Light Rail

City Needs to Complete B-Line Land Use Study

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published August 12, 2011

I was dismayed by Chris Murray's comments reported in the Spectator that "we were going to finish the work that we were asked to finish."

The Metrolinx contract was supposed to help the City with its own LRT planning, not replace it.

A major and vital part of the City's planning was the land use study that complemented the engineering alignment study, but was not included in the contract with Metrolinx.

This study has involved a huge amount of consultation with residents and businesses along the line, as well as potential developers, and was supposed to be presented to Council in March 2012.

Metrolinx has been very complimentary about the land use study, and has cited it as a model of how to do rapid transit planning right.

Apparently, the land use study has been cancelled and the planners taken off this project.

Not only is the land use study necessary to get the maximum economic development from LRT by identifying development opportunities and barriers, it would have been useful even if we didn't get LRT because it would have suggested zoning change to make mixed-use higher density development more attractive along the Main/King corridor.

On a personal note as a former member of the Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee (RTCAC), the land use study occupied well over half the time of the RTCAC (there was even a land-use sub-committee that met separately from the whole committee). This work is now largely wasted.

I encourage Council in the strongest possible terms to fight to keep the land use study and allow the planners to finish the work they started.

The Mayor has said he wants all the information on LRT before making a decision, and the land use study, which helps quantify potential economic impact and allows residents and businesses input, is a vital part of that information.

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 kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 14:29:44

Just for reference, here is the April 1, 2009 announcement of $3 million to "assist Hamilton (in cooperation with Metrolinx) in finalizing their plans for these corridors." Note that it is clear that Metrolinx was assisting Hamilton's own planning work, not that all further rapid transit studies in Hamilton would be funded exclusively by Metrolinx! Hamilton had been engaging in its own rapid transit studies with its own rapid transit team since early 2008 without any direct funding from Metrolinx.

Hamilton Rapid Transit Studies

Description Study potential rapid transit on two corridors in Hamilton, including East-West Corridor (King-Main Streets) and James-Upper James Street Corridor Hamilton is currently developing rapid transit plans for the two major corridors This funding will assist Hamilton (in cooperation with Metrolinx) in finalizing their plans for these corridors.

Timing Planning study to be completed by spring 2010.

Cost Cost Estimate: $3 million

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 15:45:07

Just wondering: is the planning an issue that would loosen bylaw requirements along the B-line?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 16:07:05 in reply to Comment 67937

I think that was the idea: to make it easier to build denser, mixed use developments.

Unfortunately, they hadn't got to the stage of making specific recommendations before the project was killed.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 16:35:41 in reply to Comment 67941

Was this killed by Chris Murray's e-mail, or did that sub-committee meeting where two councillors (forget who) said we should be studying Rymal/Centenniel instead of the B-line route have some impact as well?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 16:53:49

It was killed by Chris Murray's email since the land use planning study was not part of the Metrolinx contract.

Of course, Chris Murray's email may have been influenced by the previous comments by the councillors who were complaining about the B-line land use study ...

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 12, 2011 at 20:02:20

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 13, 2011 at 01:35:15 in reply to Comment 67962

Ah. Our old friend Randal O'Toole.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 21:47:03 in reply to Comment 67962

My favourite part of all was "Light rail kills people at 2 1/2 times the rate of cars."

No source, and rather obviously (and hilariously!) false.

A close second would have to be that Europeans would never choose to take transit if they were wealthier. By that standard, Vancouver must be a very poor city indeed. Yikes!

Bratina's comment about Charlotte's "quaint streetcar for tourists" (or something to that effect) suggests his reading material was of similar ilk.

That said, I would hope that Hamilton city planners have the common sense to take things like pedestrian crossings, pedestrian safety, community impact and general aesthetics into consideration when planning LRT. It is for this reason, for instance, that I sympathize (and wholeheartedly agree) with IV business owners who prefer that the line run along Main instead of King.

All the more reason to complete the land-use study, per the article.

Comment edited by geoff's two cents on 2011-08-12 21:47:32

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 20:35:12

Would those councillors have been Clarke and Collins?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2011 at 14:46:07

Calgary's South Corridor LRT Land Use Study of 1981 was two years in the making with extensive public consultation.

According to this study it did not assume that development would occur at the LRT Stations simply because 'development follows transit'. It stated that: other contributing factors such as surrounding land use and road access have been evaluated and their influence considered... The development climate in Calgary and the growing attractiveness of the Macleod Trail Corridor for office development --even before the decision to build the LRT system-- will contribute to the realization of the unique development opportunities afforded by the LRT station areas.

In spite of this, it introduces a supplementary growth impetus: a "Bonus System" to spur high density development.

This clearly spell out that LRT in itself is not capable of triggering development contrary to popular beliefs, but it is the critical 'Bonusing feature' in the station areas that motivates development.

This is the most contentious part of LRT development which needs to be addressed democratically in Hamilton - where transit has come to be looked at as an end in itself to develop growth. This is the part that gives mass-transit a bad name, by skewing the holistic economic development of cities with arbitrary LRT route planning.

If Bonusing is primarily used to trigger growth, then irrespective of the LRT - why not simply open up Bonusing of higher density (based on sustainable development criteria) across the city to trigger Hamilton's gold rush?

But, the downtown secondary plan has higher density already specified in certain areas of Main and King in the core and along Main East to Mac. Then why have we not seen a flood of building permit applications in these locations?

We need to be more realistic about how economic growth occurs. And understand the difference between real-estate development triggered spikes and real economic growth.

Calgary's West LRT Land Use Study of 2009, uses the same basis for growth as in 1981. Only now instead of the word Bonusing - it uses a more contemporary term: Transit Oriented Development (TOD) - which essentially does the same thing -- only with more articulated mix-use development criteria instead.

"Calgary’s economic growth is expected to be 3.4 per cent this year, according to the Conference Board of Canada... Toronto and Hamilton — which saw the strongest growth rates in 2010 at four per cent, according to the report — are expected to see more modest expansions this year of 2.8 and 2.5 per cent. That ranks them fifth and sixth in this outlook of Canadian cities."

Was it LRT that really gave Calgary its edge in economic growth? Or was it their ability to keep their eye on the ball that drives their growth - without an urban-suburban divide?

This is from page A2 of their strategic view: "Some municipalities have adopted the approach of trying to influence population growth by setting boundaries or creating rules to constrain the amount of development needed to accommodate growth. The City of Calgary does not attempt to control population growth by artificially imposed economic or geographic limits. Rather, the approach has been to build on the foundation of a unicity concept..."

Vision 42 proposes to connect the two ends of a highly developed corridor in Manhattan. This project sets a new standard in visioning and promoting transit. "The Anticipated Economic Impacts of Introducing Light Rail to New York City’s 42nd Street", are not based on Bonusing. It shows us how a well researched and strategically targeted LRT line can remain keenly focused on transit goals - while spurring development on its west end and substantially increasing real-estate values on the corridor. See the Vision 42 Economic Study: 1 and 2

Lobbying frenzy is triggered from bonusing density. It is such "indirect activities" which are premised on sweeping economic presumptions that distract from core transit focus of most LRT initiatives. In vulnerable cities like Hamilton which seeks growth by any means - could it be this frenzy which caused temporary suspension of the land use study, while an unbiased economic feasibility report is being developed for council presentation?

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-08-13 14:52:22

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By Al Macinnes (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2011 at 20:57:42 in reply to Comment 67981

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 mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2011 at 04:42:21 in reply to Comment 68008

Ok,who stopped reading after the second paragraph? Me for one...

Probably because your capabilities to grasp anything more demanding than what's contained within a Tweet's character limit are virtually non-existent.

Maybe you should be subscribing to the comic strip version of RTH?

Or maybe consider paying someone to read it to you...then explain it?

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-08-15 04:52:09

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By Al (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2011 at 19:51:14 in reply to Comment 68019

insult spam deleted

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2011 at 20:14:04 in reply to Comment 68035

Ha ha. Please. And I'll bet you majored in early renaissance literature at Brown.

Wrongo, Bucko.

Once again the hackneyed (and lazy) 'elitism' gambit is put into play.


Still, I'm flattered, all things considered.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-08-15 20:26:38

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2011 at 15:02:47 in reply to Comment 67981

Funny; as I was reading this, I was seeing it as a video.

: )

Thank you for the sober contributions to the discussion, one that often gets waaaaay out of hand...making me wonder if people really do prefer bitching, complaining and child-like bangin' on the drum to the adult alternative of careful analysis and patient discourse.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2011 at 19:33:31

Vision 42 was developed by the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility.

IRUM’s goals are articulated in its Livable City Transport Plan, which contains 15 interrelated near-term strategies for improving public transport, reducing car use and enhancing the walking environment in New York City.

A well known transportation issue which IRUM highlights is: "betterment of facilities generates greater traffic and in turn diminishes improvement".

Their informed work on transit and livability represents the middle-path which Hamilton's LRT advocates should be taking on complex transit issues - if they want positive results to emerge.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-08-13 19:37:07

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