Short-sightedness preventing Hamilton from leaping forward
Ryan McGreal’s article on page A19 of the October 6th edition of The Spectator, “A platform built on falsehoods”, shows clearly his bias toward the current City Council/Metrolinx B-Line LRT plan. It also underlines the bias of the media in general to viewing the LRT into a simple Yes or No option. I read in the Spectator that Mr. Ford would give Hamilton council the choice of project funding[i]. Whatever you think of the new provincial government aside, we should celebrate the liberty from Metrolinx that it allows. “Presto”, it’s gone. Now we’re rid of a whole level of bloated bureaucracy. Hello HSR operated LRT. Give up on the contentious East-West LRT plan that will cause traffic congestion, and look at really promoting GO Train commuting with a North-South LRT that delivers riders to the GO Train platform at James Street North.
McGreal correctly identifies the problem with Mr. Sgro’s platform of redirecting the provincial funding. To spend it piecemeal on repairs to infrastructure, “leaking away” the money filling potholes, will have squandered the opportunity to build something with a future. Unfortunately, the B-Line LRT doesn’t have that scope. The current plan solves a problem that doesn’t exist. If more buses are required, then add more buses, but to reduce a major traffic artery into a glorified sidestreet, and suggest that this will benefit transit in Hamilton is ridiculous. The proposed B-Line LRT doesn’t even stop at the GO station, which was the purpose of funding the project. Do you remember “The Big Move”? No, City Council’s Metrolinx plan is going to cause business closures and established residents to become frustrated and move out of the corridor. Could that be the real purpose of this plan? If it is, then the mayor should come clean and tell us that he’s pushing the old out for the new. I regularly meet people who still don’t understand what the plan is actually going to do to King Street.
Arguing that improving the underground pipes and cables is the reason why we need to build this destructive project ignores the city’s own Maintenance Department assessment of the condition of that underground “plant”. I was in the chamber when it was made exceedingly clear that the plant in question was eighty percent good. That means mathematically, if you spend six hundred million dollars replacing it, you are wasting 480 million dollars. Are you ok with wasting one half of a billion dollars to build a railway down the middle of King Street? Let’s conclude that the reason for building the LRT along the proposed route is not to replace old infrastructure.
Investment in Hamilton will continue from simple economic pressures, and there is no reason to assume that building a North-South LRT will not attract similar investment as that imagined along an East-West route. In fact, there are reasons to suggest that the corridors opened up by NSLRT would give all the same benefits touted by the B-Line proponents, but none of the drawbacks. For example there are no issues with tall buildings blocking the view of the escarpment along Upper James.
Ridership has long been spoken about as the reason to build the B-Line into the LRT, but that’s a red herring. NSLRT guarantees ridership by design. It’s not everyday that a city gets a billion dollars to build transit infrastructure, so splash some cold water on your face, and think a little outside of the box. Today, October 8, 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced a “final warning”. Whether you believe anything about climate change or not, when a lot of scientists are saying things like:
“The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone…”
“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes…”
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk…”[ii]
then perhaps the prudent thing to do is heed their warnings. Now is the time to change the paradigm of public transit in Hamilton. Not only does NSLRT promote GO rail commuting, it does so in the greenest way possible using inclined rail technology. Instead of cutting down hundreds of air-purifying trees along King Street, we could stop driving all the buses up and down the hill, polluting the air and converging on the downtown core in that crazy zig-zagging carousal of redundancy! Why use radial routes when the city is laid out like a grid, for heaven’s sake? Simplicity is beautiful in science and in traffic planning. Use the buses to run East-West to feed the LRT running North-South. The B-Line LRT is like a patch on an old garment, the North-South LRT can give us a whole new suit in one fell swoop.
Visit NorthSouthLRT.ca Henry Geissler, for mayor.
[i]Van Dongen, Matthew. “Metrolinx stops buying LRT land citing provincial spending freeze.” The Hamilton Spectator, 30 August 2018, p. A6
[ii]United Nations IPCC Press Release. “Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”, 8 October 2018