The Bay Observer asked members of council to answer the following questionnaire:
In an election year it is important that the public garner as much information as possible on important topics like LRT. In the interests of trying to arrive at a clearer picture of council’s attitude towards LRT, I hope you might take a moment to provide responses to the following questions.
1. Council’s unanimous insistence on 100% provincial capital funding for LRT is being portrayed by some as unanimous endorsement of light rail as the best mode of transit for Hamilton. Is that a correct interpretation of council’s attitude? Are you convinced that LRT is the best way to improve public transit in Hamilton?
2. Should LRT take precedence over the conventional transit improvements recommended in Rapid Ready, which are described as a necessary precursor to light rail?
3. The cost of LRT is estimated at between $0.8 Billion and $1 Billion. If Hamilton were to be allocated the money for transportation improvements, and … council would determine where the investments should be made; would an LRT from Eastgate to McMaster still be your top priority?
4. Do you think consideration should be given to phasing in LRT. With perhaps a first leg being downtown to McMaster, or James Street connecting the 2 GO stations?
Thank you for your consideration.
The Bay Observer received a number of responses. Two interesting but opposite perspectives came from suburban councillors Lloyd Ferguson and Judi Partridge.
Ferguson with a background in infrastructure is an LRT fan he wrote (LRT) is… very futuristic and from what I have observed in other cities we will see a significant uptake in Economic Development. Should LRT take precedence over the conventional transit improvements recommended in Rapid Ready, which are described as a necessary precursor to light rail? The Councillor replied, “not necessarily but I need to get fully informed on exactly what other improvements staff are considering.” He declined to answer the hypothetical question of what would happen if Hamilton was to be given the transit money to spend as it saw fit. On whether it might make sense to start with a smaller LRT project such as downtown to McMaster, or James street connecting the two GO stations, Feguson said he would consider it.
Councillor Partridge joins retiring Dundas councillor Russ Powers in her opposition to LRT. Should we interpret the call for 100% provincial funding for LRT as an endorsement of LRT generally? “It is not endorsement for only LRT, which in my opinion is still many years away and not affordable at this point in time,” the Councillor wrote. “Even with 100% provincial funding for LRT, the city (taxpayers) would be responsible for costs of operations, staffing and training. I would not support LRT on it’s own, taxpayers cannot afford it. We need to focus on a regional transit plan that includes bus service to the high growth areas of the city such as Waterdown. 17,000 people moving into Waterdown now and over the next five years will put the population over 36,000 and we still don’t have regular transit service. There are several areas of the city that are underserved including the Mountain – fix that first and concentrate on building ridership.” She flatly opposes introducing LRT without first implementing Rapid Ready. “LRT is not my priority – focus on transit improvements to service growth areas first – fix the HSR operationally.” On the question of phasing in a scaled-down LRT, she replied, “Transit infrastructure should include expanded transit options, regional transit connections (Burlington) and perhaps BRT, all day GO service and connectivity to GO stations. There also needs to be connectivity to the airport and Waterfront.”
Councillor Brad Clark, another LRT skeptic, thinks the Eastgate to McMaster LRT concept was a hastily cobbled together scheme by Metrolinx to try to make something happen quickly. “If we went at this more methodically, I don’t think the B line would jump to the top of the priority list,” he said. “We were pushed quickly for a route and a plan. That’s not how you build transit,” the former Transportation Minister added.
Written by: John Best