Light Rail

Commit to B-Line LRT on Hamilton Day

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 22, 2010

Apparently it's Hamilton Day at Queen's Park. I have no idea what that means, but if the Ontario Government wants to do right by Hamilton, they could do a lot worse than commit to capital funding and a timeline to build light rail transit on the east-west B-Line.

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 jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 13:50:02

that would be kind of cool if they did something worthwhile on Hamilton Day instead of merely pretending we exist for one day.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:08:34

It seems kind of a partisan hack job doesn't it? Why isn't the leader of the NDP front and centre on this issue?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:12:25

@TnT

Is the NDP doing anything other than attacking the Liberals on cost-of-living increases (HST, Eco-fees, etc.) lately?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-11-22 13:12:48

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:29:46

Andrea Horwath: Working hard to put Tim Hudak in the Premier's chair. (shudder)

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:37:32

Well, if her last comment on Twitter is any indicator, she's more interested in complaining about Smart Meters in Windsor.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:45:58

Rather than the costly LRT boondoggle at a bad time, I would rather see the province upload disproportionate welfare/social responsibilities as Merulla suggests. We have to tackle the reason we are in the hole before we can undertake even to fix our rotting infrastructure.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 14:59:23

@bobinnes

Yeah, like I said in another thread - I'd like to see hard numbers about how much we are the dumping ground for the province's problems.

I mean, either way it doesn't make sense for the municipality to be paying for social services instead of the province or the fed - that only guarantees a downward spiral while wealthier communities can ignore the problem.

But if our problems are exports from other locales (like the notorious downtown halfway house) then it's doubly ridiculous for Hamiltonians to shoulder that burden... but I've never heard anybody quote statistics either way. How much of our underclass is home-grown vs. exports from places that are simply too expensive to live in when you're homeless, drugged-out, or suffering from mental illness?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 15:25:13

There are so many things in Hamilton that are a better destination for hundreds of millions of dollars. Housing, water infrastructure both supply and wast, brownfield cleanup, the list goes on and on; LRT needs to be down on the list.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 16:05:19

As much as I like LRT, and would like to see it in Hamilton, there are other priorities that need to take preference. Relocating the York halfway house, converting the Royal Conaught into Condos or some form of successful business to preserve it, building the stadium (yes I know it's a touchy subject, but Ivor Wynne needs replacing) and cleaning up the Rheem plant site and other various brownfields like the old Augusta firehouse.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 17:04:31

Based on the experience of other cities, LRT will bring in the new tax base and business climate essential to seeing all of these other important items dealt with. I'd much prefer for us to generate our own wealth and economic renewal in a sustainable manner than have to live the rest of our lives cap in hand to the province.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 17:39:24

See, I don't see LRT as that massive a benefit to the city. Yes there certainly are pros and it will help, but I have to question the capacity for LRT to generate wealth beyond it's operating costs at this time, mainly based on one major criteria, lack of population and intensification. This biggest issue with Hamilton is a failing core, and running a LRT line is only going to make it a core with a LRT line going though it, and while you certainly will attract some businesses along the LRT line, typically retail to utilize the various stops, I just don't see rail access as major encouragement for more office based businesses, industry or as a tool designed to retain human capital. It strikes me as putting the carriage before the horse.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 18:11:42

Off topic but mentioned here: The Royal Conaught. I think student housing would be a good use for the building. Students bring an energy and vitality along with some spending for leisure activities. An unsuccessful hotel was converted for student housing for Columbian College students, why couldn't we do the same for the Conaught?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 18:14:25

LRT isn't a frill or a nice-to-have; it's essential municipal infrastructure for a real city.

Want to restore the Connaught? Run LRT past it and watch investors line up to get in on that action. Want sustainable infrastructure financing? Drive new investment (and grow new tax assessment) where it is already most efficient - instead of more sprawl that drains the city's coffers.

Want more people and more dense uses downtown? LRT is proven in city after city to drive tenfold public ROI in private investment and significantly increase population density (though the B-Line already has the densities and readership to justify LRT). Want the next generation of jobs? Foster job creation by producing an environment that attracts entrepreneurs and creative professionals.

LRT is an investment that will pay real dividends in direct revenue while it plays a pivotal role in anchorining broader urban revitalization.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-22 17:18:36

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By Dipper (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 18:58:28

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 19:54:31

Ryan, if LRT is essential infrastructure, please explain to me how successful municipalities in Waterloo/Kitchener, Burlington, Guelph, London & Mississauga have done quite well without the need for LRT system, and I do not want to hear the tired old "Well they aren't Hamilton" excuse. I agree, LRT is a positive investment and will help the city, but the extent of that assistance doesn't warrant the initial investment at this time, nor do the maintenance costs of the endeavor. There are more direct, tangible issues that the city should be addressing before committing to a LRT system, which sadly also may have a side effect of contributing to sprawl (especially if Bratina's A line gets off the ground).

Image is Hamilton's biggest problem, image caused by centuries of heavy industrial dominance, which now leaves empty shells that dot the city landscape, be they polluted lands that should never have been allowed in the first place, empty shops or vacant housing because of the jobs that have departed, or mentally ill people who have suffered from poverty or been relocated by the other levels of government. Filled those shells with something wholesome, or clearing them out entirely is what needs to be done.

Yes, a LRT system will certainly help boost Hamilton's image but not to the extent that is needed. What good is a highway to an abandoned building? How does one riding rail through a slum help the city's image? Making sure the destination is worthwhile is far more important then creating another method to get there at a cost.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 20:19:53

LRT is NOT some magic cureall. Hamilton is not a true destination city. It is as much a suburb of Toronto as it is a city in its own right. Most if not all of the LRT that is being built across the continent is to access the destination city in the area be it Detroit or Portland or Calgary. In these kinds of cities a LRT line makes some sense. In a city like Hamilton I have serious doubts. This is a huge investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, we had best get it right the first time around. We do not need to hear a "my bad" in 10 years, after a LRT line gives us a bad downtown core with a LRT line running through it. Detroit with all its problems is still several times the size of Hamilton and their LRT project is some 8 KM long and yet the LRT line being proposed in Hamilton is over twice as long at 18 Km.

Buffalo is an awful lot like Hamilton in that it is a decaying rust belt city, it is the destination city in the area and about twice the size of Hamilton and LRT has done nothing for Buffalo.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 21:44:03

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 00:56:07

The fact that so many still need the benefits of LRT explained to them is most disheartening. I suppose it doesn't matter, as long as those in charge of these decisions understand the score.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 06:37:23

if LRT is essential infrastructure, please explain to me how successful municipalities in Waterloo/Kitchener, Burlington, Guelph, London & Mississauga have done quite well without the need for LRT system, and I do not want to hear the tired old "Well they aren't Hamilton" excuse.

Waterloo/Kitchener has several years planning an LRT system because they recognize that their municipality - a little under half a million people spread over three cities - is very low density and will soon be in trouble as fuel prices continue to become higher and more volatile.

Burlington is more suburb than city, with a population of 160,000. They're starting to urbanize in the downtown core and along Plains Road, but the overall pattern of development there has been single-family suburban residential and office-park business along the QEW. If they continue to urbanize, expect pressure for some kind of LRT to start building.

Guelph is a small, compact city that has managed to preserve its historic downtown, despite a university campus on the edge of town, a suburban mall and the telltale growth of squiggly sprawl housing west of the Hwy 6 bypass. At 130,000, they may be a bit small yet to need LRT - though it's worth noting that Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city of just 100,000, rebuilt its classic streetcar system ten years ago and has enjoyed impressive new investment around the line. They're looking to expand it.

London is a city of 325,000 with a downtown showing evidence of revitalization. However, their bus system cannot handle peak demand and pressure is growing there to build some kind of LRT system - their Transportation Master Plan reflects this.

Mississauga is a city of 730,000 right next to Toronto, which has benefited over the past 40 years from close proximity to the urban centre. However, their road- and highway-based growth strategy has run its course, as even Mayor Hazel McCallion acknowledges. They have no more room to grow, infrastructure servicing costs are creeping up steadily, and they have focused for the past several years on intensifying their downtown. They're also at the advanced planning stages for an LRT system along the Hurontario corridor.

In conclusion: three of the five cities you mentioned are either considering or already planning LRT. All of them are going to be facing the same pressure to urbanize and reduce liquid fuel dependence in the coming years that Hamilton faces.

I believe Ryan has become deaf to all argument or reason along the lines we suggest

Give me a break. The "argument or reason" against LRT amounts to repeating over and over that LRT is a "costly boondoggle" and that there are "higher priorities". My response specifically addressed both claims by pointing out that an LRT system will:

  • Increase the productivity of our existing built infrastructure.
  • Increase our net tax assessment, alleviating pressure on residential property taxes.
  • Reduce the pressure to build sprawl, which drains the city of money.
  • Attract the people Hamilton needs to grow the next generation of employment businesses.
  • Reduce Hamilton's exposure to energy price volatility.
  • Accommodate the expected massive demographic influx of people moving back into cities, as Boomers look for closer access to amenities and young people look for an urban lifestyle.

The deeply nefarious reason I strongly support LRT is that I've studied the hard numbers from cities all across North America and Europe that have built LRT systems and established TOD corridors to ease and encourage new investment. In none of your comments have you directly addressed this evidence, which I take to mean that you accept it and prefer to change the subject.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-23 05:38:21

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By Bratinized (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 07:37:15

The Premier was 'bratinized' last night...that is he was treated to bratina's puerile logic...others asked about important issues and what did the putative mayor do? He asked how often he should change his shirts!!!! We are in trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B for Bob with only one 'o'

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 09:22:05

According to the Spec McGuinty asked about the Stadium, and was told we intend to build it. Someone then asked him about LRT, and all day GO service, and his response was something to the effect of "You can't have it all at once."

Which I take to mean LRT and GO train service indefinitely delayed, we might see it by 2020. :-(

The all day GO train service might come sooner if only because they need to come through Hamilton to go to Niagara.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 09:23:22

... it looks like English, but I have no idea what that Bratinized guy just said.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-11-23 08:25:36

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 09:38:50

it looks like English, but I have no idea what that Bratinized guy just said.

It's the lesser known fifth paragraph of the Lorem Ipsum placeholder text.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 09:44:17

Bobinnes:

Upvoted Hammer and Mr. Meister for stating their opposition to the LRT clearly, giving reasons and refraining from personal attacks and innuendo.

Downvoted you because of this,"This, and the auto upvoting being the case, it may be time to wonder if there is something else going on here. Its one thing for someone to be interested in looking into LRT, but when one becomes an implacable advocate, we have to wonder about incentive" Really? Is that what you think Ryan is up to? Trying to wrench some personal gain out of his support for the project? Please explain what personal riches await Ryan at the end of the LRT rainbow, I'd love to hear it.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 10:37:55

Its one thing for someone to be interested in looking into LRT, but when one becomes an implacable advocate, we have to wonder about incentive"

I have to call BS on that as well. I've been on the LRT train from the beginning and witnessed some of the grassroots efforts that resulted in LRT being on the agenda. The advocacy for LRT on this site and in the community is based on the desire for a high quality transit system for Hamilton and all the benefits it confers, not the least of which is economic development. Having been personally involved and engaged in the LRT initiative I can assure you that your accusation is dead wrong.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 10:48:00

Some of the replies on here really blow me away. Our town suffers daily under constant calls for mind-bogglingly expensive boondoggle projects which hold mostly aesthetic benefits. Yet when a well-researched, popular and very likely to succeed project like LRT comes by, people dump all over it.

What makes LRT different? First off, it does something. It doesn't look a certain way, or help us get known for something in Toronto. As inspiring as it is, inspiration isn't much of a reason to spend $100 million on something. LRT has the potential to make a serious daily difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people. A serious difference in family finances, where people buy homes and the abysmal quality of our air. Investment would be nice, and a better image would be handy, but a megaproject must do more than those things to be worthy of this kind of funding in a time of crisis. And LRT does.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 11:00:47

-Hammer-, I am intrigued that you place a stadium above LRT. Surely you can see that LRT has a much MUCH greater potential to benefit the city than a football stadium?

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By C (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 11:14:17

Hammer wrote, ", if LRT is essential infrastructure, please explain to me how successful municipalities in Waterloo/Kitchener, Burlington, Guelph, London & Mississauga have done quite well without the need for LRT system"

I don't think it's ever been claimed that in order to be a "successful" city you need LRT.

But, where LRT exists in the right conditions (like Hamilton's) positive synergies lead to success.

I believe LRT can be transformational for Hamilton, and the sooner the better.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 11:43:51

Here is the issue though Ryan, in many of the cases you have mentioned, a great deal of work has been done in the core of those cities, and promoted a good image in order to justify the costs of LRT. As you state for Burlington, as the urbanize expect a LRT. They aren't quite there yet and as you state they project an image of a suburb.

Waterloo/Kitchener probably has the best case for a LRT system, mainly because you had two mid-size cities with two cores, who grew into one another and linking those two urban cores makes sense. However, the biggest stumbling block has been their low density, which is starting to change. I think it's a bit early for them to build a LRT system, mainly because of the lack of density, however it is affordable due to the sheer number of technological based industries located there for the time being. Should they depart, they would likely find LRT to be a problem in short order. That however seems unlikely any time soon as they are for the most part clean and in boom sector.

London has worked to revitalize their core, and continue to boost their image. It's still a work in progress and they understand when that work has been completed a LRT system will be needed. I'll also quote your report

This project has concluded that the forecasted population and suburban growth orientation of London planning policies, and the time required to develop higher density development nodes along main transit corridors, do not support the extremely costly introduction of higher order transit service. Higher order transit would involve Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) or Light Rail Transit (LRT) than requires ridership from much high density nodes and corridors than are available or currently planned in London. An average density of at least 100 units per hectare is typically required within 500 metres of LRT or BRT stations.

This conclusion comes with a recommendation that the City should continue to monitor any progress in rail rationalization within London, and respond to any possible rationalization with longer term opportunities for BRT or LRT development.

In other words, we have not undergone enough Urban intensification or have the population centers needed to justify the expenses.

Guelph as you state is small and compact with the benefit of a well preserved and invested core. It is one of the few cities that would benefit from suburban development, because they lack the population and size for a LR development. They could benefit from it, further down the line though.

Missisauga's success has been due to it's image that it has long projected to the urban center of Toronto as a clean suburb of Toronto not too far from major business centers of the city. However, as you have stated, they have found the limits of which sprawl can take you, something they have only managed to get away with for so long, because of high property values because of it's proximity to Toronto. They understand now, they need to intensify their downtown and existing developments, before building LRT.

Bottom line, LRT requires several things to be successful

A city that spans a large area - Hamilton certainly does, Waterloo/Kitchner does, Mississauga does, the others less so.

At least one, preferably two successful urban centers - Hamilton doesn't but could if the core is fixed. Waterloo/Kitchner almost does, Mississauga almost does, Guelph does.

A budget that can support it's initial investment and continued maintenance - Hamilton doesn't have it, because of a departing industrial sector and infrastructure costs that have become out of control due to sprawl. Waterloo/Kitchner does, Mississauga almost does but sprawl has crippled them.

Now thankfully, two of these problem can be solved by urban intensification in the core. Urban centers bring in more tax revenue and cost far less infrastructure wise then suburbs. Building the urban core and promoting a good image for this area should be Hamilton's first and biggest priority, before a LRT system. Set the urban development boundary in stone, so developers can't continue the easy sprawl trend and continue to invest downtown.

At this time, the only economically feasible way Hamilton could support a LR system is if the higher levels of government paid for it's initial investment entirely, and we shared the maintenance costs, which isn't likely in the current recession climate.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 12:00:18

Ryan >> an LRT system will: Increase the productivity of our existing built infrastructure.

If dense cities are models of economic efficiency, then why are both Hamilton and Toronto deeper in debt than the burbs?

>> Increase our net tax assessment, alleviating pressure on residential property taxes.

That is your talking point, but it is not based on facts. Hamilton currently has lots of mass transit, more so than Burlington and yet Burlington's downtown area is filled with new condos, while Hamilton properties sit vacant.

>> Reduce the pressure to build sprawl, which drains the city of money.

Than why do the burbs have better balance sheets than Hamilton and Toronto, even while having lower overall tax rates on investment?

>> Reduce Hamilton's exposure to energy price volatility.

And if people are worried about energy prices, they will voluntarily bid up the price of properties along existing mass transit lines. The fact that there is so little demand for downtown properties tells us people currently value other things more than they do mass transit.

>> Accommodate the expected massive demographic influx of people moving back into cities,

And if this starts to happen, we should see increased ridership along current mass transit lines and more development. Until this happens, there is no reason to build infrastructure that we don't need.

>> In none of your comments have you directly addressed this evidence, which I take to mean that you accept it and prefer to change the subject.

I wait your comments.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 12:17:25

@seancb

Yes, and no and I will be honest, as a Ti-Cat fan I do have a bit of bias towards it. That being said, the I place higher for only one reason. Stadiums are designed to attract people from beyond it's boarders and promote a city's image/area, something of which Hamilton is in dire need. As much as several do like to rip into the Ti-Cats and professional sports team puts your city on the map internationally. The problem is, our current stadium has been in a residential and economically depressed area for too long, which has only furthered Hamilton's bad image. Simply put, without a good image, a city is hard pressed to attract investment, and without investment you can't build the Urban centers Hamilton requires to succeed.

Now, normally I would be against the stadium, but there are too many factors at work that tell me to catch this train before it leaves the station. The first is the amount of money the Pan-Am committee has put forth is too much to throw away. The second, is Ivor Wynne is in shambles and it's maintenance is outrageously high. The third, is we are eliminating a brownfield in the CP rail yard. The fourth is the surrounding development that has been tangibly put forth. The fifth is that we aren't going to get an opportunity like this for a stadium, for at least another 12-30 years (maybe with another Commonwealth Bid or a Toronto Olympic bid) of which if the status quo if maintained, would be a mute point without a legacy tenant.

Now that's not to say LRT doesn't offer similar benefits, but I have yet to see money committed to LRT from the higher levels of government. Fares do offset some of the costs but one needs only look at the transit mess of the TTC or Buffalo to see how costs can spiral out of control with any transit system. LRT does promote a better image, but it doesn't draw people into your city and it's potential to spurn redevelopment around it's footprint isn't as impacted.

Honestly though, LRT money isn't going to quickly evaporate in the coming years. Oil prices are going to keep going up, environmentalism is going to continue to pickup more momentum with every year and all levels of government will be continuing to invest in more sustainable transport. I see LRT money as more available in the coming years, then the once every 15-30 years stadium money comes around, which might not even be available if we can't stop a team with over 140 years of history behind it, from folding.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 12:41:02

A Smith>>If dense cities are models of economic efficiency, then why are both Hamilton and Toronto deeper in debt than the burbs?

Older cities have greater costs of infrastructure upkeep/maintenance. Mississauga and other "burbs" are younger in comparison to Hamilton and Toronto, and have not yet faced the lions share of infrastructure costs which the cities are facing. Let's see how Mississauga's balance sheets are doing when they have 75 year old water mains bursting. I have a feeling their low density growth will result in significant challenges.

>>That is your talking point, but it is not based on facts. Hamilton currently has lots of mass transit, more so than Burlington and yet Burlington's downtown area is filled with new condos, while Hamilton properties sit vacant.

The facts have shown that LRT, when properly implemented, attracts investment because it represents a long term physical committment to high quality high capacity transit in that area, much like subways. Portland is the oft-cited example.

However, I will concede that mass transit is not the ONLY factor that is relevant.

As for comparing Hamilton's downtown to Burlington, Burlington's "Downtown" waterfront doesn't have the industrial legacy that Hamilton's waterfront has, which makes developemnt in Burlington much cheaper and more attractive.

>>Than why do the burbs have better balance sheets than Hamilton and Toronto, even while having lower overall tax rates on investment?

See my point above about infrastructure costs of younger cities in general. Then go read the "Cost of Sprawl" article, and you'll see what kind of trouble these younger cities may be in down the road.

>> And if people are worried about energy prices, they will voluntarily bid up the price of properties along existing mass transit lines. The fact that there is so little demand for downtown properties tells us people currently value other things more than they do mass transit.

Just because energy prices aren't the most important thing on people's mind doesn't invalidate Ryan's point about it reducing our exposure to energy price volatility. It will decrease our exposure to energy price volatility, you just don't think that is an important point.

>>And if this starts to happen, we should see increased ridership along current mass transit lines and more development. Until this happens, there is no reason to build infrastructure that we don't need.

Transit infrastructure should lead growth, not lag it. Because it takes so long to plan, do environmental assessments, secure funding, and implement, transit infrastructure should be based on projected needs, not current needs. Yet we continuously lag growth with our transportation network. Why should we continue to do this? Why not lead for a change?

Where transit lags growth people complain about sub-par service (see most of the newer suburbs south of stonechurch), and compare them to older suburbs north of mohawk) and it serves as a potential drag on growth as some residents (like myself for example) are wary of moving into an area where there is no transit service.

Where transit infrastructure leads growth, it can only have a positive effect of accelerating that growth as people can "check off transit" as another advantage to living in that neighbourhood.

>> I wait your comments.

I know I'm not Ryan, but these are my thoughts. You don't have to respond to them since I know you're eager to debate with Ryan, but I thought I'd leave them here anyways.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 15:11:50

Peter - Interesting observation about the people in charge of making the decisions agreeing with me, until now. LRT in Hamilton keeps being put off because the decision makers have not seen the benefits that you do. Maybe one day it will change.

Ryan - Kenosha has 3 KM of LRT. It runs from their Metra station (think GO train) through the downtown core. Take a look at Kenosha, although its population is just under 100,000 it covers an area of only 62 km2. Hamilton's population is just over 600,000 but covers an area of over 1,100 km2. They have one sixth the population on one eighteenth the area. Transit works better with higher density. I appreciate that downtown Hamilton is considerably more dense than the city average but the LRT being proposed goes from Eastgate to McMaster or even beyond to University Plaza. There are a few blocks downtown that are fairly dense (between the empty lots everyone complains about) but outside the few very small corridors this is a city of single family homes. Propose a small LRT from our GO train station (if we know that it will stay where it is) through the downtown core and I believe it is something that might be viable. How about James and Hunter to Main St. and over to Victoria. That is a couple of Km and might actually be useful and maybe affordable.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 16:47:09

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 16:59:09

Mr. Meister,

While I agree with you that the entire lenght of the line is not "dense enough", I would disagree with the usefulness of a small LRT system.

One of the most important concerns with LRT is where to locate the stations. You need to locate them in places where people are heading to, or coming from. This lines up with the "nodes" of the city's nodes and corridor transit study. Where there is no discernable core to a city, or no "destinations" ridership is so difuse that you're left with a system that doesn't take anyone anywhere they want to go.

From our GO Station (James and Hunter) to Main, is 2 blocks. Heading from there to Victoria is another 7. How many people make this trek? From Hunter to Main along James? And from James/Main to Main/Victoria? How many people would actually ride it? Would it be worth the cost of the ride? (I think most people would walk the 2 blocks from the GO station to Main). Would it be worth the cost of purchasing LRT vehicles? How many vehicles could you even run on such a short line, two? They could each make the trip in 2 minutes? You'd spend more time waiting to make your right turn onto Main street than you would moving.

I think your system has three major problems:
1. It doesn't hit any nodes where people actually want to go to/from except the GO Station. Unless you're living on Victoria Street and getting to/from the GO Station, your proposed system is pretty much useless.

2. It's so small as to be useless in that no one will pay the LRT fair (assuming it is the standard HSR fair) to travel such a short distance.

3. It is largely useless to most citizens in the city.

Contrast this to the City's LRT plan, which hits Eastgate, Jackson Square, and McMaster, the most heavily trafficed corridor, and can easily bring people between three of the most visited spots in our downtown. It is potentially useful not only to residents of the lower city travelling east west, but also people commuting from above the mountain to mcmaster, after a transfer at Jackson Square.

Maybe there won't be many people getting on between those major nodes (which is of course, why LRT has fewer stops than a bus) but that doesn't mean it's not going to attract a large ridership, simply by virtue of hitting those three nodes.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 17:45:43

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 18:21:44

You and Ryan keep saying that LRT attracts new ridership and new investment and now you're saying that LRT needs to follow demand. Which is it?

Umm, there's a great word in the English language for this answer: both

Comment edited by jason on 2010-11-23 17:22:04

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 18:49:49

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 19:13:35

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 19:56:28

I know I'm not Ryan, but these are my thoughts.

I learned long ago that time spent trying to debate with A Smith is time you'll never get back. What he wants is what all trolls want: to lead you so far under the bridge that you get lost there. Best to ignore him.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 23, 2010 at 21:05:34

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 23, 2010 at 22:14:09

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 01:59:33

Robert D. - I have no special reason for running LRT where I said, it just seemed to me to be about the same length and purpose (rail station through downtown) as the line in Kenosha, which was held up as some kind of shining example. If building a similar size line somewhere else downtown makes more sense I can abide with that too. I just cannot fathom spending the huge dollars necessary to build 18 Km or more of track.

LRT lines from all over are being held up as examples for Hamilton. They all have things in common. The biggest thing they have in common is how big or rather how small they are. Even Detroit which is a huge city compared to Hamilton and certainly the major destination city in the area is embarking on an LRT project with a line 8 Km (miles?) long. The one proposed for Hamilton is 18 Km or more. My objection to LRT is the huge amount of money needed to build it and then to subsidize it. LRT is not bad in its own right it is just very expensive. Transit is all about area and density. Hamilton is a huge city (1,100+ Km2) with a population of just over 600,000. With these kind of numbers making transit work is a huge challenge if it is possible.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 03:31:13

LRT can't be looked at in a vacuum. Our city spends hundreds of millions on projects which benefit mainly or exclusively motorists. The Red Hill and Linc would be good examples, as would our plague of surface parking lots. LRT offers a chance to spend this kind of cash on something that benefits people who don't drive. Not only because many of us don't own cars, but also because many people would like to not own cars.

As for the chicken-and-egg argument of demand and generated investment, it seems a little silly to me. If LRT routes aren't chosen based on real-world data, they'll fail. Period. When they don't, good things happen along their lines. But building lines to nowhere in order to encourage sprawl (Vancouver's airport line, for instance) misses the point. We're not trying to encourage new developments, we're trying to do something that makes better in the existing city.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 10:06:55

Calling all trolls, railheads and mythbusters. I figured out a way to make you all happy, a way to get our LRT without breaking the bank. Hope you like it.

http://www.robertinnes.ca/

for now, or

http://www.robertinnes.ca/LRT2.html

after a week or so

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 10:49:08

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 11:08:46

@bobinnes

I didn't vote you down, but I will take issue with this: "its getting a little testy with folks accusing each other of being trolls for pointing out the obvious weaknesses of the pro LRT side (affordability and whether development will really follow in Hamilton just because it seems to elsewhere)".

The matter of affordability is moot: either the Province will fund Hamilton's LRT through the Metrolinx mandate or it won't.

On the matter of whether development will happen in Hamilton as it has in other cities, LRT supporters have already provided abundant evidence that LRT, coupled with reasonable regulatory reform in the TOD corridor, has a very strong record of channeling new investment. The onus is on opponents to explain how the rules of development that apply in other cities shouldn't apply in Hamilton. Note: appeals to exceptionalism don't count.

As for accusations of trolling, the only person I've accused of trolling on this thread is A Smith, and I believe I've earned that right over literally years of attempting to engage him in discussion. If you have a few hours to waste, see for example: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and so on to infinity.

As I concluded in October 2009:

His comments on RTH could be the case material for a first-year course on informal logic, as they demonstrate nearly all the common logical fallacies: argument from ignorance, bare assertion fallacy, biased sample fallacy, coincidental correlation fallacy, moving-the-goalpost fallacy, naturalistic fallacy, loaded question fallacy, single cause fallacy, straw man fallacy, suppressed correlative fallacy, wrong direction fallacy - and, of course, the old Latin standbys argumentum ad nauseum and argumentum verbosium. My advice is not to bother bother trying to debate with someone who has proven consistently over a year and a half that he has no interest in the truth.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 11:59:23

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-24 11:10:06

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 12:14:24

Good news - the throttle bookmarklet still works as advertised!

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 12:14:36

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-24 11:15:14

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By Saloonio (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 12:19:25

As you can clearly see, I live indeed!

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 12:30:07

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Comment edited by bobinnes on 2010-11-24 11:34:12

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 12:55:01

I come up with an idea how to get your rails

Toronto's streetcars are old, slow, noisy, inaccessible, and run on a nonstandard wheel gauge. They would be a poor fit for Hamilton, and in any case most of the cost of LRT is building the fixed infrastructure, not the rolling stock. The first LRT line also includes a one-time capital cost for a storage/maintenance shed. Bottom line: Toronto is not going to rip up its tracks. Ford has strong views about rail transit but is only one vote on Council.

and you go off about trolls.

You brought up accusations of trolling in your post. I addressed my reason for calling A Smith a troll. His reasoning isn't just narrow; it's incorrigibly myopic. He doesn't understand basic economics but goes on as if he does in a kind of cargo cult analytical process.

You, i'd guess being a young socialist, can hardly like Libertarian logic

I'm neither young nor a socialist. My political philosophy is broadly libertarian, with an expansive view of what constitutes a public good.

I gotta let you have it with both barrels for being frankly, an idiot.

Insults won't get you anywhere. Public infrastructure should be financed at the level where it makes most sense. If I help pay for the highway that connects Moosonee to the rest of Ontario, Moosonee can help pay for the LRT system that allows Hamilton to function as a sustainable city.

I posted an article showing that what you classify as evidence for LRT effect is really evidence for the effect a whole gamut of factors that you and your acolytes refuse to acknowledge.

Nonsense. I have argued consistently and repeatedly that LRT is a necessary part of a broad shift in how we manage our city, which includes converting our major streets back to two-way traffic, replacing our antiquated, labyrinthine zoning/regulation system, relaxing mandatory "free" parking requirements, imposing a firm urban boundary, investing in brownfield remediation (instead of greenfield servicing), and so on.

It is disingenuous in the extreme to suggest otherwise.

I asked you before and I'll ask you directly now -- do you or do you not have any ulterior interest in LRT?

I have absolutely no financial interest in LRT. My only motive is my publicly stated motive: to see Hamilton become successful and prosperous. In the interest of full disclosure, I own a residential property in the lower city and expect that I may see some increase in property values as a side-effect of Hamilton becoming a successful city.

You're a member of HLR, a lobby group.

A lobby group is an organization that advocates on behalf of an interested party. HLR is a group of citizens advocating for a public policy we believe in. See the difference?

Your personal attacks are becoming as ridiculous as they are tiresome.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-24 12:20:57

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 13:03:14

Boy the haters are really out in force today. Shame how terrified some people are of CHANGE even if the status quo is lousy!

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 14:14:49

You can only respond to the squelchers counter-arguments patiently for so long before you figure out they're not really interested in honest discussion.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 14:32:18

I asked about interest, not just financial interest.

A lobby group should still be capable of understanding financial difficulties and traps, and adjust accordingly. Adjustment does not seem to be in your vocabulary.

Highway to Moosonee? When? Haven't heard anything about it. They've only got rail and only because of the port. They may be interested in your offer though. No doubt they need a lobbyist and that's one qualification you do have. In spades.

Lobby group??? Greenpeace, Alzheimers societies, etc. are not lobby groups? No, i do not see the difference. Every group hardens in its views.

Your criticisms of Toronto's system may be valid - unless both cars and railbed can be had at pennies on the dollar. If you want everything new, gold plated, I say vamoose to Waterloo which can easily afford anything your little hard desires. It is this kind of inflexibility that will kill your ideas and drive us nuts in the process. Despite that nobrains didn't understand my qualified support (good moniker!), try young feller (per Quandry pic), to be a little more flexible.

Re - "expansive view of what constitutes a public good". Yes indeed, very expansive. At the expense of others. See Turbo's reaction above. Your blissfulness at committing a billion on spec without any qualifications or caveats or signed commitments is indeed arrogant recklessness.

You did try to address the "whole gamut of factors" by mentioning 5+ items. If this jives with the list from the committed developer you are going to bring to the table, then we have a deal. Otherwise, you might be better off, instead of repeating LRT ad nauseum, pounding hard on these prequalifications the electorate will have to buy into first. I even happen to agree! It's just the money/interest thing that is a danger you do NOT care to address. In that the above falls into the non sequitur category.

Over to you. Please address my oft stated money(+) concerns.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 14:37:20

bobinnes:

You ran for Mayor, isn't that right? What nefarious plans did you have to rip off the city for it's tax dollars, following your logic you were only in the race to rape and pillage the average taxpayer. Don't argue you ran for the greater good of the city, use only the arguments and logic you've been throwing at Ryan and his faith in LRT. Follow your methodology you are a filthy politico whore and should be spit on endlessly. That's most likely far from the truth is it not? And yet you degrade someone who is passionate about something they deeply believe in, just because you don't see it or agree. You are a very simple minded man bobinnes.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 14:38:08

Ryan, if you are a poor person living in Hamilton, how would an LRT improve your life?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 14:52:14

Ryan,

From thespec.com...

"It means property taxes carved a 5.2 per cent chunk out of the average Hamilton household’s income, the third-highest rate in all of Ontario.

By contrast, Burlington’s average residential property taxes were $3,745 last year with an average household income of $111,300 -- a rate of 3.4 per cent, the 15th-lowest proportion of the 81 municipalities surveyed."

Are you willing to even consider the idea that high taxes are keeping people and businesses away from Hamilton? Or is that just another one of my irrelevant correlations?

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 15:40:52

Janitor, I don't mind your verbal spitting (says more about you than me) and I don't mind Ryan's passion for his general view (yes, LRT good) or anything he is spending his own money on. But when he proposes to spend my money for me, I believe he should explain himself a little better than the never ending sales pitch, no? Or are my simple minded but serious money worries at this time beneath his and your lofty vision? Too crass? Why don't you try to help him out. Can you give us a 30 year projection of the effect of spending 1 billion on new infrastructure while the old rots? The effect on taxes? The effect of high taxes on new investment? Of the already high portion paid by residential? A bond analysis? Got anything solid Janitor? Or just more pipe dream crap? Please, humour my simple mind. Should be easy, no?

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 16:16:12

To digress for a moment, just to prove to Janitor that my mind may be simple but it isn't narrow. Japan has not been in my radar as a failed country bigger/better than Hamilton but have a look at this article

http://seekingalpha.com/article/225460-w...

There is a comment by Eric Lusk partway down the comment section. It bears on this debate and the real fix for Hamilton.

He says "That is one good article and I especially appreciate Mr. Quinn going to the trouble to find the research that shows throwing money at roads and bridges does virtually nothing to fix an economy longer term. Economic growth, it appears, requires the ability to have Something to Sell".

If this article holds water, as I believe it is more likely than not, it's going to be a wild wild ride, especially for spendthrifts. There is no free lunch.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 16:53:48

bobinnes:

Reading Comprehension FAIL.

What I wrote: Follow your methodology you are a filthy politico whore and should be spit on endlessly. That's most likely far from the truth is it not?

Why would you answer: I don't mind your verbal spitting (says more about you than me)

Your original post states Ryan is advocating LRT for personal gain. My point is that if you apply your logic to yourself then the conclusion is that you only ran for mayor to rob the taxpayer's bank for yourself and therefor you are filthy politico whore that deserves to be spit on. I then say, (once again)," That's most likely far from the truth is it not?" From this I obviously mean that it is ridiculous to reduce your motives to so base a drive, so why would you reduce Ryan's motives to so base a drive? Make sense now?

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2010-11-24 16:03:02

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 17:59:26

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 19:03:48

Bob, can you remind us what your compromise idea is? Is it BRT?

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 20:13:17

Hi Sean. Click on my website link for details but essentially it occurred to me that if Toronto was really going to get rid of their streetcars & newly rebuilt railbeds, Hamilton might buy them, pennies on the dollar and move them in complete sections, just as we moved various buildings around the city. One can argue about Ford's seriousness, practicalities, costs, etc. which would be a nice change of pace.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 20:42:58

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 20:47:16

Far better though is to take a page from Meister's, Robert's or my page trying to find some kind of compromise that could actually make a project possible.

Nice try. Except, Meister is totally opposed to LRT in the Hammer, Robert seems to already support LRT, and your only "compromise" idea is to hope Toronto rips up their streetcars so we can buy them.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 20:48:16

Its the streamlining the regulatory investment side that creates wealth. LRT has very little to do with it. I live in the corridor and if Ryan is correct I stand to make a lot of money when I'm forced to sell due to increased property values and increased taxes. One has to wonder why I'd stand in the way of increasing the value of my investment. Maybe because I believe that the only side of the equation I'll see is the higher taxes

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-24 19:49:53

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 21:53:39

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 22:12:16

Ryan is too busy receiving accolades (and a cheque) for his newest Spec Op-ed.

The Spec does not pay for op-ed submissions. Sorry to burst your bubble (again).

Frankly, the only contribution you've made to this discussion, aside from your scheme to buy Toronto's mothballed streetcars, is to call me a "salesman", a "media hack", a "lobbyist" and "an idiot" and to accuse me of being an interested party. If you can't see why someone might consider that to be an inappropriate contribution to what's supposed to be a civil discussion, I don't know what else to say about it.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 22:21:07

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Comment edited by allantaylor97 on 2010-11-24 21:21:31

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 23:38:04

@A Smith

I will agree with your point, high taxation is certainly hurting Hamilton's ability to attract people and businesses. However, the reason taxation is so high, is do to the high upkeep of infrastructure costs that Hamilton suffers from due to excessive sprawl, which is why it needs to stop, that I would hope you would also concede.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 23:58:06

Ryan, you still avoid answering the repeated questions about economic viability, risk analysis, etc. especially important now that you got a bigger audience. Or maybe you just tell us what we're supposed to make of your refusal since you don't like my attempts at guessing. Aren't you also a proponent of openness, transparency and all that? You want to spend a billion of our money. If you can't answer fundamental economic questions, just say so.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 00:05:49

Bob, your compromise of buying Toronto's ripped up streetcar lines makes little sense. Firstly, it would tie us in to their gauge and worse, their technology which is horribly outdated. Secondly, I can only imagine what the labour costs would be in order to achieve that. Would any money actually be saved? Any material savings would surely be spent on labour! Third, LRT is NOT streetcars. Toronto's rolling stock would be useless to us, and their tracks.. well who knows, I suppose the steel is worth some money but despite not being a rail engineer I am quite certain that the tracks in Toronto are not universally compatible with true current LRT rolling stock.

When you have a true compromise solution to present, feel free. Until then it does no good for any of us when you come on here with nothing but accusations about LRT supporters having some nefarious plan for personal gain at the cost of the rest of the city. If you truly believe that, you have not been reading any LRT evidence with an open mind of its potential to change the way we build this city.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 00:24:42

Well, Sean, if you don't like the idea, that's ok but several of us are still waiting for answers to basic economic questions - from anyone. Looks like we'll be waiting a long time.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 01:37:50

Hammer >> the reason taxation is so high, is do to the high upkeep of infrastructure costs that Hamilton suffers from due to excessive sprawl

Then why doesn't that also apply to Oakville, Burlington, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Vaughan, etc. These communities have lower tax rates, less debt AND more sprawl. The REAL reason we have high tax rates is because we have too much government. Per capita wage costs in Hamilton increased to $1,248 from $899 in the 2009-05 time period, or 38.8%. In that same period of time, Ontario wages, not even accounting for extra population growth, increased by 16.9%.

How can we expect to have a robust private sector, with lots of competition and innovation, if we keep taking money out of it and giving it to public employees who work for monopolies? This isn't rocket science, it's just common sense. If you want a strong private sector, you can't give all the money to the government.

seancb >> you have not been reading any LRT evidence with an open mind of its potential to change the way we build this city.

Hamilton needs less open minds and more skepticism. We have a very long history of allowing government to spend our money and the result is almost always bad. It's up to the proponents of LRT to answer questions, such as these...

1) What are property owners waiting for? Every day that goes by that King/Main doesn't have LRT, they are losing out on guaranteed higher rental rates/capital gains. Isn't that illogical?

2) Why are we risking public funds when we don't need to? If the city will benefit from new tax revenue regardless of who funds LRT, doesn't it make sense to fund it through voluntary means, rather than taxation?

If the LRT case is as good as you say it is, these should be very easy to answer?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 09:00:53

I am not anti LRT. I am anti spending a king's ransom on anything the city does not need. We cannot afford LRT, at least not a ridicules line of 18 Km which is being proposed.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 09:59:58

A Smith,

I think it would be fair to say that Hamilton's high infrastructure maintenance bill has a great deal to do with the age of our city. Our city's infrastructure is older than the cities you have mentioned. I have heard that Mississauga is just now starting to experience the cost of large scale replacement of roads and water systems.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:05:14

I have discussed an actual compromise. 1. No aerotropolis spending. 2. No stadium spending. 3. Transit spending in a phased approach, putting LRT where we know it will work, and where it's sure success will spawn future expansion as necessary.

I can't believe there is such a huge amount of word spillage over "wasting money on LRT" - which is spending that could actually go a long way to helping transform hamilton, and at the same time silence on the aerotropolis and stadium threads - two projects which combined will cost more than full B line LRT but will bring us net zero development income.

Anyway, to me, a compromise means Mac to Wentworth (b line) plus a short line from st joe's to the water which runs on james and john in a loop.

This will give great access to the densest parts of the city as well as relieving the pressure from the most heavily used bus route that we have now.

Wentworth to eastgate can be separated BRT on a right of way upon which we could lay rails when we need them.

I don't think upper hamilton is dense enough to justify higher order transit, but we might want to put something up to mohawk in order to create an incentive for intensification along the line.

Comment edited by seancb on 2010-11-25 09:06:28

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:29:55

mrjanitor >> I think it would be fair to say that Hamilton's high infrastructure maintenance bill has a great deal to do with the age of our city.

The point is that sprawl itself, does not lead to high tax rates. If it did, all the communities I mentioned would already have tax rates similar to Hamilton, but they don't.

If Hamilton wants to cut tax rates, all it would require is a little belt tightening over a few years. Instead of spending faster than taxpayers income gains, spend a little less and let people keep more of their money. Hamilton is poor, not because we have a shortaqe of government services and infrastructure, we are poor because we tax each dollar of property investment at rates 50% higher than our GTA neighbours.

People aren't stupid, if they can pay a lower tax rate on capital gains outside of Hamilton, they will look elsewhere to invest.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:41:15

The point is that sprawl itself, does not lead to high tax rates. If it did, all the communities I mentioned would already have tax rates similar to Hamilton

All the communities you said are only 40 years old or so, and all of them now have quickly rising tax rates because their infrastructure is turning over and needs expensive maintenance, they didn't charge lifecycle costs when they built it so now the piper needs to be paid. They're also alot closer to Toronto than Hamilton and property gets more expensive the closer you get to T.O. so they can have lower rates but bring in the same money.

Oh what's the use debating with you, you never care about the facts anyway.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:45:09

A Smith,

I understand your thinking and I will only contribute one caveat, the bill for maintaining sprawl (and therefor tax rates) is just starting to and will in the future hit the newer communities. A good local example is the pipe replacement that is just finishing up on Lake Ave. in Lower Stoney Creek. I may be wrong but I don't think that piping was that old, I would guess it was post WWII. I understand if you disagree with my thoughts, I still think Hamilton loses money on sprawl compared to its costs.

I absolutely agree with you that commercial and residential tax rates are the 400 pound gorillas in the Hamilton urban renewal meeting room.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:52:08

seancb,

That all makes sense. I am still not sold on the costs of LRT (not on the concept of LRT itself) however I can follow the argument that LRT will benefit Hamilton more than either of the mega-projects on the table.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 12:26:21

@A Smith

It doesn't apply to these municipalities because, they are not nearly the size of Hamilton and they all have suitably dense Urban areas with functional cores. Here are some sizes for you, which boggles my mind why Hamilton continues to expand it's development boundaries.

Metropolitan Hamilton: 1,371.76 km2 Hamilton Land Area: 1,117.11 km2 Hamilton Urban Area: 227.70 km2 (The area that has a density of more than 400 per km2) Burlington: 187 km2 Oakville: 138.51 km2 Vaughan: 273.58 km2 Mississauga: 288.42 km2

The vast majority of that space beyond the urban area still needs it's roads plowed, streets policed, fire services, running water, park maintenance, electricity etc.

Lets also look at Population Density, people per sq KM

Hamilton: 451.6/km2 Burlington: 885.2/km2 Oakville: 1,195.2/km2 Mississauga: 2,544.89/km2 Vaughan: 873.1/km2

Every other location, nearly the entirety of their city is an urban area that has density. Hamilton doesn't, mainly because of large amounts of suburban sprawl and swathes of unused land that it either can not, should not or is difficult to develop (such as the Escarpment, Dundas Valley, Cootes Paradise, the Ermosa Karst, the vast absentee brownfields in Stelco, Rheem, various abandoned building along Barton). Now I will agree there is quite a bit of undeveloped land in the city's area that can be developed (Flamborough, Glanbrook & Stoney Creek Mountain come to mind) but it shouldn't be developed unless it is of higher density in order to maintain it, and not at the cost of putting brownfield remediation on the backburner as poor image frightens the private sector away just as much as high taxation.

They also all have few major venues that they have to handle (save Mississauga who has a very limited amount of them) and don't have to deal with constantly eroding mountain accesses. Two major stadiums, an airport, two major post-secondary campuses, two major parkways of which the city holds a much larger chunk of maintenance costs with them (LINC, Red Hill) as opposed to ones whose costs are entirely absorbed by the higher levels of government (the 403, the 407).

It's also the fact these towns turned cities aren't nearly as old as Hamilton and haven't had to deal with aging infrastructure yet. Mississauga was established in 1968, Burlington became a city in 1974, Hamilton became a city in 1847. Now it's now that they've been around a while that the infrastructure costs are now creeping in on these municipalities. It's also a matter that Hamilton has not made the investments needed in it's core to overhaul the infrastructure, as as a result experiencing high costs to maintain them.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 12:38:27

Also, you have to consider A Smith, what is causing big government in Hamilton? Having a bigger city means more people are needed to maintain it. When you have residents stretched out from Flamborough to Stoney Creek, you need a LOT of people and government to maintain it all. The streets don't plow or police themselves and you can't exactly hand police service over to the private sector.

The problem once again, too many people spread too thinly over a wide area. Not enough population density. Sprawling suburban areas have less density then Urban areas.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 12:41:19

@-Hammer-

I always love how conservatives obsess over economics but never seem to like the economies of scale as they apply to city planning.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 14:56:12

Wow, great discussion going on today. Hammer's very insightful stats, A Smith's too. Once folks get beyond the all-or-nothing black-white philosophical arguments, the picture gets clearer- but more complex!

Seancb's idea, also discussed by Meister/Robert deserves study. I tried to get into it on my blog but short version, given the need for maintenance/storage overhead, the minimum cost to start something might be 1-200 million??? Mac to downtown??

Fixing pipes/roads = the competition. nobrainer, mrjanitor are onto this, pointing out that Mississauga are starting to feel the pinch. Good point. We gotta get nuanced here. There are many reasons for high taxes (wages per A Smith, public sector unions, fair wage contracting (i think?), contracting out?, social burden, education[50%], downloading, etc. and yes, sprawl too). Not to mention serious gotta-fix-it-now flooding problems, and brownfield problems. There are old pipes and there are really really old pipes. If my guess as to the economy is correct and oil does what many suspect, cities may well begin to shrink anyway. Won't be pretty but Hammer's data is compelling. And, in my mind anyway, the picture made by PIIGS is also compelling and will sink any ill timed ventures, even in Canada. We need to have a discussion of debt, our responsibility to our children, our responsibility to be responsible for our own salvation (ie without the upper tier) per my Moosonee question earlier.

Hey, if we can borrow the billion from China at 2% on fixed rate for 40 year bonds, maybe I'll change my mind, hoping that we can pay them off with inflated fiat dollar crap. In the meantime though, interest on a billion at 2% (if you can get that rate) is $20 million per year. I'd like to ask a poverty activist if they are ok with that. Maybe pxtl doesn't like conservatives but in a few years, i think folks will appreciate a little caution at this time.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2010 at 13:46:06

Hammer >> It doesn't apply to these municipalities because, they are not nearly the size of Hamilton

What does that have to do with anything. As long as a community can build sprawl, while also keeping taxes and debt down, then it doesn't matter how many sprawl subdivisions you have, each one will still be tax efficient.

>> it shouldn't be developed unless it is of higher density in order to maintain it

NYC is a very dense city. Guess what, for all that density and infrastructure productivity, it has the same tax rates as T.O., plus a city sales tax, plus a net deficit in 2009 of $96.7 BILLION dollars. You may be correct in stating that infrastructure costs are lower per capita in a dense city, but it in no way follows that this will lead to more efficient government spending OVERALL, lower tax rates or less debt.

Think about it this way, if a city assumes that it is wasteful because it builds sprawl, perhaps this leads it to be more prudent in other areas. Conversely, if a city builds efficiently using a small geographic footprint, it may feel able to be more generous in other areas, like taking on pension obligations. You are looking at one tiny slice of the picture (infrastructure spending) and then drawing conclusions that don't bare out with the evidence.

>> They also all have few major venues... It's also a matter that Hamilton has not made the investments needed in it's core to overhaul the infrastructure, as as a result experiencing high costs to maintain them.

The total budget of Oakville, including it's share of regional costs were $480M in 2008. Per capita that works out to 2,909 per person. Hamilton's total expense in 2008 were $1.377B, or $2,653 per person

Tangible capital costs for Hamilton in 2008 were $161.3M, or $310.8 per person. For Oakville (including regional share), capital spending in 2008 was $154.3M, or $935 per person.

These are numbers taken from the communities annual reports. If you want to show me where these numbers are wrong, please do. If these numbers are correct, however, it is the burbs who currently spend more on infrastructure, EVEN while enjoying lower tax rates, less debt and more sprawl. The numbers don't support your hypothesis that sprawl necessarily leads to higher tax rates.

>> When you have residents stretched out from Flamborough to Stoney Creek, you need a LOT of people and government to maintain it all

All the more reason to fill the empty spaces Hamilton has with people. If parts of Hamilton that currently have 5 per km2 had 50, this would reduce the waste you are referring to. How do you do this without building sprawl?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 26, 2010 at 19:48:10

An inescapable fact is that Toronto is growing beyond its traditional metropolitan borders. An increasing number of Torontonians now view Hamilton as a residential option due to the relatively low price of resale and new housing.

An emerging issue for Hamilton is how best to accommodate the influx of Torontonians and other new residents to this city over the next several decades. The housing and transportation issues are inextricably linked.

There is an old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Many Torontonians who will move to Hamilton are already accustomed to using public transit in their daily lives. If Hamilton develops an efficient public transit system, including all day GO service plus LRT or BRT, these people could make a seamless transition to living in Hamilton and working in Toronto with little or no car use. They would come to see Hamilton as both a convenience and a sound economic choice. However, if Hamilton adopts the status quo and does not develop a “Toronto-like” public transit system, these Torontonians, who would have otherwise used public transit, will do what most Hamiltonians to now. Drive everywhere. They would come to see downtown Hamilton as a place to drive through or avoid altogether.

Then there are those Torontonians who will move to Hamilton and already have the habit of driving everywhere. They will easily adapt to the “drive everywhere” tendencies that most Hamiltonians seem to exhibit. They would also come to see downtown Hamilton as a place to drive through or avoid altogether.

If every Torontonian who moves to Hamilton over the next several decades, even those who prefer public transit, has to drive everywhere because of an inadequate public transit system, it would significantly increase local traffic gridlock and accelerate development of the remaining rural portions of Hamilton. The City of Pickering was mostly farm land forty years ago and now has over 100,000 inhabitants. Is this what we want for Glanbrook? Or Jerseyville? Or Flamborough?

Hamilton needs effective public transit options, including LRT or BRT, to encourage balanced residential and economic development in the lower city, on the mountain and in the suburbs while protecting as much agricultural land and green space as we can for future generations.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2010-11-26 18:48:42

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2010 at 13:39:42

Hamilton is in a very unique situation. Before amalgamation we were a small city with a population circa 300,000. Over night with one stroke of the pen we became a city with a population of over 600,000. While our population doubled the area did a lot more than that. I believe it quadrupled or even more. To look at Hamilton as a typical city of 600,000 is to be misled. When you compare Hamilton, or any Canadian city to an American counterpart most comparisons are totally out of wack because Americans just do not amalgamate cities. Cambridge is 3 communities combined into one, Hamilton is, I believe 6 distinct communities amalgamated into one. Over the previous years Stoney Creek was the result of the amalgamation of several smaller communities. Winona, Vinemount and others no longer exist all swallowed by Stoney Creek which in turn was swallowed by Hamilton. This is a very different model from our American cousins who will do anything it seems to not amalgamate communities. That is why comparisons are so difficult. Try comparing Hamilton with cities of comparable density instead of comparable population and see where you go.

The point to this diatribe is: What city with a population of 300,000 has a LRT? What city with a density of 450/ square Km has LRT? I believe I can safely say none. If my memory serves than Calgary was the only city with a population of under a million to have LRT and they have now surpassed the million mark. Even then there were exceptional circumstances, a lot of corporate head offices, second only to Toronto, which lead to an incredibly dense downtown core. There is very little about Hamilton that would lead an objective mind to spend the massive amount of money needed to build a LRT line here. LRT is not bad but it is very expensive.

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