David Serwatuk owns a car wash. A downtown Hamilton car wash. Little wonder, then, that he doesn't support the City of Hamilton's proposal to ram an LRT through the core.
"I have been a business owner for 15 years at King St. East and Queenston Road," writes Serwatuk, in Saturday's Hamilton Spectator. "The currently proposed light rail transit (LRT) route will have a huge impact on my businesses and other businesses and homeowners along the way."
No doubt. One thing LRT aims to do is reduce Hamilton's dependency on cars, reduce its spending on road infrastructure and improve the environment to boot. If it succeeds, Mr Serwatuk might have to sell something else.
He continues: "Who has really heard about the LRT? The city has not done any scientific surveys. They have all been random, via the Internet, mall surveys, tables at McMaster etc. Demographics have not been taken into consideration."
"I do not see the need for the LRT. Is there a congestion problem? Are we a metropolis catering daily to 100,000 jobs downtown?"
We wish. One thing Hamilton does not have is a congestion problem. Acres of tarmac and one-way streets take care of that. What Hamilton does have, though, is a traffic problem. Cars are a significant impediment to pedestrian traffic in the downtown core. Pedestrian traffic that I'm sure would be more than happy to pop into Serwatuk's other business, Little Caesars Pizza, if they weren't so scared to walk.
"Is King East and Queenston Road a tourist destination compared to Europe? It seems that the catalyst is the Pan Am Games. Please, how many people have watched the Games before? Can you name five events?"
100M, 200M, 400M, Steeplechase, Javelin, High Jump, Swimming, Cycling, Badminton, Tennis...how am I doing? And what's wrong with LRT having a catalyst? Doesn't every important decision need a catalyst? Please Mr. Serwatuk, help us understand...
"LRT in Hamilton would not exist if the Games were not coming."
No, still not getting it, keep going.
"Metrolinx has not determined how much it is putting toward the project. Guess who is going to flip the rest of the millions and millions? Us, local taxpayers."
Ah, so now I see! You don't want to pay for it! (Curious that you seem to think that the Metrolinx funding is not coming from taxpayers... but, whatever).
OK, so I get your dilemma. But are you going to finally explain to us why you don't want to pay for it?
"Let's look at reality."
"Do you think people are going to walk or drive to the LRT and jump on it?"
Yes. That's generally what people do when they have a streetcar stop at the bottom of their street.
"Most people will not give up a car in Hamilton."
Says who? Perhaps today that's true, but that's precisely why we're building an LRT!
"Twenty per cent of the area's employment is within 800 metres of the LRT line, which means if you take the LRT, you may have to walk almost a kilometre to work through rain and snow. Statistics show we only walk 200 to 400 metres at best in these situations."
Why are you assuming that LRT is just for workers? Can't we use it for, oh I don't know, visiting friends, going shopping, out for dinner, to the Doctors, the Bingo, the movies? The beauty of LRT is that it interconnects so many places efficiently.
And what's with the weather forecasting?! The core design criteria for the LRT accounts for the ease of the user experience - close proximity to key destinations, links to alternative transit. And in the event, God forbid, that you have to walk a couple of blocks to finish off your trip well, all I can say is hey - it might not be raining!
"You can drive to downtown and park without a problem."
Something you can't do in a successful downtown.
"As for time savings - yes you will save five to seven minutes from Centennial to downtown, but how much time do you save getting to the LRT and then waiting for it - still having to park somewhere before you get on)."
Nobody claimed LRT would be quicker door to door (but if Hamilton's car culture continues at this pace, it pretty soon just might be.)
"We do not pay European gas prices (double ours or more), therefore savings is not an issue. The cost to ride the LRT in other cities for 19 kilometres is $5, more than double the bus and very comparable to the 407."
OK...and the cost of owning a car is how much? This is a pretty selective (and once again incoherent) analysis, but one of the more obvious benefits of LRT is that a lot of two-car families can forgo the extra set of wheels. A healthy saving by anyone's analysis.
"With downtown being closed off, it will now be more unaccessible [sic] and more of a hangout, where crime will thrive."
Yes I can see it now. All those Mac students, Mums and Dads, office workers, shoppers... It'll be a bloodbath!
"What about all the downtown underground parking garages? Do they have to be rebuilt at cost of the taxpayers? They won't be accessible by cars anymore, nor will our downtown hotels and new condos. I guess our tourists will catch the LRT with their luggage after they are dropped off on the outskirts."
Hmm...You seem a little fixated on the car, Mr. Serwatuk. Is this the only way you know to get around? Perhaps we should we just rip up all the sidewalk while we're at it?
Who cares about the garages? Just because something is there now doesn't mean we have to frame our future planning decisions around it: You can't put a bike lane there, Mr City Planner, there's already a row of parking meters on that street.
Back to the article:
"Let's talk about business."
"Business is built on 25 per cent convenience and 25 per cent impulse, that leaves you with a 50 per cent customer loss."
Huh? I guess I don't understand business...
"The design now proposed makes a driver pass your business or street a kilometre and do a U-turn - at certain intersections only - and backtrack. If I want to grab a coffee, stop at a variety store, get gas, a car wash, a slice of pizza, do you actually think, I'm going to backtrack? No, I go on. Do you actually think jewellery, and fashion stores a la Versace are going to pop up at King and Wentworth because of the LRT?"
A-ha! And now we see what this all about (I think). Perhaps, when you run a car wash, you see life only through the eyes of a driver? Sudsing all those hub caps day after day, polishing all those bonnets... A 'backtrack' to Mr Serwatuk involves four sets of lights or an illegal U-Turn.
To an LRT user of course, it involves nothing more than a brisk walk of maybe a block or so. I wonder if Mr. Serwatuk ever considered making the rounds of the downtown on foot? He might just see that he could sell even more of his pizza.
[Editor's interjection: not to mention the fact that most of the proposed LRT route is currently one-way streets, which require extensive backtracking to get to any downtown destinations by car.]
"What about the four-to-five-year construction time with streets closed, traffic nightmares, business loss? Here come the lawsuits. What about the noise and vibration from the construction and the LRT itself?"
So we shouldn't do it because it won't be easy? Here's another obvious point of contention for the writer. He doesn't want LRT because it's construction will disrupt his business. A valid concern, but not one that justifies a half-baked analysis.
"I'm sure residents near the LRT line will love the overflow on their streets. The residents won't even be able get home properly. They have to once again drive past their street and make a U-turn only to come back. Talk about fuel wastage."
OK, really, seriously - I'm lost (and the Spec printed this?!).
But there's more (yes really, this piece got a whole page):
"Oh, wait. They can pay $5, take the LRT home only to go past their street get off and walk back six blocks."
Yeah, that clears it up.
"Bylaws will have to be changed."
"Is it fair that a store on the Mountain requires parking spots according to the city and the same store along the LRT route does not? We cannot make provisions for some and not the others."
Agreed! So let's take those spots away from the Mountain shops, build up the density and stick an LRT route through there too. Would that work?
"...the design is terrible. If you think the LRT has merit then redraw it. Make it overhead (since we are paying for it) or put it on Main Street which is much wider (five lanes) and we don't have to close downtown. LRTs require 20 metres in width; King Street is only 15 to 17 metres."
OK so now we've got a monorail? Where did that come from? I guess it's because you've proven that King Street is too narrow for LRT anyway. How did our city planners miss this?!
"Better yet make the LRT go north/south from the city to the Mountain, to Upper James or our growing airport. Maybe that will help our tourists."
Tourists? What tourists? (Perhaps they come here for all the free parking...?)
"The design now will flop. I think they are trying to fast track the LRT (no pun intended)."
Who's 'they'? And why does this article read like a badly written e-mail?
"Let me leave you with only one question: What would be the worst thing that could happen if we did not go through with this LRT? EXACTLY."
I'm not answering this question. This article, the quality of the writing (capital letters for emphasis? Really?), the lopsided 'analysis'...it's a disgrace.
The fact that the Spec agreed to be a vehicle for it (no pun intended) is simply shocking. But it does make me wonder: If you check the article's web page you will see a series of adverts: A home builder (you know who!), an insurance company, and links to the Spec's Truck section.
I wonder what, exactly, the Spec is trying to sell here? Informed opinion, astute analysis, or...well. I'll let you decide.
I think we've all learned something today. I'm just not sure what.
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