Staff and Council need to hear loud and clear that they can't decide Hamilton's future behind closed doors.
By RTH Staff
Published March 05, 2015
Hamilton was ready for light rail transit in 2008. Now senior city staff are saying we're not ready - and they have devised a plan to make sure we don't get it.
This Friday, Councillors will receive the HSR Ten Year Local Transit Strategy [PDF], a staff report that has the potential to slam the door shut on LRT in Hamilton. It was created without public consultation and is very different from what Council directed staff to do back in 2013.
Council directed staff to develop a plan to invest $45 million to increase local transit service. Somehow that turned into a $302 million plan, with fully two-thirds of the cost - $200 million - going to a new bus maintenance and storage yard.
The new investment in local transit was supposed to be mostly local money, coming from such sources as the property tax levy, gas tax, fare increases, parking revenues and resolving transit area rating. Instead, staff have decided that the money should all come from the Province.
The Strategy expresses support for an equitable transit operating cost sharing between the tax levy and fares. Instead, nearly all of the new operating money is coming from steep fare increases far above the rate of inflation.
The Strategy is supposed to achieve Hamilton's transit ridership goal of 80-100 annual rides per capita by 2025. Instead, it will only get us to 50 rides per capita, and it explicitly acknowledges that we will not achieve our goals without rapid transit.
Local transit service is supposed to be funded from the local levy, and the Metrolinx capital fund is supposed to pay for rapid transit - transformative investments that municipalities can't fund themselves. Instead, Hamilton's transit strategy asks the Province to pay for our local transit improvements and defers rapid transit indefinitely.
Council needs to hear from you before they vote. If we submit this funding request and the Province agrees to it, that will most likely be all the Provincial money we get for Hamilton transit for the next ten years.
This plan re-writes Hamilton's rapid transit submission to the Province without any public input, deprioritizing rapid transit altogether.
Based on the total population of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Hamilton's share of the $15 billion is around $1.35 billion. If we submit a capital plan of $302 million over ten years to the Province, we will be leaving over a billion dollars on the table - money that more ambitious cities will be happy to take.
By the time we get around to asking for capital funding for our LRT plan, the $15 billion in Provincial money earmarked for rapid transit will all be gone.
Staff will present the Transit Strategy to City Councillors at their General Issues Committee this Friday. The Strategy was only made public last Friday, and no public consultation went into developing it.
Hamiltonians have not had any opportunity to learn about this plan or to understand what is at stake if we accept it.
We are asking you to do two things:
1. Please take a few minutes and tell Council not to rush into adopting this Strategy:
2. If you can, please attend the General Issues Committee meeting on Friday:
Staff and Council need to hear loud and clear that they can't decide Hamilton's future behind closed doors. Demand public consultation and careful examination of this Strategy before we make a decision that slams the door on LRT in Hamilton.
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