Vote switch keeps Bay Street LRT stop alive Coun­cil­lors Jack­son and Pear­son change mind over 15th LRT stop in favour of de­bate

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

The prospect of adding an LRT stop at Bay Street re­mains alive for the sim­ple and sole rea­son two coun­cil­lors sud­denly switched their votes.

Tom Jack­son and Maria Pear­son were among the naysay­ers who at a com­mit­tee meet­ing last week voted 9-6 against ask­ing Metrolinx to con­sider build­ing an ad­di­tional plat­form at Bay for an es­ti­mated $2.6 mil­lion.

At Wed­nes­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, how­ever, Jack­son and Pear­son had an at­ti­tude change.

In­stead of killing the idea spear­headed by Hamil­ton’s Cham­ber of Com­merce, both sup­ported a mo­tion, which car­ried 8-7, to post­pone a de­ci­sion un­til a spe­cial March 28 meet­ing.

To re­cap: this idea was ini­tially sup­ported by the city’s LRT sub­com­mit­tee, then de­feated by the gen­eral is­sue com­mit­tee and now booted down field by coun­cil.

In its own way, that makes it a mi­cro­cosm of all the di­vi­sions and un­cer­tain­ties coun­cil­lors have about the whole LRT project.

So why did Jack­son and Pear­son go into re­verse?

Pear­son said via email she has no prob­lem with hav­ing a “more com­pre­hen­sive dis­cus­sion” on the mat­ter.

As for Jack­son, he orig­i­nally voted against the stop be­cause of con­cerns over the cost and con­fu­sion of mak­ing yet an­other change to the con­tro­ver­sial $1 bil­lion project. But in light of the “ker­fuf­fle” raised af­ter the com­mit­tee vote by sup­port­ers of the Bay idea, he de­cided to keep the con­ver­sa­tion open.

Frankly, Jack­son is a “lit­tle miffed” no­body spoke in favour of adding a stop at Bay and King when the cur­rent LRT align­ment was un­veiled last April. He’s try­ing to fig­ure how its now be­come a “no-brainer,” the term used by cham­ber pres­i­dent Keanin Loomis.

“I changed (votes) to say, ‘OK, I want to get in this game a lit­tle more and ex­plore it a lit­tle more,” Jack­son said. “That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean I’m sup­port­ing Bay-King at the end of the day.”

It does, how­ever, mean the east Moun­tain coun­cil­lor will use the March meet­ing as an op­por­tu­nity “to get his own oar in the wa­ter” re­gard­ing oth­ers stops along the 11 km route.

“I want to throw in how come MacNab at King wasn’t con­sid­ered. Geez, that’s a per­fect con­nec­tion with the pri­mary HSR bus ter­mi­nal at MacNab.”

Un­der the cur­rent de­sign, there were orig­i­nally 13 stops along the route from McMaster Univer­sity to the Queen­ston traf­fic cir­cle. In re­sponse to strong pub­lic in­put, a cou­ple of down­town stops were tweaked and a 14th added at Gage Park. Bay would be the 15th.

The Cham­ber first pro­moted the idea late last year. It was mainly backed by a slew of busi­ness in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing Vran­cor Group, the Car­men’s Group and the Re­al­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Hamil­ton-Burling­ton.

Loomis ar­gued it would be a “glaring omis­sion” not to have a Bay stop given the prox­im­ity of City Hall, the David Bra­ley Health Sci­ences Cen­tre, the art gallery, se­nior gov­ern­ment ser­vices, and ho­tel and condo projects.

A staff re­port noted it would only add about 50 sec­onds to the ter­mi­nus-to-ter­mi­nus travel time, though it would re­quire some prop­erty ex­pro­pri­a­tion and de­mo­li­tion, the cost of which is not in­cluded in the $2.6 mil­lion price tag.

The plat­form would also be lo­cated only about 400 me­tres from al­ready planned stops at Queen and James streets. Most of the other stops along the route are 600-800 me­tres apart.

In­ter­est­ingly, in help­ing keep the idea afloat, Jack­son also wants to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of tap­ping pri­vate sec­tor money to fi­nance the new stop since busi­nesses are so gung-ho on the prospect.

“Can’t maybe some wealthy in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers down the road who are go­ing to make oo­dles of money at that kind of stop, can’t they in­vest the money at that kind of lo­ca­tion?”

Be that as it may, if the rest of the coun­cil votes stay steady, Jack­son and Pear­son now hold the bal­ance of power. If just one re­turns to their orig­i­nal po­si­tion and votes against the idea, the vi­sion of a Bay stop will die on a tie vote.

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