Special Report: Light Rail

Let's Do Transit Right

Light rail is a way for Hamilton to turn a one-time $300 million gift into a long-term perpetual income instead of a long term property tax sinkhole.

By Sean Burak
Published December 20, 2007

Ontario's recent transit spending spree is fantastic news, but we have to be sure that Hamilton gets its fair share.

These new buses are a welcome addition to the HSR system, but the problem of operating expenses is a serious one. We already have difficulty keeping our current system running, and more buses will add to the costs down the road.

With much more provincial capital still to come, we need to be careful how we use it. We can't afford to spend all of the MoveOntario 2020 money on more buses - we need to seriously investigate spending on light rail instead.

Light rail costs more initially, but the Province is covering that bill. If we ask for light rail from the province, the result to the city will be a significant decrease in long term per passenger operating costs.

Light rail moves many more passengers per driver/operator. Light rail expenses are not tied to rising gas prices. Light rail maintenance is cheaper than bus maintenance. Light rail attracts more riders than buses do - riders whose fares will feed money into the HSR. Light rail infrastructure and trains last much longer than asphalt and bus hardware.

On top of all this, light rail attracts private investors in a way that buses never ever will - the return on investment for light rail installed in other cities starts at 900 percent and has been as high as four thousand percent, and this return will be ours for the taking thanks to the province of Ontario's investment.

In other words, this is a way for us to turn a one-time $300 million gift into a long-term perpetual income instead of a long term property tax sinkhole.

Other cities have proposed light rail and been approved; we only need to ask and it is very likely we'll receive as well.

Let's not spend another MoveOntario dollar on buses. Let's do this right.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

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