Light Rail

Keep Hamilton On The Rails: The Campaign Starts Now

By Adrian Duyzer
Published February 02, 2010

This is a crucial time for Hamilton. The transformative opportunity of light rail transit is dangling in front of us, just barely out of reach.

If we don't act, we may lose that opportunity. That would be a huge setback for the city.

Metrolinx's decision continues to be delayed, raising fears that the Ontario Government is just running down the clock. Meanwhile, the Hamilton Spectator continues to publish articles and op-ends that cast LRT in a negative light, including some that are based entirely on unproven assumptions and are rife with errors.

Today, the Spec published an article that begins:

Does Hamilton have the ridership to justify light rail transit?

There are plenty of people in this city who think the answer is no.

In letters to this paper, blog posts and opinion surveys, they say not enough people want or need to go downtown and that Hamiltonians are too attached to their cars.

Note the non-specific use of the word "plenty". The writer lacks access to any properly conducted polls of Hamiltonians on the issue (so far as I know, there aren't any), so chooses to use "plenty" to reflect her assessment of "letters to this paper, blog posts and opinion surveys".

That's not reporting, that's an opinion. The word "some" would be more accurate in this instance. Furthermore, if she's basing her opinion on the rather unlettered op-eds that have been coming into the Spec lately (if the ones they're publishing reflect the best of the lot, it doesn't say much for LRT opponents), she's falling victim to sampling bias. After all, if she visited blogs like this one, she'd get a very different impression.

Speaking of which, it's my opinion that light rail transit enjoys broad support in Hamilton. The problem is, this support doesn't seem to be registering with our elected officials, with Metrolinx, or with our local media right now.

What we're seeing instead is a new campaign by LRT opponents to cast doubt on the proposal. It's been timed well: after the strong initial support for LRT in Hamilton, I think most Hamiltonians think this issue has been resolved in favour of LRT and expect nothing less from Metrolinx.

That's a dangerous assumption, because until it's built, it's not a done deal. LRT opponents know this and are intentionally muddying the waters. We can't let them hold sway. It's time to get vocal about this issue again.

Letters to the editor are a must. But I also think we really need to start putting some pressure onto our MPPs, because this will be a provincially-funded project.

I started last night with a letter to Sophia Aggelonitis, our newly minted cabinet minister from Hamilton Mountain. I pointed out that in 2007, the Liberal government warned that a Conservative government would "put rapid transit projects through MoveOntario 2020 - including two light rail lines across Hamilton - at risk".

Here's how to get in touch with local MPPs:

Sophia Aggelonitis (Hamilton Mountain)
Andrea Horwath (Hamilton Centre)
Paul Miller (Hamilton East - Stoney Creek)
Ted McMeekin (Ancaster - Dundas - Flamborough - Westdale)

We need to keep Hamilton on the rails. The campaign starts now.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 10:14:10

some stats to digest. That spec piece today states that 25-30,000 riders use the east/west lower city routes each day.

Portland is routinely regarded as the North American leader in modern LRT and transit oriented development. Here are their LRT ridership numbers. Note the starting point for many of their LRT lines - below 20,000 per day.

http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_por_2...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 02, 2010 at 10:33:34

Adrian, it might be helpful to post the text of your letter in a comment.

In my experience, many - or perhaps I should write "plenty" - of people feel intimidated by the prospect of letter writing, in part because they're not sure what they should write or how they should word it.

Actually, I think it would be great for every RTH reader who sends a letter to post a copy here in the comments! :)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 02, 2010 at 11:26:52

OK, here's my letter:


Dear Ms. Aggelonitis, Mr. McMeekin, Ms. Horwath and Mr. Miller,

Hamilton is at the cusp of an unparalleled opportunity for sustained urban revitalization with the planned construction of a light rail line running east-west from University Plaza to Eastgate Square.

Unfortunately, Metrolinx has been stalled for several months on releasing a benefits case analysis that would recommend a preferred transit technology (light rail or bus rapid transit) for the corridor.

Now we learn that the benefits case analysis, which is supposed to be released this month, will not include any funding commitment. That would have to come from the Ontario Government.

In the meantime, the local mainstream media in Hamilton are fomenting a manufactured controversy based on the inaccurate and speculative comments of a small number of business owners.

Hamilton's MLA's need to speak out clearly and consistently in support of light rail for Hamilton as a proven and necessary investment in growing our tax base, anchoring high quality intensification and revitalizing our underperforming economy.

Likewise, the Ontario Government must move quickly and commit to adequate and timely funding for light rail so that this exciting initiative does not suffer 'death by a thousand studies'.

After decades of underinvestment in regional transit - which the OECD recently highlighted as a major drag on Ontario's economy - neither Hamilton nor the GTA as a whole can afford another disappointment when we have the opportunity for a sustained legacy of good government.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to the success of this light rail initiative.

Sincerely, Ryan McGreal

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By frank (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 11:41:18

Here's the letter I sent:

Hello,

Recently there has been a spat of articles and opinion pieces in the Spectator citing lack of ridership, poor planning and a myriad of other things as reasons to not have an LRT system built in the City of Hamilton. As a resident of Hamilton and a supporter of an LRT system I feel the need to express my support for an LRT line running through our main corridors. The economic benefits of light rail are indisputable and can be seen empirically in cities such as Portland, Oregon. While the location of the line may change, I feel that light rail is a necessary part of the growth of our city and imperative in the economic development of the core as well as the corridor adjacent to the proposed line.

I don't ordinarily use transit to move around the city because many of the areas I need to visit aren't readily accessible by transit and I don't visit downtown much anymore because I hate driving around ignorant drivers. I would be one of quite a few people who would hop on a train to head downtown to the core to spend a day shopping at the Farmer's Market and visiting the AGH. The "sexiness" of having a modern rail system helps provide a polished image for our city and will promote it among others without an LRT system. Our city, province and country all have set targets for transit ridership and reducing the number of vehicle trips on city roadways. LRT is one (and perhaps the only) truly viable way of meeting those targets.

Please don't let the negative press and unsupported opinions of a vocal few stop you from supporting what would definitely be a success for Hamilton - hold Metrolinx and our government to task to quit stalling the process and push the LRT proposal forward.

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By frank (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 11:42:12

I'm not as learned as Ryan ;)

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 11:53:12

I'm not as learned as Ryan ;)

Dude you're doing just fine!

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By adrian (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 13:08:41

Sure, here's my letter. But before I begin: if you're one of those people who feels intimidated by letter writing, don't be. You have an opinion - everybody does. If somebody said, tell me in two or three sentences how you really FEEL about this issue, could you? If the answer is yes, then just write those sentences down and email them! Remember, your MPP works for you (or at least, is supposed to!)


Ms. Aggelonitis,

I imagine your hands are full with your recent appointment to Cabinet (congratulations). The same can hardly be said for Metrolinx: what on earth is it actually doing these days? Why does the crucial decision about light rail transit in Hamilton continue to be delayed?

I really invite you to read this article on Raise the Hammer, a local news and opinion site that is the most popular website of its kind in Hamilton except for The Spec, with about 15,000 page views each day. Hamiltonians read RTH. And what they're reading about Metrolinx and the Liberal Government is cause for concern:

http://raisethehammer.org/article/1009

Hamilton deserves light rail transit. In 2007, your government warned that a Conservative government would "put rapid transit projects through MoveOntario 2020 - including two light rail lines across Hamilton - at risk" (http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/September2007/12/c8111.html).

We need this decision to be made, we need it soon, and we need it to be the right one.

Sincerely,

Adrian Duyzer Hamilton, Ontario

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By Hammerhead1 (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 13:37:19

Hears what I wrote:

As a long time resident of Hamilton, living in the core, I find it disappointing that there has been yet another delay in getting LRT established in the city.
I don’t think I need to remind you that the City Of Hamilton is dire need of some sort of rehabilitation – a shot in the arm, as it were. The LRT would do just that and the transformational effect on the city would be remarkable.

Please don’t let it die. I urge you and your fellow cabinet ministers to help finish what was started and bring LRT to Hamilton!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 14:02:58

Here is my submission:

Good Day to our local representatives:

re: This article posted on Raise the Hammer http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1635/keep...

I am writing to day, to talk about the light rail in Hamilton and why it is taking so long to implement this. I am very active in the community on issues relevent to poverty and as a member of the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits, we have continually tried to address this issue, as so many in our community struggle. The goal of obtaining of good paying, living wage jobs, is a path to empowerment for the people.

I am not a expert on rail but I do see this as an opportunity for the future for our city. Since the economy, the environment and social justice issues are tied together, it would seem to me that this would be a driving factor for Hamilton to rebuild as a community.

I am trusting, the many in our community who say that this will kick start the community, that jobs will come forward, as an end result, which are so desparately needed for those who are the working class. The only concern I would have, is that it is affordable, so that those who are low income or on some type of social assistance can use this service.

Thank you for listening

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By adrian (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 15:18:13

I'm looking for someone who wants to assist with maintaining a Facebook group about this. Contact me at adrian@raisethehammer.org if you're interested.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 16:31:46

Sorry, I got stuck at the Spec's headline:

"LRT will motivate us to ditch cars: HSR chief"

I'm not even sure where to begin with any of this.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted February 02, 2010 at 17:32:40

Here's mine:


Dear Ms. Aggelonitis, Ms. Horwath, Mr. McMeekin and Mr. Miller,

As a life-long Hamilton resident and a supporter of Light Rail, I strongly urge the four of you to speak out in support of bringing this much needed boost to our city. The silence (and stalling) from both the province and Metrolinx on this issue has left a void which is being filled by misinformation from our local media. A united, public statement from all four of you would give the project a shot in the arm and hopefully prevent any further delay of what could be a defining moment in our city's history. I would hope that the four of you could ignore your party affiliations and work together to keep the pressure on both Metrolinx and the Ontario Government to make concrete commitments to the city of Hamilton. A well designed light rail system could revitalize our city, bringing it into the 21st Century and spurring investment in an area that sorely needs it. Do not allow LRT to be another great idea that quietly fades away into an endless limbo of studies and reports.

Thank you all for your time and your continued efforts on behalf of our city.

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By Mark State (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2010 at 13:26:44

Adrian:

As you may have noticed from past occasional postings, I love your website, and generally agree with your take on most things. However, be very careful on this one, because LRT can be either very well, or very badly applied. Without imposing my own opinion in this discussion as to whether and which varieties of LRT's are a good idea or not, this posting is a very serious caveat.

In terms of traffic management, Hamilton in comparison to most other cities in North America is a bright light of what efficient traffic planning can be. I drove my Toronto girlfriend on an illustrative cruise from McMaster to the Stony Creek Dairy for an ice cream and then back to Mac a couple of years ago without stopping for one red light en route in either direction. Because such a thing would be impossible to do in Toronto, she was completely amazed that such a thing was possible at all; and I didn't hesitate to tell her that we could probably have done the same kind of trip north and south through the city's major routes as well. Be proud of what your traffic planners have accomplished to date. In the light of what other cities on this continent are doing with their traffic planning, it is truly remarkable.

If Hamilton is to learn from the mistakes of others before re-implementing the LRT it justified getting rid of c1950, it doesn't have to look further than right next door for tips.

Toronto has scheduled new LRT lines to be built for the purpose of carrying an updated streetcar style. They will be located in reserved, curbed-off lanes called "Right Of Ways" (ROWs) built upon the 2 center lanes of our in-city rush-hour routes. The published material from "Transit City", which is the Toronto Transit Commission's LRT initiative, states clearly that running the ROWs up the center of the rush hour routes has the intention of both making it easier to use public transit, and to actively discourage the use of automobile traffic on those routes so that commuters will begin to favour public transit, which their publications label a "Higher Order" of transportation style over automobile transportation; and this despite the (more rapid) advance of automobile evolution to sustainable motive applications and Stats Can published reports that a majority (approx. one million per year increasing by approx. 10,000 annually) of commuters from Toronto's bedroom communities to the in-city area prefer automobile transit as their commuting transportation style of choice to either GO or TTC.

Moreover, the resulting lack of roadway after LRT ROWs are established in this fashion eliminates the possibility of reserving bicycle lanes on them without expropriating and demolishing at least one roadside line of homes all the way up most of the proposed routes, which, of course, would never happen.

The issue that becomes very apparent from this is not just whether LRT lines may not be a good evolutionary step for Toronto, but more importantly that not enough depth of study has been undertaken to determine what kind of LRT transit should be used, how it can be implemented to co-exist with other kinds of traffic, or where and how it would best be located to serve the city.

The TTC's expanded vision of establishing an LRT has been inhibited by its concept of the system's being a means of increasing its custom. In its current conformation, the LRT solution will act to the detriment of other forms of transportation rather than find a way where all varieties can co-exist to meet existing and forecasted population-movement styles. While its studies have concluded that LRT lines are cheaper and easier to build than new subway lines (although parts of them will be run underground), it has considered no other forms of LRT as potential alternatives to expanding the 130-year-old streetcar system now in use. And a variety of very interesting and efficient alternatives exist, even including a streetcar style implemented in a way that complements rather than impedes established traffic.

Toronto's inspiration for the streetcar style of LRT transit appears to have originated from the fact that streetcars are already in use and from the study of streetcar-style LRTs in foreign locales. But the idea of running the lines up the center of the rush hour routes --some of which will be reduced to a single lane in each direction as a result-- is the TTC's alone, since in those cities where LRT is employed (including Toronto's only existing pre-planned LRT line, by the way,) they are in built to co-exist with but do not interfere in any way with automobile, pedestrian, or bicycle traffic; and still magnificently serve their public transit function.

Because it is beginning with a blank slate, Hamilton has the advantage of being able to plan any LRT additions to the HSR from scratch. It behooves the city to take essential time to examine all the manifold possible configurations of LRT (PRT, Mag-lev, Monorail, subway, EL, streetcar, etc.) in the world, and carefully determine which varieties and installation styles would best serve the city before rushing headlong into recreating the mistakes of its good neighbour next door and spoiling the good stuff it already possesses as a consequence.

Let the city of Hamilton's LRT system continue its beacon of what is possible in traffic planning by training its eye on the future of people movement and moving forward accordingly. LRT implementation is long-term planning, and should be viewed as such.

By way of unabashed self-promotion, have I mentioned that I'm running for Mayor in Toronto in the upcoming civic elections? My websites are http://www.mark-state.com and http://www.markstate.ca (the latter not up & running just yet because it's being more professionally produced). ...Might be nice having a former Hamilton boy Mayoring the town next door, eh? Okay, Hamiltonians, turn your Toronto voters on to my websites! There'll be more about me in the media as my campaign heats up.

[Edited by request of Mark State to change the person addressed from Ryan to Adrian]

Comment edited by administrator adrian on 2010-02-03 14:48:02

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By TD (registered) | Posted February 03, 2010 at 14:25:33

Mark,

I don't have time to address your entire comment, but I take considerable issue with one statement in particular.

"I drove my Toronto girlfriend on an illustrative cruise from McMaster to the Stony Creek Dairy for an ice cream and then back to Mac a couple of years ago without stopping for one red light en route in either direction. Because such a thing would be impossible to do in Toronto, she was completely amazed that such a thing was possible at all; and I didn't hesitate to tell her that we could probably have done the same kind of trip north and south through the city's major routes as well. Be proud of what your traffic planners have accomplished to date."

First of all, let me point out that this is no longer likely to happen. Traffic lights on Main St. near McMaster are no longer synchronized to the extent they were before. I'm not sure if this is true along other stretches of Main or King, but it is true for the west end. If I recall correctly, the reason for this is because synchronized traffic lights are dangerous to pedestrian traffic, and McMaster is obviously an area with a high volume of pedestrians. In any case, on the relatively rare occasions I find myself driving through Hamilton, I usually hit more red lights than I would have a couple years ago.

Second, I live in the downtown, and I don't own a car. Accordingly, I have no reason to be proud of our traffic planners; on the contrary, I am deeply disappointed in them. Hamilton is a great city to drive through, as you point out. That doesn't make it a great city to live in. To me, Hamilton's car culture is one of the most frustrating aspects of this city. Your comment is another symptom of it. Why on earth should I be proud of how quickly someone can drive through my city? Could you imagine a resident of Manhattan being proud of how fast he could drive from Jersey City to Long Island? On the contrary, he'd be proud of how fast you can get from Battery Park to Harlem -- faster by subway than by car. When public transit in Hamilton is faster and more convenient than driving, then I'll have some pride in our traffic planners.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted February 03, 2010 at 15:47:55

I completely agree with TD so I won't comment further on Mark's love of flying through our city like its a damn freeway. I will however comment on this part...

It behooves [sic] the city to take essential time to examine all the manifold possible configurations of LRT (PRT, Mag-lev, Monorail, subway, EL, streetcar, etc.)

Firstly, mag-lev trains, really? Not only are these types of trains insanely expensive (starting at $100 million USD per kilometre) but they are designed to provide city-to-city rapid transport at speeds of 100km/h and up. The trains wouldn't even be up to speed before they would have to slow down for the next stop. Unless of course the only goal was to move people as fast as possible from Mac to Eastgate.

Secondly, subways are just as unworkable due to Hamilton's high water table and water drainage problems. Not to mention how expensive it would be to accomplish what LRT can do for far less.

Thirdly, monorails and other Elevated Lines (I'm assuming this is the EL you meant) have been shown to not be as successful as LRT and were in fact proposed and dismissed by the city in the 1980s for what it would do to the streetscape.

As for PRT I assume you mean Personal Rapid Transit, something which has been researched since the 60s and only implemented once - between the three campuses of West Virgina University and never in an actual intra-city setting. Why would we choose an untested, expensive and complex system like a PRT when LRT has numerous case studies showing its benefits.

Using just common sense and 10 minutes of internet investigation, I've shown why the rapid transit discussion has always been between bus and light rail. As you said there are a "manifold of possible configurations" but doing in-depth studies on obviously unworkable solutions wastes both time and money. Creating study after study is a common political ploy to appear as if something is being done about an issue without actually doing anything, and Hamilton deserves better.

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-02-03 14:50:39

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 03, 2010 at 15:53:52

Main is synchronized hell still for anyone who hasn't been in town for a while. FYI

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2010 at 18:18:55

I like to keep IT local and sometimes I like to ask first what my councillor prefers as being in the best interest of our city or ward, when I haven't yet formed my own opinion or gathered all the facts:

Mr. Merulla,

Thank you for Mr. Roberts email, I now have the updated plan for the Centre on Barton. Tracy and I will note some of our observations while we utilize the center as pedestrians and motorists. After several weeks I would like to share them with you.

Another matter that is on the minds of many, is the delayed decision from Metrolinx and fears that the Ontario Government is just running down the clock. The Hamilton Spectator has used the opportunity to publish articles and op-eds that cast LRT in a negative light. What do you think is better for the city, BRT or LRT?

I could go either way on this because I don't have all the facts, although I still think the trains are sleeker and offer the city more long-term potential. And it would be a shame to loose so much forward moving motion, on such a grand scale, with the loss of so many hopefuls dreaming of light rail.

Regards, greg

Sam replies:

Greg:

From my perspective I need to have the full details before me prior to providing a definitive answer. I however am leaning toward LRT. Also many thanks for your input on the Centre.

Thank You,

Mark stated:

...studies have concluded that LRT lines are cheaper and easier to build than new subway lines (although parts of them will be run underground), it has considered no other forms of LRT as potential alternatives...

I can easily envision "parts" of the LRT "underground" and I believe the current B-Line is an excellent means for collecting traffic data and determining the ideal minimum of stops. Once an optimal LRT line is established east-west, we can focus on customizing the north-south corridors with BRT.

It would be nice to hear from some HSR folks to see how they feel.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted February 04, 2010 at 08:12:45

I'm assured by some HSR drivers who are good friends of mine that LRT is moving ahead. The construction at King and MacNab is part of that.

There's also apparently talk of a tunnel being built into the escarpment to get it up the hill.

Hopefully they're right!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2010 at 09:19:34

I would suggest that the HSR drivers are no better informed than the rest of us, but are talking about plans that have been circulating for quite some time.

The MacNab construction is for installation of new bus bays.

Discussion of a tunnel up the mountain was part of the original plan for A-Line routing (a plan which hopefully gets reconsidered because a tunnel is very expensive but totally unnecessary)

....So get those letters in!

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By frank (registered) | Posted February 04, 2010 at 09:30:33

Sean's right, those are new bus bays at MacNab... Two medians with canopies that have green roofs. And an administration building... Got the drawings right here :)

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By synxer (registered) | Posted February 04, 2010 at 13:51:38

You'd likely be unsurprised by the fact that the people in outcry against LRT are often the same people that say "(CITY NAME) is better than Hamilton, they even have light rail transit. See? Hamilton can't do that."

Doh.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted February 09, 2010 at 16:28:08

I actually got a response to my email from Andrea Horwath. Here it is verbatim...


Thank you for your email in support of Light Rail Transit for Hamilton.

I am in agreement with you. In my campaign to become NDP Leader, I advanced in my platform that Ontario could be a light rail leader as both a developer of light rail infrastructure and as a hub for municipal light rail systems.

On a variety of levels light rail is the way of the future. It addresses the environmental challenge of reducing emissions, air pollution, gridlock, commuter frustration and wait times. It makes possible the kind of compatible redevelopment that contributes to Hamilton’s orderly growth and bolsters jobs and revenues for the city, not to mention increased customer traffic.

I believe in the benefits that reliable public rail networks contribute to municipalities like Hamilton. Light rail is exactly what our city needs to spark an urban renaissance and a host of new and valuable opportunities. I am confident that any concerns that arise will be addressed respectfully and thoughtfully.

I am proud to support you on this. I will be watching closely to ensure that the McGuinty government keeps its transit funding promises to Hamilton.

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath MPP, Hamilton Centre

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By frank (registered) | Posted February 10, 2010 at 08:45:30

I got the exact same reply from her :)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 11, 2010 at 23:15:55

Great news: the Spectator just sent off their letter:

Memo to Metrolinx:

A fancier bus system is not what we need in Hamilton. We need light rail transit. Please.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours truly,

Hamilton

Bravo! The editorial is worth reading in full.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-02-11 22:16:08

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2010 at 09:10:40

I finally got a reply from someone; in this case, MPP Ted McMeekin:

Thanks for your thoughtful note. I'm a big proponent of LRT and will continue pushing to see the province and the city fully embrace the concept.

Kindest regards..........ted

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