Hamilton City Council has hit on a solution to the urban boundary expansion question that may well have application elsewhere. Councillors have voted to send out a questionnaire to every household in the city seeking the public’s views on the thorny issue of whether the city needs to expand its boundaries to permit the city to absorb an additional 236,000 people by 2051. Mayor Eisenberger is quoted as saying it’s a good idea.
Why couldn’t we do the same thing with LRT? In the case of the urban boundary issue, the complaint was that only 266 people responded in an on-line survey. In the case of LRT it was only 151 people who decided we should remove bus rapid transit from further consideration in favour of LRT. We’ve been operating under that scenario for more than ten years.
It will be important that council be in charge of the wording of such a questionnaire. The public will need to have a sense of what the ongoing operating and maintenance costs will be, and whether the city will need to absorb any debt for the construction of the system. The questionnaire should provide an edge-to-edge comparison of the two visions: a truncated LRT running from McMaster to Gage Park along a route already well-served by a network of express and local buses; or a Bus Rapid transit network running east-west from Dundas to the Centennial GO station and from the Harbour to the airport, plus the BLAST system serving every ward in the city. In other words, a 15-ward transit solution that can be achieved within the $1 Billion funding on offer, or a three-ward transit system that will requite Billions more in funding and could involve a Hamilton contribution.
The results of such a survey will help Premier Doug Ford, who has been getting a mostly one-sided version of events from LRT supporters, in deciding the best use of his generous offer to allow Hamilton to utilize a billion dollars for transit. The survey must be conducted soon, before a federal writ is dropped and all kinds of crazy promises are made by the federal government seeking re-election.
Those who wish to, can make their views known to their local councillor whose email and telephone contact information can be found here.