Is light rail derailed in Hamilton?
The idea, just a few short years ago, seemed to be zooming along. Council was on board, unanimously backing LRT for Hamilton's rapid transit future and parking the idea of buses. Polls showed a good chunk of the public was supportive.
All the tracks seem to have been laid, metaphorically at least, for a shiny, sexy train line criss-crossing the lower city. All there was left to do, it seemed, was to knock on provincial and federal doors and lobby for funding. Former mayor Fred Eisenberger took up the charge, making light rail one of the linchpins of his leadership. -- But he was defeated in last fall's election.
Since then, there have been repeated calls from various quarters for a political champion to take on the LRT cause, saying it's crucial to landing funding and to project a fresh image for a city striving to find a place in the knowledge economy.
That hasn't happened. Instead, the voices from the upper offices of the city in recent days are throwing some mighty cold water on the dream of LRT.
Mayor Bob Bratina, a supporter of LRT when he was the downtown Ward 2 councillor, has recently said all-day GO train service is a bigger priority and that there is no public “clamour” for LRT. He has questioned whether Hamilton taxpayers can afford the project and said there is “no convincing argument” for dense economic development along the corridor.
Both Bratina and city manager Chris Murray have said they haven't fielded any calls from developers interested in investing along the proposed east-west LRT route.