Metrolinx appears to be in a race with the clock to throw as much money at Hamilton’s LRT project before the elections later this year as to make the project unstoppable. The transit agency has committed $93 million and has actually spent $65 million—about $14 Million of which is to acquire properties along the route. With roughly ten percent of the budget spent, some would argue we have gone too far to turn back. We would argue the opposite—that implementing the Rapid Ready transit plan, which would include Bus Rapid Transit, even with what has already been spent would run less than half of the billion dollar price tag and leave funding available to enhance the Regional Express Rail Service which is the provinces number one transit priority and is a much better allocation of scarce infrastructure dollars. Any property that has been acquired can be banked and re-sold at a later date. It is clear from recent experience with the HSR—declining ridership, cancelled buses, bus stop drive-by’s, and toxic labour relations that Hamilton has nowhere near the basic transit usage or infrastructure to make LRT a success. In fact, we are heading backwards when it comes to transit in Hamilton. We need to do a multi-year build-up to create the kind of transit culture that would justify an expenditure like LRT. Rapid Ready was developed by transit experts with clear eyes, who were not infected with LRT-mania. It would be interesting to know how much of the $35 Million that Metrolinx has spent on consultants actually went to support the massive public disinformation project that has been ongoing since 2008. Free of political pressure, the best transit experts in the province have told us that the purpose of transit is to meet ridership demand, not create it and to decrease congestion; not “economic uplift.” In Hamilton we have neither the necessary demand nor the congestion. What has been spent on the LRT project in Hamilton is regrettable, but pales in comparison to what has been wasted on gas plants and other Queen’s Park misadventures. Time to cut our losses and move on to a sensible transit plan for Hamilton.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

15 Comments to: It’s still better to put the brakes on LRT

  1. Demi Tasse

    February 27th, 2018

    The province has already earmarked $2 billion to expand rail service from Aldershot through Centennial, $150 million of that to enable the activation of the Confederation GO station, which is forecast to serve all of 150 commuters daily by 2031, roughly as many as West Harbour.

    The City, however, has no real say on where infrastructure money will be spent if it declines a proposed project. If you prefer RER as a priority investment, that’s all well and good, but even Hamilton declined a $1B rapid transit project, the funds would simply revert back to provincial coffers. Were the province to determine that RER were the best use of those funds, they can assign those resources as they deem fit. That could be expediting electrification of the corridor between Port Credit and Union Station, or enhanced service to Kitchener, or expanded stations and garages at their busiest stations. It is disingenuous to suggest that anyone outside of the MTO, with the possible ex or premier’s office, is making that call.

    Metrolinx’s land acquisitions, which relate to terminals, would continue anyway regardless of whether it’s BRT or LRT you favour. The dedicated lanes would require as much asphalt regardless of whether it’s BRT or LRT you favour.

    And if you’re a trucking lobbyist, your preferences on transit and the “proper” use of city streets should be taken with a grain of salt.

    • jim graham

      March 6th, 2018

      poor Demi,poor,poor Demi……you’ve tried so hard to frame this discussion in a manner which supports your perspective….and still no one is buying it. The City will have a say on how infrastructure cash is spent, just you watch and see. BRT will be a fraction of the upset LRT would cause, at a fraction of the cost, with increased potential for effectiveness. Our impending municipal election will afford the first opportunity for the people of Hamilton to demonstrate their collective feelings on local transit…..and Queens Park will be watching, count on it.
      If you are obsessed with LRT, (and lets be honest, you are the poster person) disappointment is your forecast. Everyone else wins.

      • Demi Tasse

        April 3rd, 2018

        Thanks for your patronizing smarm, Jim. Tart as always. Your ex is a lucky gal. 😉

        My framing of this matter is simply based on the case history of the agency and the general practices around infrastructure investment.

        Setting aside your confirmation bias, I don’t oppose BRT at all. I just prefer projects that are funded, which BRT is not.

        There are cases to be made for all rapid transit technologies. Metrolinx’s BRT, however, is quite different from B-Line service, and there’s no sign that the province would squander $1B on more buses without the stipulation that the infrastructure be exclusively dedicated to BRT service. And in almost every other respect, the basic design will resemble LRT: The stops will still be far apart, as they are under the current B-Line service. They will still get signal priority at intersections, and vehicular traffic will experience similar delays at lights (especially since you’re shrinking the headways to tighter service windows than LRT, which has a higher per-vehicle passenger capacity).

        BRT would certainly be cheaper than LRT from a startup standpoint, but would require a full road reconstruction along the route, and since you’re not running along a single track but rather two separate streets you are looking at a considerably longer distance of dedicated transit-only lanes. Which is a positive: High-quality crosstown arterials.

        Of course the City will have a say on how infrastructure cash is spent (they’ve requested funding for crosstown LRT dozens of times) but discarding the LRT MOU course after a decade of lobbying for an entirely different outcome invites policymakers to treat the city like an indecisive basket-case. And it would require us to build a new funding case, on our own dime and at the expense of years of consultation, study and design.

        Brampton shows the way:

        The province had pledged to fund the full $1.6 billion cost of the project, but only if council approved the proposed route along Hurontario Street, which would include Brampton’s historic Main Street, ending at the Brampton GO station.

        Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said Wednesday the money that would have gone to Brampton’s portion of the line — between $200 million and $300 million — will be used to pay for other transit improvements via the Ontario Moving Forward fund.

        “It could go to any community in the GTHA,” Del Duca told reporters.

        Toronto Star:

        the pledged funding was for their preferred route only. Planning and approvals for a new transit line would be expected to take at least five years. And the money that had been coming Brampton’s way will no longer be available.

        “If council chooses to re-start a process, to look at other alternatives, then the funding that was set aside for the project would return to the Moving Ontario Fund, and it would be available for decision making by the province in the future on other priorities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” Mr. McCuaig explained.

        Ford could certainly be a gamechanger. After all, he helped transform a 17-stop LRT into a one-stop subway.

        • jim graham

          April 6th, 2018

          more nonsense, only you envision a project that is half the price somehow bears identical construction implications….where do you sit to imagine this drivel? Surely not on a bus.
          Brampton shows the way! Yes they have been unequivocal in their commitment to Metrolinx …….pppfffftt.
          I could never have imagined Doug Ford would be the voice of reason in this debate, yet in a culture of low expectations…..Newsflash….McQuaig has been gone for sometime now, and his predecessor has made no such comment. Get current would ya?
          We might see things we need… investment in transit-because LRT isn’t-HSR, D.A.R.T.’s, safe cycling network, infrastructure upgrades…..instead of something we do not want and do not need.
          Your an anonymous hack, driven by unreasonable and irrational fears. And your advocacy has left us where we currently find ourselves…..only an election away from putting this to foolishness to bed.
          Nighty night sweet pea.

          • Demi Tasse

            April 7th, 2018

            I envision BRT technology as implemented under Metrolinx, which is to say rapid transit in dedicated corridors. You can check out the ITDP design standards for a sense of what goes into systems that provide fast, reliable bus service. Newsflash: It’s not mixed traffic. The capital cost savings of BRT comes from the lack of rails and the use of existing technology, but in most other regards the design is the same: dedicated corridor separate from mixed traffic and signal priority and jump lanes so that it can move with minimal delays.

            You envision the HSR, only more of it, which is to sat not rapid transit at all. If that’s your preference, fine, but call it what it is and understand that the province already funds conventional buses through gas tax revenues, as the MTO has made clear. The former, where it has been implemented, has typically been 1/3 funded by the municipality, and there’s nothing to indicate that Ford would be as generous as Wynne; certainly not without an equivalent period of study, consultation, consideration and strategic review, unless you believe that the Liberals are the fiscal conservatives and the Tories shore leave spendthrifts.

            I agree that there are many other complementary transportation priorities that the City could embrace to minimize the need for automobile use and achieve the 20% reduction in vehicular trips articulated in Hamilton’s Transportation Master Plan. Completing the 1000 km of bike lanes pledged in 2009’s 20-year cycling strategy, for example. Or installing the multiple transit only lanes recommended by former HSR director David Dixon. With over 6,000 lane kilometres now dedicated exclusively to cars, there’s obviously some elbow room, and I’m encouraged that you’re passionate about multimodal solutions and looking to spend less time alone in your car.

            Even so, this lousy-goosey campaign promise is unlikely to be what Metrolinx might call a “Quick Win.” LRT funding was announced almost eight years after it was promised, and contracts won’t have been signed until four years after the funding was announced. If that time frame is anything to go on, Hamilton could expect to see Ford’s promise honoured by 2030 or thereabouts. And that’s assuming that council can ever come to a binding decision. Which is perhaps what he’s counting on. He gets to have his cake and eat it too, putting $1B in savings on the books while making a vague and open-ended promise to voters that he may or may not even be around to deliver.

            I gather that you some have very strong political beliefs but if you bother to read anything I write I expect that you will find that it is anchored not in “unreasonable and irrational fears” but instead scenarios rooted in reality and the precedents for political politicians and agencies. Respectfully, if anyone is being irrational it is those who see Ford’s “everybody gets a car” spending spree as peerless common sense fiscal stewardship rather than crass vote buying (or a simple IQ test, since his party’s focus is allegedly on reining in runaway spending and driving down the province’s debt and deficit).

            Pause but a second and consider that despite your gut read 60 days out, it’s entirely possible that Ontario PCs will win no local seats (unlike provincial NDP and Liberals, Tories have never once held all Hamilton ridings), removing any sense of obligation to an ungrateful electorate. This would be true of any politician (McGuinty’s rapid transit came about when the Liberals last held all Hamilton ridings) but even more so for a historically vindictive politician.

            Finally, if I am advocating for anything, it’s an open dialogue where people who claim to want world-class transit for Hamilton don’t constantly shortchange and undermine transit as a whole. And where those who actually hate transit and want better roads and lower taxes have the confidence and courage to own that position and articulate an argument in favour of same.

            As always, I hold out hope.

          • jim graham

            April 7th, 2018

            newsflash……it’ll be mixed traffic, with dedicated corridors, a concept beyond your limited imagination, which will produce further savings, and significantly improve the current mess authored by Fearless Fred.
            I envision you sitting disappointed somewhere when this is all resolved.
            You’ve advocated for a concept-LRT-that does nothing for transit, that requires buses following right behind in order to provide an acceptable level of service.
            This is your dream…..right? Spend big, accomplish nothing.
            Fortunately, only anchors share your desperation.

  2. Demi Tasse

    April 7th, 2018

    Again, you’re speculating without reading either the content of my posts or the substance of government policy. And whatever his prospects on the campaign trail, Ford is not premier nor the PCs anything more than an opposition party. It’s traditional for incoming governments to express shock at surprises on the books and use that an excuse to abandon campaign promises and make deep cuts, blaming their predecessors for same.

    You prefer to spend without considering the business case for doing so, which is your prerogative. What I’m suggesting is that the province, which alone is holding the purse strings, may be disinclined to just throw $1B at a municipality that demonstrates no conviction to long-term planning. Especially if the governing party has the word “conservative” in its name.

    At this rate, Ford is looking like the next Frank Miller, however, so this may all be moot.

    • jim graham

      April 7th, 2018

      you claim to be a transit advocate, yet you advocate-loud and long-for a $1B+ expenditure that does nothing for transit…..nothing. This damages your credibility….all by yourself.
      I don’t think you understand accrual accounting. You certainly do not understand transit.

      • Demi Tasse

        April 7th, 2018

        I support LRT. I accept that you do not.

        I also support true BRT, and look forward to its introduction across the mountain and suburbs. Again, I accept that you do not.

        I support public transit. I support the City holding to its Ten Year Local Transit Strategy. I believe that our road network should be engineered for the benefit of all users, so yes I also support bike lanes, pedestrian enhancements, mixed use communities, complete streets, and improved connectivity throughout the city as merited by ridership demand. I support enhanced GO train service, though I also accept that if ridership (inbound or outbound) does not merit all-day service immediately, that it will be a steeper mountain to climb.

        I also think that none of these things are possible without making and holding to long-term plans, particularly where projects have been financed. And so I advocate for the City to hold to the strategic transit priority it has pursued since around 2007 (crosstown rapid transit, specifically LRT, which was the only funding ask from MoveOntario 2020/Metrolinx), as well as taking practical steps to improve and expand existing conventional bus service.

        As to your final point, I most certainly do understand transit, on both a theoretical and a practical level. I take transit at least once a day, sometimes several times a day using different modes, and have done so for almost 30 years. I have met and spoken with transit strategists and planners and appreciate that there are practical hurdles and trade-offs for every proposal. I am well aware of system dynamics and deficiencies in a way that armchair critics and trucking lobbyists are not. I also follow politics closely enough to know that the only promises worth a damn are those that are baked into the budget.

        If you’re a fan of “accrual accounting” aka “deficit budgets” then you can have no quarrel with the province’s current fiscal state of affairs, and will have greater faith that the next government will continue to spend money that doesn’t really exist within the provincial economy, for projects whose value is entirely unclear and perhaps marginal to non-existent. You further imagine that the City will not face any obligations to unlock this historic level of funds, unlike every other government funding program at any level of funding that has ever existed (the 50/50 cost-sharing of the RHVP, for example, which was made possible by the last PC government). Again, your prerogative.

  3. Demi Tasse

    April 7th, 2018

    Jim Stanford, Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University, in the March 19 Globe & Mail:

    Mr. Ford says he’ll ditch Patrick Brown’s People’s Guarantee, which carefully costed out the first three years of Conservative budgets. Mr. Brown’s platform was surprisingly centrist: hoping to convince voters that a PC government would be moderate and caring. But as soon as Mr. Ford threw his hat in the ring, he started jettisoning key planks – starting with the proposed carbon tax (meant to raise $10-billion over those three years).

    Mr. Ford’s platform will have neither cap and trade nor a carbon tax. That throws climate policy into confused limbo, and leaves Ontario out of step with other jurisdictions (including neighbouring Manitoba, where a conservative government is using carbon revenue to cut income taxes). More troublesome for Mr. Ford is the $10-billion hole it leaves in the PC fiscal plan.

    Other planks of the People’s Guarantee will likely survive under Mr. Ford. For example, he spoke positively of the promise to save $6-billion over three years through unidentified efficiency gains. This fiscal trick has been tried by many campaigning politicians, but never works; implementing austerity on that scale is actually much harder than just finding “a few cents on the dollar.” Mr. Ford will move ahead with the private-sector energy cuts ($1.9-billion a year) implied by cancelling cap and trade. He will also maintain $10-billion in income and GST cuts promised in the People’s Guarantee – and possibly go further (like axing the foreign-buyer real estate tax).

    The People’s Guarantee pledged to balance the provincial budget by 2020, and then run a small surplus. With no carbon tax, and no concrete plan for “efficiency” savings, how will Mr. Ford square that same circle?

    Arithmetically, he has three options: increase taxes; tolerate a deficit; or cut spending. At door one, Mr. Ford could seek other sources of tax revenue. That’s a non-starter, given his rhetoric about long-suffering taxpayers. Door two is to tolerate deficits, converting lost carbon-tax revenue and the likely failure of the efficiency audit into higher debt. That also clashes painfully with Mr. Ford’s pledge to wrestle the debt to the ground.

    Almost certainly, Mr. Ford will choose door number three: still-deeper cuts in provincial spending. He needs $10-billion in cuts over three years to offset carbon tax revenue; $6-billion more to meet the efficiency target; and still more to pay for any additional tax cut promises. All that’s on top of $1.9-billion in annual spending cuts from cancelling cap and trade. All told, he will need to cut spending by close to $25-billion over three years – and around $10-billion in the third year alone. Cuts of this magnitude would significantly damage government services (all the more so given continual inflation and population growth).

    Ten billion dollars a year is a major chunk of purchasing power: more than 1 per cent of provincial GDP. We don’t know, of course, the precise composition of the cuts, but they would inevitably include a combination of direct staff and program delivery, income-support programs, and private-sector activity (including the cancelled cap-and-trade projects). And that’s just the direct first-order impact. Cuts this big would also spill into consumer spending and other forms of aggregate demand.

    Moreover, reducing provincial spending by more than 1 per cent of GDP cannot but have a parallel impact on provincial labour markets. It is reasonable to expect job losses (both direct with government, and indirect via private-sector actors also affected by the austerity) to total at least 1 per cent of Ontario employment: or around 75,000 lost jobs. That estimate is conservative: since government services are relatively labour-intensive, the final impact on employment would likely be proportionately greater than the impact on GDP. In 2014, then-PC leader Tim Hudak pledged to cut 100,000 jobs in a war on the deficit, and went down in flames. Let’s see if Mr. Ford’s tough love fares any better at the ballot box.

    • jim graham

      April 7th, 2018

      your an anonymous fraudster promoting poor design and atrocious value. Your prerogative.

      • Demi Tasse

        April 8th, 2018

        You have an unslakable thirst for character assassination, a fondness for I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I rhetorical flourishes, and a loose understanding of contractions (“you are” becomes “you’re”).

        And you keep moving the goal posts. At one point on another blog you (or some anonymous troll hijacking your name for LULZ, as you have done elsewhere with my own name) insisted that Hamilton should settle for nothing less than diamond-class LRT, and cursed any design that would require overhead cables rather than ground-level power supply. You suggest that more conventional buses operating in mixed traffic will have greater efficiency and on-time performance than those operating in dedicated lanes. Maybe you should articulate your perfect solution for crosstown rapid transit, ideally linked to sources and citations.

        If you feel that B-Line LRT, a project that has been studied, evaluated, chewed over and debated for 10 years is a lousy design, fair enough. But what do you imagine would come of an $1B shopping spree approach? Do you think that it will take less time, require less community input, or yield better results? I certainly do not. Rather, I imagine that your plug-and-play outcome would almost certainly become infamous for its poor design and atrocious value, a paragon of your much-hated “culture of low expectations”.

        Que sera sera. Ford may bake P3s into his $1B largesse, knowing that this poison pill allows him to keep his word while never having to deliver on the promise, and cutting a $1B spend. Win-win-win.

        • jim graham

          April 9th, 2018

          only an avowed transit advocate as yourself would grimace at the thought of hundreds of millions of dollars transforming HSR, D.A.R.T.S and safe cycling infrastructure in Hamilton…….initiatives that would galvanize Council with broad community support.
          Yeah, those overhead cables are quite ugly, I can understand why you would be in favor,…..why put lipstick on a pig, am I right?
          Your an anonymous putz making spurious claims, no one questions the fact you have an extremely vivid imagination,and no one else is trying to take credit for your silliness.
          Your frustration is understandable. Your disappointment will be my reward. Your “special”

  4. Demi Tasse

    April 9th, 2018

    I’m simply pointing out that your objection to LRT is an aesthetic one. I would prefer that ground-level power be used as well, but with the City determined to put forward no capital investment in the system, I also accept that the province’s obligation to consider such factors is limited.

    And although you contort yourself to believe the opposite out of confirmation bias, I simply mean as I say: “I support public transit. I support the City holding to its Ten Year Local Transit Strategy. I believe that our road network should be engineered for the benefit of all users, so yes I also support bike lanes, pedestrian enhancements, mixed use communities, complete streets, and improved connectivity throughout the city as merited by ridership demand.” I also remain unconvinced that any moves to reallocate lane capacity, reduce speed limits or introduce two-way traffic, which are inevitable components of the above, would “galvanize Council with broad community support.” Were that so, the two-way street conversion plan begun shortly after amalgamation would have been completed by now. The same could be said of HSR expansion: Suburban councillors have strenuously argued that the City must improve transit connections to the underserved suburbs, but once the bill comes, they call for service rollbacks and cuts. Ditto for the costly rehabilitation of an antiquated cost-intensive DARTS service. Or transformative complete streets projects.

    While I would welcome the notion of all of these valuable initiatives being fully-funded by the province, I place no weight on the impromptu soundbite riffing of a candidate who is hiding from media scrutiny. If the promise isn’t baked into a provincial budget, doesn’t even appear in a party platform, it’s just a publicity bid.

    And the reality is that $1B would not cover the tab for all of the above. So I will go still further, though I doubt you will choose to follow: I believe that the City has a moral obligation to substantially invest in multimodal transportation, allocating roads budgets and gas tax revenues accordingly and raising tax levies as necessary. Equally importantly, the City has a duty to implement its strategic plans rather than bumbling along in a status quo rut. Change is uncomfortable but necessary to ensuring that Hamilton evolves rather than regresses.

    Another note on provincial transit funding: You may want to familiarize yourself with the corrosive effect that PC policymakers had on public transit during their last majority government, when they gutted municipal transit funding (half of operating funding was once paid by the province), leading to steep declines in service levels. Also worthy of note is Ford’s history of half-baked transit funding math and planning without regard for transit-supportive ridership demand.

    As to my claims that you have sought to impersonate me, issuing foolish and juvenile comments under my name, readers can simply consult The Hamiltonian, where your obsession has blinded you to the fact that you are posting what you imagine to be anonymous comments under your own account name, signing my name to a load of ridiculous drivel (and still having difficulty with subject-verb contractions).

    Again, maybe you should articulate your perfect solution for crosstown rapid transit, ideally linked to sources and citations, so that you can avoid making spurious claims.

    Ultimately, however, it doesn’t really matter what I tell you, because you will probably continue to entertain paranoid fantasies about those whose world views do not perfectly align with your own fatalistic outlook and wailing whataboutism.

    • jim graham

      April 9th, 2018

      my objection’s to LRT are myriad, but you feel free to prattle on about poles…..or rape fantasies….whatever floats your boat.
      They are ugly. And with the cost of LRT at about 25% of the overall budget, I believe advocates such as yourself could have improved your likelihood at success had you insisted upon the best possible design for our City…..not whatever plans screws with traffic to your satisfaction.
      ” Let’s fix infrastructure…..that don’t require fixing…..that makes it a bargain.” Ascribing to the Merulla world view doesn’t help your credibility
      Your prerogative.
      You spew vitriol from an anonymous pulpit, lacking in courage and conviction. And you obviously make friends everywhere you go.
      Your really quite sad.


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