Yes, it’s time for another story about light rail transit in Hamilton. But this time, Mac students have a chance to make a difference.
Hamilton city council will vote on passing an environmental assessment for the LRT route on April 19. The new assessment comes after slight changes were made to the route.
Despite 50 separate votes in favour of the project, LRT remains a divisive issue. In an April 6 story, we wrote about how city council could potentially kill the project by not passing the environmental assessment. For more details on that story, click here.
With LRT hanging in the balance, McMaster Students Union vice-president (Education) Blake Oliver has launched #yesLRT, a campaign that calls on McMaster students to write letters to city councillors and urge them to support LRT in Hamilton.
“There’s a very real threat that this won’t go through. And this is a real opportunity for student voices to impact the decision,” said Oliver.
There have been multiple city council discussions during her term and Oliver explains that the MSU is launching a campaign now because of how the landscape has changed. Previous discussions, like the council meetings in the summer that were postponed to the fall — would have required two-thirds majority to change. The environmental assessment has to be passed by half of city council. Six members are in favour of LRT, five members are against LRT and five are undecided.
Oliver says that the feedback is “what you would expect.”
“From pro-LRT groups, we’ve had a lot of great support. On the flip side, people who are anti-LRT have the same types of arguments that you would expect, especially specific to students,” said Oliver.
Some who are against LRT discount student voices as current students may not be in Hamilton when the project is complete. McMaster students contribute a significant amount of revenue to the HSR each year through the mandatory bus pass. In 2016, Mac students contributed $3.1 million in revenue, while the HSR’s total revenue was $42.8 million.
The timing of the vote couldn’t come at a worse time. Students are focused on exams, and the MSU’s advocacy team is comprised of largely volunteers whose roles have concluded.
“I wish this was at any other time of the year,” said Oliver. “Considering the time of year, I do think the response has been good. There’s been a lot of great social media traction about it.”
Moving forward, the MSU will continue to advocate on LRT as needed. Some councillors have made a habit of injecting LRT into city council discussions that are unrelated to the issue, making it difficult to predict when the next major LRT debate will take place.
For students interested in the #yesLRT campaign, visit msumcmaster.ca/yesLRT.