driveways and parking lots. AND we will have the option of pulling a U-turn at the next signalized intersection should we desire to go eastbound on King.

I'm no genius but it sounds like we will be given many more options for driving direction and turning abilities WITH LRT than without it.
Nice try NO LRT people.

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By ImprovingTomorrow (registered) | Posted October 26, 2016 at 14:58:19

To my mind, having taken the time to watch the whole thing, the most chilling moment came right at the end of the meeting, when after watching Terry Whitehead interminably breach city council's code of conduct by endlessly undermining respect for the professionalism and ethics of staff, Chad Collins finally stepped in to ask whether the project could be effectively stalled until after the next election through councillors refusing to pass the operations agreement component of the project. To derail the project entirely at this point would require an unlikely two thirds majority, but it seems that councillors determined to throw a billion dollar gift back in the province's face are likely to battle to stop one crucial part of implementation in order to drag this nightmare on for years until the next term of council reopens the possibility of cutting transit investment's throat with a mere majority.

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