Word came out late last week that both the Federal and Provincial governments will contribute up to $3.4 billion for Hamilton’s LRT. See what can happen when you remove Council from the process?
Of course, Council will now have to endorse the new deal, which is no different than the old deal, route wise. And in no uncertain terms, the funders have said it can be a different LRT project, but it has to be for LRT. And the more shovel-ready the better. What better shovel-ready project do we have than the B-Line LRT that was cancelled mid-RFP process? The properties have been bought, and in many cases the buildings demolished. Some could say shovels have already been in the ground.
Among the many roadblocks thrown up by Council was the worry that control of the line would slip out of their hands. Now they worry it won’t and the City will be on the hook for maintenance and operating costs which at this point cannot be determined.
It has always baffled me that people oppose this project with a passion that borders on unreasonable. The supporters are myriad and include all the Hamilton big name businesses and institutions, the community-building organizations, the not-for-profits and the Chamber of Commerce. They see it as more than simply a transit line down the middle of the lower city. They see it as the spark that ignites a new future for the neighbourhoods along the line. A future they endorse and look forward to sharing. I can’t recall another issue for the city where major city players are lobbying City Hall with a no-brainer argument for progress than the LRT.
I have written many times in support of the LRT. I’ve appended links to all my transit related columns, fyi, at the end of this post. It’s exhausting to beat the same drum, over and over, providing the same responses to the same questions, to continually debunk misinformation about what might happen in an uncertain future. To find a new argument to counter the same-old same-old coming from LRT opponents who have been relentless in making their case to councillors who use the LRT to stoke divisions between wards and grandstand for media attention. Kudos to those councillors and public supporters who continue to hold fast to a greater vision of Hamilton, with thriving communities connected from boundary to boundary with a transit system responsive to the needs of Hamiltonians and in respect of the environment.
Joey Coleman’s take on how the LRT vote will pan out is instructive and quite possibly correct. I’m not in the practice of predictive politics, but I agree with his assessment regarding Chad Collins and Judi Partridge, both very vocal opponents. Coleman predicts a 13-3 or 12-4 yes/no split, but not before everyone gets to have their say, yet again, on a project that has been talked to death over the last 10 years and voted on by council over 60 times. I can’t imagine any politician in their right mind turning down billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements for their decaying city. That’s some kind of special stubbornness there.
Managing change is the responsibility of leadership. Leadership is not about staying still. It’s the act of taking people somewhere into the future. There are no leaders into the past, unless we’re dealing in sci-fi time travel. In response to that statement I can hear the anti-LRT crowd crowing – but trains are old technology! As though the modern LRT is no different from the wood or coal burning steam engines that drove the industrial revolution. Or the electric trolley cars of the last century.
We’re in need of an economic revolution in Hamilton. House prices are trending in the stratosphere and affordable housing is impossible to find for a large swath of Hamiltonians. Our commercial scene is right out of a 1940’s film noir set and the underground infrastructure in the lower city is decaying.
The LRT is far more than a transit line. As its proponents point out time and time again, it will drive development along the route, and much needed infrastructure improvements in the oldest part of the city. It will serve as the first leg of the BLAST network designed to bring transit to other parts of Hamilton. And it will, maybe more importantly, uplift the idea of taking transit for so many people who think it’s a poor person’s mode of transportation.
People turn their nose up at transit because of class issues. This is the elephant no one talks about. Poor people take the bus, but commuters take the train. The mingling of the masses is too much for some who would see the bus as their absolute last resort in a menu of more costly options. A sleek and shiny LRT doesn’t haven’t the same low-class connotations that the bus has and a new multi-billion dollar system might help people overcome their class bias against transit enough for them to park their car and give it a try.
Isn’t that the goal in this climate changing world?
I’m reminded of this song from the idealistic 1970s in thinking of this project… It’s easy to say “No”.
My columns on transit
I think have them all here. I count 21. Most have links to The Spectator website. Where there is no link, I have posted a pic of the column, yellowed and creased, from my personal archives.
After many steps backward, time for Hamilton to move forward Jan 6, 2020
All I want for Christmas is a smart and effective Hamilton city council, Dec 23, 2019
Ambitious City, where is your confidence? Oct 15, 2018
Hamilton LRT is not an election issue, May 28, 2018
Our transit woes just an election away, February 5, 2018
Want some shoes to go with those pants? Oct 31, 2016
Put on your grown up pants, make a decision on LRT Oct 4, 2016
Are we really going to say no to $1 billion? May 17, 2016
Will LRT come up short?, June 2, 2015
Talking transit in Hamilton, March 24, 2015
Spare me from being an elderly HSR rider, December 2, 2014
Where’s the leadership in LRT?, March 11, 2014
HSR service just isn’t cutting it, Jan 28, 2014
Do we even care about Hamilton LRT?, Oct 23, 2012
Hamilton, we have a problem, June 4, 2013
Our buses are bad – because they are so heavily used, Aug 1, 2011
What will it take for you to use transit?, Aug 18, 2008