Special Report: Light Rail

No One at City Hall is Responding to LRT Criticism

No one from the City is out there talking to the media to respond to questions that were already raised and answered years ago in the various studies and at the Public Information Centres.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published May 07, 2013

A stream of anti-Light Rail Transit (LRT) letters have recently been published in the Spectator. Here is a sample from the past week:

What is most depressing is that due to the constant delays and mismanagement at Metrolinx and City Hall, the huge amount of public engagement done by the Rapid Transit Team between 2008 and 2011 has been essentially wasted - as well as the time and energy of the thousands of people who came out to the various public information centres.

Now that we're finally close to an actual decision (maybe), it has been about two years since the last serious public outreach activities and the Rapid Transit Team has been disbanded for two years. The "Latest News" on the Hamilton Rapid Transit site is from January 18, 2012.

No one from the City is out there talking to the media to respond to questions that were already raised and answered years ago in the various studies and at the Public Information Centres.

The misleading information is being allowed to sit there unchallenged on the newspaper letters page. The most basic question - "is it worth it?" - was answered by the Metrolinx benefits case analysis back in June 2010.

This is exactly what I was worried about when Councillors and staff started talking about how LRT might not be decided for five or ten years. When it is finally time to make the decision, the years and $10 million of planning - and especially the public outreach - will all have to be re-done.

This lack of synchronization between the decision making process and the planning and public consultation process is in large part due to Metrolinx's mixed messaging and mismanagement, but the City has not helped at all.

Without a political champion continuously pushing the case for LRT forward and responding to the skepticism and challenges that face any large project, it is starting to look like all the momentum we gained after 2007 has been squandered.

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.

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By Cameron Bailey (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 15:19:49

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 22:49:10 in reply to Comment 88403

"Council is about keeping the job, not doing the job". I too sometimes feel this way. For the most part however, I don't think this is true. God help us if it is.

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By hamilton scourge? (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 20:15:01 in reply to Comment 88403

Hey, confederate Cam, will you be soon taking down your huge cooked pig eyesore sign on Upper James where you noisily said you are NOT doing business any more? Take it down, Cammy.

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By tre (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 14:08:58 in reply to Comment 88418

On this blog, an irrelavent and insulting comment gets the up votes. Enough said.

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 14:35:48 in reply to Comment 88724

Nice try, troll.

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By cameron bailey (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 21:57:23 in reply to Comment 88418

I don't own that building and I am sure that the Toronto based landlord will not spend the money to take it down. I was "noisy" about it because 10 people lost their living wage job - 2 now on welfare, 2 homeless, 6 remain unemployed.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 18:23:09 in reply to Comment 88403

As far im concern Cameron Bratina is lossing his seat in 2014 thats why he don`t give a rats ass about LRT

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 17:54:57 in reply to Comment 88403

Cameron Bailey wrote, "Right or wrong, the citizens have said NO to the expense of the LRT"

With all due respect, how is it you represent "the citizens" view on this?

And on what information is that assertion based?

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By tre (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 16:22:28 in reply to Comment 88412

Could be wrong, but... if a majority of the citizens support the LRT, knowing full well how much it will cost (e.g. the so-called "investment tools"), then there is every incentive for municipal politicians to jump on the LRT bandwagon. The fact that Hamilton needs a "political champion" on the LRT kind of speak for the opinions of the general public on the matter.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 17:06:53 in reply to Comment 88731

Movements don't just happen by themselves. They need leaders to organize, motivate, encourage and attract supporters. Even good ideas need someone to take the lead and stop the idea from being starved and pecked to death by naysayers, squelchers and trols.

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By Cameron Bailey (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 22:14:03 in reply to Comment 88412

I am not claiming to represent the citizens - but as the owner of a busy downtown restaurant I hear quite a few opinions everyday. Overwhelmingly, the people that I hear from are against the expense.

My point is simple: if people are telling me that are not in favour, imagine what they are saying to their councillor

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 13:46:09 in reply to Comment 88420

You own a downtown restaurant that is draped in Confederate flags, so the only opinions you hear are the opinions of people who don't have a problem eating in restaurants draped in Confederate flags. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that is not a very representative sample.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 22:27:15 in reply to Comment 88420

But how representative is that?

I hear the opposite.

I hear a clamour.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 15:41:10 in reply to Comment 88403

Right or wrong, the citizens have said NO to the expense of the LRT.

Says who? A few angry letters in the paper from people who couldn't be bothered to do any reasearch before spewing off? They hardly represent broad public opinion.

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By tre (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 15:17:14 in reply to Comment 88406

To me, five letters of the same theme within a week is not "a few". Plus, what makes you think that the people who wrote the letters "couldn't be bothered to do any research before spewing off"?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 17:02:38 in reply to Comment 88727

Because read the letters. They ask questions that have already been answered a bunch of times and repeat myths that have already been dispelled. They're obviously written by people that don't know much about LRT, they just know they don't like it.

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By tre (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 19:03:18 in reply to Comment 88732

"They ask questions that have already been answered a bunch of times and repeat myths that have already been dispelled."

By whom? I suppose you are referring to Hamilton Light Rail, a pro-LRT lobby group, or Metrolinx, a politically-influenced agency?

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By Disagree (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 15:40:36 in reply to Comment 88403

While a limited number are becoming vocally aroused against the LRT (often based on incorrect assumptions and histories), I don't believe "the citizens have said NO" by any means. Most understand that if the foundation of your house needs repair, you make the INVESTMENT. Nicholas' point that nobody at City Hall seems to making this case is sadly true (and the result is inevitably for the worse).

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 16:00:39 in reply to Comment 88405

The actual opinion surveys done by the City during the public consultation process, which included thousands of responses, showed very strong support for LRT.

There have also been lots of supportive letters in the Spec for LRT, just not recently.

And LRT is precisely about building a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity for the city. That is why we need to make the investment now, and that is why competitor cities like Toronto, Mississauga and K-W are doing precisely this. Toronto was just lucky enough to get the first wave of its project directly paid from existing general revenue (i.e. partially subsidized by the residents of Hamilton).

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By Black Hole (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 15:26:35

How many other great initiatives have suffered a similar fate in Hamilton over the years?
Vision 20/20 (originally from 1992);
Shifting Gears (originally from 1999);
etc., etc., etc... (feel free to add to the list)
The astronomers at Mac don't need telescopes. There's a black hole right downtown, spuriously called the Council Chamber.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 17:26:48

If you beat the war drum long enough, it gradually becomes background noise. This is the case on both the pro and anti LRT crowd. The important part is council has said they are behind a B line LRT, so long as the province covers 100% of the startup costs. It's the right posistion to take, it's the more cost efficient posistion to take and we can only wait upon our elected officials and thier painful bureaucracy to make the choice at this point.

They and the news have also made a public spectacle of the mayor for trying to undermine that posistion, so I'm not really sure what more you can really expect, given that the spec has published numerous pro LRT articles, many from this very website, and I'm to understand has published pro-LRT letters in the past.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-05-07 17:39:29

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 18:00:02 in reply to Comment 88410

I'm not really sure what more you can really expect

To answer questions about LRT. To have a Rapid Transit Office that talks to the public more often than once in a year and a half. To keep public engagement going so that people don't forget what they got excited about.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 18:09:45

Is it just me or they don`t know yet , as far im iv herd i maybe wrong but were going to pay for this tax anyway so why not push for an LRT for Hamilton ,were going to pay for it last i herd Hamilton is in the Golden Horse Shoe

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By Forget Headlines (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2013 at 19:35:40

Boy, some headline editor at the Spec is really phoning them in. 3 "Forget LRT, X" headlines in a row!

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By Mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 12:20:24

Lets put bike rack on the front of the LRT. bikes rule the council as it should be.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 13:02:57 in reply to Comment 88428

A lot of people who spoke out of turn.

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 19:01:27

Sadly, Waterloo Region, one of Hamilton's direct economic competitors, has already got a shovel in the ground on its LRT while Hamilton dithers and asks for a free ride from the Province. LRT is one of the municipal "expenses", like parks and entertainment facilities, that actually pays dividends by attracting businesses and the jobs that come with them. When the Province decides to shell out money you can bet it will go to municipalities that have foresight and are prepared to share the load.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 23:17:56 in reply to Comment 88448

the only way we'll get Hamilton council to see LRT as an economic development driver (besides all the reports and studies we've commissioned that clearly state this) is to tell them it's really a highway, and will be lined with drive-thru's and big box stores.

Then the money will start to roll.

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By BYRON ZORZOS (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:47:49

This is a common phenomenon that has and always will exist where many grassroots initiatives lose steam by attrition, stonewalling and roadblocks at the hands of those who are being paid to serve the public, or by the private sector with their own profit-driven agenda.
It is a result of "volunteer burnout" which can result from frustration, harassment or time constraints. These activists and groups rely on donations of time and/or resources to be allowed the opportunity to maintain their initiatives.
Can you imagine how much could be accomplished if there was a budget to cover the costs of employment of community representatives, staff, offices and facilities , with perhaps the occasional hiring of a consultant here and there to fill in knowledge gaps? This city would be awesome!

But wait a minute .... we already have that in the form of a City Council et. al. and look where we are.

I suggest that the City of Hamilton supply some funding that could support the efforts of a watchdog/citizen's ombudsman type body that would monitor the activities of City Council. I believe that it would be money well spent and would help ensure the accountability and transparency claims of City Council and Staff.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 09:06:17

LRT is not bad in fact it is pretty neat. The problem is that it is incredibly expensive. The B line proposed in Hamilton will end up costing well over a billion dollars. Taxpayers have had enough. All the recent talk about how to fund all the grandiose plans has scared the bejeebers out of many citizens. Toronto may need LRT and/or subways to reduce traffic problems and commute times but Hamilton does not. Nobody wants another tax on gas, nobody wants another toll to use our roads, nobody wants another tax on parking and on and on it goes. There is only one pocket that can be tapped for all those billions to pay for this unnecessary transit and the owner of the pocket, the taxpayer has had enough and is saying NO.

That is what has sparked a barrage a letters to the editor against the building of an unneeded billion dollar project. Rightfully so.

Let the downvoting begin.

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