(This was published as a letter to the editor in today's Spectator.)
Re: 'Would LRT be a white elephant?' (Letters, Nov. 24)
White elephant: a possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost of upkeep is out of proportion to its usefulness. By this standard definition, the true white elephants would be the power centres the letter writer mentions, which cost us dearly - not only due to physically servicing them, but because they drain local dollars into the pockets of distant owners.
Research indicates that LRT draws development into every city that implements it. LRT systems routinely attract huge investment dollars, generate tax revenue and increase ridership numbers. LRT systems often pay for themselves several-fold within a short period of their implementation. Almost every city that builds one chooses to expand it within the first few years of operation.
Hamilton is not different. We play by the same economic rules as everyone else, and developers watching our rapid transit progress will respond to the same incentives they do in every other city that has built light rail. If we build it, they will come.
If we reject LRT based on reasoning that people will shop at power centres anyway, we will continue to have the downtown we have right now --one that does not offer residents the services they need, forcing them to leave the city to work, shop and play.
The centre of our city reflects and represents each of us. Despite its shortcomings, 180,000 people live in the lower city - within wards that do not contain a power centre.
Will we finally build something enticing that will keep their dollars downtown, while also attracting more people and dollars? Or will we continue approving development at the fringes, sucking the life from our core?
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