Special Report: Light Rail

Billions at Stake in LRT Project

Why isn't Council up in arms over the flouting of their decisions and directions to staff on their support for light rail transit with full provincial funding?

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 18, 2013

This past Saturday, Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel wrote an article about Metrolinx dropping the "L" from Hamilton's LRT project.

Rendering of LRT in Hamilton
Rendering of LRT in Hamilton

It's interesting that Dreschel picked up on my concerns about the change from LRT to RT, and did some extra digging.

It really is appalling that Metrolinx is now saying they made the change secretly back in November after 'consulting' city staff, but they refuse to reveal who they consulted. Yet they expect Hamiltonians to donate hundreds of hours of their time to help promote the Big Move regional transportation plan in the various 'consultation' sessions.

What legitimate reason can there be for not revealing who they are talking to at the City, and for not keeping Don Hull, Chris Murray and Council informed about the change in the way they view Hamilton's LRT project?

Mixed Messaging

The mixed-up messaging continues at the highest levels, with Gary McNeil claiming that the change is just because Hamiltonians don't know what LRT means, and that LRT is still the goal, while other Metrolinx staff are now saying that LRT is just one option.

In an email response to RTH, Metrolinx spokesperson Malon Edwards wrote:

In discussions with City of Hamilton staff at the end of last year, a decision was made to change the language from "LRT" to "RT" because the scope and nature of the project is still being determined.

Again, it should be noted that, while planning is still in progress for LRT technology, no final decisions have been made on technology. Metrolinx remains committed to bringing rapid transit to the City of Hamilton.

As recently as the November 29, 2012 release of the Big Move phase 2, Metrolinx was still officially calling Hamilton's plan "LRT":

Light rail transit (LRT) in Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton, and bus rapid transit (BRT) in Durham, Toronto, Peel and Halton, will reduce congestion and serve as a catalyst for development across the GTHA.

Today the other lines are still being called "LRT" and "BRT", respectively, while Hamilton's name has changed.

Consultation with Unknown City Representatives

In a phone interview with RTH on Sunday, Mayor Bob Bratina's Chief of Staff Peggy Chapman said she didn't know who Metrolinx had consulted. "Our office doesn't deal with Metrolinx directly. All relationships are from a staff level."

Chapman added, "From our office, we don't have a big connection. We speak to Metrolinx more based on GO. ... I'm not involved in messaging or even the details of stuff. We deal with Metrolinx at a higher level."

She did confirm that Rapid Transit, in this case, is understood to mean LRT. "People whose hearts are fully dedicated to LRT will find [the name change] shocking, but in the official documents, for rapid transit in Hamilton, LRT is the priority."

Chapman stressed that Councillors will receive a staff report on February 25 that provides an update on Hamilton's LRT plan and gives Councillors an opportunity to approve the next stage of LRT planning.

The official statement from the mayor is:

Council's direction is to have staff prepare and present a report on transit options which includes Light Rail Transit as a preferred option. The report will be presented shortly upon which Council will decide on a transit plan.

Council Support

Council has affirmed its support for LRT several times, most recently on October 17, 2012, when Councillors approved a motion [PDF] to establish a task force in partnership with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce to "encourage Senior levels of Government (Provincial and Federal) to fund LRT in Hamilton," and for the Mayor or designate and three councillors to represent the City on the task force.

Despite this, Bratina still refuses to champion full funding for LRT in Hamilton. Chapman argues that the Mayor does not have "Council direction" to do so.

She notes that the General Issues Committee questioned Metrolinx vice president John Howe about full funding on October 13, 2011 (you can watch the city's video [requires Silverlight plugin] - starting at 3:17).

Councillor Lloyd Ferguson asked Howe, "Is the Province on - is Metrolinx on to fund 100 percent of this?"

Howe answered, "100 percent capital funding is the current Metrolinx funding assumption. And I think it was depicted clearly in the York Region example. That's our current funding assumption model for the Hamilton LRT project."

Chapman says Hamilton is doing its job politically. "Everyone's mad with our Mayor for not championing 100 percent funding, but he doesn't have to. It was asked on record in Council and Metrolinx answered it. That message at Queen's Park has been clear for a long time. That's the way the government works - not what's in the Spectator but what's in the official reports."

Billions at Stake

How can someone from the City tell Metrolinx to change LRT to RT, directly contradicting Council's wishes as first expressed four years ago and repeatedly confirmed since then, most recently in October?

Why isn't Council up in arms over this flouting of their decisions and directions to staff?

I hope the Mayor and Council keep in mind that this is worth $1 billion in direct investment, and many billions more in indirect investment and tax income over the coming decades.

It will also affect Hamilton's competitiveness and attractiveness compared with other communities in the GTHA and Kitchener-Waterloo.

Worse, if Hamilton doesn't get LRT but Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto and K-W do, any new revenue tools that the Province agrees to will result in Hamilton taxpayers unfairly subsidizing transit development and the associated economic growth in competitor municipalities.

In June, when the Metrolinx investment strategy is released, we may wake up to find that Hamilton has been shut out of any major investment, and that the City, as well as Metrolinx, has wasted millions of dollars studying and doing the engineering design for LRT.

As I have already argued, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is a canny politician. If she is aggressively pursuing LRT for Mississauga with full provincial funding, this is certainly a better strategy than passively waiting for Metrolinx to make a decision.

The strategy McCallion is pursuing has already been endorsed for Hamilton by our Council. There is no reason we can't do the same thing!

(With files from Ryan McGreal)

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

42 Comments

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 13:56:07

The mayor is serving pancakes at Family Day Mayor's Pancake Brunch, ladling his special syrupy glaze. He could not be reached for comment.

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By Brad Nailer (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 14:11:27

Maybe this is just a big ole aw-shucks misunderstanding but there's enough hijinx on the LRT file that it's not crazy to get worried instead of just shrugging and hope-for-the-besting. If this happened under Mayor Fred and he said "don't worry it's still fine" I guess I'd give him the benefit of the doubt but I don't feel so cosy today.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 08:21:40 in reply to Comment 86436

Mayor Fred come back

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 14:54:58

So it's being called RT now because

A. Metrolynx consulted with an unknown City Rep?

B. LRT it too confusing an acronym?

C. The technology hasn't been determined yet... busses or trains?

or how about

D. Metrolynx has no intention of doing anything in Hamilton except maybe some money for a few new natural gas powered busses and keeping the status quo of public transit in Hamilton while the Liberal vote rich areas of the GTA get it for free.

Comment edited by TreyS on 2013-02-18 14:56:26

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 18:38:32

Around 3/4 of Toronto seats and 5/6 of Mississauga seats are Liberal-held.

Hamilton, meanwhile...

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 08:26:11 in reply to Comment 86441

verry true , if Metrolinx gives all to use you think Hamilton will go Liberal i don`t think so ,,, and they keep on crying for stuff its going to come down the same way as the Stadium did .. it public money

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By MikeyJ (registered) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 18:58:27

The Section of Public Works' - Planning Department is called Rapid Transit and the website is named the same http://www.hamiltonrapidtransit.ca/ ... The name change is likely just meant to reflect that and avoid confusion. Also, the Section has likely covered more than just specifically planning LRT.

That said - I hope someone in RT gets fired over that illegal 'L' removal. Keep fighting the good fight, or one day we may all wake up in the City of Hamiton.

Comment edited by MikeyJ on 2013-02-18 19:00:44

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted February 18, 2013 at 20:06:27

Since coming to Hamilton just over a year ago, if it wasn't for RTH and a few community activists I would hardly even be aware there was an LRT project in the wings. And this is distressing because not only is LRT a substantial investment in transit and infrastructure, it is also a city builder with the potential to stimulate economic growth along its entire length. That council seems to be asleep at the switch on this but fully engaged in a downtown casino speaks, in my opinion, to severely warped priorities.

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By conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 09:39:40 in reply to Comment 86445

Lets give council another thing to swet about , the casino now is on the back burner untill later 2014 when they will make a reforemdom ..lol lets see what they will do with LRT now .. lol

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By Not Sure (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 01:06:56

I'm not sure if it pertains to Metrolinx but wouldn't an FOI request to ascertain where the "L" went missing from "LRT" be an option? I'm sure we could raise the funds to do so fairly easily (if Dreschel can't run with it on the Spectator's tab).

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 07:36:36

Light Rail Transit is a preferred option...

Flamborough is the preferred location...

BUT...

It all can change.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 08:03:23 in reply to Comment 86453

A-Line LRT connecting AEGD to downtown casino?

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 09:31:04 in reply to Comment 86454

...and to the West Harbour stadi...oh wait.

Never mind.

(Platform shmatform)

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 09:34:39

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 21:32:22 in reply to Comment 86459

Actuelly.., I thimk that wee could of uzed the fight Jets as LRT,.. lol..

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By Simmons (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 09:38:31

Worse, if Hamilton doesn't get LRT but Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto and K-W do, any new revenue tools that the Province agrees to will result in Hamilton taxpayers unfairly subsidizing transit development and the associated economic growth in competitor municipalities.

This is a key argument for Hamilton LRT that could sway those who are steadfast against the project. Why should we lose out on something we need only to fund the competition?

Comment edited by Simmons on 2013-02-19 09:39:14

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:31:18 in reply to Comment 86460

As I've pointed in THE SPEC comments, $1B for B-line LRT is a drop in the bucket compared to the $16B in projects already underway in T.O. and the reamaining $34B yet to be spent on the Big Move.

If Hamilton says no, that piddly $1B would likely go somewhere else, and we Hamiltonians will still be helping to finance the $50B Big Move.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:41:40 in reply to Comment 86464

and more importantly, we will be bypassing our share of Transit Oriented Development, which surely we can all agree we desperately need. This project will do for the lower city and eventually the rest of the LRT lines, what the RHVP did for upper east Mountain and Stoney Creek...but instead of sprawl-based, this is urban/transit based development. Something Hamilton has seen virtually none of since our current city was built in the 70's.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-02-19 10:41:56

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:28:17 in reply to Comment 86467

Agreed. And as I've mentioned on the TiCat board, the only way to truly get a stadium "precinct" is for LRT's TOD of that node.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:36:41

"Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the $90-million cleanup of Randle Reef is one of his highest priorities.

“It doesn’t transcend all priorities, but it’s top of the list,” he said at a weekend “bringing back the bay” meeting attended by four MPPs, two MPs and several dozen other people involved in the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan....

The group also heard from Ed Hanna, a researcher from York University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in
Sustainability, which has developed a computer model that forecasts governments, business and the people of
Hamilton and Halton will benefit to the tune of nearly a billion dollars when the harbour is clean enough to come off the list of Great Lakes pollution hot spots."

http://www.hamiltonharbour.ca/documents/articles/RR-priority-mayor-TheSpec-22Jan07.pdf



Mayor Bob Bratina’s out-of-the-blue comment Monday that he would prefer to see Randle Reef’s toxic sediment dredged up and shipped away — rather than the current plan to cap it in place — was met with a mixture of shock and surprise a day later.

“It is not helpful,” Hudson said bluntly. “We don’t understand where he’s coming from.

“He has been aware all along of the planned approach to it,” Hudson added. “It may not have been his preferred solution, but it’s been one that has been agreed upon by the scientists, the environmentalists, the political folks that have been involved at all four levels of government.

“So at the last minute to throw this monkey wrench into the gears is very, very surprising.”


http://www.thespec.com/news/article/498177--mayor-s-reef-idea-no-help-barc

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 08:32:31 in reply to Comment 86466

Everryone know s why he said it money see monkey do ... Mayor Fred mentionne something about it and he had to stur up the pot .... cuz im sure he knows Maoyr Fred mit come back e-election , and thats the only way Mayor Bob can get attention now days

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By pearlstreet (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:40:45

Nice picture, there was a murder at the apartment on the corner there (King & Tisale). Lets hope this gets built to flush out the filth in this area.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 18:05:46

I expect more will come on RTH, but the city staff reporting on LRT was released today. Wow. If we simply followed all recommendations in this report from transit to complete streets to cycling to development design, our city would look radically different and more vibrant and healthy in 15-20 years.
Fabulous report.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2013 at 09:10:01 in reply to Comment 86484

From the report:

"Hamilton, in comparison to Winnipeg, has completed a number of ridership growth and asset management initiatives," among them "Complete Streets and Transportation Demand Management":

"140km of Cycling infrastructure in priority corridors. Bike storage facilities such as at Mohawk College and twenty schools. Smart Commute initiative in partnership with Metrolinx and neighbouring municipalities including fourteen employers with 87,000 employees. Community-based social marketing pilot program. Carshare pilot program. Transit integrated with cycling and walking path network."

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By If... (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 22:59:03 in reply to Comment 86484

If Council had followed through on half the reports that have landed on their desks in the last 30 years we'd be living close to Portland and NYC would be calling for advice.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 20:50:41 in reply to Comment 86484

That would require courage and foresight, things not in overabundance at city hall at this time.

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By J (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 21:27:14

Our Hamilton Centre MPP has led her party to oppose road tolls, which is by far the most realistic method of paying for the Big Move. If she holds fast then it won't matter what city council does - LRT will never get built, nor much else in this province. Why cities vote NDP is beyond me.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 19, 2013 at 21:42:41

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Here we go. I'd consider this a nearly official backing out of light rail. Note once again the usage of terms such as "light rapid transit" and "LT". And of course the end quote: "There is a business case for LRT, but it’s extremely expensive and will take time. Hull says between 18 and 25 buses will go out of service the day LRT starts"

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 09:54:57

Just heard Hull on CHML and he seems to really get it. Understands complete streets; understands the need for balance. And understands the health impacts of a city that can be mobile in ways other than a car.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 10:41:54 in reply to Comment 86511

All he needs now is authority.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 10:05:52

Some Hamiltonians don`t seem to get it though .

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 13:17:36

David Adames, president and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, is leaving for a job with the Niagara Parks Commission.... His last day with the chamber will be March 8.... The board will begin the recruitment process for a new president and CEO.

Richard Koroscil, former CEO at the Hamilton airport, who served as chair in 2011-2012, will serve as interim president and CEO. Koroscil owns a private consultancy and serves on the boards of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Metrolinx.

http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/890044--david-adames-leaving-hamilton-chamber-of-commerce-for-niagara

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 20, 2013 at 13:19:22 in reply to Comment 86529

Marc Chamberland

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2013 at 09:05:54

Give us back our L. That’s L as in Light, as in Light Rail Transit. Not Rapid Transit. Not Bus Rapid Transit. LRT.

The pursuit of LRT for Hamilton is the stated objective of city council. The chamber of commerce agrees. Homebuilders agree. Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) agree. Urbanists agree. Downtown developers agree. Yes, it’s hugely expensive and it’s not going to happen in the next year or two. But Light Rail Transit remains a viable and worthwhile objective.

Why, then, did provincial transportation authority Metrolinx officially change the acronym for the Hamilton project from LRT to RT? The official answer from Metrolinx is that it was changed based on the belief that residents — that would be us — don’t know what LRT means. Really? We’ve been debating, talking and visioning light rail in this city for at least five years. We defy Metrolinx to come up with a significant percentage of the population that doesn’t know that, and know exactly what LRT means. That rationale is bogus.

The transportation authority also says the change was made in consultation with Hamilton officials. Which officials? The city manager doesn’t know anything about it. Neither do councillors involved in the LRT project. Neither does the person in charge of public works, or the city’s director of transit. Metrolinx won’t say who it consulted with, so we’re left to speculate. Was it the mayor’s office, given his unwillingness to champion the LRT vision? If not, then who?

Some will argue simply changing the acronym isn’t significant. Maybe. But people who should know disagree, pointing out that the sudden change, unique among cities pursuing LRT, muddies the waters and may suggest there is cooling on LRT and willingness to simply accept BRT. That is not the case. On Feb. 25 a massive report goes to city council in its general issues committee incarnation, in which transit staff managers make an impressive case for the city’s continuing LRT aspirations. (More on that later this week.) There is no indication council, or the numerous LRT proponents throughout the city, are backing off or softening their resolve.

So again we ask: Why the change? And why the change without consultation with key stakeholders in Hamilton? It is significant. It does muddy the waters and may well put Hamilton on a different playing field as compared to other municipalities — Mississauga comes to mind — that continue to vigorously pursue LRT.

So, Metrolinx, reverse this. It was easy enough to change in the first place, so it cannot be difficult to change it back. Call it what it is. Yes, there are questions requiring answers, especially around who pays for what.

But just about every progressive mind in this city recognizes the value and potential LRT offers. Give us back the L.


http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/890185--the-spectator-s-view-metrolinx-please-put-the-l-back-in-lrt

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2013 at 14:32:43

Three days in, and four months left before we see the funding strategy.

http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/02/21/bob_chiarelli_admits_finding_more_secret_documents_on_gas_plants.html

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 09:26:53

From the “Transportation Vehicles” cards in Metrolinx’s Conversation Kit:

Conventional Bus
Average speed 10-30 km/h
Peak capacity 2,000-3,000 persons per hour
Cost per kilometer: $400,000-$1 million
Stops at intersections
Unaffected by car traffic
250m between stops

Bus Rapid Transit
Average speed 20-40 km/h
Peak capacity 2,000-7,500 persons per hour
Cost per kilometer: $20-25 million
Stops at intersections
Unaffected by car traffic
500m between stops

Light Rail Transit
Average speed 20-40 km/h
Peak capacity 2,500-20,000 persons per hour
Cost per kilometer (surface): $60-85 million
Stops at intersections
Unaffected by car traffic
500m between stops

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:34:43

Still?

http://www.bigmove.ca/what-were-building/the-next-wave

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2013 at 14:19:19 in reply to Comment 89002

Apparently so.

Project Prioritization Framework (May 2013)

Figure 3 – Project List

Next Wave Projects – Rapid Transit (RT)

• Brampton Queen St. RT

• Downtown Relief Line

• Dundas RT – BRT Kipling to Highway 407

• Durham – Scarborough BRT

• Hamilton RT – McMaster to Eastgate

• Hurontario RT – LRT Mississauga to Brampton

• Yonge Subway Extension: Finch to Richmond Hill Centre


http://www.bigmove.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Project-Prioritization-Framework1.pdf

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2013 at 14:31:25 in reply to Comment 89012

Page 37 of today's report.

HAMILTON LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT: Hamilton Light Rail Transit is part of a long-term vision to connect key
destinations across the City of Hamilton. The new LRT line would travel along King and Main Streets from
McMaster University to Eastgate Square and would build on the existing B-Line bus to provide faster and more efficient service. The project would provide significant time savings for passengers, resulting in a faster trip from McMaster University to Eastgate. The proposed route would benefit 8 million riders in 2031, and is an investment in the revitalization of Hamilton’s downtown core. Estimated Cost: $1 billion.

http://www.bigmove.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/IS-Full-Report-web.pdf

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