Thursday, March 9, 2017

Perspectives Virtual Panel- On LRT

As efforts related to LRT implementation continue, short of a final approval, The Hamiltonian thought it timely to check in with our Perspectives Virtual Panel on LRT. Enjoy our Q/A with the panel:

As Hamilton continues on the path of developing and implementing LRT, short of a final approval, more and more information is coming to light in terms of the associated risks and benefits.

On the risk side however, the requirement for a healthy critical mass of people who use transit, is signaling trouble ahead. Combined with HSR rates and the challenges associated with ridership, some

might think this may warrant a reconsideration as to whether the timing is right for LRT.

Recently, a councilor signaled an intent to query Metrolinx as to how much it would costs if the city elected to abandon the plan. Assuming for the moment that such a motion is simply a prudent question to ask at this stage, do you believe it goes beyond that?

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the Hamilton is ready for LRT and its success is all but assured, 1 being that we are not ready and this is an ill fated initiative.) How would you score this at this point in time? Please explain your answer.

9 as to the project itself
2 as to the Council
Herman Turkstra

High levels of skepticism about true long term financial exposure for the City against to demonstrate true need in a city with very little traffic congestion.

Brian Kelly

Every great human endeavour involves some measure of risk, because we know that without risk there is no reward. The greater the endeavour and the higher the stakes, the more likely the project will attract naysayers, doom-and-gloomers, critics, and pundits of every size and persuasion. Their refrain is always the same: the risk is too high, failure is certain, there are too many unanswered questions. And yet, somehow, despite these naysayers, the great project of human civilization continues, for one very simple reason: when human beings come together in a spirit of optimism, positivity, collaboration, diligence and hard work, the impossible becomes reality.

There is no better example of this than JFK's address to Congress on May 25, 1961, when he said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

I can imagine what the outcome of that challenge would have been if Councillors Donna Skelly and Terry Whitehead had been responsible for advising the president on how to proceed with his goal: fear, uncertainty, doubt, and eventual failure. Surely no project was riskier. The critics were legion. And yet, it was a success and stands out as perhaps the greatest technological achievement of all time.

LRT in Hamilton is not a moon shot. Far from being highly risky, unknown territory, this is really a rather mundane, run-of-the-mill transportation project. Many cities in the world execute projects like this on a regular basis. Put another way, it isn't rocket science. And yet, it still requires that we come together, as one city, in order to make it successful.

To answer your specific question, on a scale of 1 to 10, if the City's leadership puts aside its differences and commits to making this project a success, given that it has already committed to building the project, then its success is assured: I award it a 10. On the other hand, if we give in to the divisiveness, fear-mongering and naysaying that has become the latest political fad, then we may succeed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Adrian Duyzer

Every large, transformative project has risks and uncertainties, and it is by definition impossible to know the answer to every question before completing the process of finalizing the design and implementing the project. The answers have been coming steadily as Metrolinx and the City have proceeded with implementation, and we will continue to get more answers as we move forward. 

The LRT project has been studied and planned extensively by the City, Metrolinx and third party academic researchers over the past decade, and it is universally recognized as an excellent candidate for success - if it is implemented properly.

The question for our leaders in Council is whether to stand behind their own long-standing support for this project (before it had full capital funding) and focus on maximizing the potential for success by making supportive policy decisions; or else resort to obstructing, undermining and sabotaging the project in order to pander to the pessimism and civic self-loathing of those squelchers and naysayers who oppose any investment in improving the city.

It is still an open question whether this City Council will decide to exercise the leadership required to ensure success, including both supporting the LRT plan itself and also supporting a broader transportation plan that supports urban revitalization and feeds into the LRT network.

We should not be surprised that transit ridership is stagnant, given decades of under-funding, recent dramatic fare increases without significant service expansion, and an area-rated transit funding system
(the only such system in Ontario) that balkanizes service levels across the city. These are challenges that Council can easily fix with vision and leadership.

To conclude, there is nothing inherent to the LRT project that makes it a poor risk of success. The only real risk, at this point, is the risk that Council itself will set the project up for failure by refusing to lead, refusing to act "proceed expeditiously, diligently and in good faith and in a co-operative and collaborative manner" to complete the project, as Councillors promised to do when signing the Memorandum of Agreement with Metrolinx.

If Council gives in to reckless gamesmanship and reneges on its commitment to lead "in good faith", Metrolinx will have a strong case to seek damages for the money they have invested in good faith to implement this project. Killing the LRT plan now would leave the city liable for tens of millions of dollars in penalties.

In terms of the prospect for success, I give this project a solid 10. It is well-designed, well-supported by the research, and a prudent, well-understood form of urban mass transit that is already in successful operation in over 400 cities around the world. The implementation effort is meeting every milestone to complete the project on time and on budget.

The only significant risk that would cause LRT to fail now would be a failure of leadership. However, I am an optimist, and it is my sincere hope that Council will, as Abraham Lincoln so famously put it, be "touched ... by the better angels of our nature" and do right by the city and its long-term prospects for success and prosperity.
Ryan McGreal  

The B-Line express HSR Bus service ridership is not enough for the LRT to break even, and it doesn't go to a proper destination like Eastgate Square, as the original plan called for. Hopefully council will not operate or maintain the fleet of LRT cars the Province is supplying. Let the private sector who wins the bid operate and maintain the system. All the citizens of Hamilton have to do is pay the fare and ride it. Right now city Councillors are trying to trim the property tax increase to 1.8%, which is above the rate of inflation. Multiple millions will have to be found, or redundant services have to be cut. All city departments have to make cuts, or find new revenue streams. I, for one, am tapped out, let the cutting begin.
Mark-Alan Whittle

We are not yet ready for LRT, but that is to be expected. We are working at getting ready for LRT and that is what is important. There are a cadre of people both local and provincial who are working everyday to problem-solve and plan for a successful construction/launch.

It is true that ridership isn’t as fully developed as it will be in the future. We have known this from day one. HSR staff has told us this and the Rapid Ready report outlines this as well.

But LRT isn’t for yesterday or even today. It is for tomorrow and ridership is sure to come as the city grows and as the redevelopment along the route takes hold.

If anything the city should hurry up the special planning policies that will hurry up the redevelopment along the route. This will help.

So to answer your question. Are we ready now? No. It is a work in progress. So the score is 6/10.
Are we getting ready? Yes. The score would be 8/10
Will we be ready by the construction start? yes. Score is 10/10.

Larry DiIanni

Short sighted implementation

With provincial downloads, infrastructure & combination of grants to both Mohawk & Ontario Trillium , plus McMaster University simply by transportation mandatory paid through schools & if you're counselor were smart enough to have research project ready on food security. ( These numbers would sell FREE ridership for all ODSP & Ow clients which because of Mohawk cancellation of classes for high school completion affects cross province military families )

If you add up students, ODSP, & OW mandatory. You can also security provincial government downloads for security & with planning use transportation for advertising revenue.

Since many government agencies use these spaces for advertisement that revenue moved to city pockets is not only common place at education location.

What is really important for Hamilton to decide : Hamilton requires landscaping design consultant & urban planner to coordinate to give revenue space to the City of Hamilton.

Not new information since the Pan Am Games was a useful test run.

Adding social implementation organization like ...." my sister's place" in London Ontario or instead of pretending that dollars won't be spent on transportation.

Seniors and the impoverished by legislation are the large groups in Hamilton.To assist any sector the fast way is give transportation options to all sectors. I sat on research committee in London Ontario.

Community Social Services agencies have known for decades that transportation is the biggest boost to the economy & stabilization of a sector.

Implementation of food security , including community kitchens prevent expense hospital stays which aren't free to our economy. Commercial property on the bottom with housing over top & actual user based programs that service where the people actually are. Through debit cards to tenants that allow discounts or set time meals with set times to ride a bus adds dollars jobs & other than PSW assistance.

If Hamilton pretends that % of people aren't over 55 or poor then the new people buying condos are going to missing the quality of life CHOICES being the highest form of quality.

Example wife or daughter has the car I can take public transportation. Or the reverse. Now your adding another 25% usage .

It's about encouraging the % & taking all revenue into account not pretending that senior's are moving away. When life gives you lemons...making lemonade is one possibility. WEIP?
J.L. Row



  1. yes Adrian, times were simpler when you could blame Bratina for Council's dysfunction, now you have a hand picked champion and support has actually eroded. If Bob triggered a crisis, Fred should not be trusted with live ammo.
    Should a leader be credible? Informed? "...I am not sure what that billion dollars will get us. " mused the Mayor to the CBC (02/02/17)
    Should effective leadership find it necessary to stifle and vilify dissent? Is that what JFK did?

    Interesting that Ryan would broach the topic of area rating. Transit ridership is in decline, not stagnant, and according to Ryan, the only fair solution is to revisit the area rated transit formula, a move which would implode the tenuous support of Council which is keeping this pipe-dream afloat. Ferguson has made it clear his support for LRT vaporizes at the mention of area rating "Ancaster taxes would jump 11.3% immediately...there would be a mutiny" cautioned Lloyd. Without Lloyd's support, it is all over except for the crying. This is the sort of gamesmanship Ryan is dependent upon to win the day. McGreal appears to believe an effective leader would do his bidding, and ignore anyone in opposition(aka self loathing squelchers!) No real vision, no sincere belief in the merit of the project, just politics in play.
    When leadership inspires support, instead of fomenting dissent, good things grow.
    Time for current "leadership" to take inventory, look in the mirror, and assume responsibility for the current state of affairs.

  2. Well, how eloquently spoken by many. Including quoting John F. Kennedy. LRT must be right, if that parallel is made.

    But seriously now. Step back a bit and ask yourself this:

    Why would we tear up streets. disrupt businesses, cause congestion when there is very little now, and risk the big e=white elephants of all white elephants. It makes no sense. Leadership is very weak in Hamilton, chasing the shiny coin again.

    I enjoy the Virtual panel thing, but I wonder how some of these people think. In terms of Mr. DiIanni, once you become a lobbyist, it kind of puts a wrinkle in opinions.

    Carry on. Make sure you buy a Sony dream machine so you're not as rudely interrupted when LRT becomes Loser rail Transit.

  3. despite significant (and costly) investment in the HSR system-dozens of new buses, over 70,000 hours of increased service- resulting in increased reliability, and reduced "drive-by", ridership dropped for the 2nd year in a row, trending downward, and gaining momentum. 800,000 fewer trips, resulting in a funding shortfall of nearly $1.5 M
    That is not stagnant. It is a red flag. Ryan says "look away"

    1. “over 70,000 hours of increased [HSR] service”

      If you turn to page 29 of the HSR’s 2017 Transit Budget Overview (2015 & 2016 Update – Additional Service Hours Summary), you’ll see that the number of annualized numbers is actually lower than 70,000.


      Grand total of additional HSR service hours, 2015 & 2016: 66,301 annualized. Less than a third of those hours went into the King/Main/Queenston Corridor, and none went into the 10 B-Line (01 – King 791; 05 – Delaware 11,124; 51 – University 8,532 hours). Comparatively, almost 9,000 new service hours (roughly 1/7 of all HSR service expansion) went into the 18 Waterdown route, more than tripling its service levels, in an attempt to increase its ridership from 80 or so average daily users. In the 2010 HSR Operational review, the 18 Waterdown route had the worst revenue/cost ratio of any route in the city at just 1.6% (the system average at the time was 51.1%, or roughly 32 times higher) and the lowest number of boardings in the four-hour afternoon peak (5 boardings, for an average load of <0.1 passengers).

      Those 66,301 service hours were allotted to 21 routes in all. Did ridership improve on some routes but not on others? Did it decline more steeply on some routes than on others? Undoubtedly.

      Sigma Cub

  4. "White elephants of all white elephants" would be AEGD. Local taxpayers are on the hook for between $350 million and $500 million estimated cost in order to build the infrastructure to support the project. And none of it has been budgeted for as yet.

    LRT is at least proposed as a DBFOM project wherein the City foregoes the capital and operating costs associated with the B-Line. It's at least possible that it could be revenue-neutral. To say the same of the AEGD involves considerable optimism and a multi-generational patience for ROI.

    How about a city that continues to build new roads when it can't afford upkeep on the ones it has? How about development charges that cover three-quarters of the infrastructure cost associated with suburban housing, whose growth is somehow supposed to keep driving the economy even as it distorts the tax base ratios?

    Sigma Cub

    1. finance charge? When was the last time you had to finance a gift?
      "it's free, it's free Fred" claims the FOM components are yet to be determined, so everything is conjecture, unless of course you know more than Fred...which appears possible.
      By virtue of their ugliness, I am the fairest of them all.Solid logic.

    2. Key phrase: "Yet to be determined". Hence the open-ended descriptor "proposed as".

      Design/Build/Finance/Operate/Maintain is the framework for the RFQ that was issued earlier this year.


      If the RFP is also issued as a DBFOM project, then the City stands to realize the removal of 18 B-Line buses and associated capital and operational costs (salary, insurance, fuel, repairs & maintenance) from its annual budget obligations. It will also save Hamiltonians the expense of picking up the tab on 11km of road reconstruction. And, unlike most major infrastructure projects, Hamilton is not expected to contribute a third of the capital costs or more. So that seems like there is the potential for a positive result. Again, key phrase: "seems like there is the potential". The LRT RFP is being co-authored by the City & Metrolinx officials. Its terms are, as you point out, "yet to be determined," which makes definitive forecasts of success or failure speculative at best. (Ditto for Councillor Ferguson's pick-a-percentage prognostication about removing area rating, an impact that would be blunted by his ongoing commitment to foiling attempts to improve HSR service to Ancaster.)


      The other infrastructure cases are brought forward simply to demonstrate that the City operates with a $2B annual budget that is entirely paid for out of the pockets of Hamiltonians. Every year council spends twice the cost of the proposed B-Line LRT, and without a fraction of the oversight or consternation that Hamilton LRT (which could potentially require no municipal funding at all) has elicited.

      If anyone has definitive proof of the form that the RFP will assume, links to a copy of the document endorsed by council and Metrolinx, it would make these threads something more than an endless parade of anecdotes, gut feelings, biases and question marks.

      Sigma Cub

  5. yes, conjecture, anonymity's reliable pal. Fill your boots.
    There are 15 wards in Hamilton, yet according to Mayor Fred's audited "Form 4" Finance Statement submitted 03/28/14 "list of single contributors totaling more than $100.00" one ward inordinately outperformed all others. Any guesses?
    And how do you reward such generosity? How about casting the critical deciding vote to re-elect that same ward councilor as Chair of the Police Service Board.
    On 2/21/17 Council was discussing the 2017 Public Works budget when Mr. Merulla is recorded lamenting he is unwilling to discuss revisiting area rating because doing so would result in Ferguson withdrawing his support for LRT. Lloyd immediately confirmed Merulla's assertion, and then demanded Eisenberger publicly commit to shelving area rating until 2022. Fred chuckled nervously and replied that the "deal" was to not debate area rating this term.
    One of this City's stranger political allegiances.
    So is Lloyd "the goat" for ensuring Public Transit remains underfunded, unfairly funded, and largely ineffective...
    or "savior" for providing that all important 6th vote in favour of LRT.
    Can he be both?

  6. an optimist? Do only optimists hear these high pitched whistles plaguing advocates? Do you have to be an optimist to see all these scarecrow straw-men littering the landscape? Does an optimist awaken on a warm winter day filled with a sense of dread for the future of mankind?
    Interesting watching McGreal's response to Whitehead's op/ed in today's Spec. Never mentioned by name in the article, yet Ryan knows precisely who Terry is referencing. Kind of like catching a child playing with fire

    1. I just read Ryan's article in response at RTH. It is amusing that Ryan believes "it is not what he means, it is what insinuations he wants to plant in your head without actually saying anything"
      It reminds me of the Trump hat...no actual offence....just implied. The offence lives-thrives-in the minds of very few.

      Ralph Kramden

  7. Engaged citizens are the worst. Proof: No elected official in Hamilton in the last three elections has managed to secure the support of even a third of registered voters.


    1. Captain HamiltonMarch 15, 2017

      Really..who in the last 15 years has even come close to inspiring anyone? Eisenberger? Farr? Pearson? Conley? Johnson_B? Noone comes close to being an inspiring politician and actually quite the opposite.

      The Captain

    2. That's why they console themselves with the whole "silent majority" schtick, claiming to represent the 66% of the electorate who declined to vote for them (more like 95% in the case of a by-election) .

      Humility is apparently too much to ask.


    3. They are not all badly intentioned. But lack lustre would be a good description for some of them. Then there are some whose agenda's are so clear and is against the overall public interest, that it's sickening. Look eastward my friends.

      We have is a council who really does not represent the majority. Not even close.


  8. I have heard several advocates express that this project is just too large an undertaking for the general public to comprehend, and that we really have no business questioning leadership with concerns.
    In an exchange during presentations from delegates today, Councilor Ferguson responded to a concern that the project has yet to be costed with "oh yes it has, we are not walking into this blindly"
    How has a project which has yet to be bid already been "costed"?
    Yes sir, there are some things some of us folk do not quite comprehend.

  9. a couple of other moments I found interesting yesterday included Mayor Fred's response to the suggestion Wynne will be replaced after the next Provincial election... "that is the hope" chimed our LRT champion. I bet he will live to regret that quip. And how long can he now continue this nonsense that 9 out of 10 Hamiltonian's are in favor? Yesterday's demographic did nothing to support that premise
    When Sam didn't show up at DelDuca's recent announcement I was intrigued. When I tuned in yesterday and saw that the little cardboard train set didn't quite make it's way into Ward 4, my spidey sense told me to stay tuned. And finally he got his turn, saying he couldn't care less about the transit component, but would be incompetent if he turned down such an infrastructure upgrade for his ward. Such candor,and who could disagree?
    And my friend Papa Bear from Ward 2 "I can't support a poll" (too small) "I can't endorse a referendum" (too costly)
    1/3 of Council should determine the outcome (just right)
    If the sanctimony of some of the more vocal supporters was silenced and leadership assigned to young Mr. Carrabs of Winona, support would likely skyrocket.
    Looking forward to Round 2...I hope both sides learned something from yesterday.


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