Mayor Bob Bratina has just stated that he will now champion LRT with full capital funding in his dealings with the Province.
By Ryan McGreal
Published February 28, 2013
Last summer, McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL) released a study on the opportunities and challenges of implementing light rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton. The study concluded that a successful implementation needs good land use planning and street redesign to promote active transportation.
Pointedly, the report also noted that a successful push for LRT requires a "political champion" who "can help to realize success by marshaling resources, building coalitions, and resolving disputes."
Mayor Bob Bratina has mentioned the MITL report several times in public addresses since last year, including at a recent talk to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
However, until now Bratina has refused to champion LRT, claiming that it would be "highly speculative" and that he cannot advocate LRT to the province without council direction.
Council has taken several votes in suppport of Hamilton's LRT plan as the city's preferred rapid transit option, including as recently as last October, when Councillors approved a motion to establish an LRT task force with the Chamber of Commerce that would "encourage Senior levels of Government (Provincial and Federal) to fund LRT in Hamilton".
It looks like Bratina's position has now changed. Following Monday's unanimous Council vote to submit the City's LRT plan to Metrolinx and request 100 percent capital funding, the Mayor now says he has a council mandate to advocate LRT.
In an email response to RTH today, Bratina wrote:
Council has now provided direction with the expectation of 100 per cent of capital funding and that will be our position dealing with the government.
Asked specifically whether he will "champion" LRT, Bratina responded, "Yes." Let's hope this will be the beginning of a new phase in the City's political push to get LRT approved and funded through Metrolinx.
The province has confirmed that Hamilton's LRT line is part of the next phase of Metrolinx regional transit projects, the original Metrolinx capital funding has run out. The regional transit body will release an investment strategy in June that will identify funding sources to pay for the next phase.
However, Metrolinx caused some consternation recently by renaming Hamilton's plan from "LRT", which they called it as recently as last November, to "RT".
In an email to RTH, Metrolinx spokesperson Malon Edwards clarified the change: "while planning is still in progress for LRT technology, no final decisions have been made on technology." This leaves open the possibility that Metrolinx might come back and say it will only fund a rapid bus system instead of LRT.
Metrolinx said it made the name change in consultation with officials from Hamilton, but refuses to say who at the city participated in those consultations. Repeated requests from RTH for a response have gone unanswered.
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