Special Report: Light Rail

Architects Letter Endorsing Light Rail Transit

The Hamilton-Burlington Society of Architects has written a letter explaining why the organization supports the city's LRT plan - and reminding Council why they have supported it as well.

By RTH Staff
Published May 30, 2016

The Hamilton-Burlington Society of Architects has written a letter to the City of Hamilton to endorse the city's light rail transit (LRT) plan in the face of a recent upwelling of Council uncertainty about the project, which Council itself has endorsed consistently in dozens of votes since 2008 and for which the Province committed to full capital funding a year ago.

The HBSA letter notes the recent increase in new multi-unit residential projects, which "demonstrate a clear trend toward dense urban living" that LRT will support and make more successful so that the City can meet its intensification goals.

It also notes that both the City and Province have already evaluated the feasabilty of the project and concluded that it will generate the biggest overall benefit for the city and "the best fiscal return for the future".

The letter follows letters supporting LRT last week from property developer Darko Vranich and from construction workers union and propert developer LiUNA Local 837.

May 29, 2016

City of Hamilton Mayor's Office Hamilton City Hall 2nd floor - 71 Main Street West Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4Y5

Attention: Hon Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Dear Mr. Eisenberger,

This letter is a reconfirmation of endorsement by the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA) for a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in Hamilton. We as an organization feel that LRT is the right decision with the greatest benefits for our city - this echoes the conclusions of the City of Hamilton's two-phase feasibility study that was unanimously endorsed by our city council.

New and projected development leading the way for LRT

Currently Hamilton has over 20 new multiple residential developments in construction or planning stages within the city's core, representing approximately 1600 units. This is an unprecedented number not seen in decades. These developments demonstrate a clear trend towards denser urban living - a trend that will be supported and made more successful by the access to expedient and convenient high quality transit afforded by an LRT line.

These developments are just the beginning of a projected 100,000 new Hamilton residents over the next 25 years. To accommodate this influx, LRT will encourage development and densification along its route within the city's built-up area, supporting many of the principles laid out in the province's Places to Grow strategy by:

  • Revitalizing our downtown to become vibrant and convenient centres,
  • Curbing sprawl and protecting farmland and green spaces,
  • Reducing traffic gridlock by improving access to a greater range of transportation options.

Investment in LRT is the best long-term fiscal decision

While the upfront costs of LRT are significant, we have a largely unprecedented opportunity to accept full funding from the province. Both the City and the province have concluded it is a worthwhile investment with feasibility and benefits case studies determining that it will generate a large net benefit in increased tax assessment.

As LRT encourages concentrated growth within its proximity, the expense of new public infrastructure will be greatly reduced as the need for new greenfield developments will also be reduced. Furthermore, LRT has a lower per-passenger operating cost than alternatives such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or traditional buses. Long term, LRT has been demonstrated to be the investment with the best fiscal return for the future.

Hamilton has the commuting habits to support LRT today

70% of Hamiltonians live and work within the city. Among other regional cities provincially, that live-work balance is second only to Toronto at 80%. As an LRT line will run directly through our largest job cluster (the downtown core), many of these intra-city commuters will be given a new commuting option that is fast, reliable, and more environmentally sustainable.

LRT will ensure Hamilton remains competitive

As Hamilton's economy transitions from its predominantly industrial past, the city is emerging as a leader in healthcare and innovation with a diverse economy. We need to ensure we remain competitive, attracting new businesses and talent to our city and province.

An investment in LRT will send a clear message that Hamilton is serious about its future as a livable, sustainable, and economically vibrant centre.

It is the hope of the HBSA that you will invest in Hamilton by re-affirming Hamilton's support for LRT, accepting provincial funding of an LRT line.


The Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects

Graham McNally, Chair Cynthia Zahoruk, Vice - Chair Stephen Blood, Treasurer Christina Karney, Secretary Chrissy Taylor, Secretary Contact Person: Kyle Slote, OAA, slote@tcarch.ca, 905‐297‐0863 ext. 228

City of Hamilton Council Members
Premier Kathleen Wynne
City of Hamilton MPPs
Hon Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister for Transportation

Please take a few moments to tell Council to take YES for an answer, reaffirm its support for LRT and accept the full capital funding from the Province that Council has consistently voted for since 2008.


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By justbecause (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 13:44:50

In the 80's, Hamilton was offered a funded rail system which was turned down. It was know as the Skytrain system that then went to Vancouver. Very successful now. If this gets turned down, the gov't aint going to offer for a third time.Imagine what Hamilton would be if the Skytrain was here now. And if one billion was being offered now to expand it.

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By Wise choice (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 14:31:08 in reply to Comment 118916

Rejecting the sky train was a wise choice. We don't have the population base to support it now and it was worse in the 80s

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 15:26:30 in reply to Comment 118917

The Rapid Ready report found that on opening day ridership on Hamilton's LRT would be in the mid-range of already operating LRT based only on 2009 ridership figures on the Main/King corridor (up to 30,000 riders per day, or 2200 riders per km).

Ridership increased 20% from 2009 to 2014 and will clearly increase even more due to population and economic growth along the line.

That opening day ridership would give us better per-kilometre performance than cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, and even LRT poster-child Portland.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-30 15:27:55

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By oooo (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 15:10:07 in reply to Comment 118917

oooo sounds like what r m rth is often thinking.

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By wise choice (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 15:07:52

First, thanks for the the respectful response with no personal attack.

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By wise choice (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 15:37:57

LRT numbers arent comparable to Sky train numbers

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 16:06:18

You would be replacing that Skytrain system right now with modern LRT if had gotten it from the province in the 1980's. To be fair, the Skytrain is a Light Metro system not Light Rail Transit System. The term Advanced Light Rail Transit was tied too it for marketing purposes not as a legal definition of rapid transit type and capacity. Like most Light Metro Systems worldwide, it was cheaper to run than early LRT systems of the 70's and 80's vintage but now, Skytrain is clearly outmoded by many new LRT features. Ottawa's new LRT has a built in peak passenger carrying capacity that greatly exceeds Skytrain and is cheaper to operate per km, even with the driver. The updating costs are also as high as a full scale Metro/Subway Line

Although initially very useful for Vancouver, the proprietary technology (you are legally required to by Bombardier parts) is very costly to build and very costly to maintain compared to modern LRT. Where as there are 7 companies that offer North American specific LRV designs, plus 5 others that haven't sold any units here but have North American designs ready to go. All offer significant cost savings for spare parts because the higher number of competitors (this includes Bombardier as well).

Regardless of the train if you plan to put it in an expensive right of way you don't end up saving anything. For example, Vancouver is planning a Skytrain line running in a tunnel underneath Broadway Ave. The cost per km (using a 2010 cost estimate)is almost as much as a TTC subway line ($330 Million/KM for the Skytrain, vs. $375 Million/km for the current Spadina Extension)and the TTC subway carries easily twice the peak passenger load even though Skytrain is designed to run more frequently (Skytrain 15,000 people/hour/direction, 30,000+ p/h/d for a TTC subway line). Skytrain is forced to use stations platforms that are quite nearly half the length of a TTC subway station platform (80 m vs. 150 m), limiting current but also future line capacity. The driverless system still requires that you hire, as in the case of Translink in Vancouver, "Attendants" whose job is to monitor the system and go out to stalled trains or in a lot of cases recently, whole lines as well as respond to sick or injured passenger alarms. The bigger the system the more attendants you need. So the driverless system in Vancouver as of last year, had to employ over 200 "Attendants". This why Victoria and Surrey BC are considering LRT instead.

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By Gregory (registered) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 18:38:04

Help me to understand. Must the city be designed in a fashion that requires residents to travel "long distances" (farther than it is comfortable for a human to walk or cycle) in order to ensure that an LRT solution is the optimal choice? Putting transit at the center of design makes no sense, human needs come first.

If we plan to intensify and build new infrastructure, could we design a village within a city that supported most local resident needs (employment, services, groceries, education and leisure)? This way, most transit needs would be satisfied by low carbon emission walking or perhaps short cycling trips. Infrequent longer trips could be satisfied by car share and taxi/uber like services (maybe self-driving vehicles in the future). With a good design, traffic congestion would be greatly reduced, even with a significant increase in population.

Design drives transit need. Given the dramatic evolution of work that often makes worker location irrelevant, why not take advantage of this new opportunity by designing our future city to minimize transit needs? Arguing about per kilometre transit costs and suggesting that mis-priced property taxes are a new source of revenue contribution is really missing the point.

We are building for the future, not the past. Please consider what has changed, and stop proposing solutions based on outdated constraints. I know that change is difficult, but it is necessary for success. My parents always challenged me to consider the following statement, "If someone jumps into a lake, should you follow?". The correct answer is, "Make your own decision based on the latest available facts".

Thanks for your attention.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:05:39 in reply to Comment 118933

Yes, proper land use planning is important and is being done. LRT is an integral part of what you describe.

Please refer to https://www.hamilton.ca/sites/default/fi...

Also, property values and property taxes are very important when you consider Hamilton's annual infrastructure deficit is about $200,000,000.00 with a total debt surpassing $3,500,000,000.00.

Also, if you're unfamiliar with Transit Oriented Development, its worth googling

Comment edited by George on 2016-05-31 10:09:21

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 31, 2016 at 07:50:29 in reply to Comment 118933

You make a good point but remember, the lower people on the financial latter will always be displaced to areas of greater distance then the wealthy. It is has been that way since we moved into towns and cities 5000-6000 years ago and it will not change in the next 100, in fact it may get a lot worse.

The dramatic evolution of work as you put it has only been effecting a smaller and smaller proportion of workers who can afford to or job is designed that they can work at home or from anywhere. Most who work in service industries, our quickest growing sector of the economy, still have to travel greater and greater distances because they have to be there to actually do the job, they can't literally do there work over a link from home. Nor can they afford the delivery charges of items and food being transported to their homes when they are being ordered off the internet. A large percentage of workers and people have to go out and get stuff because they can't afford or manage the alternatives you will be relying on

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By Mark C (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2016 at 22:31:29

Can the executive committee with Hamilton-Burlington Society of Architects please send their letter to the Spectator and request to have it printed in the Op-Ed section. Lately there has been a disproportionate number of ill informed letters opposed to the LRT.

Even Better if Ryan would forward all letters that have been sent to him and to city council via Raise the Hammer site to the Spectator. It would make a huge difference.


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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2016 at 04:54:29 in reply to Comment 118939

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2016 at 16:50:16

building on a foundation constructed purely from baloney is a dubious practice, architects should know better

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By orangemike (registered) | Posted May 31, 2016 at 19:39:41 in reply to Comment 118951

yet strangely, despite jims opposition, professional groups and qualified planners continue to support lrt. for some this would be a wake up call to talk to a professional about a possible diagnosis of oppositional defiance syndrome. but for our very own sacho panza its seem to just reinforce his pathology.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2016 at 04:31:27 in reply to Comment 118952

not surprisingly, with little goofs like Mikey spewing nonsense and vitriol from atop their soapbox while hiding in the bushes,opposition continues to mount while the advocates question how they could have messed up such a blessed opportunity. Friends like Mikey is the answer.You need look no further. With clowns like this on your team,, undecided's on the topic quickly and easily distance themselves from such a foolish perspective. So keep on keeping on little social justice warrior extraordinaire, we couldn't do this without you

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By glend1967 (registered) | Posted June 01, 2016 at 07:08:54 in reply to Comment 118956

Jim..You seem to be an angry old man..What is it with you guys and the name calling etc.You are the oldest five year old Ive ever had to put up with

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted June 01, 2016 at 09:32:27

I found an interesting interview on YouTube about a senior Republican party official who is sick and tired of the way his party is functioning. However, he says some stunning things at the end of the interview about how younger generations view how communities should be built and function. This is an interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served in the first term of the George W. Bush Administration as the Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Now if you don't like or care for American politics start viewing at about 10:12.

Col. Wilkerson shares his candid assessments of the Donald Trump campaign, which he compares to the campaign of arch segregationist George Wallace in 1968. When asked if he would support Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, Col. Wilkerson said emphatically that he would.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted June 01, 2016 at 09:41:35

Oops, accidentally pressed post too early, here is the actual link.


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