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