Sunday, August 28, 2016

Santo Barbieri- On LRT & The Little Engine That Must: The Case for LRT in Hamilton

I recently read Ryan McGreal's article "The Little Engine That Must: The Case for LRT in Hamilton" in Urbanicity magazine and there were a few ideas I wish McGreal would develop. He writes, "Despite attempts to address service deficiencies, the current system is still over capacity with crammed buses and frequent "pass-bys". This sounds like an opinion instead of a fact. If he provided real numbers to support this statement from a reliable source I might consider believing him. I rarely see crammed buses in Hamilton. Maybe he needs a lot more personal space than I do. I have been on subways in New York, Paris, Toronto, Buenos Aires and other large cities at rush hour and crammed is an accurate description. I have never been on a crammed bus in Hamilton.

He also writes, "According to a calculation by Chris Higgins, ….. Hamilton's LRT route would have the sixth highest transit ridership in North America on a passenger-per-kilometre basis on opening day!" What about all the other days once the novelty goes away? Will opening day be free? How many LRT systems are there in North America? If the answer is seven, sixth place isn't great. If the answer is thirty, sixth place is good. I tried to find the answer to that question on the internet and the list I found included street cars like those in Toronto and San Francisco. The list had about thirty cities and most of them much larger than Hamilton. I am curious to know how calculations and

Friday, August 26, 2016

Media Release: City Buys Eastmount Park School

City Buys Eastmount Park School

Ward 7 Hamilton Councillor Donna Skelly is pleased to announce that the City has completed its acquisition of Eastmount Park Elementary School from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The $1,025,000.00 sale was made possible by a contribution from the Ward 7 area rating fund.

Future plans for the property will now enter the consultation phase. “Ideally, I’d like to see the building preserved for community use” says Councillor Skelly, “But the goal would be to make it self-sustaining, without relying entirely on taxpayers’ dollars for its operation.”

Councillor Skelly would also like to extend her sincere thanks to Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson, who spearheaded the effort to purchase the school prior to her by-election win in March.

Eastmount Park Elementary School was built in the 1960s, and closed in June 2015, because of declining enrollment. The 29,138 square-foot school building sits on just under 0.7 hectares of property fronting onto East 26th street, and is surrounded by Eastmount Park.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shared Services Policing- The Hamiltonian's View

A letter dated July 22, 2016 was sent from Bob Gale, Board Chair of the Regional Municipality of Niagara's Police Services Board to Clr. Ferguson, Hamilton's Chair of the Police Services Board.(click here to read it)

In that letter, citing the continued financial pressures put on police services, Gale suggests that it may be wise to enter into a shared services agreement between the Niagara and Hamilton Police Services.

Shared services arrangements are ordinarily entered into to achieve economies of scale and other efficiencies. Such arrangements have been known to range from being very successful to disappointing. In theory, the notion of capitalizing on economies that can be had by sharing services, is a sound one. In practice, such arrangements vary in their success.

The Hamiltonian believes that Gale's suggestion is worthy of consideration. However, rather than enter into an agreement holus bolus, the Hamilton Police Services Board may be wise to pilot the idea by carving out a sub set of areas to focus on. Based on the success or failure of such a pilot, the decision to expand the arrangement or not, would be best informed by outcomes had in the pilot.

The Hamiltonian

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Portland Perspective- On LRT

The Hamiltonian reached out to our friends at Tri-Met, the agency that runs Portland's LRT lines to seek their insights and observations with respect to implementing LRT. As they have a vast amount of experience in implementing LRT, and as their system has been operational for a long time and continues to mature, we thought we'd check in with them. Enjoy our chat with David Unsworch, Director of Project Development and Permitting and Mary Fetsch, Chief Media Relations Officer.
(please note- the text is a transcript of a phone interview. Thus, please allow for truncated sentences. The transcript is verbatim and is not intended to be grammatically correct throughout, but reflects conversational tone.) 

We've always heard that Portland is far ahead with LRT, in terms of understanding the technology and implementing it, and so what we really want to get at, is, what are the experiences you've had in terms of making it work, and has LRT met your expectations. More specifically, if you folks had any targets that you set, in terms of ridership, or profit, or whatever the indicators you might have set at the onset to determine has been successful; we're interested in understanding whether you met those targets and how did you measure the implementation's outcomes. 

We have over 60 miles or light rail. We have a region that is growing and has grown around light rail,

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mapping the Route

Special thanks to David Derybyshire,Corridor Engagement Coordinator Light Rail Transit | Transit Division | Public Works, for providing a copy of a publication that the city is handing out to those closely affected by the LRT route. Click here to have your copy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Phoney War?

In today's Spec, columnist Andrew Dreschel characterizes the varying opinions about LRT, a "phoney war". (click here to see it, or buy today's print copy)   It appears that Dreschel bases this on his observation that the overt critics of the LRT design on council, which are identified as Clrs. Collins, Skelly and Whitehead, have not yet determined what they will do about their concerns. Thus, the lull equates to a "phoney war".

While we have tremendous respect for Mr. Dreschel and our friends at The Spec, and many times find ourselves in agreement, we don't see things the same way on this one.

To his credit, Dreschel summarizes what Clrs. Collins, Skelly and Whitehead are anticipating prior to them making a determination as to what form their concerns will take. And when you read that summary,  the take away seems to be that there are sound reasons why the councillors would elect to hold their next moves at this point. 

Dreschel's article is dead on, except for the phoney war label. With the stakes this high, words and actions have to be measured. Throwing grenades over the wall to see what might happen, is ordinarily not a good idea. 

The Hamiltonian

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Media Release: Search begins for the annual Christmas Tree of Hope (CHML)


Search begins for the annual Christmas Tree of Hope (CHML)

HAMILTON, ON – August 15, 2016 –While we enjoy the last few weeks of summer, Hamilton’s Public Works Department is already starting to hunt for the perfect tree to be the centrepiece of Downtown Hamilton’s festive decorations for the upcoming Christmas season.

The City is asking residents to consider donating the perfect tree, which must be at least 40 feet (12 metres) tall, in the front yard, accessible from the street and clear of overhead wires. The tree would be cut and transported at no cost to the owner. If you have a large Colorado spruce tree in excellent condition in your front yard that you think is this year’s winner, please call 905-546-2424, extension 4392.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - The Top Ten New Restaurants in Canada?

The Top Ten New Restaurants in Canada?

Sadly the top ten new restaurants in Canada, as defined by EnRoute Magazine, won’t include any from the swath of the Golden Horseshoe, from Mississauga through Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton to St Catharines. The last time a “local” restaurant cracked that list was in 2010 when Quatrefoil in Dundas was deemed worthy. (I’ll suggest some possible reasons for why that might be in a moment.)

The good news is two excellent restaurants, Backhouse in Niagara on the Lake, and The Berlin, in Kitchener, both within relatively easy reach of Hamilton, stand a very good chance of making the list. Your online vote for them, or 34 other candidates for the top 10, might also be rewarded with a trip for two to a nominated restaurant of your choice, plus some spending money.

Interestingly both spots have something in common apart from great chefs and a focus on local, seasonal food: It’s a whomping great adjustable woodfire grill on which many of their dishes are cooked. I’ve eaten several times at both spots and they’re worth the detour, and worthy of your vote. In fact I reviewed The Berlin for the Waterloo Region Record and it attained the highest fork rating I’ve awarded to date.

En Route’s annual list is hotly awaited by foodies across Canada: always a pleasure to read, it is not

Friday, August 5, 2016

Media Release-HSR Fares to Increase September 1, 2016

HSR Fares to Increase September 1, 2016

Hamilton, ON – August 5, 2016 – A modest fare increase was approved as part of the 10-Year Local Transit Strategy and is scheduled for September 1, 2016. Adult tickets will increase by $0.15 to $2.30 per ride. Student tickets will increase by $0.10 to $1.90 per ride. Cash fare will increase by $0.25 to $3.00 per ride.

The fare increase will support the HSR in improving service, helping transit run faster and more reliably, preparing for population growth and an increase in ridership, and improving the customer service experience.
Fare Increases Effective September 1, 2016

Student* Elementary/Secondary
Senior (65+)
Single Ticket / PRESTO**
Monthly Pass
Annual Pass
Cash Fare
Day Pass
 $13.80 – Valid for two adults and four youth/children, or one adult and five youth/children. Valid on all routes from start of service to end of service on one day. Available at select vendors.

Student – A person between the ages of five and 19 who attends an elementary or secondary school in the City of Hamilton. All secondary students must present their HSR photo ID when using a student fare.
**PRESTO is available for purchase at the following locations
Current 2015/2016 HSR tickets will be accepted in the fare box until September 30, 2016, if accompanied by the appropriate cash for the difference in fare.

Passengers can visit the HSR Customer Service Office at 36 Hunter Street East beginning August 25, 2016 to exchange 2015/2016 tickets for new 2016/2017 tickets, with the appropriate cash for the difference in fare.

With Trevor Horzelenberg- on Modeling Impacts of LRT on Traffic

The following is a Q/A we had with Trevor Horzelenberg,  Manager, Light Rail Transit. Our questions concern  traffic modeling software that is being employed to predict the impacts of LRT on traffic flow/congestion. Here is our Q/A:

In an article in The Hamiltonian Spectator, you stated that the traffic modeling related to LRT is at a preliminary and high level stage and that it will become more informed as time passes and variables are injected. That being the case, in its current state, how reliable would you estimate it is?

Can you provide a copy of the modeling report that your comments were based on.

We are updating Council now on the approach we’re taking to project any traffic impacts that could be associated with implementing LRT. This is a preliminary report and more detailed information will be presented to Council when the ongoing studies are complete. All of the information referenced in the preliminary report is reliable.

When the studies are complete we will be working closely with City of Hamilton Traffic staff to develop solutions for any traffic issues that are identified. For example, there may be opportunities to change signal timing, restrict turning movements or add dedicated left turn lanes at some intersections.

The report can be found at the link below. It is agenda item 7.2.


Should you have any further questions and/or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks Trevor for the information. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Episode 9 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns, "the one with the extra $200 million", we find Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead releasing a web site  in support of his conclusion that LRT in Hamilton requires an additional injection of 200 million over 10 years, if it is to have a chance of succeeding. The implication being, that an alternative model may need to be considered.

Whitehead's conclusions, which include some references to the work of Dr. Chris Higgins, causes Higgins to react, taking to twitter and releasing a critique, which apparently was initially meant for Howard Rabb, who assisted Clr. Whitehead.  Some deemed Higgins' tweet to be timely, commending him for his assertions around Whitehead's references in his materials, while others alleged that Higgins' tweet was in poor form. Higgins himself expressed frustration at his reports not being fully read or understood by some. 

In the mix, Ryan McGreal, a known LRT advocate issues a media release claiming that it's full stream ahead for LRT in Hamilton after the provincial conservative leadership pledged that it would honour the 1 Billion dollar investment, should they take power. 

Meanwhile Mayor Eisenberger took issue with Clr. Whitehead's work, claiming the Clr. was asking questions he already knew the answers to, or otherwise knew that  answers would be forthcoming, and was mis-apprehending the complexity of the issue. The Mayor ignored Member of Parliament Bob Bratina's comments via The Hamiltonian, that the province would be better off expediting construction of a Stoney Creek GO station and implement all-day service.

The mayor cited having received 1202 letters/calls/emails supportive of LRT, while receiving 55 in opposition. However, with approximately 366,000 eligible voters registered in the last municipal election, the quantum cited may serve as an inkling.

Has Clr. Whitehead hit a nerve or two, or is the Mayor's assertions in this regard correct? Will Whitehead back down or is the Clr. just getting started?  What do some of the other councillors who are not firmly in the LRT corner, think of Whitehead's work? Will the Mayor continue to ignore advice from M.P. Bratina ? Is LRT poised to transform our city and bring it into modernity, or will it be a white elephant that will plague us and future generations. 

All this and more as As Hamilton Twists and Turns continues....

Fade out with images of Whitehead with his arms crossed, looking confidently into the camera, Eisenberger at a podium making a point with gusto, Bob Bratina on The Hamiltonian reading the discourse with smirk on his face, and Clr. Donna Skelly reading a report with a troubled look on hers. 

Pic of the Moment

A view from Fruitland Rd. as fire breaks out at what appears to be an industrial area. Firetrucks were responding when this photo was shot.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mayor Eisenberger Responds to Clr. Whitehead's Work

1. Mr. Mayor:  Recently Councillor Terry Whitehead published information he has gathered with respect to LRT. This material appears to raise some serious doubts around whether LRT can succeed in Hamilton, as it is currently envisioned without a further significant injection of funds. Clr. Whitehead’s work came under fire in certain circles within social media, and has also earned the ire of some councillors who are known to be pro LRT supporters, as well as a researcher. Recently, Member of Parliament Bob Bratina also weighed in on The Hamiltonian, suggesting that the Province would be wiser to expedite construction of a Stoney Creek GO station and implement all-day serviced. M.P. Bratina suggested that according to experts "Heavy rail is thought to provide the largest capitalization of accessibility benefits into property values followed by commuter rail. Light rail is third.

Given that Clr. Whitehead and M.P. Bratina’s input are but two examples of sitting politicians who may have a different take on the appropriateness of LRT in Hamilton, how will you, as mayor, ensure that there is room for these conversations and that elected representatives are not simply cast aside as obstructionists or contrarians. Or, of you of the belief that the window for such debate is over and that people need to resign themselves accordingly.

2. Have you studied the material that Clr. Whitehead has brought forward. If so, what is your reaction to it. If not, why not?

Mayor Eisenberger's reponse:

Councillor Whitehead's report advanced a point of view and I receive it in that manner. It does not represent however a balanced representation of the facts, nor an understanding of the full scope of the project. Rather, disingenuously the Councillor poses questions to which he already knows the answers or is aware will be forthcoming in Staff reports.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that the project is a $1-billion fully-funded initiative by the Province of Ontario. LRT will serve as a catalyst for economic uplift along the corridor and to spur development throughout Hamilton, advancing the redevelopment already realized in so many neighbourhoods. The LRT spur line connecting to the West Harbour GO station will provide stronger links to the GTHA and support regional prosperity. Connectivity is supported at the Provincial government level, through the Metrolinx support for West Harbour GO station and planning the Centennial GO station in Stoney Creek, with bridge changes now complete, and construction set to begin in 2017 as a link to later reach Niagara.

Overall, this is 1.2 Billion dollar investment in our entire transit system. $200 million for GO - with $150 million to address the in-line capacity issue from Aldershot and $50 Million for the Centennial Parkway Station.

The LRT initiative is a starting point that will mean growth for our entire transit system city-wide. Will more funding be needed to maintain the LRT line and expand the train network across Hamilton? Absolutely. On July 26, the LRT implementation subcommittee voted to re-affirm the City’s commitment and work to secure additional funding to build the balance of Hamilton’s BLAST network; part of Hamilton’s transportation master plan and the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Master Plan.

Trepidation around a project of this magnitude is normal, we are committing to transformational change for future generations; planning today for tomorrow. This is an opportunity for us to plan a transit system now to avoid future congestion issues and managing smart growth.

We have the political will and support required to move the project forward. We have an outpouring of community support; my office has received 1,202 letters, calls and emails in favour of LRT, while only 55 have been received in opposition to LRT. We demanded a fully funded solution for LRT, and that has been delivered. We are moving ahead in earnest, continuing to build a world class city worthy of our collective pride.

Thanks Mayor Eisenberger for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian.