Light Rail

Letter: Invest in the Core to Make it More Attractive to Business and Newcomers

By Letter to the Editor
Published July 14, 2011

Dear Councillor Farr,

After reading Ryan McGreal's article in the Spectator this morning, I was quite dismayed to hear the skeptical opinions of Mayor Bratina, Chris Murray, and Bill Kelley in support of Hamilton's Light Rail Transit.

As a born-and-raised, self-employed Hamiltonian living in Ward 2, I politely urge that you continue supporting the vision of the LRT. Please make Mayor Bratina and the rest of our council aware that there are many young Hamiltonians, like myself, that are in support of this project.

As mentioned in the article, part of the skepticism comes from what is perceived to be a lack of population in our city to support such a system. Perhaps we should look at the old adage "What came first, the chicken or the egg?".

I strongly believe that the more we invest in the core of our city, and the more we show the world that we are willing to commit to our own city, the more attractive we will become to businesses and newcomers.

Over the past decade I have noticed a sharp increase in the general pride in this city. People are getting excited again about developments like James St. N. They have a new way of seeing what can be done.

Let's keep this ball rolling. It's time to be bold and make some moves toward becoming a better city.

There is no doubt in my mind that this infrastructure boost to our transportation system will create much more appeal to other businesses and individuals looking at Hamilton as a potential home.

I'm not trying to compare Hamilton to any other major city, because it isn't like any other place - it has something much more special. Let's not make the mistake of letting this opportunity slip past us.

Sincerely,
John Smith

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 16:24:21

LRT is not needed in this city. It is too expensive and the only people who would use it are people who already ride the HSR. Knobody is going to leave their car in the driveway to take a bus to connect to the LRT. It would take to damn long and it is too damn cold much of the year to wait outside. People who have lives can not spare the time. Who is going to take one-hour to ride transit back and forth when the car takes you there in 10 min? Gives you more time with the kids, cook dinner etc.

Hamilton is not dense like dt Toronto or New York. In those cities there are areas where driving is a real pain and very slow. That is not the case in Hamilton. That is not the case for most mid-sized cities.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 23:08:48 in reply to Comment 66176

Do you hear yourself when you think?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:45:00 in reply to Comment 66199

Just exactly what is it you disagree with? Either add to the debate or go back to the playground.

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By DevilsAdvocate (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 17:34:53 in reply to Comment 66176

@Capitalist

I agree with the view that most people are too rushed to bother with the current public transit. However about affordability: don't you think 5-10 years from now the cost of gas won't make everyday car use not affordable for the average family? Unfortunately the auto industry is a decade behind the demand for cars fueled by other resources. I don't think they're in a rush to sell us less gas at higher prices.

I think the most important emphasis on this project isn't who will use it as soon as it's complete, rather who will depend on it in the near future.

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By cAPITALIST (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:43:55 in reply to Comment 66182

Please see my post below.

I don't think that the car industry is slow in implementing alternate fueled cars. Great strides have been made. You have to realize that moving away from gasoline is a monumental endeovour. A developing an auto that is affordable is a huge challenge.

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By Me109 (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 16:45:45

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-07-14 21:49:24

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 14, 2011 at 19:27:37 in reply to Comment 66178

This comment is irrelevant, sexist, and racist. I have suggested @editor it be removed.

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By Me109 (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 19:02:39 in reply to Comment 66192

insult spam deleted

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 14, 2011 at 21:50:26 in reply to Comment 66192

Thank you. It has been removed as per this policy.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 14, 2011 at 19:31:48 in reply to Comment 66192

A veritable trollfecta.

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By Kingdom (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 02:08:15

Capitalist,

Your argument almost works, if:

1) The population doesn't grow in the future in Hamilton

2) Gas prices do not rise in the future in Hamilton.


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:39:59 in reply to Comment 66204

Most of Hamilton's population growth is ocurring in the suburbs not the lower city or dt. People who live in those areas own cars (you don't move to Ancaster to ride the bus).

As for high gas prices. The price of gasoline has fluctuated since we started using it to fill our cars. Over time the share of a household budget devoted to automobile fuel has declined, cars have become more fuel efficient and we are starting to look at other power sources, additionally we have made huge oil and gas discoveries lately (especially natual gas). Even if gas prices double people would make adjustments (move to smaller cars, invest in fuel efficiency, stop buying $3 lattes every day etc.) and continue to drive cars because too much time is wasted using public transit (especially in places like dt Toronto, Hong kong).

I love Hamilton as much as you guys but LRT will not help this city.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 09:46:18 in reply to Comment 66210

Most of Hamilton's population growth is ocurring in the suburbs not the lower city or dt.

That's happening because our public infrastructure spending priorities and regulatory system encourage suburban growth while simultaneously discouraging urban intensification.

You're a capitalist; surely you understand the role of incentives and disincentives in markets.

The problem with suburban expansion is that the city does not collect anywhere near enough in development charges and tax assessments to pay for the infrastructure we build to service it. As a result, every new subdivision actually increases the city's net liabilities. It's economically unsustainable and it's steadily eroding the city's finances.

Lo and behold: when cities direct their public investments and calibrate their regulatory structures into intensification rather than sprawl, most of their population growth occurs in infill developments.

LRT looks like an expensive investment, but the alternative is far more expensive and will leave us without the means to get our spending in line with our revenues. It was this realization that convinced Waterloo Region to change their minds and support LRT.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-07-15 09:48:26

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By Duffer (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 12:13:17 in reply to Comment 66214

"That's happening because our public infrastructure spending priorities and regulatory system encourage suburban growth while simultaneously discouraging urban intensification."

Ryan, With your statement above, I would think that this scenario needs to be resolved prior to any commencement of the LRT project.

Is that your feeling as well?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 13:09:23 in reply to Comment 66230

The LRT project would resolve this scenario, in two specific ways:

  1. It makes a major investment of public capital in a transportation system that anchors infill development; and

  2. It includes a major reworking of our regulatory system to remove arbitrary barriers to reinvestment.

Remember: council instructed staff not only to plan and design the LRT system, but also to prepare a secondary plan for the B-Line transit corridor that makes it easy for developers to invest.

It was staff's presentation of the B-Line intensification study council had asked them to prepare that got Councillors Clark and Collins complaining about being "backed into a corner" on LRT.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 10:23:23

Who is going to take one-hour to ride transit back and forth when the car takes you there in 10 min?

A chief reason why I generally don't take a lot of busses. The problem isn't the speed of the busses, though, it's transfer times. If I have to wait 20 minutes for a bus (which comes every 40), then transfer and sit at a bus shelter on the mountain for another thirty, then I've spent nearly an hour going nowhere for a one-way trip. If I haven't checked the schedules online (or they're not on time), it could well mean over an hour of wait time.

LRT changes this by establishing main lines that can run at high and regular frequencies. If I only have to wait five or ten minutes for the train (which also moves faster than a bus), then that saves a lot of time and grief. If I have to transfer to a second LRT line, I can be confident that I won't have to wait more than five or ten minutes there, either. All of this frees up busses for small, regular local loops (instead of having to run Deleware buses to Westdale) which can feed into hubs at the LRT stops. All in all it makes for a far simpler, much more efficient and less intimidating network as a whole.

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By Thomas (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 12:24:38 in reply to Comment 66225

B-Line busses currently run every 15 or 20 minutes, and the frequency can easily be increased to 10 minutes by adding additional busses.

If you need to get off at a stop which isn't a B-Line/proposed LRT stop you'll still need the Delaware bus (or King, or whatever) running the milk-run and you'll have to transfer to it, or walk (not an option for some with health issues). My understanding those milk-run busses will still exist on the proposed LRT lines.

If all that's needed for feeder routes, they can buy new busses to feed the B-Line. That's a cheaper option.

The proposed LRT time Eastgate to Mac is one minute quicker than the B-Line bus, with priority signals. So the speed of the 2 are pretty much equal.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 13:07:54 in reply to Comment 66233

Take a look at Ottawa's BRT experiment. Back in the 1980s, instead of building some kind of LRT like Calgary and Edmonton, Ottawa went with the option of transitways - fast, frequent buses running on dedicated lanes.

Ottawa's BRT was cheaper to build than LRT but has been more expensive to operate. Buses carry far fewer passengers than streetcars, so they have much higher per-passenger operator costs. Buses are also more expensive to fuel than grid-connected vehicles. On top of that, buses need replacement after 8-10 years, compared to 30-40 years for electric streetcars.

Not only that, but the transitways did not generate new tax assessments the way LRT systems in other cities did. Ottawa's BRT did a good job of attracting ridership but a comparatively poor job of attracting transit-oriented development. Even the best buses are noisier, smellier and bumpier than modern streetcars, and they simply don't do a very good job of exciting developers.

Meanwhile, ridership on the transitways is up against hard limits on capacity - you can only run buses so frequently - and the city is now forced to bite the bullet and build LRT.

Unfortunately, they've painted themselves into a corner because it will be extremely challenging to build an LRT system without severely disrupting the existing BRT service.

Hence the $2 billion price tag for Ottawa's LRT upgrade.

By the way, Ottawa's population in 1980 was around 500,000 people - the same as Hamilton's today. Ottawa built BRT and has since come to regret its shortsightedness. Edmonton's population was just 450,000 when their LRT opened in 1978. Edmonton built LRT and it is widely and consistently regarded as a big success and a brave, prescient investment.

Hamilton's population today is around the same as Ottawa's and Edmonton's were when they embarked on their respective rapid transit experiments. We would be foolish not to learn from Ottawa's mistake.

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By Thomas (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2011 at 12:26:19 in reply to Comment 66233

To be clear the "priority signals" are proposed LRT not the B-Line bus.

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