One of the challenges the average Hamiltonian faces in trying to sort out the LRT question is the explosion of facts and figures being cited to support opposing positions.

In a recent article, Raise the Hammer’s Ryan McGreal –an LRT supporter writes:

By attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in new dense, urban, mixed-use developments along the transit corridor, LRT helps us achieve the goal of raising the density of uses on our existing infrastructure – and generating more money to help pay for it.

Writing in a similar vein, the Hamilton Spectator’s Paul Berton wrote:

…LRT is not just about transit; it is about economic development. LRT has the ability to transform the Hamilton economy. We know from the experience in other cities that it will spur development along the route, create its own environment of investment, and that these businesses will pay taxes.

We went to Metrolinx’s Hamilton Main-King Benefits Case February 2010 to see what the transit agency itself had to say about potential development along the LRT route. The benefits cited by Metrolinx are over a 30-year period (2009-2038). Referring to Option 2–the full implementation of LRT along the “B” Line route from Eastgate to McMaster– Metrolinx reports:

the full LRT option will create a larger overall impact area than the BRT option and therefore implies that more land value uplift benefits will accrue to the project. Within the area impacted under this option, the average uplift is between 1.5% and 3.2% It is estimated that the potential uplift in assessment value as a result of this Option may result in between $50 million to $144 million.

 Given that Hamilton’s commercial tax rate is about 3.4 percent of assessed value, $144 Million would produce about $5 Million per year in incremental tax revenue. Metrolinx makes no assumptions about potential new development, possibly because much of the route is already fully developed as largely commercial assessment with some medium density high rise between the Queenston Traffic circle and Eastgate. There is no compelling reason for existing property owners along the route to demolish and build new, although undoubtedly there is some potential for redevelopment of the most distressed section of King Street from Gage Avenue to Victoria Street. But to try to assign a value or a timetable to such redevelopment would be speculative, and has to be weighed against an investment of approximately $800 Million with an annual carrying cost of between $30 and $40 Million per year.


John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

4 Comments to: What Metrolinx says about LRT in Hamilton

  1. Paul

    March 1st, 2014

    In the various (US) cities from which the data was taken supposedly indicating a dramatic increase in economic activity as the result of the installation and operation of LRT, that was just one component of some type of urban or suburban renewal. The notion in Hamilton is, “If you build it, they will come.” What’s more, in those other jurisdictions, the private sector ponied up some of the cash. Americans are pretty good at getting these public-private partnerships off the ground, rather than the Canadian idea of spending a ridiculous amount of taxpayers’ money on something, and then hoping the private sector will respond. Figure it out. Streetcars (the kind of LRT they’re talking about for Hamilton) are basically just electric busses that run on tracks. That, in and of itself, cannot create the kind of durable increase in economic activity that proponents are predicting.

    • Lar

      March 3rd, 2014

      You are wrong on several points. First, “the kind of LRT they’re talking about for Hamilton” is NOT streetcars. It’s modern LRT with level loading, electric power, etc.

      Second, we ARE seeing “some type of urban renewal”, and higher order transit is one part of a plan to nurture that. This is NOT a single magic bullet theory as you imply, it’s part of a much bigger picture – and it’s necessary (but not sufficient). It won’t cause renewal alone, but without it renewal won’t reach its potential.

      (side note to admins – the facebook widget in the sidebar interrupts comment typing when it reloads every 30 seconds)

      • Paul

        March 15th, 2014

        Call it what you want, Lar, but if something looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, guess what it probably is?

        • Ted

          March 17th, 2014

          A goose being cleverly misconstrued as a duck?

          Can you point to these cases of the private sector coming out and paying for d̶u̶c̶k̶s LRT, Paul?


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