Rendering of Hamilton's Proposed LRT looking west at the intersection of King Street East and Wellington Street. Credit: Handout / City of Hamilton

Hamilton City Council is feeling the heat of having to do their job.

A different kind of heat is being felt on Parliament Hill – election fever.

Minority Parliaments have an average life span of two years, and this one is quickly approaching its two year life expectancy.

Once the election writ is dropped, the money for Hamilton’s LRT is gone, never to return. Full stop.

The agreements for the other Greater Toronto Area priority transit projects are being signed, and those shovels will be going into the ground. Toronto is happy to take yes for n answer.

Where does that leave Hamilton on the eve of yet another City Council debate on LRT?

Council’s phone lines are burning up.

On one side, nearly every Hamilton business leader is telling City Councillors to get on with the job at hand – after all it was Hamilton City Council that asked for LRT funding.

Hamilton expats working around both Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill are telling Council to take yes for an answer and stop being a national embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Hamilton East – Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina is making phone calls telling them to stop the train and join his outrage over the federal government offering Hamilton 100% capital funding with no municipal contribution.

Hamilton Mountain MPP Donna Skelly is keeping quiet.

City Councillors are scrambling for a way out of doing their jobs as the politics of division instead of vision are catching up with them – they have to do their job and make a decision.

The LRT has served to be a great wedge issue for the past decade, why talk about sewers when you talk about something else. Now, higher levels of government have surprised everyone by saying yes to City Council’s demands for special treatment.

Division is meeting multiplication. LRT is an economic multiplier. It drives investment, drives density, and creates a tax-efficient corridor which serves as a tax positive area filling municipal coffers.

Waterloo is already planning to expand its LRT beyond the existing 19 kilometre line – which local taxpayers paid for a third of the capital cost. Their LRT is generating economic uplift.

Two weeks ago, Council tabled making a decision. Going into Wednesday’s vote, tabling seems the likely outcome again.

A vote to table is as same as voting no.

Hamilton that will lose the $3.4-billion if the federal election arrives before Council makes a decision.

It was forty years ago that Hamilton City Council turned down a fully-funded rapid transit system, that opportunity went to Vancouver and we all know it as the Skytrain today. We are unlikely to get a third chance.

Milton has a velodrome and York University has a track facility, all because Council would not get its act together during the Pan Am Games debates. In the end, we were left with a poorly built problem plagued stadium.

If Council repeats its stadium dithering, we will have Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Council, as they say, you have one job. Get on with the vote.

11 replies on “Hamilton’s LRT: Death by a Thousand Tablings”

    1. Tabling because Councillors do not wish to make a decision, and will claim they need more information.

  1. Why are you going with the American use of ‘tabling’ here? It’s quite confusing for the reader.

    1. Because readers can easily understand this, and what it means.

  2. I fully support tabling it and I am not 100% against it. Also, i am very familiar with Waterloo network which connects 3 cities together.

    Current Hamilton LRT proposal doesn’t do much for the city except that is new (the trains are dated in comparison to global standard) . There’s already an existing bus line that generates money for the city without extra pressures in operating costs, hence lower taxes. Otherwise, the income would have gone to the province. Why ?

    there’s a very simple solution to that.

    1. The population along the LRT line in Hamilton is similar to along the Waterloo LRT.
      The trains are not dated. I studied transportation engineering, and the evidence is overwhelming that mass transit remains the best means of moving people in dense urban areas.
      The existing bus lines do not make money, they require a lower level of subsidy than other bus lines. The operating costs of LRT are lower, significantly so.
      The revenue from LRT will go to the City of Hamilton, to offset the operating cost.

  3. I am from K-W… uptown Waterloo has always been and still is a great place to visit with trendy shops and places to eat. It has a tourist-student vibe with some great culture.
    Downtown Hamilton is not the same as Waterloo … and it won’t turn into an uptown Waterloo because of the LRT. It’s a slightly faster form of transportation for those that currently take the bus or don’t drive. The costs and years of construction for that makes no sense. Most businesses owners lost their businesses during the construction period in Waterloo…it was inaccessible for years! If we go down this path it is a very expensive journey …and I don’t see it transforming our Downtown but creating years of construction headaches for everyone. Trust me…I lived through it.

  4. What people seem to forget is that as recently as the 1950s, Hamilton (like most NA cities great and small) was home to a comprehensive network of electric street rail. Streetcars crisscrossed the old city from Westdale to Bartonville and from the mountain’s edge to the waterfront. There was even an incline railway network which brought riders up to the top of the escarpment. Streetcars once traveled east-west along Burlington, Barton, and King/Main streets, while a north-south routes linked these lines along James, Wentworth, Birch, and Kenilworth Ave. Between the streetcar and supporting bus network, one could get anywhere in the city without a car. Moreover, thanks to the permanence of street rail, the city’s main thoroughfares were once all bustling commercial centres. One need only take a trip down Barton or Kenilworth to see the echoes of better days when the trolley used to keep a steady flow of pedestrians and local commuters coming and going into local shops and establishments.

    This brings us to the current LRT debate. One single route, along the city’s most significant east-west corridor. A corridor that for the last half-century has been hollowed out and made almost unwalkable thanks to car-friendly policies such as the use of one-way streets and street widening measures. A corridor that like too many in this city is home to row upon row of boarded up shops and parking lots. A corridor that is screaming out for exactly the type of positive change that an LRT would bring.

    All this opposition. And for what? For the status quo? For the quasi-highway that King/Main have become? More boarded up shops? More arson? What kind of city do people what this to be? Other rust belt cities have begun to get their act together. Detroit and Buffalo (Buffalo!) have begun rebuilding their LRT networks. Their city centres are once again showing signs of life. Closer to home Waterloo and even heavily suburban Mississauga have (and will have) LRT networks of their own. What are we waiting for???

  5. Reply to AC – Yes, construction disruption is a fact of life. KW went through it as did every single city that implemented LRT or BRT for that matter because – (as I’m sure you know) they also have dedicated bus lanes snd elevated station stops).
    So is Hamilton in some magical class by itself, that it cannot handle a few years disruption along the route? Nope, we are no different than any other city. I get tired if the ‘exceptionality’ excuse – “THEY can do it but WE can’t.” I call BS on that.
    Hamilton has no desire to turn itself into ‘downtown Waterloo’. They have their amenities and attractions and Hamilton has theirs.
    Can you provide a reference for exactly what percent of businesses closed down for good?
    It is a bit of a nose-stretcher to say ‘most went out of business’ w/o any reference. A good scare tactic though.
    Can you imagine where downtown Toronto would be if politicians voted down the subway in the 1950s? Massive gridlock would be the answer. As it is, they failed to upgrade their system in the 70s to the 90s and are finally now trying catch up.
    Almost without exception, city that put in a modest LRT line is expanding it. Does that tell you something?
    Finally, have you taken the time do you travel to Kitchener to ride their LRT system and speak to some of their citizens? No? It’s worth your time to do some primary research before commenting.

  6. I believe that BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) provides more flexibility and less pain in the construction phase. It would allow buses to be added or deleted from that route as demand required. Make King Street downtown bus only and give it a chance. Council’s failed dedicated bus lane experiment was poorly thought out, lacked enforcement and was never given a chance to validate (either way) whether this would work.

    1. Pat,

      Thank you for the comment. On the bus lane, it was designed to fail. Most of the money spent on the bus lane was actually used to buy the new parking metres which were then taking and used to replace parking metres elsewhere in the city once the paint for the bus lane was removed. The City’s Public Works managers also moved night work into the day on King Street, creating traffic problems.

      On BRT, while it would provide detour ability, it does not move as many people as efficiently and it is a much higher operating cost. True BRT involves nearly as much capital and construction. LRT will be a significant change, that is for sure, and we need to do the best we can do support businesses during construction.

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