Special Report: Light Rail

LRT Opponents Explicitly Refuse to Acknowledge its Benefits

The latest anti-LRT tactic has been to pretend that there are no benefits to LRT by insisting that we deny, ignore and exclude all of its many well-documented benefits.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published April 13, 2017

In addition to not being able to decide whether Light Rail Transit (LRT) is risky new technology or obsolete, anti-LRT critics have another couple of tricks up their sleeve.

In order to demonstrate that LRT has no benefits, they first ignore or rule as irrelevant the very real non-transit benefits to Hamilton.

Denying Infrastructure Replacement

For example, Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins has decided that you don't build transit to get infrastructure upgrades, and so we shouldn't be considering the many tens of millions of dollars in paid-for infrastructure upgrades when evaluating LRT.

He also claims that there is no benefit to upgrading the infrastructure since it isn't in the City's ten-year capital replacement plan, which means that 62-year-old bridges and hundred-year-old pipes are just fine ... until they rupture.

This is a pretty cavalier attitude from a Councillor representing a city with a huge unfunded and growing infrastructure deficit!

There is lots of infrastructure that is overdue for replacement but has not made it onto the ten-year capital replacement plan - not because it doesn't need replacing but because we don't have nearly enough money to replace everything that needs to be replaced.

Infrastructure replacement is not the purpose of investing in LRT, but it is totally disingenuous to pretend that it is not a very important ancillary benefit!

Denying Economic Benefits

Other opponents have similarly discounted the economic uplift, new private investment and increased tax revenue that LRT-driven development will provide by saying that this should only be about transit - not transit, land use and economic development in strategic conjunction.

They also ignore the direct economic benefits of thousands of well-paid construction jobs over the five-year construction period, plus life-changing opportunities for skilled apprenticeships for at-risk Hamilton youths through the Community Benefits Plan - again, presumably because transit shouldn't be a make-work project.

And when it actually comes to the direct transit impact of LRT, they decide (based on their own feelings) that LRT will not improve the transit experience for riders, will not attract more riders, and will not help the rest of the HSR network.

Instead, they conclude based on no evidence that revenue will drop and the operating subsidy will be higher than for the buses.

Strong Evidence for Benefits

But we don't have to guess about these benefits.

The City, Metrolinx and McMaster University researchers have all studied each of these questions, and we have reliable, data-driven analysis that quantifies, in great detail, exactly why LRT will deliver big and lasting benefits for Hamilton for transit, jobs, development, and infrastructure improvement.

Of course, it is much easier to make a case against LRT if you rule all of its benefits to be 'out of bounds' and then assume it will fail as a transit project!

Obviously, a failed project will be a failure. However, planning staff have spent almost ten years working very carefully and meticulously to ensure it will be a success.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2017 at 16:26:12

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Comment edited by JimC on 2017-04-13 16:59:23

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 16, 2017 at 22:34:39 in reply to Comment 121235

Jim, the fact that you never plan to set foot on the B-Line LRT will make me want to come down from Ottawa and ride it even more. You are a troll. I have been on the NO Hamilton LRT site and talked to many of its key supporters and to be honest, they just don't know what they are talking about and neither do you! You sound exactly like them, one mainly dumb argument after another. Jim, I work with developers all the time as an independent planning consultant and I can tell you, developers are for the most part, just regular people like you and me. They want LRT because they see it as an investment that they can get behind. Yes, they see possible profits but they also see the real chances of positive change to Hamilton. You and groups like No Hamilton LRT use half truths and change your reasons to be against LRT to suit the argument. As a group, No Hamilton LRT, is mostly (but not entirely) older people who are generally politically conservative, anti-government, anti-tax, anti-proactive progressive change of any kind, anti-environment and anti transit. They are afraid of any change that, might possibly weaken even to a minor extent, their current status, financial and or personal, regardless if it is good for the City of Hamilton or not. Being a military vet, this group reminds me a lot of my experience with the Taliban in its life outlook and beliefs regarding changes of any kind in society, minus the extreme violence and personal intimidation of course.

Ryan, I hope the LRT rally on Saturday went ok, considering the horrid weather we had in Ottawa!

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 13, 2017 at 22:03:14 in reply to Comment 121235

You begin by framing cost benefit analyses and examination of past practices as 'pure speculation'. So, there is no value in doing a professional study before deciding on a transit option? There is no value in looking at the experiences - good and bad - of other LRT implementations to improve our own? You're painting yourself as a defeatist if you think that is the case.

Yes it is a transit plan but like any transit plan it does not exist in a vacuum as you seem to suggest. It will affect other areas like employment and development. As far as sewer replacement goes, it is not an argument to validate the LRT but rather an important distinction related to how the money is allocated to build the project. You hear a lot of complaints about one billion to build a 'streetcar' when in fact 80% of the cost is directed towards preparing the ground around which the track will be laid. It's an added benefit that should resonate in a city with a 3 billion dollar infrastructure deficit.

It doesn't cover Main St? How so? Have you read the Rapid Ready report? And I'll call this the ninth time you've said 'removes bike lanes' without mentioning that they will be replaced and likely improved (BTW, I don't believe you ride a bike - had to say it). The new residences at Mac will not completely alleviate the lack of student housing (Spec article I'm not going to look it up) and I think the LRT will actually open up Wards 2 and 3 to student renters. Might be nice for Mac students to not have to get fleeced for living in a firetrap near campus.

The fact that you're not going to set foot on the LRT out of spite I think speaks more to your personality than to any rational or logical thought. But, maybe that's the defeatism speaking. The LRT is not a done deal and judging from the last General Issues Committee meeting, to the detriment of the city of Hamilton, you may yet have your way.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2017 at 08:22:55 in reply to Comment 121237

Also with regard to McMaster, Mohawk, (and let's not forget Brock): The trend is decentralizing campuses. Mac has a new ConEd centre in Jackson Sq and is in partnership with IBM in Stelco Tower. Mac has the new Medical Centre at Main and Bay. A new student oriented apartment tower is under construction beside the Lister Block and will house over 600 students. Mac and Mohawk have partnered to open The Forge on James N. It's a start-up incubator, launching new businesses and giving them the opportunity to set roots and grow their businesses here. MIP sits between Mac campus and downtown right on the LRT route. Brock has had an Education campus at 1842 King E since 2000. With the outward growth of higher education centres and the ancillary businesses that arise from them across the city there is greater need for transit connectivity between them and where people live.

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By john1242 (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 06:59:45

The pros / cons people inform yourself of Hamilton's Rapid Transit Vision Statement (Jan. 8 2009)

"Rapid Transit is move than just moving people from place to place it is about providing a catalyst for development of high quality,safe,environmentally sustainable and affordable transportation options of our citizens connecting key destination points, stimulating economic development and revitalizing HAMILTON" This statement was developed by workshops of city staff and community input. One questionable point citizens connecting key destination points. Rapid Ready report #1 destination was from McMaster to Eastgate Square !! Stop wasting time with your views and lobby Mayor Fred /Metrolinx/Wynne's Liberals to put LRT back on the table as #1 priority McMaster to Eastgate first phase.

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By Bryan (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 11:02:23

If you think that a five year construction project is going to employ at risk youth, and create new job opportunities, you have never worked in construction, or have no idea how it works. The only people seeing any of this work will be established professionals, there will be no construction jobs created, quit lying to people.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 13:15:46 in reply to Comment 121240

The new job opportunities will come from the 'Community Benefits Program' part of the project, which is specifically aimed at ensuring that benefits accrue to the local community, particularly the underprivileged. These Community Benefits Agreements are part of most large Metrolinx projects (e.g. in Toronto) and will part of Hamilton's.

In fact, I attended a meeting in the Spring about this.

Hamilton's Community Benefits Agreement will be signed with the successful bidder, but here is an example from Toronto (crosstown Egllinton) and comments on what will likely be in Hamilton's agreement. Apprenticeship programs will almost certainly be part of it.

Please don't be so quick to accuse people of lying when you don't actually know the details!

Hamilton will have a chance to see the kind of thing that could be coming as the local LRT gets closer by following what happens at the Metrolinx LRT project called Eglington Crosstown in Toronto.

The contract for that project was awarded last July and the agency required a community benefits plan and apprenticeship plan to be drafted within six months, Robinson said.


As part of their bid proposals, qualified consortia must include plans for increasing apprenticeship training on the Crosstown, providing significant opportunities for local companies, and ensuring design excellence and community benefits.


...ensure 10% of work hours go to disadvantaged local community members in Eglinton Crosstown project.


And I don't understand how you can claim that 6000 jobs are not actually jobs because people already working as construction workers might get most of them ... on that argument construction never provides jobs! Construction workers need construction projects if they want to actually be employed.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2017-04-14 13:24:37

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By Bryan (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 14:52:59 in reply to Comment 121242

You are so far removed from the realities of employment, your entire argument seems like a delusion. Wasting a billion dollars of taxpayers money to create "work" for construction workers already employed, isn't creating anything. And on paper i'm sure you congratulate yourselves for giving a whopping 10% of some imaginary number to poor people to pick up garbage in orange vests, but I assure you, its embarrassing, and far from life changing for those involved. There will be nothing but deficits to come from this project, anyone claiming job creation is a liar and a fraud.

Comment edited by Bryan on 2017-04-14 14:53:36

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 17:07:10 in reply to Comment 121245

It's 10% of the project budget ... you know, budget, as in what is actually being spent on the Eglinton cross-town LRT.

So now, you're saying that government spending can't create jobs? That anyone working for the government is is not actually contributing to the economy? That any private business selling to the government is not contributing to the economy either?

That building transit or roads or schools or hospitals or airports or anything else the government builds does not actually create jobs? Do you think the construction of terminal 1 at Pearson didn't create jobs?

That apprenticeship programs are just apprenticing for picking up garbage?

Is the LRT going to build itself?

What if a private business borrowed money to build the LRT and then operated it under contract for the City, would you think that's okay and would create jobs? What if it operated the LRT as a private business? Would they need to deduct the revenue from riders working for the government or who do business with the government from their profit?

That's about the most naive bit of right wing no-government ridiculousness I've heard in a long time.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2017-04-14 17:10:48

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 14, 2017 at 11:20:31 in reply to Comment 121240

I haven't seen any mention of 'at risk' youth being employed in this either. Not sure where that came from. However, again from the rapid ready report:

Estimates show that approximately 6,000 construction jobs (provincial) would be created with the implementation of a B-Line system, 3,500 directly in Hamilton. Approximately 1,000 jobs (provincial) would be created to deliver regular operations and maintenance, including 300 jobs in Hamilton.16

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