Special Report: Light Rail

Bratina Still Repeating False Information About LRT

Transit ridership on the east-west route of the LRT line is already high enough to justify the line and will only grow when the LRT line opens.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 08, 2014

In his State of the City speech today, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina claimed that transit ridership needs to grow before it can support the planned east-west light rail transit (LRT) line, which has been approved in principle and is waiting on provincial funding.

This is flatly wrong. According to the 2010 HSR Operational Review, daily ridership on the bus lines along the LRT route already carry 13,000 passengers a day, which is more than enough to justify an LRT line.

The Rapid Ready report published in 2013 states [PDF]:

If introduced today, LRT between the eastern Sub-Regional Service node (Eastgate) and western Major Activity Centre (McMaster) of the lower City would exhibit ridership performance in the mid-range of existing North American systems, such as San Francisco, Portland and Minneapolis.

Note as well that transit ridership generally goes up significantly once the line is upgraded from buses to LRT, so we can safely predict that ridership would quickly grow much higher than the current 13,000.

The ridership red herring is just one of several discredited myths about LRT in Hamilton that its opponents continue to raise in contradiction with the facts.

Mayor Bratina, in particular, has spent much of the past three years actively undermining the evidence-based argument for LRT, including manufacturing controversy after controversy.

Bratina promised in February 2013 to start championing LRT after Council approved the Rapid Ready plan, but then he grossly misrepresented that plan in a disastrous Council meeting that resulted in an integrity commissioner investigation of his conduct.

Bratina's continued stubborn refusal to acknowledge either real case for Hamilton's LRT plan or the mayor's essential role as a political champion threaten to leave Hamilton falling behind cities like Mississauga, whose leaders understand how transformational LRT will be in their economic development and are advocating forcefully for priority funding from the Province.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By trolleytoo (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 14:32:26

This is a common problem with polititions who take advantage of the olly using statistics that make their point even if the are out of date or just not correct. Then they don't give the source. He should be asked where he got the statistic.

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By Tiredofwaiting (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 14:50:55

I wish the people that like the sound of his radio voice would pay more close attention to the stuff he says with that voice. Even if you like his politics can you trust someone that keep saying stuff that isn't true?

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By Hipgnosis (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 20:27:47

I was on that line the last three days and it was busy enough for standing room only both in the morning and the afternoon

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By justwantaction (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2014 at 05:52:58

Does anyone know the next most likely candidate to win the election at this point that sorts LRT) and ideally other sustainable city efforts? #anythingbutbratina


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By justwantaction (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2014 at 05:54:05 in reply to Comment 96542

*supports ( autocorrect)

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By MattM (registered) | Posted January 09, 2014 at 07:18:49 in reply to Comment 96543

Almost impossible to tell at this point, but Brian McHattie or Fred Eisenberger would be best bets for supporting LRT if elected. Unfortunately their LRT support may also work against their election, as the majority of the voters in this city aren't exactly warmed up to the idea.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted January 09, 2014 at 06:10:42

The anti LRT movement is growing. Seems even in K-W there is now a growing anti LRT movement. Slowly but surely people are coming to their senses and realizing the prohibitive cost of tracks.

LRT isn't bad just very expensive.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted January 10, 2014 at 22:07:46 in reply to Comment 96544

Does anyone really know how the average Hamilton voter feels about transit?

The proponents have been very active, and there has been opposition, but like most issues there is that great big middle ground of people who might not have given it much thought even if they're aware of many of the pros and cons.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted January 10, 2014 at 09:29:39 in reply to Comment 96544

For your interest: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-...

This still does not mean a “growing” opposition to the technology. Waterloo’s outgoing mayor is opposed to using LRT, but it didn’t matter. She obviously had constituents who were telling her that that was a winning formula, but the fact is that there are fewer now opposed to the Ion in Waterloo now than before. It’s what we’re getting, so apart from the people who feel for whatever reason that they were left out of the conversation at the time (and it was a long one), people are generally on the trolley.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted January 09, 2014 at 11:16:11 in reply to Comment 96544

You should read up about the debate in Waterloo Region about what to do on the King Street corridor there. You might find it interesting. There was a debate, which means that some people favoured other solutions than Light Rail, but it is not as simple as you suggest when you say “even in K-W there is now a growing LRT movement.” It’s not growing, and most people who were on the other side of debate at the time (which included me: I would have personally preferred express buses in their own rights-of-way) are now dedicating their energy to making sure the Ion is implemented in the best possible way. The debate over technology is over.

I personally feel that trying to characterize the conversation about the B Line corridor as “LRT versus anti-LRT” is what anti-transit types want. There are positives and negatives to light rail generally (note that the municipal government has already spent a lot of time and money researching light rail, though…), but SOME kind of improvement is desperately needed in that corridor. Buses that run there routinely operate at crush loads during peak periods and even outside of peak periods, and routinely have to leave passengers at stops for lack of space.

All this to say that I choose to interpret your comment as being that you are hesitant about light rail due to the cost, but would like to see real incremental change to transit on the corridor as soon as possible. Let me know if I’ve mischaracterized anything…

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