· by Huzaifa Saeed
The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has been a longstanding advocate for the importance of the B-Line LRT project as a city building asset and economic development tool to revitalize and grow the downtown core.
Through our LRT Task Force, we have been a leading voice in evidence-based advocacy since 2012, not just for the business case behind the project itself, but also towards conditions that will maximize the economic impact of the project.
The case for a Bay Street Station: When the LRT stations were announced in April 2016, for the critical “Highway 403 through Downtown” segment of the B-Line, there were only four stations proposed (Dundurn St., Queen St., James St. and Catherine St.). While these station choices come came with merit, after consultation with stakeholders located within the 400-metre vicinity of the Bay-King intersection, we concluded that an additional stop at Bay Street is necessary to unlock the maximum economic benefit from LRT in Hamilton and alleviate congestion at the James Street station.
While with the proposed station will be located close to Hamilton’s densest employment and economic clusters, the intersection itself is undeveloped and plagued with 270˚ of surface parking lots. The station will also potentially serve thousands of visitors at Hamilton’s most prominent economic, health, civic and recreation destinations located in the vicinity (e.g., First Ontario Centre, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Nations Fresh Foods, Federal and City facilities).
An expert review of stations across North America demonstrated several precedents for LRT stops being within 300-700 meters during certain high-density segments of a project.
Widespread support: The proposal was co-signed by key pillar institutions, investors, and the King Street West BIA, in addition to receiving unanimous approval from the City of Hamilton’s LRT subcommittee in January 2017.
At the LRT subcommittee, Ward Two Councillor Jason Farr also reported that the City is only recovering a small ~$111,000 in annual tax assessment from the King/Bay area. However, projections by City staff suggest this revenue can grow to at least $6.1 Million based on new residential growth at the station, more than recouping the $2.6 million construction cost.
Surprise rejection by City Council: The proposal was then referred to the February 15th Hamilton City Council General Issues Committee for final approval. After minimal debate, the GIC surprisingly voted by 9 to 6 to reject and override the unanimous recommendation from the City’s LRT subcommittee to endorse the Bay Street stop proposal.
In an interview with CBC Hamilton last week, we share some of Councilor Farr’s sentiment when he said: “Many people who voted today didn’t even speak to (why they were opposed),” he said. “I don’t think it should be underestimated how significant this vote was today.” The reaction by many businesses and residents on social media and CHML radio was overwhelmingly shocked and disappointed.
Here is the vote breakdown (Wards):
In favour: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, Mayor | Opposed: 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15
Mayor Eisenberger and downtown Councillors are still supportive and we are working with them determine a fair reconsideration opportunity.
Our Call to Action: The proposal will next be on full council meeting agenda at 5 pm, February 22nd. We need your support and voice in contacting Councillors within your network for this proposal in advance of the meeting. Support has already started trickling in from many stakeholders, including the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce.
You can email the Councillors directly (click here for a handy email list & here for an Outlook link) and send letters to the City Clerk for inclusion within formal correspondence at the next Council meeting: email@example.com.
For questions or more information please contact: Huzaifa Saeed | Policy & Research Analyst | Hamilton Chamber of Commerce | t: 905-522-1151 ext: 230 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org