As a millennial and a young teaching professional established in Hamilton in 2007, I can confidently state that the promise of a hustling and bustling city core yet to come was what made me relocate and remain in Hamilton. Stunning, historic downtown buildings rising from the ashes, the many new restaurants and cafés, universities and colleges expanding their campuses, bike lanes, networking opportunities for young entrepreneurs, co-working spaces, a bustling art scene and an art festival known Canada wide, somewhat affordable housing; these are also some of the things that have been attracting people to set base in Hamilton. Then there are those who were called solely by the siren calls of the LRT. $1,000,000,000 that is to be used on tracks, on cars, on the infrastructure needed to build it. Through my second part time job,I have been able to gain some insight into what the hardworking people and business owners of Hamilton really think about the much promised and talked about LRVs.
On the other hand, there are those native to Hamilton, business owners, teachers and entrepreneurs who believe that the money could be used to enhance and to better the already existing transit infrastructure. When they are waiting sometimes up to 30 minutes for a bus that is late, or for a connection they might have missed, when it takes over an hour to get to Eastgate Square from Westdale, when the buses dramatically decrease when McMaster isn’t in session, when it is difficult to travel along Barton St., or simply when there is a last minute bus route change announced only on Twitter, which many do not use, this is where you get a divided city. These individuals feel like the system has failed them, like their voices aren’t being heard, like their needs for a safe and efficient transit are not met. When a teacher of 40 years and a recently published author, or a publishing business owner mentioned that they are against the LRT for some of the above mentioned reasons, I must admit I was offended. They stated that new businesses and builds were not injected into the downtown core solely on the promises of the LRT and that their owners would not pack up shop and leave if the announcement came that the LRT is derailed. They believe progress is happening regardless of the LRT, that it takes every business owner and entrepreneur to change things internally and not rely solely on outsiders. Are these individuals advocating against it instead of offering alternatives, offering compromises, making their voices heard at City Hall? What is their idea of progress? Is the LRT going to be a derailed project after all?
I fell in love with the city 12 years ago when I relocated for work. Given the progress the city has made over the last few years, I have no doubt that Hamilton is the next “it” thing, the place our generation and the generations after us will want to call home. As a young professional, I love the idea of belonging to a community, such as HIVE, where individuals are collectively trying to better themselves, their professions, and to build a sustainable Hamilton. When I am not teaching, being a freelance photographer or building websites, you can find me at one of the many amazing cafés or restaurants on Locke St., James St., Ottawa St. North or in Westdale, enjoying a bite to eat or a cup of ethically sourced coffee.