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By Ryan McGreal
Published December 14, 2004

We happily accept article submissions and letters to the editor for Raise the Hammer, and would love to hear from you!

Before sending us your work, please bear in mind the following considerations.

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For a letter to the editor, be sure to include the following information:

Length

In general, try to keep your article submission around 800 words or less and your letter under 300 words. Remember Strunk's timeless rule: omit needless words. That said, we will consider longer pieces, particularly if they can be published in parts, when the subject matter warrants it.

Format

We will accept articles in plain text, RTF, HTML, ODT, DOC, and PDF format - but PDF makes us grumpy. You get bonus karma if you submit plain text in Markdown format, which this site uses to format comments from registered users.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Please send a polished, final copy. Check and re-check your work before submitting it. Read it out loud and upside-down, and get a literate friend to proofread it for you. We're all volunteers, and we would prefer not to have to edit a rough draft full of spelling and grammatical errors. :)

Relevance

Generally, we publish articles related to urban revitalization, sustainability, and economic development, though we sometimes publish interesting pieces about a wider range of topics. We are not looking for a particular ideology or approach (in fact, we welcome a variety of approaches), but it should be related somehow to our core theme.

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. 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.

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By MBedek (registered) | Posted May 11, 2009 at 15:38:42

So what is the scoop on the old Studebaker building on Victoria North.

As well, what about the old school on West Avenue.

Looking for recent information.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 26, 2010 at 19:10:12

Ryan, did you ever think about a Q and A section. I know sometimes I have a menial, unimportant question about a Hamilton issue that is buggin me but don't know where to get a simple answer. Then I figured, what better place to ask than the fine people of RTH, lol. Just a thought.

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By ilpo (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2010 at 19:31:06

woody10 you appear to be looking for an FAQ section

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By kendall (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:54:04

I am the owner and writer of the blog http://theeternalkenaz.blogspot.com/ which can be found in the link section of RTH

Recently I emailed a small group of Hamilton bloggers including Ryan about an idea I had to start a blog page of restaurants in Hamilton aimed at those looking for good and affordable eats. The whole rehash of the background story can be found here,

http://theeternalkenaz.blogspot.com/2011...

Since then I have gone ahead and created a post within my blog, linked here http://theeternalkenaz.blogspot.com/2011... The goal is to collect enough submissions to give this post it’s own blog. I’ve had some early encouragement from “The Hamiltonian” as a link of the moment and a couple of antidotes and chuckles from two councilors. I’ve broken up the list into Wards for easy gathering.I would love to ad more selections from the "celebs" if I can use the term, and the average joe of Hamilton. What better choice than the readers of RTH who always have their ears to the ground in Hamilton.

Goal of "The Hungry Hamiltonian" I am putting together a list of best places to eat cheap in Hamilton- according to the following criteria. The parametres are broad, all cuisines, all eateries, food trucks. Provide a list of what you ate, take a picture even, and provide the cost. Remember 3 courses under $20.00 or a quick snack or sandwich under $10.00. Lets get a list that gives the little man a shout out, the chains can do that themselves.

Kendall Oliphant

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By Brian Hatch (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 09:15:31

The following is an email I sent to City Councillors yesterday. Please let me know if you would like a copy of the orginal with the attachments.

Regards

Brian Hatch
bhatch@sympatico.ca

To: Councillor Ferguson March 7, 2012
Cc: All Councillors

Dear Councillor Ferguson

I am sending this email to you, my councilor, because I am disillusioned, disappointed and frustrated with the existing Integrity Complaint Process.

In an email to Integrity Commissioner Mr. Earl Basse on February 17th I stated: “I understand that your investigation needs to be thorough and complete in order to be objective and fair but it also needs to be timely to be effective and meaningful.” I filed my complaint affidavit eighty-one days ago on Dec. 19th and since then I have sent Mr. Basse seven emails requesting information on the status of his investigation. (Attached are all of my emails and the three responses from Mr. Basse.)

To date the only progress that I am aware of is that in his email of Feb. 25th Mr. Basse reports he has finally received a response from the mayor. To my knowledge the Integrity Commissioner has not contacted anyone at The Spec, Cable 14, etc. to verify any of the facts in my affidavit.

I have two requests:

First is that council officially request Mr. Basse report on: A) Why is this investigation taking so long? B) What is the current status of this investigation? and C) When will the final report be issued to council?

Second that the current by-law be amended by adding time lines to the investigation process. My suggestion is that the Integrity Commissioner be required to issue interim status reports every 30 days to council with a goal of issuing a final report in 90 days. If the I. C. needs more time then he should be required to ask council for an extension. The existing Integrity Complaint Process is flawed and needs to be amended to ensure it works in a timely fashion to be effective and meaningful. If not amended then it should be eliminated entirely.

I am looking forward to your response.

Thanks and Regards

Brian Hatch
Ancaster

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By transporter (registered) | Posted August 04, 2013 at 13:59:56

This comment is about transportation subsidies. According to Transport Canada, $25 billion goes to automobiles, for road building, yearly. And $7 billion goes to transit. The website that I went to does not indicate how much of that $7 billion goes to road building. Governments take in $12 billion yearly, in fuel taxes. So, I see automobiles being subsidized, at the rate of at least $13 billion per year. - I say, "at least", because I don't know how much of that $7 billion goes to building roads (for buses). I have tried asking that question of other sources, but as yet, have not received an answer. But regardless, I see it as an expenditure that benefits automobile infrastructure only, and other transportation infrastructure (ie, for trains, bicycles & pedestrians) not at all. I don't think this is fair. I think that subsidy should be halved: half should go to automobiles (including buses), and half should go to all the others.

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By transporter (registered) | Posted January 29, 2014 at 14:23:42

This comment is about the cost of construction of lrt systems, compared with the cost of rbt systems. Many people say: "rbt systems are the same as lrt systems, only cheaper. My reply was always: "It's true that construction costs of lrt's are higher, but that cost is more than made up for, by the fact that the trains last a lot longer, so it doesn't cost nearly as much to maintain and ultimately, replace them. But recently, I read an article written by a transportation advocate, Lyndon Henry. He claims, in an article entitled: "Research: RBT can be truly pricier than LRT", that sometimes, the construction costs of BRT's are higher, waay higher, more than four times as much, in fact. I invite you to go to his website, to see how he makes this case.

Automobiles incur other costs that trains do not, such as: Pollution: Tailpipe emissions cause declining health. That costs a lot, in and of itself, in lives, and of course, money. Noise: Trains are quiet, automobiles are not. Some say that street noise is as bad as pollution, causing as much of a decline in health. What does that cost? Car-nage: A report from the Campaign for Road Safety states: "Some 1.3 million people die every year on roads around the world. That amounts to 3500 people every day. Millions more - 50 million people annually - are injured. And those numbers are probably underreported." It also states this: "Road traffic is the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of ten and twenty-four." The Pulitzer Center recently posted a map, called The Roadskill Map, which shows the rate of global roadkill, by country. As an introduction, they state that the annual death toll "has already reached 1.24 million/year, and is on course to triple, to 3.8 million/year by 2030. If I can extrapolate the 50 million injuries/year now, to 2030, that means 150 million injuries/year, by 2030. How's that, for a cost?

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By Brent (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 08:34:45

Your home page has no icons or links to social media that I can see. You're missing a huge opportunity to expand the conversation.

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By BobAceti (registered) | Posted September 16, 2014 at 13:36:36

LRT is the wrong project at the wrong time. A make work project with less transit relief impact than otherwise thought. Hamilton evolved over 200 years. The design of the city and lack of density makes lower city east-west rapid transit planning challenging. We have a car culture and suburban communities within our city limits - the burbs are close-by and do not entail long frustrating traffic snarls that are common in the GTA-City of Toronto experience. The number of cars and people registered in Hamilton suggest that the LRT will not likely have the sustainable volume of users than expected. Reports from "consultants" who stand to make significant profit from a one billion dollar project will necessarily be concocted to emphasize the positive and down-play or reduce negative assessment.

Hamilton is home to many proud and well-meaning residents. But emotional rhetoric guided by biased reports supporting mega-projects that do not offer our city the growth that is assumed should be carefully reconsidered.

Hamilton’s spatial reality is a significant variable: the mountain has a larger population than the lower city and our suburbs and car culture has stimulated reduced urban density that complicates "rapid" transit services. If Hamilton’s past Councils had revitalized inner city neighborhoods to avoid suburban sprawl we would have had higher density that lends itself well to frequent rapid transit services that involve short distances. We had sown the seeds of our current economic challenges in the post WWII era when Councils believed that what’s good for our steel industry was good for Hamilton. But short-sightedness was a common disease in that bygone period when pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and dwindling steel jobs were noticed but rarely discussed in the halls or power or between the front page and sports section of the Spectator.

The best we can do to advance Hamilton's economic prospects is to focus on rebuilding business/residential centres to increase density and return asphalt and concrete neighborhoods that are derelict and gentrified into parks, bike paths, urban-sized forests and a "National Industrial Park" that offers tax incentives underwritten by Ontario/Canada. A National Industrial Park adjacent to our harbour piers should include a design that rehabilitates or removes 19th and early 20th century idle industrial relics that continue to occupy valuable land without returning the jobs and economic growth that was more evident 50 to 75 years ago.

We are in a new economy where manufacturing automation, ICT digital devices, energy technologies, smarter grids, electric vehicles and food processing trumps steel-related industries. Hamiltonians need to let go of the old Hamilton that evolved on the needs of the steel industry and a suburban car culture. We need to focus on this century so that our children and young adults will NOT need to leave Hamilton, as an earlier generation did, to find viable and sustainable ‘white collar’ careers. Hamilton's government, health care, steel and related industries help to support Hamilton's economy. These jobs are either funded through taxes or non-sustainable. Steel industries continue to pollute and emit greenhouse gases. The full healthcare costs associated with working in the 'old' steel industry, or living long-term near the 'old' smoke stacks, was hidden from Hamiltonians for decades until most recently.

The citizens of Toronto would NOT permit a polluter such as a steel industry to occupy its waterfront or anywhere – they’ll refer the company to Hamilton as the City of Toronto’s social services continue to provide advice and bus tickets to welfare recipients to leave Toronto for Hamilton.

If we don't focus on future economic opportunities - i.e.) cleaner higher-value metals processing, incubators of digital economy businesses and other sustainable enterprises, we'll become the invisible shrinking city where layers of unsustainable industries come to play and create a few short-term jobs while delaying our choices to become a contender in the 21st century global economy.

We live in the past. Our memories of old Hamilton start to fade. The 1960s are done. We had over 30,000 men working in Stelco/Dofasco and related steel businesses in the 1950-1970s when Hamilton was about half the population it is today. I predict that Dofasco will not be a significant Hamilton industry in the next 10-15 years. The owners of Dofasco have no long-term deal with our city. Once the next capital investment round is in play, Dofasco’s leaders will likely choose to move steel-making operations to the southern USA where cheap non-union ‘right to work’ labor laws and pollution regulations are lax.

The LRT project is a diversionary distraction: an unsustainable business model that will need subsidies from the get-go and operational commitments to run the trains on schedule. Buses are more flexible and less expensive for our split-level city. Buses will be electrified or operate on clean power fuel cells or hybrid biofuels - a better and more flexible solution to transit than the proposed LRT.

But what’s the big picture question? Is bus or train rapid transit a solution or panacea to Hamilton’s economic status? Or, perhaps, a placebo? I think we need a strategic vision and urban-industrial revitalization plan that informs the right design for our future transit system. Walking backwards into the future is not a viable substitute for focused and well-funded new urban revitalization planning.

Maybe our well-intended citizens and media will start asking the Big Question to mayoral and council candidates: “What is your vision of Hamilton and how do you propose we get there?”

Comment edited by BobAceti on 2014-09-16 13:53:41

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2014 at 14:09:35 in reply to Comment 104530

Lots of stuff in this long, thoughtful comment. Let me try to respond:

Hamilton evolved over 200 years. The design of the city and lack of density makes lower city east-west rapid transit planning challenging.

Hamilton's population is not distributed uniformly across the area. The density of the lower city, and especially the downtown core, is much higher than the densities of other parts of the city. That is despite the fact that a large number of properties downtown and in the lower city are still vacant, demolished and under-used, which means there is very strong potential for the density of the lower city to increase even more through new development.

The Canadian Urban Institute conservatively estimates that new development will be three times as high with LRT as it will be without LRT. That means at least three times as much new private investment and at least three times as much new property tax revenue on civic infrastructure (roads, water, sewer) that is already built.

We have a car culture and suburban communities within our city limits - the burbs are close-by and do not entail long frustrating traffic snarls that are common in the GTA-City of Toronto experience.

Hamilton is a large, diverse city that offers a variety of living and transportation arrangements. Many people choose to live in car-dependent single-use suburbs and we have done an excellent job of providing them, but demographics across North America are changing and people - both young Millennials and retiring Baby Boomers - increasingly want to move into more mixed urban environments that do not require driving for every trip.

Hamilton needs to get better at providing high quality living and transportation options for everyone, not just people who want to live in a single-family suburban house with two or three cars.

The number of cars and people registered in Hamilton suggest that the LRT will not likely have the sustainable volume of users than expected.

The east-west route of the B-Line LRT already carries 13,000 transit passengers a day. That would put the LRT in the middle of the set of North American LRT systems on opening day, with extremely strong potential for ridership to grow dramatically.

Reports from "consultants" who stand to make significant profit from a one billion dollar project will necessarily be concocted to emphasize the positive and down-play or reduce negative assessment.

The various reports on Hamilton's LRT plan have come from: City staff, who became convinced to recommend LRT after studying the evidence from other cities; Metrolinx planners, who independently reviewed the City's plan in a comprehensive Benefits Case Analysis; the McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL), which does not have a pro-transit bias; and various independent academic researchers who do not have a financial interest in promoting LRT.

Hamilton’s spatial reality is a significant variable: the mountain has a larger population than the lower city and our suburbs and car culture has stimulated reduced urban density that complicates "rapid" transit services.

That is why the first line in Hamilton's rapid transit network will be across the lower city, where densities are higher, the land use is more appropriate for transit, the zoning framework encourages new mixed-use development, and existing transit ridership is already high enough to support LRT on opening day.

Part of the Rapid Ready LRT plan is to start building transit capacity on other rapid transit routes - like the north-south A-Line and an east-west line across the upper city - toward future investment in additional LRT or BRT lines once ridership is strong enough to support them.

If Hamilton’s past Council had revitalized inner city neighborhoods to avoid suburban sprawl we would have had higher density that lends itself well to frequent rapid transit services that involve short distances.

We already have high enough densities and strong enough transit ridership across lower city neighbourhoods to support the planned east-west LRT; and the LRT itself will drive still more investment to raise density and ridership higher.

We had sown the seeds of our current economic challenges in the post WWII era when Council’s believed that what’s good for our steel industry was good for Hamilton. But short-sightedness was a common disease in that bygone period when pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and dwindling steel jobs were noticed but rarely discussed in the halls or power or between the front page and sports section of the Spectator.

It makes no sense to point to past bad planning decisions as reason to continue making bad planning decisions today and tomorrow.

The best we can do to advance Hamilton's economic prospects is to focus on rebuilding business/residential centres to increase density and return asphalt and concrete neighborhoods that are derelict and gentrified into parks, bike paths, urban-sized forests and a "National Industrial Park" that offers tax incentives underwritten by Ontario/Canada.

Yes, we should also be focusing on those objectives, and there is already important work being done (see, for example, the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark). However, high quality rapid transit is also an essential part of the comprehensive mix of active land use and transportation that will bring this city into the future.

We are in a new economy where manufacturing automation, ICT digital devices, energy technologies, smarter grids, electric vehicles and food processing trumps steel-related industries. Hamiltonians need to let go of the old Hamilton that evolved on the needs of the steel industry and a suburban car culture.

I agree completely, which is why we need to focus on revitalizing urban neighbourhoods with new investment, new residents and a variety of living and transportation options not based around universal car ownership. LRT completely support this goal.

The LRT project is a diversionary distraction: an unsustainable business model that will need subsidies from the get-go and operational commitments to run the schedule of trains on schedule.

That's just not true. The per passenger operating cost for LRT is much lower than for buses. Based on conservative ridership growth, the city will soon be making an operating profit on the LRT line which will help to subsidize expanded bus service city-wide to build ridership more generally and reduce automobile dependence.

Buses are more flexible and less expensive for our split-level city.

The fact that LRT is fixed infrastructure is a huge part of what makes it attractive to new private investment. A bus line can be rerouted or canceled, but an LRT line is a long-term commitment that appeals to property developers.

And as I noted, the operating cost for LRT is actually much lower than for buses. A big part of this is that a major part of the operating cost for transit is the operator, and a single LRT driver can carry many more passengers than a bus driver - even an articulated bus. As such, the city collects a lot more transit revenue per driver on LRT and can run an operating profit on a busy line like the east-west B-Line.

Buses will be electrified or operate on clean power fuel cells or hybrid biofuels - a better and more flexible solution to transit than the proposed LRT.

Practical battery electric or fuel cell buses are still many years away from production. If and when those technologies mature, it may make sense to replace conventional buses with electric or fuel cell buses, but they are no replacement for high-quality, high-volume LRT on our busiest transit line.

But what’s the big picture question? Is bus or train rapid transit a solution or panacea to Hamilton’s economic status? Or, perhaps, a placebo?

You're posing a false alternative. LRT is a necessary part of a comprehensive solution to Hamilton's long-term economic sustainability. No one is claiming it will be a magic bullet all by itself.

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By BobAceti (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 00:08:46 in reply to Comment 104531

The density of Ward 2 is 24 persons per acre. The density of the lower city core – Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, is 10 persons per acre. The density of the core mountain community – Wards 6, 7, 8 and 9, is also 10 persons per acre. Source: City of Hamilton, http://goo.gl/A19EH1

The Canadian Urban Institute’s “projected” additional $81.6-million to Hamilton city coffers in taxes and fees over 15 years is exaggerated as a benefit from constructing a $1 Billion LRT. The growth in city tax revenues alone – excluding school “fees” collected in real estate tax bills, for the 13 years between 2001 ($478.4 Million) and 2013 ($764.7 Million) was over $286 Million.

HSR’s 2014 projected revenues of $49 Million will fall short of the expected $94 Million in expected 2014 expenses, leaving an expected 2014 operating deficit of $ 45 Million without the LRT. Constructing and paying for a $1 Billion LRT in the lower city will increase the financial burden without measurably improving services as the density in the lower city, other than Ward 2, remains slightly below 10 persons per acre (on average) along the proposed LRT Route - see Berkeley study cited below.

Sources: City of Hamilton Financial Reports http://goo.gl/gQDGVq and HSR 2010 Operational Review (ES9) http://goo.gl/XvImZr

Other empirical LRT/Urban Transit studies from American transit institutes offer additional information that would assist decision-makers to make informed decisions on Hamilton’s proposed LRT:

“This paper investigates the relationship between transit and urban densities in the United States from multiple perspectives. While empirical evidence suggests that recent-generation rail investments in the U.S. have in many instances conferred net social benefits, considerable skepticism remains, particularly among the more vocal critics of American transit policy. All sides agree that increasing urban densities will place public transit on firmer financial footing. Our analysis suggests that light-rail systems need around 30 people per gross acre …”

Source: INSTITUTE OF TRANSPORTATION STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, Urban Densities and Transit: A Multi-dimensional Perspective - Robert Cervero and Erick Guerra, WORKING PAPER - UCB-ITS-VWP-2011-6 http://goo.gl/rXUnDV

I asked: “But what’s the big picture question? Is bus or train rapid transit a solution or panacea to Hamilton’s economic status? Or, perhaps, a placebo?”

And you replied: “You're posing a false alternative. LRT is a necessary part of a comprehensive solution to Hamilton's long-term economic sustainability. No one is claiming it will be a magic bullet all by itself.”

I disagree that my rhetorical question presents a false alternative. The bus alternative was on the table for discussion. It is not a false alternative. It is the best option. The proponents of the LRT have been spreading a belief based on faith in consultants’ reports that recommend the LRT to improve Hamilton’s economic status. If we are not considering the Bus option or LRT to improve Hamilton’s economic growth prospects why are we even considering it?

I recommend that City Council does not get hood-winked by consultants’ reports and those with vested interests in big money public works projects with high risk and likely higher costs than otherwise reported. In the alternative, I recommend that Council seek a budget commitment from the Minister of Transport to underwrite a more reasonable Bus solution at less cost and the Minister of Urban Affairs to fund a call for RFP’s from global urban planners to assist our City Council and city staff to devise a strategic plan and urban revitalization plan to raise Hamilton’s prospects in the 21st century.

The LRT issue is placing the cart before the horse. We need a smart strategic and urban-industrial revitalization plan before we commence significant fixed rail transit projects and commit budget dollars targeting only the lower city. And it is distracting attention away from the important business that Council needs to accomplish the next 4 years.

The Bus alternative is a viable interim and possibly a better long-term alternative to meet the needs of New Hamilton this century.

Comment edited by BobAceti on 2014-09-17 00:28:09

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2014 at 21:50:02 in reply to Comment 104531

Is it possible that perceived antipathy to LRT is because bus drivers will lose jobs?

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