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McMaster, city to consult students and faculty over LRT station

McMaster University wants rapid transit coming to its campus - but where it stops is the big question.

By Nicole Macintyre

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on Sep. 3, 2009

McMaster University wants rapid transit coming to its campus - but where it stops is the big question.

The city sees tremendous benefits in locating a transit terminal in the heart of the university.

But Mac's current campus plan protects its core for pedestrians and pushes transit to the perimeter.

Rather than locking horns, both sides have agreed to ongoing talks and consultation with students and faculty this fall.

"Working with Mac, we want to make sure we locate at the best spot," said Jill Stephen, Hamilton's director of strategic and environmental planning. "Mac is a key destination point."

The city is still waiting to find out if Metrolinx will pick light rail or rapid buses for Hamilton. A decision is expected this fall.

West-end Councillor Brian McHattie said he fears if Mac insists on a location that isn't supported by Metrolinx, it could jeopardize the project's funding.

"Mac could be responsible for the whole project being killed," he said, noting his concerns are based on past precedent when the university asked that the city remove bus routes from campus after a disagreement over truck routes.

Downtown councillor Bob Bratina first raised the alarm about the potential clash with the university over rapid transit on his blog.

He's since heard from the university and believes a compromise is possible. Though he would prefer to see the transit stop near the campus core, he's open to a location on the edge, like the GO Transit terminal near Cootes Drive.

"I hope there's still room for dialogue," Bratina said, noting a prime location will increase ridership and boost the connection to downtown. "It's an image issue."

Vice-president Roger Trull said the university remains committed to rapid transit and finding the right spot for a terminal.

"Our plan is to work with the Metrolinx folks and the city to determine the best location."

If there's a strong case for changing its plan, Mac is open to the idea, said Trull, adding he's confident they will find a solution that works for both.

Nicholas Kevlahan, co-founder of the citizens' group Hamilton Light Rail and a Mac professor said he was initially worried but now feels discussions are going well.

"I don't want things to get confrontational," he said, noting a location on the edge of campus would still work as long as students aren't forced to cross Main Street.

"We have the luxury of a compact campus, so no matter where they put it, it's going to be a short walk."