Light Rail

Spec Op-Ed: Light rail delivers investment

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 24, 2010

Today's Hamilton Spectator includes an op-ed by your humble RTH editor making a case for LRT as a means not just of moving people around but of transforming the city's pattern of development. It was just posted on the Spec website if you don't have a print subscription. Here's an excerpt:

LRT is only incidentally about moving people around. Its more ambitious purpose is to transform the city's relationship between land use and transportation.

LRT doesn't just get people from here to there and leave everything else static. It provides an anchor around which Hamilton can attract billions of dollars in new private investment - investment into dense, mixed urban uses that make downtown more valuable.

Hamilton is currently stuck in automobile-path dependence. We design our neighbourhoods around the car, which pushes destinations far apart and makes car ownership necessary. High car ownership, in turn, increases pressure to design our neighbourhoods around the car.

LRT breaks us out of that path dependence. Designing neighbourhoods around rapid transit brings many destinations close together and reduces the need to drive everywhere. A family with two cars can give one of them up. A family with one car can leave it at home more often and experience city living at its best.

It's easy to dismiss this as pie-in-the-sky optimism, but we have hard numbers from cities across North America and around the world proving that LRT really does attract the investment Hamilton needs.

You can read the full op-ed at thespec.com.

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 jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 16:05:38

I love how some people when faced with an overwhelming preponderance of facts that this has worked in nearly every city where it has been tried - still view this as a 'pie in the sky'/'monorail' kind of idea.

Matt Jelly had a quote from Carl Sagan on his Facebook Page yesterday

"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion. "

'nuff said.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 16:33:57

Great article, Ryan. Congratulations for getting it published.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 24, 2010 at 16:41:03

It's really a question of perspective. For people who drive a lot, the world starts to look a lot like the background graphics in a playstation racing game. I know I start feeling it after an hour or so. No matter how fast a car does move in practical terms (compared to busing, walking or biking), the fact that it's always capable of so much more imparts a frustration that gets really hard to shake. It could be doing almost 200kph, if all these other gaddammed people weren't around.

So here's the argument for LRT, to drivers: you don't have to ditch your car. Nobody's going to force you to. But getting some of these other people off the road would make all of our lives easier. Especially the ones, whether they be too fast or too slow, who obviously don't want to be there. As much as I'd love to be able to do my commute while reading a paper or sleeping on a train, I'd settle for being able to do it in a car without people doing these things while they drive.

http://www.youtube.com/user/failblog#p/u...

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By Wentworthst (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 18:15:00

As a ward 3 homeowner, and having lived in two cities with street rail, I've said much the same... But not nearly so well! Great work, Ryan. Thanks for keeping on it.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 22:44:05

Interesting article from Seattle today about about how to make LRT work in cold weather. I think supporters and detractors will find validation for their positions. Have a read.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/lo...

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 24, 2010 at 23:07:24

Another Seattle cold weather article

http://www.publicola.net/2010/11/23/the-...

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 09:17:58

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 09:31:06

I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.

Carl Sagan's just not thinking very hard, then: from St. Paul to Mohamed to Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, people have changed their minds about religion. And politicians change their minds so often we have a word for it now: flip-flopping. And more generally, the religious and political landscapes change from generation to generation, just as do the landscapes of science and literature.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-11-25 08:59:27

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By Realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 09:51:30

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:06:38

Ummmm... RealityCheck,

I said this in my first post,"I think supporters and detractors will find validation for their positions."

Meaning several contradicting viewpoints were presented in the article. I simply did a search of LRT and found two articles from this week that I thought were pertinent to Hamilton's debate and decided to share them.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:11:06

We do not need to traverse the mountain for first phase LRT. If and when we do, claremont could handle LRT easily. Or (my choice) an aerial tram linking hunter go->st joe's->mountainview hotel site (southam park) which would connect the lower city to an upper james line.

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By LightHead (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 18:57:48

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 20:19:01

WHo is morella? morelli or merulla?

Regardless, those are three councillors who voted for spending half a billion on the aerotropolis.

Where did they figure that money would come from, thin air?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 20:34:56

It was Morelli. I saw the piece too. I can understand not wanting LRT in Ward 3 - it's such a shangri-la of urban beauty and business vibrancy as is.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 25, 2010 at 21:34:08

The City of Edmonton unveiled plans today for the proposed west and southeast expansion of its LRT system: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmo...

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2010 at 02:01:21

An aerial tram is an interesting idea but I'm not sure it's a great people mover - not nearly convenient enough. That said, I can imagine linking Henderson with HGH, similar to what they've done in Portland. Otherwise, Claremont would work nicely for LRT.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 27, 2010 at 11:14:44

The City of Edmonton unveiled plans today for the proposed west and southeast expansion of its LRT system:

Funny isn't it? People that have LRT want more of it, people that have used LRT in other cities want to build it, but people that have never used LRT or even seen it assume it's a big waste of money and don't bother to try and understand it.

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By D (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2010 at 14:33:58

Great article Ryan, I'm behind you all the way!

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2010 at 14:40:46

Great article Ryan, I'm behind you all the way!

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