Light Rail

Ferguson Adds Clarity to LRT Discussion

By Graham Crawford
Published July 20, 2011

Literally 24 hours after Mayor Bob Bratina appeared for a full hour on the Bill Kelly Show, Councillor Lloyd Ferguson spent nearly 15 minutes with Bill this morning.

What a difference a day makes. Whereas Bratina chose not to mention anything about cutting LRT staff from six or seven to just one, although he knew of Chris Murray's "I'm-in-charge" email sent on the eve of his vacation, Lloyd Ferguson, in 15 minutes, added a ton of clarity, not to mention good information, to the debate.

Have a read of what Lloyd said and contrast it with what Bob said on the same topic the day before on the same show. You decide who you think was more transparent, thoughtful, direct.

It's no secret that Lloyd and I don't see eye-to-eye on heritage, specifically not how he viewed the heritage of Hamilton's City Hall. Having said that, you have to give the guy his due when it comes to discussing project planning and setting priorities. So, I tip my hat to Lloyd for his contribution to the current LRT debate.

Councillor Ferguson on Chris Murray's pre-vacation email.

I'm puzzled by the process that was followed. I know we're on summer recess, but we did have a General Issue Committee meeting just two weeks ago tomorrow and it wasn't even on the radar screen at that meeting. Typically when you make strategic decisions, first of all it's done by Council and not by the City Manager and the Mayor alone, and it comes in the form of a staff report with their recommendations. But we never had that, we simply got an email from the City Manager that he was re-assigning the employees, all but one, into other areas other than LRT. So, I'm not sure what that means and I would have loved to have had a conversation with Chris because the email came from him but he went off on vacation.....[Murray's email] just came out of nowhere.

Councillor Ferguson on the LRT study process.

I know from my previous life that you cannot put a value on something until you have at least a 30% design. You gotta know where it's gonna go, where the stations are, what utilities are in the way. And that's the decision point, when we have that 30% design, then we're able to put some numbers to it and then turn to our partners in the Province, particularly Metrolinx, who are, everything I've seen and heard are very keen on the project, and say, OK what percentage are you going to fund?

I'm not sure we should be taking our foot off the gas pedal. I'm not sure (if this is what is happening). You read the email and re-assigning the staff would indicate that. But clearly I think the next step would be to go back to Metrolinx and say, OK we need this much more funding to continue the program and we haven't done that yet to my knowledge. If we're running out of money, if that's the issue in doing the studies, then Council needs to be made aware of that, so we can turn to our provincial partners, turn to Metrolinx and say that we'd like to continue to the next steps.

Councillor Ferguson on how he feels about Chris Murray's email

Before I form an opinion, I want to at least have an opportunity to talk to the City Manager. This is way out of character. There's something happening that maybe we're not aware of. I would think that should be a decision of Council to decide whether we're going to re-assign all the staff to somewhere else.....It's a strategic decision. Quite frankly, I'm not sure Metrolinx would ever consider giving you more money if you don't ask for it, and we haven't done that to my knowledge.

Councillor Ferguson on what Councillors know currently about the LRT process.

I had a visit from the LRT staff, from Jill Stephens, and I'm looking forward to hearing her on your show if you can get her on later, I had a visit from her about a month ago just to give us an update where it's at and it allowed us to ask questions, but that was in the privacy of our own offices. It's time for us to have a public presentation on this to let the public know where we're at so we all get the same facts, we're all singing from the same song sheet. For some reason this has skipped around that, and we just need to find out why.

Councillor Ferguson on managing priorities and costs

Costs are always the pinch point, and what is the real number, and what's the level of funding we're getting from the other two levels of government. I mean, we've got a lot of big things on our plate right now, right from the stadium getting that built, to this new medical facility downtown, and the majority of Council decided to blow up HECFI so we've got that to deal with, you know the velodrome meeting has been cancelled twice now. We're hearing about the location and the costs around that. And of course our roads get a D minus. So, we've got a lot of items we have to deal with, so we just need to get stickie notes up on the wall for every one of them and decide where our priorities lie.

We don't know the costs and we have all these demands in front of us. There's certainly a clear feeling within the majority of Council that we want to keep tax levels low and so that's striking this balance.

If Metrolinx come along and say, yes we agree it's $850 million, if that's the number, and we'll pay 100% of the capital costs and you've got to pay the operating costs, that makes it very appealing. But, if they come along and say, no City, similar to Waterloo, you've got to put $100 or @200 million dollars into this, that's going to be a problem.

Councillor Ferguson on the value to the City of LRT

In my own particular case, I represent the people of Ancaster. LRT won't do anything for Ancaster except raise their taxes and congest the roads that they come in on in the morning, if you're gonna take one or two lanes out of Main Street which is going to back traffic out onto 403. But, is it the right thing for the whole City? Probably, if the funding level is right. These are the things we have to sort out. If the City has to put a big whack of capital dollars into this, I think that's a show stopper, based on all of the projects I just recited to you.

Councillor Ferguson on the economic impact of LRT

I want to tell your listeners that I was somewhat cynical about it (LRT) when it first came up because it did nothing for Ancaster, and Gerry Davis pushed and pushed and pushed me to go on a road show down to Charlotte, Portland and Calgary and it was a real eye-opener because it does have economic development uptick. You very clearly saw that in Charlotte. Talking to senior staff in Charlotte they said that after this thing opened developers who bought up old, derelict buildings would come to them and say can you put another station by my building and we'll pay for it. So there is very significant economic development uptake.

There's also a very futuristic look. It takes you to a new millennium.

And more importantly is the operating costs. It costs the City of Hamilton right now approximately $2.50 every time a passenger steps onto a bus. 50% of that comes from the fare box and the other 50% comes from the taxpayer. We found out that in pretty much all three of [the cities visited], certainly in Calgary which is another Canadian city, the operating costs went down by 90% to 25 cents per passenger. And the reason for that is the guy sitting in the driver's seat is the most expensive part of operating a transit system and he's carrying 300 people instead of 40 people as he or she goes down the street.

The second highest cost is fuel. Buses burn diesel and these trains use electricity and the costs are significantly less for fuel.

And third most expensive item is insurance. Insurance is significantly less when you have a train running down a dedicated track buried from traffic and you don't have these buses making thousands of movements in and out of traffic all day long.

So, for those three reasons operating costs come down significantly, which would be very appealing for us to take a look at.

Councillor Ferguson on what Council does not know.

I know and you know Council has not been debriefed by staff on this yet. And I think you have seen a copy of the email that Chris put out last week before he was gone on vacation. I have seen nothing more than that other than what I read in the Spectator and hear on CHML, and so I'm looking forward to getting more information on this also.

This whole last week, you know it seems a little autocratic the way its come down. I always thought all-day GO was going ahead. The Mayor has been a big advocate for all-day GO for a number of years when he was Councillor for Ward 2. He was a big advocate for the station at LIUNA station. I assumed that was all running its path through Metrolinx. I didn't know we were into an either or thing either. That's why it sounds just a little autocratic, but we need to sort this out at our first GIC meeting coming up in the first week of August.

I didn't know all-day GO was not moving forward. I knew they were moving forward with the electrification with GO and with the all-day service into Hamilton was my understanding and if I'm wrong, I need to find that out.

Councillor Ferguson on multi-tasking.

As a construction guy I used to have 180 projects working at once. As you saw with the stadium, the medical facility, the velodrome, our roads and HECFI, we have a lot of things on the go at the same time and you have to manage them all and you have to manage expectations and that turns around what's the cost.

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 13:42:03

Wow. Great interview. Very open and honest. Sounds almost mayoral. One point of correction though - LRT will do plenty for the people of Ancaster. As the city sees this huge upswing in economic activity, that builds up the revenue base for their ever-expanding roads and highways and servicing their sprawl. Economic growth in Hamilton is good for all of us, regardless of where we live. Second, losing one or two lanes on Main or King won't impact Ancaster drivers. King St just west of Queen has been narrowed to 3 lanes for over a year now and there hasn't been a single traffic problem. Furthermore, as Ferguson accurately points out, 300 people are riding the LRT cars. That's 300 fewer cars using Main/King, freeing up space for Ancaster car drivers.
So, even though Ancaster residents won't directly benefit by not having an LRT station anywhere nearby, they will still benefit hugely by the city becoming more balanced in transportation and economic activity. More economic growth = more tax base.

Great job Lloyd. Thanks for the clarification and honesty.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:40:18 in reply to Comment 66594

One point of correction though - LRT will do plenty for the people of Ancaster.

I applaud Councillor Ferguson for his honesty...even if he's generalizing.

I think it's really, really important that some here take the time to try to see things from how 'people on the periphery' think. Especially when it comes to 'urban issues'. They're where they are because they don't want much or anything to do with 'urban issues'. They've cast their votes by settling where they are. (Yes, I realize I'm simplifying things.)

I'm not trying to get anyone to agree with the status quo in Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Dundas, etc...just to remind people that your priorities are not necessarily theirs...no matter how much logic your projections hold. If there is stridency on their part, try to keep in mind that they never wanted to come to the altar in the first place. We're not talking about The Old CIty of Hamilton, where 'The Mountain' might not see the urgency of 'urban renewal', but will begrudgingly ante up 'for the greater good'. Label this as splitting hairs at your own peril. I don't believe that logic is at the core of this discussion; emotions hold sway.

And our leaders aren't helping much, either.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-07-20 15:43:09

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:02:33 in reply to Comment 66639

I hear you, and I'm certain Lloyd understands exactly what I wrote above. I understand where he's coming from with the 'won't do anything for Ancaster' comment, although I do take issue with the resistance to losing a couple lanes on Main. He would lie down in the roadway with local residents before ever allowing a mega-truck freeway to be blasted through downtown Ancaster. And he should. Just don't turn around and make it sound like it's ok for downtown Hamilton when none of our peripheral communities have one-way truck freeways through their downtowns.
Nor does downtown Burlington, Oakville, Toronto, London, St Kitts, Ottawa etc......

Comment edited by jason on 2011-07-20 18:03:01

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:05:05 in reply to Comment 66594

I think he pretty fairly covered that when he pointed out what LRT did for the people of Charlotte, NC. Nobody can say that Ancaster wouldn't be better off if the city they were attached to were a healthy, intense, vibrant community instead of struggling urban decay.

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By screen name (anonymous) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 13:57:33

Don't trust Ferguson when he sound 'progressive'--usually screen for development a la Ferguson--Ferguson not so good for city 's health even if he did sound less B.S.-y for this time only. Careful, Graham.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:04:41 in reply to Comment 66597

I'm not so sure. The facts are quite with LRT - it is a developers dream. Someone like him and his background should be on board. He can quite clearly see the massive economic uptake potential...and let's not forget - more jobs here means more jobs for folks through the entire region, not just along the LRT line.

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By Vod_Kann (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:27:13 in reply to Comment 66597

I think you need to remove the politics and look at how he communicates.

I said previously that this LRT is become the stadium thing again and huge part of that is the terrible communication.

I ask you, politics aside, what was a better use of our time?

15 minutes from councillor Ferguson stating his issues with the process (or lack of) as well his views of the pros and cons of LRT

or the "Bob Bratina's Stream of Consiousness Hour"?

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:03:08

Good read. I'll definitely have to send him some kudos.

The only issue I take with Lloyd (as a resident of Lloyd-Ferguson-land) is that this will do nothing for us/ me. Pre-amalgamation, maybe. But, my vision, if you will, for LRT is this.

  1. More robust economy downtown - a cost-effective service/ retail environment that increases the net benefit to the city coffers.
  2. Increasing density of residences in the downtown area. This will benefit public services like LRT/ HSR; making them less dependent on subsidy.
  3. A more attractive/ appealing urban Hamilton would, hopefully, help initiatives to cap urban sprawl (...a rather hypocritical statement, given my location). Any mitigation of development bumps Ancaster home value.
  4. Development of any kind takes downtown property from a net loss to a net gain. The burden of upkeep becomes a tax-positive property for the city.
  5. Currently, I, and my immediate neighbours, embark on a tedious commute to places outside of Hamilton every morning. Ideally, future development means more opportunities for employment in Hamilton. That means my employer pays taxes here, I spend more money here and the carbon footprint of my salary gets smaller.
  6. Personal public transit -- as a suburban Hamiltonian, a focus on better (and even appropriate priced) public transit would benefit me greatly. Trips to Ivor Wynne, Copps Coliseum, Hamilton Place, Hess, etc., are all better enjoyed via decent public transit.

Certainly all of this is very subjective. But to say LRT only stands to inconvenience those living in Ancaster is pretty short-sighted.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:21:59 in reply to Comment 66599

All very well stated points, slodrive.

5.Currently, I, and my immediate neighbours, embark on a tedious commute to places outside of Hamilton every morning. Ideally, future development means more opportunities for employment in Hamilton. That means my employer pays taxes here, I spend more money here and the carbon footprint of my salary gets smaller.

My favorite one.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:05:20

screen name

Fair advice. But don't worry, I haven't gone over to the other side. Having said that, when you compare the two (Bob and Lloyd) side by side, Lloyd at least was clear and to the point on the benefits and challenges of LRT.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:19:10

Kudos to Lloyd Ferguson for his thoughtful comments and to Graham Crawford for not holding a grudge.

One other way that LRT may benefit residents of Ancaster is by getting lower-city residents out of their cars. If two lanes worth of King/Main drivers switch to LRT, Ancaster residents won't be inconvenienced at all. If more drivers than that switch, traffic congestion could actually improve.

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By Observer (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 01:02:34 in reply to Comment 66605

I believe Graham to be above holding a grudge, however holding their feet to the fire...

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:06:30 in reply to Comment 66605

Kudos to Lloyd Ferguson for his thoughtful comments and to Graham Crawford for not holding a grudge.

...or throwing a pen

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:19:59

Great piece Graham and good answers from Councillor Jackson.

One question I have, is why won't Metrolynx state now how much they would expect Hamilton to pay to build this? If we are going to the trouble of doing all this planing and then the province/feds say they'll split 70%, Metrolynx will throw down 20%, leaving Hamilton required to pay 10% and we are talking ballpark $850M - $1B overall project cost, than we are looking at minimal $850K out of local taxpayers pockets in that scenerio?

We walked into the stadium debate capped at $45M. If it's stated that we will have to pay some upfront costs now, what is our cap? Councillor Ferguson states that $100M to $200M might be a problem, so what does council think would be a reasonable amount taxpayers could come to grips with? A $100M to $750M cost share would seem very appealing; especially where the long term benefits to our city are concerned.

Maybe, if it came down to a committement requried from Hamilton that council didn't feel taxpayers would be okay with, that a decision as vital as this one could be opened up to a municipal vote?

"I know we promised not to raise taxes, but for $125/yr added to your assessment, these are the numbers in jobs and revenue, and savings from urban renewal versus suburban expansion, that would benefit your city."

Provide voters with a link to this with some point form facts on LRT, including links to LRT articles on RTH and The Spec as well. Give them the pros and cons on a nice 5x7 voter card, with voting station location and hours on the back.

Why put the brakes on something you 'believe', voters won't go for? Why not know for sure? It would be interesting to see if nothing else, the difference between number of citizens voting for one innitiative, rather than a specific person for office?

For those that feel it doesn't matter who they vote for, nothing will ever change, they might feel differently when they are given the opportunity to vote on this very important issue.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-20 14:27:03

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:25:20 in reply to Comment 66606

Just to clarify: Metrolinx coordinates regional rapid transit in the GTHA, but all funding decisions and funds will come from the Province (or from the Feds via the Province).

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 14:28:15 in reply to Comment 66612

Thanks for clarification, Ryan.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:06:23

Not living there, do Ancasterians generally drive into Hamilton along Main to get to the QEW/403 or do they generally hop onto the ramps up around Garner Road?

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:18:39 in reply to Comment 66627

Uhh, not sure, but I take issue with your use of "Ancasterians".

We prefer "Ancasterds", please and thank you very much.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:48:18 in reply to Comment 66632

Having grown up in Ancaster (70's, 80's) I always preferred "Ancastrators" myself. It always gave my Dad a chuckle.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 16:13:18 in reply to Comment 66640

I had actually paused for a moment to avoid my preferred term "Ancasteroids" when adding the original post.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:16:14 in reply to Comment 66643

LOL!! All of those are gold!

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:15:52

Just for score-keeping purposes, I did receive a reply today from Lloyd Ferguson on my rather terse email that I sent his way after the announcement broke. It echoed, briefly, the key points indicated in this current post, reaffirmed a commitment to downtown (with some back-patting) and stated that the arbitrary nature of decision/announcement that was made will be raised at the next meeting.

A decent reply in my books.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:17:07

To reiterate a previous argument - a qualified Councillor with actual credentials for the job - even if you don't always agree with his politics - is 100 times preferable with a Councillor with zero relevant experience or education ... unless you call a broadcasting diploma, or an AM radio show relevant to making multi-million dollar decisions.

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By *FacePalm* (anonymous) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 16:03:11 in reply to Comment 66631

I know somebody who voted for Bratina because he met him a couple times and "Bob Bratina seemed really nice"

*FacePalm*

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:33:28 in reply to Comment 66631

To reiterate a previous argument - a qualified Councillor with actual credentials for the job - even if you don't always agree with his politics - is 100 times preferable with a Councillor with zero relevant experience or education ... unless you call a broadcasting diploma, or an AM radio show relevant to making multi-million dollar decisions.

While I can't argue with your opinion, how would you propose to change the fact that generally, people vote by 'name recognition'? Short of establishing standards for running for office (Chances of that are slim and none...and Slim just left town), how would you impress to the electorate that they need to be more discerning in their choices at election time?

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By Vod_Kann (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:38:19 in reply to Comment 66636

I'm not sure- Media personalities have been elected into office since forever.

Wasn't there a poll in the US in the 1970's that if (then CBS news anchor) Walter Cronkite ran for president he would get something like 65% of the vote?

For whatever reason we have more trust in thos ethat deliver the news than those that make it.

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2011 at 08:07:12 in reply to Comment 66651

Ever read "Amusing ourselves to Death" by the late great Niel Postman?

New media's only brand is trust, as trust breeds loyalty, and loyalty blindness.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:43:56 in reply to Comment 66651

Well, looking at the situation differently, given the way governance is currently carried out locally, what's required of a candidate to execute their responsibilities according to their constituents' desires?

And I think media people have always been able to garner trust. (Yeah, this sounds absurd, given the Murdoch situation. But I grew up with anchors you felt you could trust, on both sides of the border.) Which goes a long way to getting one elected.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 15:20:51

I must admit, I was a little wary when I saw the title, but Ferguson's comments were right on the mark. This decision came out of nowhere, and it'd be nice to hear some answers. It's nice to know that some councillors are actually familiar with the issue, though sad to hear that they're not being consulted.

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By Me 109 (anonymous) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:45:56

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 adrian on 2011-07-20 20:23:21

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:08:48 in reply to Comment 66654

yea, that Lloyd Ferguson. What a commie.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:36:16 in reply to Comment 66662

But the CAPS and quotes add an air of weight and legitimacy to 109's comments, don'tcha think?

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By Sky -- (anonymous) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 17:51:02

--oops.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 18:24:28

I thought the LRT recommendation was to be on King, not Main as Councillor Ferguson referenced. Did I hear that wrong?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 22:12:29 in reply to Comment 66664

If you go to the rapid transit website, you'll see the most recent recommendation is on both main and king in certain spots along the route.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2011 at 00:57:48 in reply to Comment 66671

Starting in the west end, it runs along Main to Paradise, jogs north to King, and remains on King through the downtown until it crosses Main again past Gage. From there it continues on Main and then Queenston to terminate at Eastgate Square.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted July 20, 2011 at 20:55:29

Well, Lloyd Ferguson just earned a couple points of respect from me.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 21, 2011 at 08:18:07

he is one of the few that looks at the big picture of the City at the same time trying to balance it against the needs of those who vote him in.

This is a great point. One of the reasons city hall gets nothing done is because many councillors only look at their own tiny ward and don't care about the broader impacts. It's refreshing to hear someone say "it might not be all that great for my constituents, but it will be great for the city as a whole".

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 21, 2011 at 09:46:04 in reply to Comment 66688

This is a great point. One of the reasons city hall gets nothing done is because many councillors only look at their own tiny ward and don't care about the broader impacts.

By rights, this is where a mayor's leadership comes into play. You know, with a sense of vision. As I said in this editorial: http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2011/0... The Mayor may not control what goes on...but he/she sure as Hell should be generating momentum in a particular direction, corralling consensus and generating enthusiastic governance. Otherwise, what's the point of having the role in the first place?

(And here I'll go back to a standard belief: all of our Councillors, especially the Mayor, should be holding regular 'Town Hall Meetings'. And by 'regular', I mean monthly.)

It's refreshing to hear someone say "it might not be all that great for my constituents, but it will be great for the city as a whole".

Yes, it is. But while it's one thing for a Councillor to say it, it's far more important that the average person ends up saying it. But how can they be inclined to if they're waddling about in a swamp of ignorance and disinformation? Going back to my first point, this is where leadership comes in. Charismatic, informed, well-articulated leadership.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-07-21 09:48:02

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By littleLRTmouse (anonymous) | Posted July 22, 2011 at 15:19:08

It is extremely refreshing to see or hear a politician, who cares about whole city,rather than only a few sq. km downtown, and who takes an active interest into a project, that may cost "big bucks" to build. I have ventured into GOOGLE-land to see what "Charlotte LRT" can yield and I am not sure at this time, that Mr.Fergusson really understands the Hamilton project. Please check Charlotte - a set of pictures looks like an old strip of land or re-constructed highway or abandonded railway route with its own bridges and private stations plus a tunnel under CBD. Will Hamilton project have similar features? I don't know. Unless the terminals on both sides will be not too from legal borders of City, Hamilton LRT may be like an improved streetcar operation and therefore may yield different results than Charlotte. The "vagueness" of LRT projects around GTHA begs another question: Why does not Metrolinx spend some $20K to $40K and send its staff into distant locals like Erfurt,Halle,Stuttgart,Most,Liberec-Jablonec,Brno and try to get as many photos of near-LRT operations? Then general public and public officials may be able to make qualified decisions.

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