The Ministry of the Environment will have a few Hamilton citizen Light Rail Transit objections to mull over between now and early August. The Bay Observer has learned that Environmental lawyer John Tidball, of the Toronto firm Miller Thomson, in addition to filing a submission to the Ministry on behalf of a group of LRT opponents; has thrown the ball back into council’s court by asking them to voluntarily allow a re-examination of alternatives to LRT, like Bus Rapid Transit.

Under the current Environmental rules, transit projects are allowed a fast-track through the environmental assessment process. Transit projects typically use the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), which is essentially a self-directed examination where the proponent decides what the environmental impacts are and then tells the ministry how those impacts will be mitigated. One environmental expert described TPAP as a “non-Environmental assessment disguised as one.”

In a letter to council Tidball urges “ that the City undertake a full and complete environmental assessment of the LRT Project, rather than proceed (with) an incomplete and truncated self-assessment process that exempts transit projects from some of the most important elements of the EAA(Environmental Assessment Act).“ Council has the power under the rules to allow a study that, among other things, could look at BRT as a possible option. Concludes the letter, “Our clients believe that a real EA of the LRT Project would produce a fundamentally different assessment, especially in relation to social, economic and cultural matters.  They believe that such an assessment may well persuade Council that the disadvantages of the LRT Project to the environment far outweigh the advantages, and that another alternative is preferred.”

In his letter to the Ministry Tidball tackled some specifics of the current LRT plan, taking particular aim at the fact the B-Line will not connect directly to GO. Connectivity to regional rail has been frequently cited by Metrolinx as a critical goal of Rapid Transit. Tidball notes, “In order to make the connection from the LRT to the GO Train, transit users will have to walk outdoors along Hughson Street, which will increase their travel time by approximately 15 minutes and expose them to inclement weather.  It seems unlikely that (the pedestrian link) will do anything to encourage GO Transit riders to use the LRT to connect to the train.”

A second submission on behalf of a group of LRT opponents alleges early manipulation of the public consultation process and fudging of numbers; resulting in the early rejection of Bus Rapid Transit as an option. The submission describes a behind-the -scenes campaign by LRT supporters in the community, some members of council and city staff  that emerged in late 2007 and early 2008 that essentially pushed BRT off the table before most people, including most members of council were paying attention. The submission notes that on the strength of the comments provided at two public meetings in May 2008, by 151 people, mostly LRT advocates, staff declared “overwhelming public support” for LRT and successfully persuaded council by June 2008 to abandon further consideration of BRT without any technical or economic analysis. The submission alleges that subsequent public consultations were geared towards bolstering the LRT-only message by appealing to an audience likely to favour LRT and, hence, by 2009 the LRT narrative was set in stone. A later poll of 1600 respondents yielded a huge majority in favour of LRT, but of the respondents, only 25% were regular transit users—a fact omitted in a staff report to council but later revealed by a consultant tasked to review the city’s consultation process. The submission suggests the special LRT office that had been established during this period appeared to have a direct reporting relationship to Eisenberger. It describes a 2010 memo from the staff of the LRT office to Eisenberger in which senior city department heads and the city manager are not copied as is the normal practice. The memo advised that Metrolinx has done its own study and determined that BRT has a better return on investment than LRT but hopefully suggests LRT can be made to look better if factors like projected economic uplift are considered. Underlying the suggestion that not all members of council were fully in the loop, the staff memo to Eisenberger expresses concern that “we have been working on rapid transit with a number of parameters that have not yet been vetted through Council.” For its part, the citizen submission to the Ministry last month suggests that in fact, the Metrolinx report contained some errors in methodology and that without the errors, actually LRT would have fared much worse in the cost-benefit comparison. The submission concludes by pointing out that a BRT system coupled with the proposed BLAST bus network would leave between $400  and $500 Million available for the government to pursue other transit projects in the GTAH, including its number one goal of electrifying GO.

In addition to the two presentations, a number of LRT opponents are signing a letter being circulated by Stephen Parazader of Dundas, an Engineer who made a plea for a Rapid Transit system; “A bus service with frequent stops is vital and necessary in a City to get people closer to businesses, and other places but the proposed LRT in Hamilton would eliminate all buses on the route including more than 20 existing bus stops… quiet, pollution-free all-electric battery-operated buses would be better than the proposed LRT for Hamilton which could be provided at a tiny fraction of the huge cost of LRT and without the huge disruption etc. created by LRT, not only during construction but forever after.”

The Minister of Environment now has 35 days to decide whether to order further studies or allow the project to proceed. The current Minister Glen Murray, however, was an outspoken LRT champion when Minister of Transportation. In addition, Murray, who once indicated his interest in becoming Hamilton’s mayor, has history with Eisenberger and Terry Cooke, an LRT advocate. Cooke was chairman of the Canadian Urban Institute in 2010 when Glen Murray was CEO of that organization, and later after Murray left CUI to run for the legislature; the job of CEO went to Eisenberger following his defeat in the 2010 municipal election.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

20 Comments to: Pushing back against LRT

  1. jim graham

    July 12th, 2017

    Yay!

    Reply
    • Glen Carroll

      July 12th, 2017

      Booo!!

      Reply
  2. ali sarcosa

    July 12th, 2017

    Are these people idiots? No offense but it’s been made clear it’s either LRT or nothing for another decade plus. The Ontario government offered funding for LRT, not for us to pick and choose. If we dont take it we go back to the end of the line, whether there will be money by that time comes is even another question.

    Reply
  3. jim graham

    July 13th, 2017

    Peewee McGreal will be apoplectic, eat this orangemike

    Reply
  4. Brian blackburn

    July 13th, 2017

    Time to stop this lrt maddness

    Reply
  5. Ian Sim

    July 16th, 2017

    C.J. on transit.this exercise was to promote the plan for the L.R.T.even after this program was over.it eas the job of C.J. to promote to business along the route to buy into this project.The other real concern I have talked about is metrolinx itself.one cannot ignore the scandals and city council should at least consider who they are dealing with.selfserving .Its not hard to see that this should be a real concern with council.If ignored we will have other tim hortons field law suit down the road.

    Reply
  6. Demi

    July 17th, 2017

    “Tidball notes, “In order to make the connection from the LRT to the GO Train, transit users will have to walk outdoors along Hughson Street, which will increase their travel time by approximately 15 minutes and expose them to inclement weather.”

    Tidball determines that pedestrians move at 1.4 km/h and are able to cover a 350 m distance in a quarter-hour?

    Hope he’s getting paid in Sansabelts.

    Reply
  7. Demi

    July 17th, 2017

    “the proposed LRT in Hamilton would eliminate all buses on the route including more than 20 existing bus stops”

    Amalgamating King and Main B-Line stops into a single line doesn’t eliminate stops; it relocates them.

    Incidentally, if you live 4km from Flamboro Downs, in all likelihood, you pay none of your property taxes toward municipal transit. Every notice that it’s those who don’t use transit and don’t pay for transit are the ones most engaged in squashing investments in transit?

    Still, Hamilton is always free to buy electric buses rather than diesel or hybrid ones. They just cost twice as much. But once you dismantle area rating for transit, the sky’s the limit!

    Reply
  8. Demi

    July 17th, 2017

    “Council has the power under the rules to allow a study that, among other things, could look at BRT as a possible option.”

    So cars don’t have to give up two lanes to a $1B train system. They can lose them to a $250M bus system.

    https://youtu.be/UaXAd0FKkhY?t=3m45s

    Reply
  9. jim graham

    July 18th, 2017

    BRT would provide enhanced service over LRT, would not require years of disruptive construction, and saves approximately 750 million. It was the preferred choice of Metrolinx. But Fred, and shrill shill’s like Demi want LRT, so there you have it.

    Reply
    • Demi

      July 18th, 2017

      You’re not terribly familiar with the City’s rapid transit public consultations, the Metrolinx King-Main BCA, or the reality of BRT systems tendered under Metrolinx.

      Claim 1 (“BRT would provide enhanced service over LRT”) is entirely dependent upon operating headway. At the headways considered by Metrolinx in its 2010 BCA, BRT would require four times the service levels that currently exist. If you assume that this minimum service level is baked into the contract, then operating BRT would at least require a 400% expansion of the capital and operating budget of the 10 Express route, a large enough contingent of rolling stock that most if not all of the HSR’s fleet replacement resources would need to be be dedicated to that single route, as buses age out in 10 year cycles. That means locking in a long-term transit levy that council would be powerless to remove.

      Claim 2, that BRT “would not require years of disruptive construction”, is demonstrably false. In York Region, the 5km Davis Drive BRT corridor took almost 4 years to construct. It is expected that the 9km Yonge St. portion of the York Viva busway will take 4 years to construct. Full road reconstruction, construction of transit stations, etc. A 14km crosstown surface rapid transit route will cause roughly equal amounts of construction and disruption, regardless of mode preferred. This is Metrolinx’s working assumption in the King-Main BCA: “The construction period is assumed to be the same for all three options”.

      Claim 3, that BRT “saves approximately $750 million,” is speculative costing (e.g. the 9km Yonge St. BRT described above will cost $260 million to construct) but it also assumes that the MOA would operate along similar lines (i.e. that the province would pay 100% of capital costs), which might not turn out to be true. It’s certainly the case that the operating costs of BRT are significantly higher than those of LRT, and are borne entirely by local taxpayers. So “savings” are relative.

      Claim 4, that BRT “was the preferred choice of Metrolinx,” is false. Metrolinx draws no definitive conclusion in the King-Main BCA or any BCA. That’s not what they’re for. (“This type of standardized project analysis is not meant to be a replacement tool for decision-making, but rather a point of reference for decision-makers, providing an informed view of the project and possible alternatives.”) The Metrolinx King-Main BCA does note that all rapid transit modes return better than break-even ROI, but that LRT offers greater economic development impact, a dramatically better environmental effect (five to six times the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions), and superior transportation user benefits. Metrolinx, verbatim: “Overall, the results indicate that an investment in LRT in Hamilton will generate significant benefits and support the City’s broader objectives to revitalize, redevelop and reshape its most significant east-west corridor. While the lowest cost option, Option 1 [BRT], produces the highest benefit-cost ratio of 1.4, both LRT options generated benefit-cost ratios that are greater than 1.0. The highest cost option, Option 2 [LRT], also produced the greatest benefits in all accounts, all of which make an important contribution towards achieving the objectives and goals of both the City and the Province.”

      If you have a critical assessment or constructive solution based on facts rather than fantasy and fiction, please offer them up in the interests of improving transit in Hamilton. I haven’t seen anything like that from you yet, but I’ve never believed that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

      Reply
      • jim graham

        July 19th, 2017

        You are not terribly familiar with reality, period. The entire Metrolinx King-Main benefit case analysis is predicated on current conditions which do not exist…..and never will.
        Right?
        The entire premise is based on both King and Main already being converted to 2 way traffic. We all know that has not happened (well most of us) And it never will. And this ‘fantasy scenario” of yours is the only way you could manage to slow buses down enough so that LRT would be travelling at the same speed.
        LRT is slower than a bus.
        Claim 1, “if you assume, based on the BCA” I do not assume, the BCA is worthless.
        Claim2 , give them a lane, problem solved.
        Claim 3, $1B investment……minus $250M=??????
        Claim 4 , again you are forced to rely upon a badly flawed document to draw your conclusions. BRT produces the highest cost/benefit ratio of any solution considered. And that is what we want. Value.
        So sober up Demi, quit trying to defend your position with nonsense and misinformation and get on board.
        Talk again soon
        xo

        Reply
        • Demi

          July 19th, 2017

          So “the BCA is worthless” and “badly flawed” but also your only proof for claims of BRT’s superior ROI and cost/benefit ratio vs. all other modes of transit. Okay, then.

          Re: “the entire premise is based on both King and Main already being converted to 2 way traffic”

          False. The 2010 King-Main BCA considers the “potential… reconfiguring of King and Main Street into two-way arterials” (possible conversions identified by the City in studies and discussions dating back to amalgamation) but it considers the status quo as well.

          Page 6:

          “Finally, the results of the comparative analysis presented in this report are based on the assumption that the current one-way street system through the downtown core is converted to a two-way traffic system where both Main Street and King Street are converted to two-way streets. In the absence of this conversion, the incremental benefits generated by the introduction of a rapid transit system are greater than those presented in this report, reflecting the different trip characteristics under each scenario. The one-way system typically supports longer cross town trips rather than the shorter trips encouraged by the two-way streets. As a consequence, the travel time savings resulting from the introduction of rapid transit under a two-way street scenario are less significant than under a one-way scenario as individual trip patterns already reflect the shorter trip distances.”

          Again: “In the absence of this conversion, the incremental benefits generated by the introduction of a rapid transit system are greater than those presented in this report.”

          It’s encouraging that you no longer regard the concept of a crosstown transit-only lane as a “long-dead horse” but it remains to be said that signage and stencils are not rapid transit. The province has indicated that it already provides funding for conventional bus service through provincial gas tax revenues. There is no ROI on road paint, so there’s no reason for the province to fund such a proposal, especially in light of council’s bus lane shenanigans. $1B commitment minus $1B = $1B in savings.

          It is a little perplexing to see you insist elsewhere that Hamilton’s LRT is a failure because its implementation is less than world-class, while here you’re eager to accept a bus-based scenario that lacks any ambition whatsoever, solely because it will challenge the status quo as little as possible. If platinum-grade implementation is your goal, why not at least meet the BRT standards of our GTHA peers in Mississauga and York Region?

          Luckily, the cost of a crosstown bus lane is negligible enough that council doesn’t have to wait for Metrolinx funding to dedicate 28km of crosstown street to buses. The 2km pilot only cost $300K, so $4 million should get them started… and they can do so in the next budget cycle, just in time for the 2018 election.

          Reply
          • jim graham

            July 19th, 2017

            “finally the results of the comparative analysis presented in this report are based on the assumption that the current one way street system through the downtown core is converted to two way traffic system where both Main and King are converted to two way streets”
            The results are based on conditions which do not exist.
            And never will.
            Yet you use it as your go to reference manual.
            Check out http://www.thoughtco. bus vs. light rail. Lots of proof. It would be a bad day for all concerned if we were forced to rely upon Demi for factual information.
            Provide a citation for anytime/anywhere I have referenced LRT as “a failure” (pssst…..it isn’t built yet) Flawed? Check. Wasteful? Check. Premised upon hypothetical bad guesses? Check.

            While anonymous advocates continue to writhe, opposition continues to mount.
            See you in the funny papers.

          • Demi

            July 19th, 2017

            Metrolinx BRT precedents in the GTHA:

            • York Region’s 34km of segregated BRT busways becan construction in 2009 and are slated to be complete in 2020. The province contributed $1.4 billion and York Region is footing 16% of the total capital cost.

            • Construction on Mississauga’s 18km transitway began in Nov 2010 and is scheduled to be completed Fall 2017. $328 million of the project’s cost was borne by the City of Mississauga.

            If full BRT had been proposed by council and was funded by the province, I would be totally on board. If council was ready to go it alone or pay a sizeable share of capital costs toward enhancing the HSR’s trunk line, I would applaud the bold change in culture at City Hall. A system that dedicated 28 lane kilometers of road to BRT is a significant upgrade from the current reality. But that was not proposed for Metrolinx funding by council. Nor was it funded by the province. Nor has any BRT system been 100% funded by the province. Nor is a bus lane segregated by nothing more than diamond stencils the equivalent of BRT.

            Your assumptions are based on conditions which do not exist.

          • jim graham

            July 20th, 2017

            so the Queen of citations is unable to support her unfounded and scurrilous accusations.
            Rather than referencing a BCA predicated on fantasy, why don’t we prepare a BCA based on conditions as they actually exist-you know reality-and as they will present during actual implementation?
            Something real.
            Looks like our friend Mr. Tidball is going to give that a try.
            Bravo

          • Demi

            July 20th, 2017

            Reality: A Toronto lawyer getting paid handsomely by a Hamilton clothier doesn’t much care how quixotic or meaningless his assignment is, as long as his paycheques keep clearing.

            I don’t really know how one goes about preparing a BCA based upon future conditions without predictive modelling. If you want to speak definitively about conditions as they will present during actual implementation, you will want to withhold judgment for 7 more years so that you can generate the most accurate and informed analysis of the year 2024.

            There is nothing to stop the City from investing in more buses, and converting its 250-bus fleet from diesel and CNG and hybrid to 100% electric. Those buses are twice as expensive as the HSR’s conventional rolling stock but obviously hold appeal to many people, so in the interests of city-wide peace, council should just bite the bullet and restart the Ten Year Local Transit Strategy under an all-electric mandate. Double the tax levies and dismantle area rating and start to green the HSR. If you want BLAST bus lanes and a bus barn and more buses, that’s entirely doable. The provincial and federal gas tax revenues are there to support council’s policy choices.

            BRT is another matter entirely. In low-density, low ridership areas, it offers compelling benefits. In a high-density corridor such as Wards 1-5, it is twice as expensive to operate as LRT on a per-passenger/per-service kilometer basis, with significantly higher operating expense from fuel costs and additional vehicles to meet demand. The GTHA precedent suggests a BRT system would require capital buy-in from the municipality of anywhere from 15% to 30% (if the province opted to fund it at all, and there is no guarantee that it would). BRT would come with a requirement for an open bid process on the O&M contract, per provincial government procurement policies. BRT would require equivalent road widening and reconstruction, and expropriation (more so, as vehicles are not travelling on fixed tracks), would have the same number of stops and station nodes as LRT and would require the same road segregation and land dedication as LRT. It would also have limited benefit in terms of land use shaping, land value uplift, development potential and intensification, with corresponding drag on the municipal tax base.

          • jim graham

            July 21st, 2017

            “I don’t really know how one goes about preparing a BCA based upon future conditions without predictive modeling”
            Correct, you do not.
            Yet you persist, predicting what you believe is required, in order to support your myopic and fantasy fueled vision.
            Try preparing a BCA based upon existing conditions. See what incremental benefits-if any-“rapid transit” (that would include BRT!) has on existing conditions, which would include declining ridership.

            I waited just over 30 minutes yesterday for the Mohawk to take me up the Kenilworth Access.
            What will a $1B investment in transit do to improve service?
            Nada. Nothing. Zip.
            40 minutes.
            Your vision is impaired.

  10. Tom West

    July 18th, 2017

    The writer needs to learn about the differences between “full” EAs and TPAPs. Under a “full” EA, the proponent has to look at possible alternatives to the project (including doing nothing), select one, and then assess its environmental impacts and suitable mitigation measures. In a TPAP, the proponent can skip directly to the last stage. In both a TPAP and an EA, it’s a “self-directed examination where the proponent decides what the environmental impacts are and then tells the ministry how those impacts will be mitigated”.

    Also, if riders are exposed to “inclement” weather walking 350m from the stop to the GO station, then presumably they will also be exposed to inclement weather when they walk to their starting stop…

    Reply
  11. Demi

    July 20th, 2017

    Mr. Parazader’s vision of “rapid transit” is visible to us now: He wants the status quo service, just run on a different fuel source. He doesn’t want dedicated lanes, or signal priority, or fewer bus stops to increase service speed, or the loss of curbside parking, or a larger service/storage facility. Somehow his electric buses can operate all day long and only recharge during off-peak periods at lower hydro rates, an understandable preference given that electric buses can currently need to recharge every 30 miles, or two loops between McMaster and Eastgate.

    Reply

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