With all the discussion about LRT, there is a piece of the transit puzzle in Hamilton crying for a resolution. We have two GO train stations that are not connected to each other. So far it appears Metrolinx plans to divide Hamilton’s GO train service between the two stations indefinitely. This will end up being costly and muddies the promises made by then Premier Dalton McGuinty that Hamilton would get frequent, all-day GO service.
The Hunter Street terminal was converted into a GO train and bus station at huge cost decades ago when the transit picture in southern Ontario was completely different from the one that confronts us today. The money is not a complete waste as the Hunter Street terminal has now been integrated into the HSR system, and GO buses (often the most comfortable and fastest way to get to Toronto outside of peak rush hour,) is still available at that location as are other inter-city buses. For 90 percent of the day Hunter Street is strictly a bus terminal.
Development is taking place in the area of the West Harbour GO station in anticipation of all day frequent rail service. The realization of that goal would happen quicker if GO didn’t feel obliged to continue to use Hunter Street for some of the traffic. The proposed B Line LRT could be connected to the West Harbour Terminal by frequent shuttle buses, which would eliminate the need for the James North LRT spur and hopefully free up some money to get the BLAST system up and running in other parts of the city. The success or failure of LRT depends on having the feeder system in place on the opening day of LRT. The redundancy of Hunter Street as a GO train terminal will become more evident when the Centennial Parkway GO station is opened and GO is extended further and more frequently into Niagara.
In order for this to work, members of council who have been silent on the LRT issue need to seize the issue. A good beginning, once everyone is paying attention, is to have some serious discussion with the province about what is possible within the $1Billion transit envelope. At the end of the day the issue is not, as Kathleen Wynne has said, “LRT or nothing”. The time has come to test that.