Light Rail

LRT on Bill Kelly Show

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 07, 2014

Yesterday morning, I spoke with Bill Kelly on AM 900 CHML about the City's latest Light Rail Transit (LRT) brouhaha, spurred by Mayor Bob Bratina's recent blog post about a proposal to run LRT on the city's recreational rail trails.

You can listen to the 16-minute audio recording on Soundcloud:

A transcript will be forthcoming.

On the CHML Audio Vault, you can also listen to Kelly's subsequent interview with Mayor Bratina (select March 6, 9:00 AM, interview starts at 35:20). That segment doesn't seem to be hosted in an embeddable format.

Big thanks to Bill Kelly and CHML for the opportunity to discuss this important issue.

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 Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 11:37:52

Some of my favourite quotes from Mayor Bratina...

On whether he supports the B-Line LRT plan:

Well, I have to, uh, support Council direction, of course. I wouldn't say - you know, I have a personal view that there, ah, I think better ways of, um, of dealing with the transit issues in Hamilton. But that's not something that, uh, I'm speaking to cabinet ministers or anything else about. But I certainly, as far as I understand we're a little different from, uh, from Russia, that you are allowed to say, you know (laughing), make personal comments about things. So all in all, Bill, there is actually no story there. There's actually no story other than the clarification that I think that LRT is a wonderful invention and, and it certainly has a role to play in Canada - in Hamilton's transit future. Uh, how, when, why and, uh, at what cost and who's going to pay, these are all questions that are, you know, remain to be answered.

On whether he has been a "champion" for Council's LRT position:

Well, I'm not a champion of very much in life except that we all behave well, and, and, this question of championing, you're, you're not gonna make me say something I don't believe. However, I am going to state to, uh, senior government officials what the official position of council is. And that's different. But the first line of my blog, I have it in my hand, "Council has a stated on the future of transit for this city, which I, as Mayor, fully support. Of course I have my personal views." So that's my position and that's Council's position.

On whether he asked Transport Minister Glen Murray last Friday whether the Province would prioritize transit oriented development in Hamilton over congestion relief in the GTA:

Well, the Minister, yes, was in town and, and he, uh, I didn't have anything to say to him with regard to the Council position because he's aware of it and everyone's aware of it. He spoke strongly in advocacy of the promise of LRT in terms of development. He said that clearly, 'we think this is the way to go'. Uh, but he did say that the decision lies in the hands, uh, with Council. And that's fair. And so, uh, perhaps, uh, Council needs to be more informed on, on all of this, but I, I don't think there's any need for a raging argument right now because our transit plan is in their hands.

On what the Rapid Ready plan says:

It's a good plan. Build ridership to the point where the next phase, you know, the higher order of transit, which techni- theoretically could mean LRT, could mean BRT as well, uh, ah, is in place. And I think this upsets, uh, the strong advocates, uh, of LRT because it looks like it's down in the future some time. And that's the way it seems to me as well. I, I honestly don't see, uh, a funding announcement by the Province followed by a tendering for an LRT project on the B-Line. It's very far down the road, I think.

On whether his blog is helpful to the LRT conversation:

It's only academic now because this isn't gonna happen. There is, there's no LRT going up that rail trail, okay? Let's, it's, so, but what, what was murky were the continuing drumbeat of attacks that somehow the Mayor of the City of Hamilton does not want L, R, T. And that is a ridiculous statement, and it's based on ideology and zealotry and not on facts.

On whether his blog is dumbed-down enough:

I tried to write this blog for the average to better reader. Maybe I have to dumb it down even further to, to, to, to get the simple message across. You know, we had this crazy thing about where's the L in the LRT, you remember that, who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop. It's, ah, I don't know, it's really irrelevant to, uh, ah, to Council's position and how we're moving forward with our plan.

And I hope that clears things up for everyone.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-03-07 11:42:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 12:05:31 in reply to Comment 98291

Tl;dr:

  • He both supports and disagrees with Council's position on the B-Line.

  • He supports LRT, just not where the research shows it will attract economic development.

  • He'd rather debate whether he supports LRT in theory than debate our actual LRT plan.

  • Speaking of which, he still insists against all evidence that Rapid Ready is not an LRT plan.

  • He spent all morning with the Transport Minister but didn't about our transportation plan.

  • He thinks the problem with his recent blog post is that it wasn't dumbed down enough.

  • And finally, he's not a champion of very much in life.

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By grahamm (registered) | Posted March 07, 2014 at 11:53:11

The gymnastics of his language to ensure 'truthiness' is astounding. I'm beginning to think he should just state his actual position so at least he can make sense when he speaks on the topic. Then council could empower a councillor who actually supported LRT when they voted for LRT (unanimously, I believe) and we would be able to move past these ridiculous antics.

Comment edited by grahamm on 2014-03-07 11:53:52

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 12:04:47

You did a heck of a job, Ryan. I'm also surprised that Bill did seem well-versed in the subject matter - I mean, he's got the friendly-interviewer knack for softballing everybody on his show and seems to be a chameleon with his political viewpoints, but it sounds like he'd done his homework and followed the Murray talk and at least some of the research.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 07, 2014 at 12:06:45

Well no wonder he can't be a champion for LRT. He's been quite busy clearing up one of the biggest questions Hamiltonians have been asking for years. I can sleep easier tonight knowing that:

as far as I understand we're a little different from, uh, from Russia

And, it's sure nice to put this age old head-scratcher to rest:

who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 12:54:27 in reply to Comment 98296

i laughed so hard i cried!

then i actually cried because this is real life and not a stoner comedy movie

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 07, 2014 at 14:14:26 in reply to Comment 98298

but it could be

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 12:32:20

Ryan, I am now serious about the need to have someone like you in public office. Your patience and demeanour is exemplary. You were on target and did not fall for Bill's masterful verbal gymnastics of sowing FUD while appearing to be fair. Very good work. How about RTH on cfmu?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 13:52:04

I'm listening to the Bratina interview and he seems to view this as some sort of personal battle between him and "a certain faction and their blog" (presumably referring to this website).

He clearly does not understand that 1. contributors, commenters and readers of this website are citizens of Hamilton, not an organized group pushing any sort of "agenda". And 2. we are all on the same side here: the side of Hamilton.

Those who are pushing LRT information out are doing so because they love hamilton, not because they hate the mayor. He needs to stop taking it personally.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 14, 2014 at 23:52:54 in reply to Comment 98300

He clearly does not understand that 1. contributors, commenters and readers of this website are citizens of Hamilton, not an organized group pushing any sort of "agenda". And 2. we are all on the same side here: the side of Hamilton.

LOL. All this site does is push an agenda. Anti-car, pro-LRT, get rid of one way streets, bike lanes everywhere, and so on.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:31:37 in reply to Comment 98455

Yes, heaven forbid that we "push an agenda" based on the best practices of broad, inclusive, evidence-based principles of urban design, engineering and policy for safe, healthy and prosperous cities. Many things in this city are broken and we need to fix them, not double down on the status quo out of a reflexive fear of change.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2014 at 14:37:14 in reply to Comment 98455

So safe streets = anti car. Got it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 15, 2014 at 23:05:28 in reply to Comment 98475

Not at all. Safe streets does not equal anti-car. The "complete streets" myth is, as is the LRT, bus-only lanes, 2-way, etc.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's broken.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2014 at 09:34:13 in reply to Comment 98481

Again; so safe streets = anti car. Still got it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 17, 2014 at 20:39:57 in reply to Comment 98489

No, your view appears to be the only way to safe streets is through the 'complete streets' myth.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 18, 2014 at 06:09:24 in reply to Comment 98544

Your "myth" is supported by strong, robust, broad evidence from cities of every size and configuration all across the planet. I don't know why you have such a hard time accepting the obvious fact that when you tame and slow down the most dangerous objects on the street, the street becomes safer. It would be an awful lot more surprising if this wasn't true.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-03-18 06:09:41

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 18, 2014 at 22:04:59 in reply to Comment 98554

If this were the case we'd have them, and would've had them, since these studies and proposals were first made. It isn't the case. If you like these ideas, pack up and move to Europe, or Portland with your partner in crime Jason. It just won't happen in your lifetime, mine, or your children's.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2014 at 06:14:12 in reply to Comment 98579

And you've just demonstrated why we aren't already following best practices when it comes to street design: reactionary and parochial squelching in the face of clear evidence for change.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted March 07, 2014 at 14:16:49

I would hope that if I were ever contacted to commit to a public speaking event, or interview, that I could manage to communicate without all the "ums" and pauses. Each pause seems to send his train of thought, such that it is, somewhere else. Or maybe he really is that much of a master of obfuscation.

Comment edited by HamiltonBrian on 2014-03-07 14:17:27

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 14:33:07 in reply to Comment 98303

I've transcribed myself talking in an interview a couple of times, and I say "you know" an awful lot. Yesterday's segment with Bill Kelly was no exception.

When I transcribe a spoken interview, I tend to dial down the ums and ahs in the written version. What really struck me about Bratina yesterday is that for someone with decades of experience speaking smoothly on radio, he was really struggling to figure out what he wanted to say. His speech was stilted with all these awkward gaps, pauses and fillers.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2014 at 09:28:16 in reply to Comment 98304

Thanks for this explanation, I was thinking as I read that interview that he didn't sound like someone who did radio for decades.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2014 at 15:25:50 in reply to Comment 98304

I'm not surprised he does that. Dead air is worse than ums and ahs. So he starts talking before he has decided what to say and keeps populating the space of through with meandering filler while he formulates an answer.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2014 at 10:11:41

Does anyone know what the operating costs are for the proposed 14 kilometer LRT line would be? What would the fare be, same as the bus, $2.55?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2014 at 09:29:40 in reply to Comment 98322

They would be less than the cost of operating a proposed 14 kilometre BRT. This is because BRT carries fewer passengers per vehicle, and therefore requires more vehicles and, most importantly to operating costs - more drivers. Drivers are the biggest operating cost of any transit line.

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By MAW MEE (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2014 at 19:39:39 in reply to Comment 98322

Don't you have anything better to do than ask stupid questions that nobody knows the answers to?

Why don't you do your own research instead of asking other people to do it for you? Oh because you don't actually WANT the information, you just want to waste everyone else's time. You are a classic time bandit.

Just shut up.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted March 12, 2014 at 10:11:08

I found out the operating cost will be about $16 million per year. Why the snark?

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By because you are a time waster (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2014 at 13:07:35

i'm glad you learned how to do your own research, now take that new skill and write comments that contribute to the discussion rather than inane questions that make other people spin their wheels for you

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted March 13, 2014 at 09:45:03

I also found out the operating costs will be area rated to the downtown wards LRT will serve. My original question was not inane, I thought RTH people were well informed and up to speed. Sorry I asked.

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By cool (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2014 at 11:00:30 in reply to Comment 98405

apology accepted

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