Light Rail

Bratina: 'No Solid Interest' from Developers for LRT; 'Eerie Similarities' to Red Hill

By Adrian Duyzer
Published July 11, 2011

In an emailed response to a letter I wrote in support of LRT, Mayor Bob Bratina compares light rail transit to the Red Hill Valley Parkway, which he writes has "not born fruit" because "we are now told what we really need to generate new business is a mid-pen highway".

There are eerie similarities between the LRT project and the expressway. An advocacy group called the "Get Hamilton Moving Task Force" was created and often said nasty things about those of us who opposed building a road in the valley,calling us among other things, "terrorists", as nasty things are now being said about council regarding LRT.

"A big difference between the two projects is the level of support the development community gave to the expressway, including over $80 million in development charges", writes Bratina. Unlike the RHVP, Bratina writes, "no solid interest has materialized" from the development community for LRT.

Bratina also wrote that, "The question before us is not not whether LRT has a champion, but whether all elements can be pulled together in an affordable, practical manner that can be supported by a majority of Council."

He concluded his email by writing, "It would be irresponsible for us to make a decision at this time in the absence of crucial information just to tag ourselves as visionary."

The full, unedited text of the email, which was sent on Saturday, July 9, at 12:58 am, follows.

Dear Mr. Duyzer,

Thanks for your message and the thoughtful positive manner in which it was framed. The question before us is not not whether LRT has a champion, but whether all elements can be pulled together in an affordable, practical manner that can be supported by a majority of Council. There are eerie similarities between the LRT project and the expressway. An advocacy group called the "Get Hamilton Moving Task Force" was created and often said nasty things about those of us who opposed building a road in the valley,calling us among other things, "terrorists", as nasty things are now being said about council regarding LRT. Claims about how much value the projects would bring have not born fruit in the case of the expressway since we are now told what we really need to generate new business is a mid-pen highway. A big difference between the two projects is the level of support the development community gave to the expressway, including over $80 million in development charges. So far no solid interest has materialized from this sector for LRT, except for boosterism by certain groups. In fact there has been some concern raised. Further, debate goes on as to preference of A or B line routes. It's hard to believe for instance that Richard Koroscil has not pushed hard for LRT service to the airport. GO Train service from the GTA connected to our airport by light rail would give a distinct advantage to travellers wanting to make quicker, easier flight connections.

It would be irresponsible for us to make a decision at this time in the absence of crucial information just to tag ourselves as visionary.

Bob Bratina,

Mayor, City of Hamilton

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 arienc (registered) | Posted July 11, 2011 at 22:33:49

OMG. This is Hamilton. Must act immediately to squelch all of that nasty "boosterism" (slaps forehead). Does your mayor really have so much contempt for engaged citizens and business people? And the whole idea behind getting GO Transit is just to connect it to the white elephant airport?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2011 at 23:27:10

I think one of the first differences, as Bob might notice, is that while a large number of people in Hamilton are now saying nasty things about council regarding LRT, it's largely the people who were also on the recieving end of the "Get Hamilton Moving Task Force". I certainly was. He's now going on the Bill Kelly show with Chris Murray to side together on an issue - I wonder why he's taking flack...

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By James (registered) | Posted July 11, 2011 at 23:35:22

That's odd. I seem to recall a certain mayor saying that LRT running north-south was going to be a priority.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted July 12, 2011 at 08:15:52

"Boosterism" versus "Clamour"! Oh Bob, please define the differences in your minds. I say minds because clearly they don't always seem to be in sync. Your "spin again" approach to leadership not only confuses and frustrates engaged citizens, it also means 3 more years of trying to find the path forward. Or backward, if you prefer.

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By Bob Lee (anonymous) | Posted July 12, 2011 at 08:46:58

there are eerie similarities between the RHVE and LRT, but the former only got off the ground because of interest from developers...and yet this project has not borne fruit, because now developers are advocating for the mid-pen. There's a lot going on in this statement. Not only is he saying that council somehow has no ability to make decisions independently of developers, it's as though he has no control over the decisions. We screwed up the red hill, so now it looks like we'll have to accept the mid-pen. What the hell?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted July 12, 2011 at 12:31:58 in reply to Comment 66031

The real question is "Did the developers profit off of the RHVP?".

Their interests are not necessarily the city's interests and it's important for Council to be able to differentiate between the two.

There is no doubt that the developers feel that they will be able to profit MORE from the midpen highway, but that doesn't mean they won't be able to profit from the LRT.

Bob needs to make a decision. Does he cater to the best interests of the city or to the special interests? Given his prior choices on the whole stadium issue I'm not going to hold my breath.

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted July 12, 2011 at 11:46:44

I think RVHE would be easier to compare if we were to use our LRT tracks as a man-made water shed system.

Unfortunately, the takeaway for me is:

Boosters = People

Developers = Citizens

Waterloo - a city burgeoning with intelligence and a growing technology sector, less than half of our population, increasing traffic problems, probably the worst traffic planning legacy in our proximity - they get it. I seriously doubt Waterloo's troubles were so much less important than ours. How are we to take council seriously? Waterloo has it wrong? Hamilton is different? I think Waterloo is different, too. And the reason is: they made it different. They attracted business by showing leadership. Leadership, prosperity? They go together? Yep.

Perhaps there's no major private interest backing LRT, but we could say this about many roads in or around Hamilton. Some may call this cause and effect.

Mid-pen on the other hand, has private support from industries that are interested in transport. This makes sense for them, since these industries can't board an LRT with a 2 tonne load. Naturally they are not interested in it.

If Hamilton thought better of itself and had more people who were more informed, Bratina and Kelly would never be able to hold up this argument on air.

Comment edited by Synxer on 2011-07-12 11:54:32

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By Vod_Kann (registered) | Posted July 12, 2011 at 12:28:33

"It's hard to believe for instance that Richard Koroscil has not pushed hard for LRT service to the airport."

Does Richard know that Bob is telling us how he should do his job?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 12, 2011 at 15:00:23

If we're going to speak of sprawl development links to council, Ferguson is going to have to come up. After all, his companies (especially Dufferin) made a mint building the RHVP. Why would "they" be more interested in roads than rail? Because a very prominent member owns a paving company.

Think about the consequences of even a fraction of the "promises" of LRT coming true. It isn't just an issue of a road versus a rail line. If people did start giving up cars in favour of urban living and public transit, the market for suburban development would begin to shrink - and that involves building entire road networks, as well as countless homes and businesses from the ground up. There's hundreds of millions of dollars on the line here, and the people who stand to rake it in didn't get where they are by ignoring trends.

It's no secret that a very large amount of the appeal of suburban life has to do with status symbols and anti-urban prejudices. If these began to fade, what would happen to the suburb-building industry?

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By Willy Wonk (anonymous) | Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:44:53

"There are eerie similarities between the LRT project and the expressway."

For one: Chris Murray was Project Manager on the RHVP file, and City Manager on the LRT file.

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