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
4/10 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.
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.
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 hasthe 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
With all the angst concerning hydro bills and questions about what the city is doing to advocate on behalf of Hamiltonians, we checked in with Mayor Eisenberger.
As you know, Hamiltonians continue to be concerned about the increases in the cost of hydro. We’ve been recently advised that Hamiltonians Against High Hydro group are planning a protest rally for March 8th on a related matter.
We respect the fact that you nor city council has ultimate control over the setting of hydro rates in the city or in Ontario. However, given the sustained angst that hydro rates are causing and the ongoing concerns of Hamiltonians, what measures has the city taken to advocate for Hamiltonians in this regard? Will any further measures be taken beyond what may have been done to date? If so, what is the nature of those measures.
The Mayor responded as follows:
"We continue to communicate with our Provincial partners, reiterating our concern over the rising costs of hydro and the impact it has on our residents, businesses and city operations.
The goal of municipally owned Local Distribution Companies such as the newly merged Alectra is to keep the cost of electricity distribution as low as possible.
On March 2nd the Ontario Government announced measures to reduce electricity rates by 25%.
Additionally, lower income residential customers enrolled in the Ontario Electricity Support Program could see an approximate 48% reduction in their bill. This announcement is a welcomed step for our community.”
What are your thoughts? Is the Mayor and the city doing enough? What, if anything, should be done additionally?
The Hamiltonian has received the following notice of a protest rally to be held March 8th.
On Wednesday, March 8 at 6 pm the Hamiltonians Against High Hydro group will be holding a rally outside City Hall to "protest" the pay of the Mayor and Councilor Pearson.
We are asking that the money the Mayor and Councilor receive (from rate payers who are already struggling) be put in to a designated fund so that Hamilton residents can apply for help and receive a certain amount of money to put towards their hydro bill if they meet criteria that would be set by the city.
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