Bay Street stop is a no-brainer

Op­por­tu­nity now be­fore us to avoid big­gest re­gret we will have when LRT is com­plete

The Hamilton Spectator - - COM­MENT - KEANIN LOOMIS Keanin Loomis is pres­i­dent and CEO of the Hamil­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce

There is a con­sid­er­able num­ber of Hamil­ton’s ma­jor em­ploy­ers and pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions — voices that are hard to ig­nore — that took the op­por­tu­nity dur­ing last year’s for­mal pub­lic in­put process to ex­press their opin­ion that B-Line LRT plans can be im­proved by in­clud­ing a sta­tion at Bay and King streets.

Even skep­tics of LRT be­lieve that Bay Street is a no-brainer — if the tran­sit line is ac­tu­ally go­ing to be built, it should be the best project pos­si­ble, goes the think­ing.

As the LRT plan now stands, there is nearly a kilo­me­tre be­tween two down­town core stops, Gore Park and Queen Street. Many of Hamil­ton’s top des­ti­na­tions — city hall, First-On­tario Cen­tre, AGH, David Bra­ley Health Sciences, the Hamil­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, fed­eral build­ing, ALL the ho­tels — are much closer to the in­ter­sec­tion of King and Bay.

The Hamil­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce LRT Task Force re­sponded to the con­cerns of these key down­town des­ti­na­tions, and sub­mit­ted a let­ter signed by all par­ties to the LRT project team in Septem­ber. The let­ter was re­ferred to coun­cil’s LRT com­mit­tee, on which I sit. Mem­bers of the LRT com­mit­tee ex­pressed sup­port for the busi­ness case that was laid out, but re­quested that staff re­port on the im­pacts of adding the stop.

The staff re­port that was pre­sented at the Jan­uary LRT com­mit­tee de­ter­mined that end-to-end trip times (50 sec­onds), prop­erty im­pacts (three “shav­ings”) and the cost of adding the stop ($2.6 mil­lion) were min­i­mal. The LRT com­mit­tee then adopted a res­o­lu­tion re­quest­ing that Metrolinx add the Bay Street stop into the project, as long as it fits within the fund­ing en­velop.

The re­port was sub­mit­ted to GIC last week, but in an un­usual step, a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors over­turned the rec­om­men­da­tion of the com­mit­tee. Very lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion was given.

It now goes in front of coun­cil Wed­nes­day night, per­haps to meet its ul­ti­mate fate. But we also have the op­por­tu­nity to make sure that coun­cil does not make the first and big­gest re­gret we will have when the LRT project is com­plete in 2025.

The busi­ness case be­hind the Bay Street stop is strong. Not only will it in­stan­ta­neously be one of the busiest stops on the B-Line, it will also help un­lock the po­ten­tial be­hind one of Hamil­ton’s most im­por­tant, but un­der­per­form­ing in­ter­sec­tions.

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.

Not only that, but there are plans to tear down Sir John A Mac­don­ald High School and de­velop some­thing sig­nif­i­cant on the site.

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.

With these blank can­vases lo­cated within such prox­im­ity to an LRT stop, I have high con­fi­dence that the $2.6 mil­lion in­vest­ment will more than pay for it­self within just a few years. The Stoney Creek Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Flam­bor­ough Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Hamil­ton/Hal­ton Home­builders As­so­ci­a­tion, the In­ter­na­tional Vil­lage BIA and the Real­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Hamil­ton-Burling­ton all agree.

It is a best prac­tice to lo­cate tran­sit stops closer to­gether where den­si­ties war­rant. To op­ti­mize rid­er­ship, it is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to make sure that sig­nif­i­cant at­trac­tions are served. This is one in­stance in which we must in­sist that our coun­cil max­i­mize the in­vest­ment that tax­pay­ers are mak­ing by build­ing this project.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

The busi­ness case be­hind the Bay Street LRT stop is strong, writes Keanin Loomis. Not only will it be one of the busiest stops on the B-Line, it will also help un­lock the po­ten­tial of an im­por­tant and un­der­per­form­ing in­ter­sec­tion.

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