Monday, September 12, 2016
Let's Put the Brakes on LRT
When it comes to Hamiltons LRT there are two very different trains of thought. There are a few very vocal groups who seem to think they know what is good for all of us and think they speak for the masses. But there is a silent anger brewing for those who feel their voice has been ignored, who think this is some legacy project that caters to a few thousand, will cost a fortune and will radically change the landscape of city that is just now coming into its own.
No one is against good sensible transportation, but when it serves only a few, one has to ask , is this what Hamilton really needs? More growth is happening on the city's mountain, and yet they have virtually been shut out of this debate.
In a time when technology and ride shares, like Uber and autonamous vehicles have expanded transportation around the world, that will virtually change the way we move around, does it make sense to spend a billion dollars on a system that is already outdated?
In urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver density and population demand high speed track service. 1.8 million riders are moved in Toronto every day. Hamilton simply doesn’t have that ridership to successfully sustain an LRT profitably.
"It will be great for area businesses proponents argue." Nonsense. The proposed route reveals stops don’t even go near existing businesses, eliminating over 34 bus stops from the main bus route , as well as the other buses that travel the route.. And of course we are assuming those businesses will survive the many years long construction. In Toronto, the St Clair track construction lasted 5 years. Many years longer than scheduled, marred by unforeseen infrastructure issues and cost over runs that went 40 million over the initial 60 million dollar budget.
Customers avoiding traffic jams disappeared and hundreds of businesses were shuttered. Today businesses along St Clair track face a repeat of interrupted business as the tracks are torn up again because of mistakes made during that original construction.
Along Eglinton, construction of new subway tracks has been going on for more than 2 years. Traffic is snarled 24 hours a day. Businesses are being decimated. That project is also delayed and nowhere near finished, and already it too is over budget. For 6 months residents put up with the constant drum of jack hammers and the hum of boring machines. Traffic in the area is terrible. Motorists and heavy construction vehicles anxious to avoid it have turned once quiet residential streets into busy thorough fares. Lawn signs warning of children at play are everywhere. This is a reality facing Hamiltonians.
Need more proof of Metrolinx’s failures? The UP express, a link from Union Station to Pearson Airport, a must have built for the Pan American games has been rife with problems. It doesn’t serve anywhere near the 2.5 million people that it was intended to service. Daily ridership is actually less than current daily ridership of the HSR B-line bus which is the reason it costs so much and loses money.Trains sit empty and prices are simply too high. For $ 12.00 one way ,taxis and Uber are the better way to go. Already Ontario tax payers are out of pocket half a billion dollars for the ill thought project. And its now you, the tax payer who are subsidizing it to the tune of 20 million a yr. Requests for the Ombudsman to review what went wrong have been shuttered. An investigation by the Toronto Sun revealed Metrolinx, the government agency responsible for building Hamilton's LRT, revealed through leaked emails that they told the transportation minister a review was “unwelcome”. How does an agency with a spotty record of incompetence since 2006, that has been the subject of several auditors reports showing a record of being late, and running over budget avoid such scrutiny?
In a recent radio interview Sam Merulla, a proponent of the LRT, was asked what due diligence the city has taken to avoid a repeat of such mistakes with Metrolinx. His response; “he trusts Kathleen Wynne and Metrolinx to do the job right”.. Really? What an incredulous statement given the failed track records of both. It makes one wonder how Hamilton City council can go ahead with something so expensive without a thorough investigation into previous mistakes that will cost the tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars for years to come.
Last week expropriation notices went out to 45 Hamilton land and business owners who will be told the government is taking their land for track construction. Up to 250 letters will go out in total. Owners should be paid market value for their land, but that is still to be determined. Some will welcome the purchase , others won’t. For them it’s tough luck. As stated by LRT proponents it is “short term pain for long term gain”. Expropriation is almost impossible to fight unless of course you have more money than the government.
My family owns Gilbert's Big and Tall which has been part of Hamilton's landscape for 63 yrs . To date it is uncertain as to what will happen with respect to expropriation but our concern is how will the many years of construction affect our business which is our livelihood? And while some derelict properties wont be missed, there will be historical landmarks that will be demolished that will forever change this city. Are Hamiltonians ok with the wrecking ball taking that kind of History from our city?
Everyone wants good transit. Growing cities need it, Hamilton is no exception. But simple, logical questions must be answered before city streets are dug up and traffic and local business disrupted. Have city officials reviewed Metrolinx projects to assure past mistakes aren’t repeated? Have provisions been put in place guaranteeing tax payers wont be on the hook for late construction. A third party will own and operate the LRT system while Metrolinx will receive the revenue .
Will city officials be sourcing LRT cars from Bombardier which has a terrible track record? They are now 2 years late delivering Toronto 204 street cars, and 50 million over budget. Is this the company Hamilton Council plans to get LRT cars from? Have contracts been written with clauses protecting tax payers if delivery of product is late? As well as project cost overruns?
Have officials factored in traffic impact, not just to main thruways able to deal with construction vehicles and increased traffic, but to small communities along the LRT Route that will be flooded with motorists trying to make up for lost time? Already changes along the arterial routes such as Herkimer, Charlton and Cannon streets have become limited due to bike lanes and parking, what will happen when more traffic is diverted onto them?
But the real question is whether the $ 1 billion should be used for an LRT which is already an antiquated system that will need continuous repair , upkeep and maintenance where costs will fall on the shoulders of all the Hamilton tax payers even though the LRT will service a small portion of the population. Or should we consider implementing newer more progressive technology such as BRT or autonomous vehicles? Can Hamiltonians accept seeing local businesses struggle or shuttered, buildings and landmarks demolished? Does Hamilton really need this, or is this simply a legacy project for a few politicians anxious for a ribbon to cut and a photograph to hang on their wall? Who will ultimately be accountable for this project if it proves to be a mistake?
If you would like to contact the No Hamilton LRT Group, you can do by accessing one or more of the following:
Web Site: www.NOHAMILTONLRT.WIX.COM/MYSITE
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