Recently, I contacted Nicholas Kevlahan, a member of Hamilton Light Rail. They are a group of concerned citizens and local business people who are lobbying local government to install light rail into Hamilton streets rather than bus rapid transit lines. Through a steady publicity/educational campaign, Nicholas and his group have turned LRT in Hamilton from a “maybe sometime in the future”, to a “top priority” in the eyes of local politicians and business leaders.
The benefits of light rail transit are numerous. Here are just a few of them:
- They bring new investment along their lines. A streetcar line was installed along a twelve mile stretch of road in an abandoned industrial neighbourhood known as the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. Almost immediately, over one hundred new businesses came to the neighbourhood along the track, as well as seven thousand new residents. The return of investment was over two thousand percent, and the new businesses garnered a large amount of tax revenue for a once cash strapped city. Now, Portland is known as one of the most desirable places in the US to live.
- Streetcars have a much longer lifespan than buses, and are cheaper to maintain. Their operating costs are far lower, since there is a much larger driver to passenger ratio. Some expanded streetcars can carry up to three hundred passengers at a time. Streetcars can also be scaled up or down to suit ridership requirements, and attract new riders. Buses have their set capacity, with no flexibility in the event of increased ridership. Ottawa, who implemented a Bus Rapid Transit system is now running at over capacity, and is seriously looking into having a LRT line built to suit demand and reduce traffic gridlock, which is a chronic problem in our nation’s capital, as it is here in Windsor.
- The environmental benefits are numerous. Buses expel diesel fumes into the atmosphere and their idling in traffic causes even more particulate matter to invade our lungs. A streetcar has no emissions, because it runs on totally clean electricity. Some say the increased generation of electricity to accommodate an LRT line causes increased air pollution, but there really isn’t any comparison. Street-level pollution is a chronic problem in Windsor, and an LRT line would help curb some of these problems. Streetcars are also wheelchair and limited mobility accessible since they are at grade with the surrounding pavement.
I realise that in many cases here, I am preaching to the converted, but the numbers still totally amaze me. Having a LRT system is proven to improve the economy, improve the downtown core and increase the quality of life in every city they are used.
Six other cities in Canada are planning on establishing a LRT system. We, as a city should not be left behind this time. This time, let us be willing to spend money to make a great deal of money back in the long run.
A LRT system would boost the local manufacturing economy as well. In Portland, the city re-opened the once abandoned Oregon Ironworks to build and maintain streetcars. It is common practise for cities to build and maintain their own fleets.
Windsor is now behind several cities in many different facets of liveability and quality of life. In order to attract new business and people, which should be city hall’s primary concern in these dark days, we should be more than open and passionate about establishing an LRT line, coupled with well maintained bike lanes.
People like Nicholas Kevlahan and the HLR give me hope an inspiration in these dark days. They were a group of people who saw something that needed to be changed, and by a massive publicity campaign that educated even the most doubtful resident, they were willing to effect a change in mentality in their blue collar city. It shows what passion, education and stick-to-itiveness will do given the right direction, and the right group of people.
In every conflict there are two opposing sides. On one side, there is us; the people who want a better Windsor, a Windsor we can show as an example of what could happen if the issues we face are conquered not by violent or disruptive means, but by education, civic involvement and awareness.
On the other are those of us who are stuck in the past, who refuse to let go of the 1956 dream of endless gasoline and endless suburban homes on quiet cul-de-sacs, where everyone is making good, unending money and consumerism is not a choice, it is a birthright.
These people style us as “weirdos” and “naysayers”, but we know the truth, and we know we are right. Deep down, somewhere past the nacho chips and the professional wrestling they know that they are wrong and that having an LRT system will improve the city in a multitude of ways.
Streetcars are much more than a conveyance; they are sexy.
I encourage everyone who wants an LRT system to begin writing letters to the editor of the Star with me, and writing local politicians and business leaders. This will cause a groundswell of discussion and people will start to see the multitude of benefits of LRT coming back to Windsor. Engage in a discussion and then debate your point, and keep fighting the good fight.
Eddie Francis - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Brister - email@example.com
Drew Dilkens - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Jones - email@example.com
Caroline Postma - firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Halberstadt - email@example.com
Fulvio Valentinis - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Lewenza, Jr - email@example.com
Bill Marra - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo-Anne Gignac - email@example.com
Percy Hatfield - firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, you could call the mayor’s office, if you like it the old fashioned way - Tel. (519) 255-6315