The Spectator ran a couple of great opinion pieces on Saturday and another one today that touch on various aspects of the LRT debate in Hamilton.
First, an expansive op-ed by Herman Turkstra forcibly argues that the LRT issue is a "once-in-100-years decision" that will impact how the city grows and develops far beyond the horizon of every Councillor or bureaucrat who has their hands on it today.
Today, this city faces a once-in-100-years decision that cannot be avoided: Whether to plan for light rail transit or not. The all-day GO Train issue is irrelevant to that discussion.
It is painfully clear that the province will not impose a decision on us. As MPP Ted McMeekin said, the province will follow Hamilton's lead. If we are not enthusiastic, it will not happen. This means that unless we quickly change the decision-making process, two or three city leaders and administrators can have an immense impact on the quality of life in this city in 2075 and 2095, and 2111 and beyond.
This echoes comments that Paul Bedford, Toronto's Chief Planner emeritus, made in his Why Transit Matters speech in which he also argued that the decision to invest in a large capital transit system will affect development patterns for decades.
Turkstra's piece also echoes the long-range, visionary approach that Mark Chamberlain articulated on July 22, in which Chamberlain argued that the cost of LRT must be considered in the context of the long-term benefit, as well as the cost of not building LRT.
Like Chamberlain, Turkstra argues that LRT "is a game-changing strategy" that will transform the flows of where and how people choose to live and work in the years and decades to come.
Turkstra does fall into the common myth that Hamilton has gradually changed "from a city to a suburb" from which commuters head to Mississauga and Toronto. In fact, Hamilton was and remains an economic and employment centre in its own right, with 70% of Hamiltonians working in Hamilton and 38,000 people commuting into the city to work.
Only a small fraction of Hamiltonians commute all the way to Toronto, with most out-bound commuters heading to Burlington or Oakville.
However, the point remains that Hamilton itself has gradually become more suburban than urban in its land use, whether its suburban residents commute to jobs in Hamilton, Halton or Toronto.
Also in Saturday's paper, an opinion piece by editor-in-chief Paul Berton defends the Spectator's LRT coverage against Mayor Bratina's claim that the paper is just stirring up trouble.
Some might call this "agenda-based" or "advocacy" journalism. The mayor called it a "Spectator brouhaha."
But anyone who has been following this issue knows that it has been the Mayor, supported by city manager Chris Murray, who manufactured this LRT crisis by publicly doubting whether LRT is a good idea, saying a number of bizarre and untrue things about LRT, denying that LRT has popular or business/developer support, and suddenly suspending the city's rapid transit study to focus instead on all-day GO service - without a Council vote.
Berton closes his piece by noting that Bratina has not taken up the Spectator's invitation to set the record straight on the mayor's claim that the paper misquoted him and concluding: "Perhaps he'll discuss it on the radio."
Perhaps Bratina's real objection to the Spectator is not that he is being misquoted, but that he is being quoted at all.
Finally, an op-ed in today's Spectator by community columnist Margaret Shkimba offers a personal stake on how LRT could produce a real transformation:
Our transit is so bad because it's nothing but buses on the busiest routes, stuffed to the windows with people, strollers, scooters, and wheelchairs. We are so far past capacity on our main lines - the lines the LRT would work to resolve - that there's an accident just waiting to happen, if there haven't been many already.
If you don't believe me, go take the bus for yourself. Wait for September, when the students get back for the full-body experience. There's no other ride like it in town.
Hamilton's east-west buses already carry more passengers than the 9,100 passengers that Charlotte's modern LRT system, which the Mayor bizarrely called "kind of a quaint old fashion trolley system", was projected to carry when it opened in 2007.
The HSR isn't able to provide accurate day-to-day ridership numbers, because currently a number of riders show cards to operators but do not swipe them, a March 2010 HSR Operational Review by IBI Group found the King, Delaware, B-Line and University buses carry over 13,000 riders a day, or more than a third of total ridership on the HSR system.
Ridership on Charlotte's LRT has far outpaced those projections, and has already rocketed to 21,000 passengers a day. Given the cramping, overcapacity and "drive-bys" (full buses passing people waiting at bus stops) on our congested east-west routes, there is no reason to think that ridership on a Hamilton LRT won't achieve a similarly impressive growth rate.
You must be logged in to comment.