Special Report: Light Rail

Chamber Letter: Light Rail Station Needed at Bay

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with several downtown Hamilton businesses and anchor institutions, has submitted a letter to the City of Hamilton's LRT Office to request an additional station at Bay Street.

By RTH Staff
Published November 24, 2016

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with several downtown Hamilton businesses and anchor institutions, has submitted a letter to the City of Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) Office to request an LRT station at Bay Street.

LRT route map with stations
LRT route map with stations

Under the current plan, there is an LRT stop at James Street and at Queen Street with no stop in between. The letter argues that an additional Bay Street station is "necessary to unlock transit oriented development in a key location in Downtown Hamilton" that is currently "plagued with 270˚ of surface parking lots".

The letter also highlights the large number of destinations that would be served by a Bay Street station, including the McMaster Health Services Centre, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, City Hall, First Ontario Centre, Hamilton Place, the Hamilton Convention Centre, a number of new hotel, condo and apartment buildings, and the King West retail business corridor.

It also refers to "research of successful LRT stations across North America" that "demonstrated several precedents for LRT stops being located within 300-700 meters within high density segments of the line."

An LRT stop at Bay, the letter argues, would act as a catalyst for a dramatic increase in transit-oriented development around a prominent downtown node that is currently underperforming its potential.

Following is the full text of the letter:

To Hamilton LRT Project Team:

Requesting a B-Line LRT Bay Street Stop

The B-Line LRT Project is an unprecedented economic development opportunity for Hamilton. In recognition of its potential, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has been an active participant, stakeholder and advocate throughout the planning process.

Our LRT Task Force extensively reviewed best practices from around North America, with a particular focus on the "business case" for rapid transit implementations. The LRT Project promises significant economic uplift for businesses, potential investors and current property owners. This will be realized through increased population and employment density around hubs, and by increasing transportation options for local residents, commuters and visitors.

The Need for a Bay Street Stop

LRT station stops were planned during the ongoing project design phase by the City of Hamilton released to the public on April 27, 2016. For the critical "Highway 403 through Downtown" segment of the B-Line, there are currently only four stations proposed (Dundurn St., Queen St., James St. and Catherine St.).

While these station choices come with significant merit and consideration, after consultation with subject matter experts, businesses and anchor institutions located within the 400 metre vicinity of the Bay-King intersection, we believe that an additional stop at Bay Street is necessary to unlock transit oriented development in a key location in Downtown Hamilton.

As indicated in the appendices, and despite the fact that the intersection is plagued with 270˚ of surface parking lots, the station would be in close proximity to both Hamilton's densest employment and economic clusters. The station would be used by visitors to some of Hamilton's most prominent economic, health, civic and recreation destinations, including:

  • Hamilton City Hall
  • Art Gallery of Hamilton
  • Government of Ontario
  • Government of Canada
  • Standard Life Building (120 King Street West) and Jackson Square Shopping Centre
  • First Ontario Centre (Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey & entertainment venue)
  • Hamilton Convention Centre
  • Hamilton Place
  • McMaster University, David Braley Health Sciences Centre
  • Sheraton, Homewood Suites, Staybridge Suites
  • Several multi-storey condominium facilities recently opened or under construction
  • King West BIA

While it is recognized that a Bay Street station would be roughly equidistant to already proposed stations at Queen and James Street, we believe that there is a logistical and economic need for adding another stop.

Alleviating Potential Bottlenecks

The Downtown business district has a significant existing and projected population and employment density. With the presence of a number of existing employers that employ 25,000 and the recent arrival of organizations like IBM and Hamilton Health Sciences to the Downtown core, properties in Downtown Hamilton are on their way to achieving maximum capacity within the next decade. The construction of new condominium and hotel facilities will also increase the pool of potential transit users.

In addition, the McNabb Street transit terminal is located nearby; the terminal serves as a key feeder into the B-Line corridor, with numbers expected to increase as the City of Hamilton grows the proposed "BLAST" rapid transit network over the next decade.

With the addition of the A-Line Spur up James North, the cumulative impact of these pressures has the potential to create a disruptive bottleneck in the long run near the James Station, with Bay Street ideally located to serve as a release valve and convenient option for residents and employees. In fact, our research of successful LRT stations across North America demonstrated several precedents for LRT stops being located within 300-700 meters within high density segments of the line.

Transit Oriented Development

A key benefit of the B-Line project remains the potential for economic uplift along the corridor. The housing and commercial real estate economy has a significant preference for high density colocation around LRT stations.

This concept is defined as transit oriented development (TOD), which is generally understood as higher density, mixed-use, and pedestrian-friendly development around transit stations. These higher levels of population and employment densities attract investment from infill developers and retail businesses, create a larger market for overall transit ridership, and reduce automobile dependency.

There is no doubt that the Bay-King intersection catchment area is currently underperforming, with significant potential for transit oriented development through by infilling several municipal and private parking lots and low density mixed use building stock. A Bay Street Station would also positively impact future plans for the Sir John A Macdonald High School site.

Conclusion

On behalf of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and several featured member organizations (as co-signed below), we would formally request the City of Hamilton, as part of the LRT Environmental Assessment addendum process, consider the business case behind an additional LRT stop at Bay Street.

We believe the assessment will show that a Bay Street Station would serve many of Hamilton's most important and popular destinations and would precipitate the most dramatic examples of transit oriented development anywhere along the length of the B-Line Corridor, leading to the transformation of one of Hamilton's most important, but underperforming intersections.

It is not a stretch to assume that the Bay Street Station would immediately be the second busiest station between the two end nodes of the B-Line. What it could unlock would make its presence even more essential.

Sincerely,

Keanin Loomis
President and CEO, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce

Dr. David Price
Chair, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University David Braley Health Sciences Centre

Shelley Falconer
President and CEO, Art Gallery of Hamilton

Lorraine Hamilton
Collège Boréal

Sue Bennison
District Vice President, Meridian Credit Union

Leonardo Quattrociocchi
Ambitious Realty Advisors Inc.

PJ Mercanti
CEO, Carmens Group

Scott Warren
General Manager, Core Entertainment

Lilian Kwok
Director, Business Development and Human Resources, Nations Fresh Foods

Steve Kulakowsky
President and CEO, Core urban Inc.

Lia Hess
Chairperson, King West BIA

Vrancor Group

Staybridge Suites Hamilton

Sheraton Hamilton Hotel

Homewood Suites Hamilton

14 Comments

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 25, 2016 at 09:36:17

Fantastic thoughts in this letter. Love seeing all the signatures as well.....so nice to see such a cross-section from all walks of life and business supporting this project to position Hamilton for further growth in the future.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 25, 2016 at 09:45:57

Another reason to support a Bay Station is the implementation of the Bay cycle track, which will be in place long before the LRT is finished construction.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted November 25, 2016 at 10:24:41

Well as far as your Chamber of Commerce is concerned its no longer should there be LRT? Its, we want a stop closer to us not over there! That is a good form of progress. Now the argument is we want it closer so we can better take advantage of it and make money. This is great public statement, to aim right at your anti-LRT councilors. They are fighting for the station closer to them not away from them. It may make a few of the councilors think a bit.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 25, 2016 at 12:31:59 in reply to Comment 120460

In 99% of cities, evidence like this and support from the business community would be enough to change the minds of anti-transit councillors. Not here.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2016 at 09:08:31 in reply to Comment 120463

The world has woken up to the fact that corporations shouldn't benefit from public infrastructure without paying their fair share. Corporations love to use our roads, our electrical grids, our healthcare benefits, our transit systems, our water, our tax dollars in the form of public bailouts and corporate welfare and then turn around and ask for and pay the lowest corporate taxes in any jurisdiction. Why don't the corps step up and start paying for the educated work force and public transit that they say they so desperately need? Why should my taxes pay to help them get slightly richer when there are people who can't afford to keep the lights on? These companies are asking us, the people, to spend money to funnel more customers straight to their doors. Yeah. No thanks. Not interested in their input or "advice".

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-11-26 09:19:42

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By rednic (registered) | Posted November 25, 2016 at 10:27:28

Not saying that it's bad idea but there are a LOT of private bussinesses attached to this letter that obviously stand to benefit. Seems like a great opportunity for a Public Private Partnership. Selling the naming rights would be good step Darko's Platform, Carmens Crappers, Ambitious Benches the possibilities are endless!

Comment edited by rednic on 2016-11-25 10:28:30

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2016 at 09:24:29 in reply to Comment 120461

You really think corporations and businesses are interested in contributing cash? They're just interested in having us build out public infrastructure they can use. If they were truly interested in helping they'd cut a cheque and forgo the naming rights. But then again the business community isn't known for doing the right thing.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2016 at 09:16:02

Look at that list of destinations and explain to me how they're not served by the James St. stop. Jackson Square? It's *at* James St. How does a Bay St stop better serve *Jackson Square*? Same with the Ellen Fairclough Building. City Hall is a wash too since it's between James and Bay. Seems a bit dishonest to claim that Bay suddenly opens up all these new destinations when they'd all be served by James anyway.

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-11-26 09:22:24

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted November 26, 2016 at 09:52:04

We build infrastructure like LRT so everybody can benefit including the small local businesses that represent a majority of the membership of the Chamber of Commerce. Large corporations will benefit, you are correct @JimC, but to not build LRT (or any other infrastructure improvement for that matter) would mean, no one benefits. As for an extra stop on Bay Street that's up to the planners and designers of the line. If they can fit an extra stop at Bay inside the existing budget envelope and or an extra stop at Gage Park and not totally screw up the line's operation and timing to a great degree, go for it. It doesn't hurt to ask! Just as long as we come to the same realization that these businesses have, LRT is good for businesses in Hamilton.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted November 27, 2016 at 11:10:55

The tax payers of Hamilton are in for a huge shock! Metrolinx will not exceed the $1B budget and it's a sure bet that some stops are going to get eliminated as costs will exceed budget. The other huge hurdle is that The City will not finalize LRT go ahead until maintenance and operation liability costs are settled as announced by the City! Putting the first shovel in the ground never mind expanding stops may never occur!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 27, 2016 at 21:13:48 in reply to Comment 120469

So, let's hypothesize a bit more.

  • If stops were eliminated, what would stop Metrolinx or the City from adding them later? Same goes for expansion of the line(s), why would we not do that once it's proven to be successful?

  • If stops are not profitable, what's to stop the City or Metrolinx from eliminating them later?

  • What if LRT is on time, on budget?

  • Why not eliminate the James spur line rather than stops on the main trunk?

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