When you read a technical report that was prepared by Metrolinx into Hamilton’s higher-order transit options you get the impression the agency was trying to send a message, The report, which was completed last November but not released until this year was an evaluation of three options recommended by the Tony Valeri task force in the wake of the December 2019 cancellation of LRT. The task force recommended equal weight be given to two options– one billion dollars worth of LRT, or a BRT option that would serve both the upper and lower city. Even though the evaluation was of vital interest to Hamilton council and residents, it was not formally presented to council. Instead it was linked as an attachment to a news release announcing that Ontario was going to ask the feds for LRT money. When Metrolinx prepared the report it was at a time when they believed the government actually cared what the transit agency thought about Hamilton transit. That was before intense lobbying had done its work and the outcome had become purely political with no regard whatever for the actual transit needs of the community.
The report shows evidence that somebody had done some serious thinking about what would work in Hamilton. It deviated from any previous transit reports by suggesting both Main and King Streets be used to get through the city core–eliminating the mess that LRT would have made of King Street between Wellington and downtown. It would have used a mix of busways, dedicated BRT lanes and traffic signal priority to maintain speed. Better yet it would enable the B line to start at the University Plaza in Dundas, instead of McMaster, and its eastern terminus would be the Centennial GO station, beyond Eastgate Square which would also be served.
For the Billion dollars there would be enough money to Build a BRT A-Line connecting the Waterfront with the Airport, thus providing high speed transit to the Airport job lands. The James Street Mountain Road would become transit-only. The A line would also link to an express shuttle bus that would take people to Limeridge Mall via the LINC. Compare all this to a fixed-rail LRT running from McMaster to somewhere around Gage Park depending on when the money runs out. The province has asked the feds for more money without having a clue what the final price tag will be.
Normally such a scheme would be laughed out of Treasury Board. But we are headed to a federal election, whenever conditions permit, and governments make all kinds of wild promises just before writs are dropped. Councillor Brad Clark has taken a positive step by telling MTO that Hamilton councillors are interested in looking at BRT. Hopefully others will follow suit, and quickly. They have every right to write senior governments and express their views as citizens and community leaders. They require nobody’s permission. It is important that both governments understand as quickly as possible that LRT is by no means a foregone conclusion in the minds of councillors, indeed that there is significant concern that LRT has somehow been slipped past them when much better options are now available. Residents are urged to read the report and then contact their councillor, their MPP and their MP.