Hamilton City Council appears to be on the verge of turning down $1,000,000,000 from the province to fund a light rail system on the B-Line route of the HSR. There have been dozens (hundreds?) of articles and blog posts written about this. Arguments a many on Twitter, Facebook, and in City Hall. So what’s the harm in adding my voice to the din?
To start, you have to understand something about me. I’m somewhat of a moderate, by that I mean I like to look at both sides of an equation and question the motives, and reasoning. I do not generally take things at face value, and I do not bother with bandwagons. I research things before making a decision. So, just so we’re clear. I’m not some lemming following the popular kids and I absolutely do not believe in a war on cars.
I’ve been a life long public transit user, and again most of that life living and working in Hamilton, so that public transit was generally the HSR. Let me tell you something about the HSR. It’s a disaster, and it has been getting worse over time. Now to be fair, comparatively speaking when discussing other local public transit systems the HSR isn’t absolutely horrible. It keeps its buses relatively modern, it covers the majority of the city and has options in place for the areas that aren’t directly covered. It is cheaper than other cities like Burlington or Toronto. But make no mistake it still isn’t good.
Over-crowding is the main concern, buses passing you by at busy stops because they can’t take more passengers. This affects the disabled the most since they do take more room on a bus so while you might jam in one more able-bodied sardine, the person in the wheelchair is left by the side of the road.
There are other concerns like sparse or no coverage for out-lying areas of the city. Out in the Stoney Creek area some buses run on irregular schedules and have long wait times.
I’m not a public transit user because I can’t afford a car. Please stop using class as an argument. I have chosen throughout my life not to drive for the most part. I’ve also owned a car, and do now, most of my life, but I choose to let my wife have that car. We use it together when she isn’t working, but I use public transit to get around myself.
I am a public transit user by choice, not circumstance.
So again, I am not anti-car nor am I trying to make drivers’ lives more difficult. I have a vested interest in making sure that whatever we do doesn’t seriously negatively affect traffic in the city.
I am Pro-LRT
Now that you know a bit about me, you should also know I am Pro-LRT and have been since I first investigated it. There are a ton of reasons and I could go into detail but instead I’d rather just address some of the arguments against LRT that I’ve seen recently. At the end of this article I’ll post some resources for you to investigate yourself.
We Should do “X” Instead!
If we decide to do something else, we would have to develop a new rapid transit plan (that will take 5 years and two provincial elections to complete) and then submit it to the Province as a funding request.
There is no guarantee it would receive funding. Brampton turned down their LRT funding and went back to the drawing board. They won’t have a new plan ready to submit for funding until at least 2020.
It’s a Disconnected Plan!
The best I can get from this ludicrous argument is the LRT isn’t directly connected to other transit such as GO. How is this even an argument anyone would make. The LRT will stop at King and James. Walking from King and James to the downtown GO bus station is literally a 5 minute walk. It’s a 14 minute walk to the West Harbour GO station, and if you don’t like walking it’s a 6 minute trip on the Bayfront bus which passes by every 20 minutes.
Buses aren’t going away!
It Stops at the Queenston Traffic Circle
Yes, yes it does, the initial plan does at least. Does anyone actually think that this is it? We’ll build the initial plan and never expand? Well given the way we’re treating this part of the plan I suppose that’s possible, but it’s also pretty unlikely.
Arguing that the initial plan doesn’t fix all the problems isn’t progress.
It Doesn’t Affect Me So I Don’t Care
This is one of the biggest issues we have, and I blame wards and some of our Councillors’ pandering directly to their constituents rather than worrying about the city as a whole.
This will affect you. It will make your life better, even if you don’t really notice it, or it takes some time to notice. Hamilton has an out-dated and broken transit system. It also has some aging infrastructure that requires repair. This plan helps solve both those things without drawing heavily on the Hamilton tax base.
There have been reports of a number of investors that are hinging their investments on this plan going through. If it doesn’t they’ll pull out. That means lost jobs primarily (and don’t forget the thousands of jobs that will be created for the construction of the LRT itself). Going through with the plan means more new businesses, meaning again more jobs, meaning more tax payers investing in the city.
We Need Public Transit in our Area First!
Better public transit in out-lying areas is absolutely a concern, I mentioned it earlier as one of the HSR’s major downfalls. The thing you have to remember is LRT has significantly higher capacity than buses do, that means we’ll be able to run less trains, move more people and free up buses to service those out-lying areas.
LRT means better transit through the corridor and the ability to expand routes to better cover outlying areas.
Remember, buses aren’t going away!
Many Businesses will Fail During Construction!
This is a possibility, I won’t deny it, anything is a possibility. One of the possible solutions to minimize this impact is phased construction, where each segment is only impacted for a limited amount of time.
The real answer is this is up to US to make sure it doesn’t happen. If you’re worried about businesses along the route during construction, visit them. Give them your business and make sure they don’t fail. Don’t complain about possible consequences if you aren’t willing to go the extra mile to help mitigate those consequences.
Also keep in mind that aging infrastructure along the route. This construction is going to happen eventually anyway, the difference is if Hamilton turns down the LRT funding the cost of those upgrades comes directly (and solely) from the Hamilton tax base, oh and obviously no LRT line when the construction is done.
WE can make sure this doesn’t happen!
I could go on, and on, and on some more, but this is already long and the answers to all your questions and concerns about LRT are out there. The problem is there is a vocal minority that is spreading disinformation about the project, raising straw-man arguments and doing their best to be disruptive.
LRT is a huge step forward for a city that is growing and changing quickly. Not that long ago Hamilton was a Steel Town, and if nothing else Hamiltonians love their history (and rightfully so), but face it people, it’s not a Steel Town anymore. It’s a vibrant growing city with a wonderful rich history. It has Art Crawl and SuperCrawl, a growing culture of small business, art and music, and a wonderful tech community.
Hamilton is changing for the better, we can still remember and cherish our history without being held back by it. Change and progress are good!
So, how does accepting LRT mean Hamilton profits a billion dollars by doing nothing? Because we’ve already accepted the province’s offer, more than once. All we have to do is stop this foolishness and just move forward. That’s it, literally just do nothing more.
- Answers to all your LRT questions
- LRT on Raise the Hammer
- Hamilton Light Rail Initiative
- City of Hamilton LRT page
- Metrolinx Hamilton LRT page
- Reports via the city
- Hamilton LRT on Twitter
- Hamilton LRT on Facebook
- Hamilton LRT on Twitter(2)
- Hamilton Light Rail on Twitter
- Ryan McGreal on Twitter
- Eric Gillis on Twitter
- Email Hamilton Council by Ryan Price
PS. Did I mention that if we turn this down it’s actually far worse than losing a billion dollars? Because all those transit upgrades, all that aging infrastructure that needs repair now comes out of Hamilton’s pockets alone. This could easily end up being a $2,000,000,000+ mistake over time!