Monday, March 10, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday, March 10, 2014

Mayor’s LRT blog spurs confusion as he tries to reiterate his support

Attention light-rail fans: Mayor Bob Bratina says he’s always been keen on LRT.

Just not along the $800-million east-west route council is asking the province to fund.

The mayor infuriated some LRT advocates Tuesday with a new blog post that outlined his 2010 election campaign pitch for a Mountain-climbing LRT route along a converted rail line that is now a popular escarpment walking and cycling trail.

Bratina, who hasn’t registered to run in the fall election, denied the blog was a salvo in what is widely expected to be a transit-heavy campaign debate.

He also said in a Wednesday interview he has “no interest” in “resurrecting” his old rail-trail proposal as an alternative to the council-approved line running 14 kilometres between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.
He said the blog, which includes a map of the rail trail proposal, was simply meant to refute the oft-repeated argument he opposes LRT.

But LRT boosters criticized the blog online for further muddying the waters around Hamilton’s support for light rail.

Raise the Hammer’s Ryan McGreal said Bratina’s musings were “calculated to sow confusion and doubt” about rapid transit planning in the city, which has been dogged in recent years by conflicting political messages.

While Bratina starts the blog by saying he “fully” supports council’s position on transit, he goes on to note perceived problems and “doubt” linked to the B Line — listing traffic, unhappy King Street businesses and property acquisition issues.

McGreal said it’s “particularly frustrating” to see the mayor suggest in a public forum his old rail trail plan has more development potential than the B Line, after Metrolinx and the city spent years on studies identifying the lower city line as the best bet for ridership and economic growth.

“It’s noise and confusion … it’s actually unhelpful,” said McGreal, who replies to the blog in a rebuttal here.

Bratina argued the only controversy over LRT is where the required $800-million will come from. The minority Liberal government is considering new tolls, development charges and fuel surtaxes. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)

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