The executive director of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce argues that if Hamilton is going to go ahead with its LRT plan, Council should do what it can to ensure the plan is successful.
By Ryan McGreal
Published February 22, 2017
Arend Kersten, executive director of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce, has written to Hamilton City Council calling on them to support asking Metrolinx to add a light rail transit (LRT) station at Bay Street after the proposal was rejected by the General Issues Committee (GIC) last week.
The Flamborough Chamber has not yet taken a formal position on the city's LRT plan, which is proceeding with full capital funding from the Province. However, as Kersten wrote, "If Hamilton is going to proceed with the LRT project, then let us together make it the best LRT it can be!"
The letter notes that Council will still have to vote on an Operations and Maintenance Agreement with the Province in future. The Flamborough Chamber supports the proposal because: a Bay Street station will only add 50 seconds to the LRT travel time, the cost of the station is a small fraction of the total capital cost, and they are persuaded by the argument of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce when it proposed the station.
Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Keanin Loomis wrote an op-ed in today's Hamilton Spectator reiterating the case for adding a station at King and Bay:
Incredibly, despite its centrality and the cluster of adjacent attractions, Bay and King is surrounded by 270 degrees of surface parking lot, from which the city is generating in total just $52,000 in property taxes, insufficient to even service the area. [...]
A preliminary analysis conducted by city staff suggests that 1,500 units built in the area could bring in $5 million to $7 million in annual tax revenue, that is then distributed city-wide.
The Flamborough Chamber letter follows a similar letter from the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce that also called on Council to reconsider its GIC vote to reject the station.
Councillors will receive the GIC report and have one last chance to vote on the proposal at today's City Council meeting.
Following is the text of Kersten's letter:
As you probably know, the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce (FCC) has some serious questions/concerns about Hamilton's proposed $1 billion Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.
As a matter of fact, the FCC Board of Directors (BOD) has postponed taking a formal position on the project until its questions/concerns have been addressed - especially as it relates to specifics about the impact of the project on ALL Hamilton taxpayers, including those in Flamborough.
At the most recent meeting of the LRT Sub-Committee - where I represent the FCC - consideration of an additional stop at Bay Street LRT station/stop as proposed by our friends at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce (HCC) took place. Frankly, we found the HCC's arguments for an additional stop persuasive.
It appears that an additional stop (halfway between James Street and Queen Street) will add less than a minute to the McMaster University to Queenston traffic circle schedule. Furthermore, the additional cost is rather small when compared to the project's total price tag of $1 billion.
As the 'Voice of Business' in and for Flamborough, the FCC is committed to 'city building' and making the 'new' Hamilton 'the best place to raise a child.' We'd like to think we've demonstrated that in the past (as evidenced by our enthusiastic support for Mayor Eisenberger's visionary and courageous anti-poverty initiative). And we're committed to continuing to doing so in the future.
Despite many unanswered questions and concerns about the LRT project, the FCC supported the HCC's recommendation to add a LRT stop at Bay Street. If Hamilton is going to proceed with the LRT project, then let us together make it the best LRT it can be!!
That's why we were surprised when Council declined to adopt the unanimous recommendation of the LRT Sub-Committee re the proposed Bay Street stop.
We understand that the 'make or break' decision regarding Hamilton's LRT project will take place at some point in the future once Council considers the proposed Operating and Maintenance Agreement. Hopefully that will (finally) detail what the impacts are for ALL Hamilton taxpayers - especially as it relates to those in Flamborough.
To avoid any confusion, the FCC BOD wants to emphasize that our support for an additional LRT station at Bay Street must not be construed - either explicit or inferred - as support of the LRT project.
Perhaps those members of Council who voted against the proposed Bay Street stop at the most recent meeting of the General Issue Committee (GIC) were concerned approving it could/would be interpreted by some as endorsement/support of the entire LRT project.
While understanding that sentiment, the FCC respectfully disagrees. Supporting an additional LRT stop at Bay Street (making Hamilton's LRT 'the very best it can be') is SEPARATE from the ultimate 'make or break' decision regarding Hamilton's LRT (once Council considers all the details as spelled out in the proposed Operating and Maintenance Agreement).
Accordingly - and with the utmost of respect - we would ask that Council NOT ratify the decision made at last week's GIC meeting - or at the very least, refer the matter back to the LRT Sub-Committee for further consideration.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your time.
On behalf of the FCC BOD,
Arend Kersten, Executive Director
Flamborough Chamber of Commerce
There is still time for Council to change its vote and approve the Bay station request. Please take a moment to send a polite message to Council asking them to reconsider their vote against this important line improvement.
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