By Ryan McGreal
Published November 23, 2007
Okay, so it's transit day on RTH.
Earlier this year, the provincial government announced MoveOntario 2020, a capital funding project for higher order transit improvements across the GTA+Hamilton. Coordinated and delivered via the Greater Toronto Transit Authority (GTTA), the program is taking its cues from individual cities as it decides how to integrate the capital projects across the entire area.
Essentially, cities will get the transit improvements they ask for. When Toronto announced an ambitious plan to build billions of dollars in new light rail lines to connect its many neighbourhoods and suburbs, many observers scoffed that it was politically unrealistic. However, MoveOntario 2020 essentially adopted the Toronto plan as it is.
Other cities, like Hamilton, have more modest higher order transit plans. Long constrained by the domesticating pressure of a local political culture that regards transit as a fiscal black hole rather than an investment, Hamilton's higher order transit strategy has been limited to B-Line style high capacity buses and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which combines high capacity buses with signal priority and/or dedicated lanes.
Until now, the GTTA has been an organizational shell, with a mandate and a skeleton staff but no actual projects in development. That just changed as the GTTA announced its MoveOntario Quick Win Investment Package [PDF], a five year, $793 million plan to establish some credibility by completing a series of "Quick Win projects" intended to serve as:
initial, incremental investments towards an end-state or ultimate rapid transit corridor that will be confirmed in the GTTA Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).
So what does Hamilton get in this first-stage roll-out of rapid transit improvement?
Six new articulated hybrid buses will provide service between the Downtown GO terminal, Mohawk College and Hamilton International Airport by 2009. This is intended as "a precursor to future rapid transit improvements on Upper James St."
In keeping with the B-Line naming convention for the BRT-lite service already running across downtown on the Main-King line, this will be called the A-Line (to denote the airport).
I'm deeply reluctant to criticize any transit service improvement. However, the proposed A-Line looks suspiciously like an attempt to 'lock in' the airport development model by sinking public capital investment into it as quickly as possible.
Between the GRIDS planning process in which every option included the airport development by default, the city's failed attempt to expand the urban boundary around the airport before conducting the relevant land use studies, the one-sided Hemson Consulting employment land use study that recommended making the airport lands the sole employment catalyst and the community liaison committe stacked with aerotropolis supporters, this is all starting to feel like a fait accompli.