Rather than looking at transit, housing, health and economic development as separate issues, we must continue to integrate these discussions to develop creative, local solutions that meet the needs of current and future residents along the LRT corridor an
By Greg Tedesco
Published June 05, 2015
After last week's historic announcement of investment in transit infrastructure, Hamilton has reason to celebrate. With the light rail transit (LRT) commitment, spurred by dedicated local transit activists, our city can now move ahead with increased planning around the many potential economic and social benefits of improved transit for our city.
LRT can be an incredible asset for Hamilton in many ways. Inclusive, accessible, efficient transit and city design can be transformative for communities. However, this doesn't happen without intentional planning and ongoing dialogue on broader community needs.
When we look at improved transit as part of a larger complete streets policy, the potential positive impacts become clear. Inclusive, accessible transit connects residents to employment and local services, and at its best can promote healthier communities, social inclusion and broader community participation.
In the Vital Signs series, Hamilton Community Foundation CEO Terry Cooke and McMaster Health, Aging and Society Professor Jim Dunn wrote about the challenges and opportunities facing Hamilton, discussing the potential for LRT to make transportation and transit more inclusive:
LRT is cheaper to operate per passenger than bus service and attracts high numbers of new transit riders, bringing in operating revenue to help pay for better bus service across the city. It attracts and shapes new developments, filling in the vacant and under - used properties around t he line and increasing the city's property tax revenue. It makes more jobs accessible to low - income workers and attracts more of the young creative entrepreneurs Hamilton needs to create new jobs.
LRT is not the one cure-all for every challenge our city faces, but with proper planning and policy decisions we can leverage this investment and position ourselves for long-term success.
A common discussion seen in other cities has centred around LRT and its potential impact on housing and neighbourhood affordability. To realize the true potential of LRT in our city, transit planning must be directly linked to the affordable housing conversation and broader work around equity, inclusion and poverty reduction.
Rather than looking at transit, housing, health and economic development as separate issues, I hope that we can continue to integrate these discussions to develop creative, local solutions that meet the needs of current and future residents along the LRT corridor and throughout the entire city.
In looking specifically at housing, local initiatives like the Hamilton Community Land Trust could prove to be an asset in protecting long-term affordability in areas around the transit line.
Municipal planning tools, such as inclusionary zoning (which remains in private-member bill limbo), could also help in supporting the sustainability of mixed-income neighbourhoods.
Housing affordability is and will continue to remain a key issue in Hamilton and throughout cities in Canada, making it critical to continue to bring this issue forward as we approach a federal election in the fall.
An estimated construction start time of 2019 for LRT may seem far away. However, as the next phase leading to planning and implementation occurs, I hope we see a broader focus around equity and affordability issues integrated into the process.
In doing so, we can fully recognize the potential of modern transit for all Hamiltonians and have further reason to continue the celebration.
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