Mayor Bratina and Council need to have a "focused discussion" on why Metrolinx and the Province seem ready to offer Hamilton a much worse LRT funding deal than they gave to Toronto.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published August 28, 2012
Is Hamilton prepared to fight for the same Light Rail Transit (LRT) deal as Toronto?
We now know that the TTC and City of Toronto are being asked by Metrolinx to contribute precisely nothing towards the costs of building and equipping their four line 52km Crosstown LRT.
The only point still being negotiated is whether or not Toronto will pay anything towards the operation of the lines.
Perhaps it is indeed a good time for Hamilton's Mayor and Council to have a "focused discussion", not on whether Hamilton can afford LRT, but on why Metrolinx and the Province seem to be getting ready to offer Hamilton a much worse deal than they offered Toronto - a deal we won't accept.
One of the most important jobs of our Mayor and Council is to ensure that Hamilton gets its fair share of Provincial funding. LRT is an issue that is worth billions in direct funding and indirect economic uplift to the City.
Surely, this merits more than vague assurances that everything is going according to plan, and repeated efforts to lower expectations!
Remember, that the total funding provided by Metrolinx for Toronto's Crosstown LRT project is $8.4 billion, over eight times the estimated cost of Hamilton's B-line. Toronto is also pushing for even more funding from the Province for other transit projects.
When I was on the City of Hamilton's Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee (RTCAC), it was clear that staff had been told by Metrolinx that their funding model was to pay all direct capital costs, and Metrolinx would in turn own and operate the system.
That is precisely what they are doing in Toronto.
The Province and Mayor Bratina later claimed that they had not followed through since the projects would need to be approved by Metrolinx.
However, Metrolinx demonstrated a large net benefit from LRT in the February 2010 Benefits Case Analysis, and the City has essentially completed the 30 percent engineering design showing feasibility.
All that remains is the funding decision, which is ultimately up to the Provincial government that now makes all funding decisions for Metrolinx.
If Metrolinx says "no" next year, it will be on the basis of higher priorities elsewhere, or because they were told by the Ministry not to recommend Hamilton's LRT.
If the Government of Ontario says "no", it will also be on the basis of higher funding priorities elsewhere (i.e. in Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo).
But that is precisely what the original promise was supposed to address: that the Province would make Hamilton's two LRT lines a priority for funding in the short term. After all, the B-Line was the second item in the Regional Transportation Plan's list of top priority projects.
If not, what did they think their promises actually meant?