Hamilton needs light rail transit, and light rail transit needs champions to make it happen.
Less than three years ago, Council unanimously passed a motion instructing staff to work with Metrolinx "to include the functional design, detail design and construction of the B-line rapid transit corridor ... utilizing Light Rail Technology."
With a $3 million grant from the Province, staff have been working hard to follow council's direction and have undertaken detailed studies of the plan, including extensive public engagement in a variety of ways.
Council directed staff to undertake an "aggressive public consultation program" as part of the study, and literally thousands of Hamiltonians have participated actively in expressing support and helping plan the route at both the macro level and in detail around individual nodes.
Since the October 2008 vote, the silence from Council on LRT has been deafening. Instead, we hear in the media that the Mayor is "not hearing any kind of clamour from the public" on light rail, and members of the Planning Committee feel they are "slowly being backed into a corner" because the staff intensification plan emphasizes the LRT corridor.
It's true that the Province has not yet made a funding commitment for LRT, as environmental assessment process is still underway. Some councillors have suggested as a result that we should focus our energies elsewhere, since we "still don't know where we stand on LRT".
However, it is defeatist not to push hard for LRT simply because it has not been confirmed. The only way we will achieve LRT funding from higher levels of government is if we advocate and campaign and fight like hell for it.
In a February 2011 op-ed published in the Spectator, Richard Koroscil warned:
Metrolinx chair Rob Prichard said at the Hamilton Economic Summit in May that [LRT] was 'ours to lose.' But with many cities in southern Ontario angling for the same thing, Hamilton must demonstrate strong civic leadership and broad community support. I've said repeatedly this year that Hamilton has to be 'loud and proud' if we're going to get LRT funded.
He's right. We can't equivocate on LRT advocacy just because we're still waiting for some answers. Council is prudent to ask careful questions and get fully informed before ordering the shovels into the ground, but we can't be silent while waiting for those answers.
High quality rapid transit is not a luxury. A comprehensive, well-thought-out LRT plan is essential to our future as a prosperous, economically dynamic, sustainable city. Waterloo Region just committed to their LRT plan because they recognized that while the cost to build it is significant, the cost to let it slip away would be ruinous.
Editor, Raise the Hammer
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