Light Rail

More Support for Light Rail

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 11, 2008

Momentum for rapid transit continues to build as individuals and organizations across the city throw their support behind light rail.

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce just announced it is recommending that Hamilton use light rail transit (LRT) for its rapid transit plan. In a letter to be presented to the public works committee at its June 16 meeting, the Chamber states:

it has been demonstrated very clearly that LRT carries fixed operating costs (i.e. - fuel), the potential for increased development along the lines, and lower operating costs as train size can be increased with use without adding additional manpower [sic].

The Chamber also recommends integrating growth, employment and goods movement developments in the city's rapid transit proposal.

McMaster University President Peter George stopped short of endorsing light rail, but expressed support for the city's rapid transit initative with a specific mention of light rail. He recommends making a decision 'based on full analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of [light rail transit and bus rapid transit]."

He also indicated that McMaster is "aware of both the ongoing discussions and the various draft plans that are being considered" and "is taking steps to ensure it is informed on this issue."

These come on the heels of a strong endorsement by the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington. Hamilton Light Rail is compiling a list of light rail endorsements, with links to relevant documents.

For more information or to learn how you can get involved, come out to a monthly Hamilton Light Rail meeting. They are held the third Tuesday of every month at the FRWY Cafe, 333 King Street East (at Wellington St. N.) Hamilton, ON L8N 1C1, at 7:30 PM.

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 Right Rail (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2008 at 16:22:53

This is great news! LRT is one of those things that you'd have to be crazy to not support, whether you're an environmentalist or a business. It benefits everyone!

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2008 at 22:30:37

I there anyone or group against LRT for Hamilton? Except maybe some politicians!

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By geejayn (registered) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 23:50:34

LRT is a very bad idea. It is a fad that is being pushed by anti-auto environmentalists by means of lies and deception. Take note that it is claimed that an "overwhelming number" of Hamiltonians support LTR. The fact is that comments were received from only 150 people and 117 were in favour of LTR. 117 out of 150?? This is overwhelming? LRT is especially bad for Hamilton. Yes, it sounds very sexy and exciting, but the truth is that it makes almost no sense.One of the proposed routes goes up the mountain. That area is suburban and people are very unlikely to be taking public transit there since they need a car to get around in the suburbs anyway, and this is the preferred method of travel.The proposed route from Eastgate to University Plaza along King-Main would eliminate at least two lanes of traffic.However, it has been shown that the fastest, least-polluting way to move cars is via one-way streets with timed signals. This is exactly what we have now and propose to get rid of. The proponents of LRT like the idea that they are making the city more congested. All the better to make the point that people need to get out of their cars and take LRT. First, they create the problem and then invent the solution that suits them, LRT. LRT is very expensive to build and maintain. A four to eight-lane expressway costs about the same per mile to build as LRT. The argument that LRT would cut down on pollution is without merit. For one thing, if built right now, it would cause more congestion and thus increase pollution. In addition, because of the increase in the cost of fuel, it is likely that by the time the LRT is completed, there will be a switch to smaller, more fuel-efficent, and even hybrid or electric, vehicles that would pollute very little, rendering LRT obsolete.I could go on, but these comments should give a sense of my reasons for opposing LRT. BRT, although not without its own problems, is the preferable and cheaper alternative.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:43:27

If you think people are going to leave their cars at home so they can wait outside in the freezing cold for some bus/rail that will take them to their destination three times slower than a car, then you are living in a world of unicorns and make-believe.

People won't ride LRT in Hamilton if you paid them $2 for each trip they made.

Public transit only works in the downtowns of large cities because that is where they can compete with the car based on time. Outside of that it is a huge waste of $$.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:49:59

Please don't feed the trolls.

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By Outcast Shocker (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 12:28:18

But Trolls taste so much better when all plump and juicy!
. . . sorry.

Though the arguments that congestion and pollution are valid, I don't think they should stop the development of further public tansit. All that needs to be done is make the suburbia unliveable. Get a few marauding gangs to set up shop all over those "pristine" neighbourhoods and force the delluded families back in to the actual city. Then tear down those ugly homes (read: gang hideouts) and revert it back to farmland. We're going to need the extra grain.
Sure, sure. You may say: "people weren't meant to live in cramped little boxes built on top of one another". Weeeellllllll . . . too late! We've already seriously screwed ourselves through overpopulation and overcommercialization. Unless you want to support my other Final Solution and convert a high percentile of human beings in to a vast food source . . .

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By geejayn (registered) | Posted July 19, 2008 at 14:53:49

LRT is a very bad idea. It is a fad that is being pushed by anti-auto environmentalists by means of lies and deception. Take note that it is claimed that an "overwhelming number" of Hamiltonians support LTR. The fact is that comments were received from only 150 people and 117 were in favour of LTR. 117 out of 150?? This is overwhelming? LRT is especially bad for Hamilton. Yes, it sounds very sexy and exciting, but the truth is that it makes almost no sense.One of the proposed routes goes up the mountain. That area is suburban and people are very unlikely to be taking public transit there since they need a car to get around in the suburbs anyway, and this is the preferred method of travel.The proposed route from Eastgate to University Plaza along King-Main would eliminate at least two lanes of traffic.However, it has been shown that the fastest, least-polluting way to move cars is via one-way streets with timed signals. This is exactly what we have now and propose to get rid of. The proponents of LRT like the idea that they are making the city more congested. All the better to make the point that people need to get out of their cars and take LRT. First, they create the problem and then invent the solution that suits them, LRT. LRT is very expensive to build and maintain. A four to eight-lane expressway costs about the same per mile to build as LRT. The argument that LRT would cut down on pollution is without merit. For one thing, if built right now, it would cause more congestion and thus increase pollution. In addition, because of the increase in the cost of fuel, it is likely that by the time the LRT is completed, there will be a switch to smaller, more fuel-efficent, and even hybrid or electric, vehicles that would pollute very little, rendering LRT obsolete.I could go on, but these comments should give a sense of my reasons for opposing LRT. BRT, although not without its own problems, is the preferable and cheaper alternative.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 19, 2008 at 17:19:02

"117 out of 150?? This is overwhelming? "

Yes, 78% is pretty overwhelming. Try getting that kind of result in a vote! 150 people at an information centre is actually a huge number compared to most PICs, where they are lucky to get a dozen people. Usually it's just the staff, a couple neighbours and a bunch of tumbleweeds. The fact that over 10 people showed up and 78% of them were in favour of LRT actually speaks volumes. Have you ever been to a PIC? Did you go to the LRT one?

"One of the proposed routes goes up the mountain. That area is suburban and people are very unlikely to be taking public transit"

Actually, there is a high demand for transit in the upper city, and residents there consistently (and rightfully) complain that they don't get the HSR service that they need. So they would definitely benefit form a high speed transit link.

"The proposed route from Eastgate to University Plaza along King-Main would eliminate at least two lanes of traffic"

So would BRT. The choice is between BRT in a dedicated land and LRT in a dedicated lane. It's not "LRT or nothing". The lanes will be dedicated to transit no matter what. That decision has already been made. THe reason we can afford to do that is that we have a city surrounded by a full set of perimiter highways, and we have more lanes of traffic crossing the city than we need.

"it has been shown that the fastest, least-polluting way to move cars is via one-way streets with timed signals."

It has been shown by who? Please link us to this study. Because in reality the opposite has been shown many times over. By creating wide, fast roads, more people drive and pollution goes up. Regarding speed, taking 2 lanes for transit will likely speed things up because fewer people will drive so rush hour congestio nwill be reduced. Additionally, changing to two-way streets will reduce congestion since there will be more route options for people to take when weaving their way through the city.

"The proponents of LRT like the idea that they are making the city more congested."

Wrong. Proponents of LRT want to create a faster more efficient mode of travel so that the residents of the city have a CHOICE.

"LRT is very expensive to build and maintain. A four to eight-lane expressway costs about the same per mile to build as LRT"

Wrong. LRT is 15-100 million per mile depending on the difficulty. Besides the mountain access, the rest of a hamilton LRT line will be relatively straightforward - flat, straight and build on land already meant as transportation right of way. Red hill on the otherhand was over 200 million for 7km of 4 lane highway (2 in each direction). that's over 28 million per km - not cheap. Additionally, LRT infrastructure lasts much longer than highways. Witness the never ending resurfacing of the QEW - whereas rai llifespan is in the neighbourhood of 40-50 years between major overhauls. Plus one line of light rail has more than 8 times the passenger capacity of one lane of freeway during peak times.

"For one thing, if built right now, it would cause more congestion and thus increase pollution."

Wrong. LRT runs on electricity which, while currently produced through a combination of clean and dirty technologies, has a good chance of being "greened up" faster than the passenger automobile. Additionally it will reduce congestion, reducing pollution. And local air quality will increase even more since the emissions from power plants will not be concentrated within high density cities.

"In addition, because of the increase in the cost of fuel, it is likely that by the time the LRT is completed, there will be a switch to smaller, more fuel-efficent, and even hybrid or electric, vehicles that would pollute very little, rendering LRT obsolete."

Actually, because of the increase in the cost of fuel, building a BRT system would be like shooting ourselves in the foot because the buses are intimately tide into diesel prices. Why would we invest millions in new buses and bus infrastructure only to lock ourselves into diesel technology for the next 10-15 years? Instead, we can invest correctly today, put in an LRT line and power it through provincially regulated electricity prices.

Electric vehicles are very far away. People are still driving cars without catalytic converters! You are suggesting it makes sense for every car owner to switch over to electric cars rather than putting in a viable transit system that they could all start using right away in order to wean themselves off the expenses of the single occupancy vehicle.

We are facing a reality where fuel prices are only going to go up - and fast. If we do not install efficient, clean rail transit now, we may very well miss our chance. And when we get to the point where we MUST travel by electric car, like you suggest, it is going to be too late and too expensive to start building an electric rail system.

So let's wake up to reality and do this right - right now - while we have the chance (and the provincial gift to make it all possible).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2008 at 01:37:18

LRT is especially bad for Hamilton.

Ah, good old Hamilton exceptionalism. Guess what: Hamilton obeys the same principles of every other city. People look for speed and convenience. People respond to price signals. LRT excels in both these areas.

they need a car to get around in the suburbs anyway, and this is the preferred method of travel.

In the car-obsessed USA, driving has fallen nearly five percent this year due to fuel prices. Transit use has risen five percent, and LRT use has risen over 10 percent.

Don't fall into the trap of assuming the future will be exactly like the past, only more so. The economic framework in which people make living arrangements is changing permanently.

The proposed route from Eastgate to University Plaza along King-Main would eliminate at least two lanes of traffic.

Because a modern LRT line carries more people than an automoblie lane, LRT will not increase congestion by itself. That said, LRT will concentrate new economic development around the line (and at higher densities), which will increase congestion. This, of course, is a sign of vitality.

it has been shown that the fastest, least-polluting way to move cars is via one-way streets with timed signals.

No. Optimizing individual streets for driving encourages more people to drive longer distances more frequently, so the total pollution is higher than in a city with better transit and more traffic congestion.

The proponents of LRT like the idea that they are making the city more congested.

No idea? We're counting on it! Congestion is a byproduct of economic, social and cultural vitality. Right now the city has the transportational equivalent of dangerously low blood pressure.

The argument that LRT would cut down on pollution is without merit.

Again, optimizing streets for fast driving simply encourages more people to drive longer distances more often. Cities that invest the most in their road networks have the worst overall air pollution.

In Hamilton, more than half the air pollution comes from traffic, and the proportion is going up over time.

For more on traffic networks and the city as a dynamic system see:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1064 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1067

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By geejayn (registered) | Posted July 20, 2008 at 02:59:35

LRT is a very bad idea. It is a fad that is being pushed by anti-auto environmentalists by means of lies and deception. Take note that it is claimed that an "overwhelming number" of Hamiltonians support LTR. The fact is that comments were received from only 150 people and 117 were in favour of LTR. 117 out of 150?? This is overwhelming? LRT is especially bad for Hamilton. Yes, it sounds very sexy and exciting, but the truth is that it makes almost no sense.One of the proposed routes goes up the mountain. That area is suburban and people are very unlikely to be taking public transit there since they need a car to get around in the suburbs anyway, and this is the preferred method of travel.The proposed route from Eastgate to University Plaza along King-Main would eliminate at least two lanes of traffic.However, it has been shown that the fastest, least-polluting way to move cars is via one-way streets with timed signals. This is exactly what we have now and propose to get rid of. The proponents of LRT like the idea that they are making the city more congested. All the better to make the point that people need to get out of their cars and take LRT. First, they create the problem and then invent the solution that suits them, LRT. LRT is very expensive to build and maintain. A four to eight-lane expressway costs about the same per mile to build as LRT. The argument that LRT would cut down on pollution is without merit. For one thing, if built right now, it would cause more congestion and thus increase pollution. In addition, because of the increase in the cost of fuel, it is likely that by the time the LRT is completed, there will be a switch to smaller, more fuel-efficent, and even hybrid or electric, vehicles that would pollute very little, rendering LRT obsolete.I could go on, but these comments should give a sense of my reasons for opposing LRT. BRT, although not without its own problems, is the preferable and cheaper alternative.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2008 at 12:12:32

Sounds like the squelchers' robot overlord got out of its cage...

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