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By: Max Lightstone

In the near future, Hamilton will be blessed with a light rail transit system, spanning the breadth of the city and allowing individuals to travel from McMaster University to Eastgate Square in just over half an hour. While that’s a great move for the city, it’s still lacking something.

Part of the LRT plan is to build an operations maintenance and storage facility at the McMaster Innovation Park. The OMSF would allow for nightly storage and any necessary servicing to the LRT trains, with tracks built along Longwood Road South for the trains to access Main Street West. If you’ve never heard of MIP, it is a large research facility on Longwood Road South beside the Ontario Highway 403.

MIP was proposed by the university in 2005 with the goal of fostering industry collaboration while progressing research and development. Following McMaster’s purchase of an old Westinghouse factory and warehouse on the site, the province announced a $10 million investment to advance development. As well, the federal government moved the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory to the site.

The park finally opened in 2009, and currently hosts programs, startups and incubators including The Forge and a United Nations University program.

Many of the researchers at MIP are engaged in engineering research, particularly in the materials and automotive fields, but that is quickly changing. Just this year, a $33 million research facility in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology opened, and the university has plans for more expansions including an 80,000 square foot Emerging Technology Center. There is even a hotel in the works!

New buildings lead to more opportunities for people to obtain work. At the MIP, the individuals employed there are often associated with McMaster. The number of people traveling between McMaster’s campus and the MIP for meetings, conferences and classes is already listed as a concern in the park’s master plan, and this number is expected to increase with time.

There are currently only three options to make the trip by public transit: walking across a bridge that is completely exposed to the elements; transfer at King Street West and Longwood Road South to the infrequent Hamilton Street Railway 6-Aberdeen; or taking the route-15 Go Bus from the McMaster Go Terminal, which is also infrequent and expensive.

 It is evident that a more convenient transit system is needed to help facilitate the journey between campus and MIP. The city of Hamilton and McMaster have to plan with foresight to ensure that there is capacity in services to meet the demand.

In this particular case, there’s actually an inexpensive and easy answer: use the proposed LRT line on Longwood Road South. Adding occasional service between the MIP on Longwood and the McMaster stop would allow residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to commute easily on public transit and would vastly ease the trip for those students, faculty and researchers who need to get between Mac and the MIP, some of whom currently need to do so several times a day.

This would also open up the city to out-of-town guests at the future hotel. It wouldn’t even be an expensive plan to implement since the track will already be installed for OMSF access.

A solution like this, however, would require extensive planning, and that's something that hasn’t happened as of yet. McMaster University and the city of Hamilton need to think towards the future when designing and building, and need to work together to make things happen.

 

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