If we fail to articulate our commitment to LRT today, Hamilton could easily end up left out of the next wave of Metrolinx projects, even as we help pay for LRT in other parts of the GTA.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 07, 2014
Yesterday I attended the Toronto Region Vision (TRV) 2014 Conference, as half-day series of presentations hosted by John Tory, Sarah Thomson and Geoff Cape. There were some interesting presentations, and their goal is to get all the provincial and municipal candidates aware of the urgent need to upgrade infrastructure, especially transit, now.
To my surprise, I was able to have a good conversation with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton. She was doing some setup for her keynote lunch speech on transit and infrastructure ("Building Sustainable Cities") when she came up to my table and introduced herself.
Since there were only two of us, I had the chance to have a fairly good chat with the Premier.
She seems pretty interested in Hamilton, to the extent that a picture of Hess Village featured in her presentation, along with an anecdote about young people at Communitech in Waterloo wanting to be able to easily get to Hess Village for events.
Once I had introduced myself, she immediately asked, "Has Hamilton decided whether they want BRT [bus rapid transit] or LRT?"
I was taken aback, but assured her that LRT is our choice. We've completed the 30% engineering design, the class environmental assessment, the land use study and broad public consultation, and there is deep public support.
I also said that there is some nervousness over cost and disruption. She laughed, as this is obviously a common theme.
It was clear that she sees Hamilton as a very important part of the overall plan, but I am dismayed that she thought we are still arguing over whether we want enhanced bus service or light rail transit, despite the various studies, Metrolinx support and Council's unanimous approval of the Rapid Ready LRT plan last February.
LRT has been Hamilton's official preferred choice for at least five years, subject to funding details. How on earth is it possible that Hamilton has done such a poor job of communicating this to a Premier whose main priority is regional transit?
Of course, it is possible that she is just not well-informed, but she knew enough to ask the question.
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has, of course, spent the past three years clouding the issue, speaking publicly against LRT and refusing to communicate Council's clearly-stated position clearly in its dealings with the province.
If Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has been telling Premier Wynne that Hamilton doesn't know what it wants, Hamiltonians should be furious!
This is $1 billion in capital funding from the Province, and the Premier obviously wants to avoid the sort of mess that they got into with Toronto over the Scarborough LRT/subway fiasco.
My advice is that Hamilton's Council immediately has to make it crystal-clear to the Premier herself that we want LRT, not BRT. The fact that even supporters are musing that you can do a lot with dedicated bus lanes does not help.
Elections are the time for clear messages. If we fail to articulate our commitment to LRT today, Hamilton could easily end up left out of the next wave of Metrolinx projects, even as we end up helping to pay for LRT in other parts of the GTA.
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