Comment 122196

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted November 28, 2017 at 13:32:33

I remember a few years ago on this website I expressed an opinion on the subject of rapid transit and LRT in Hamilton and was repeatedly asked why I believed why I thought that my answer was the right way to go. The exact topic I can't even remember now but it was primarily based on my experience dealing with city's as a planning consultant and how extremely vitally important the concept of liability is to modern municipal government. Its not just important, its absolutely everything!

The main reason municipal, provincial and federal governments want private companies or groups of them (consortia) to design, build, finance, operate and maintain (DBFOM) infrastructure contracts is because that, it actually lowers the cost of construction and most importantly removes the city almost completely away from the thorny issues legal and financial liability in municipal infrastructure projects. Especially, if the city has no experience in designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining said infrastructure. For example, a recent study by Harvard University's Business School of Ottawa's Stage 1 Confederation LRT Line Project DBFM P3 Contract showed that, this agreement and approach to the project saved between $300-400 Million in Capital cost compared to the more traditional infrastructure project financing and design methods. Or more importantly, made a $2.4-2.5 Billion design come in at around $2.1 Billion, in this particular case, it was the difference in what was affordable and cou0ld be built compared to, what wasn't affordable and couldn't be built. I just wish the city was better at delivering that message. The city of Ottawa has been terrible at communicating why things have been done the way they have been done for this project.

Hamilton's B-Line LRT Project has been under so much sustained political attack from the city's populace and within the city's local government including, some members of your council, I was secretly dreading that something like this might happen. Usually, communicating the belief that HSR employees be the operators of the LRT line should have been decided on at the beginning by council, early in the planning process with Metrolinx. It obviously wasn't, mostly I think just because so much effort was needed just to get to a point where, the project would even be allowed to happen at all.

Thus, a choice must now be made. Forgo the right to have HSR employees run the system at all so that the current RFQ/RFP process isn't overly delayed. Or demand that HSR employees be the operators and open up the city to obvious legal and operational liabilities/responsibilities as well as a level of operational and management sophistication that, the certain critics and maybe even the province itself, doubts the current HSR management has the capability to address at all. This second option opens up the opportunity for every anti-LRT council member to revisit the whole project and possibly kill it with delay. There is a 3rd option, if the HSR and city council is willing to try it?

Instead of acting as the primary operator, the HSR will operate as a provider of a slate of staff to the operating agency so that, it is considered a kind of supplier, thus the HSR logo will still appear attached to the project but the RFQ/RFP process will not have to be altered and dumped (thus not increasing costs for everyone) as well as not having to be bogged down in long council deliberations, which could kill the project. The HSR still chooses and vouches for the quality of the staff but isn't directly responsible for the operational liabilities that presently, they don't seem to have the ability to really do. Let's be honest they haven't run a railway in a very long time and aren't really ready, YET!. Both Toronto and Ottawa have operational experience in running railways. In Ottawa's case, they have also chosen to now have the Trillium Line (the original O-Train Line) operated by the same group operating the new Confederation Line, the RTG (Rideau Transit Group) but have the ability at the end of the contract to take over if necessary.

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