It is starting to look like the Ontario Liberals want to back out of their promise to build LRT lines in Hamilton.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 24, 2014
Combined with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's recent comments to me about Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) plan and Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina's bull-headed opposition to LRT since being elected, today's op-ed by Ontario Liberal candidates Javid Mirza and Ivan Luksic is starting to seem like a ploy to make sure the Liberals can save a lot of money by giving Hamilton next to nothing in transit investment.
This article is full of confusing and erroneous statements and displays a deep misunderstanding of how transit and economic/urban development actually work.
Their claim that LRT doesn't support the city's goals is highly misleading, given all the studies - including the Benefits Case Analysis commissioned by their own government - that show exactly why, with data, LRT is the right way to build transit use and connect the city:
We believe that LRT is expensive and does not bring us any closer to our two goals: linking up more of the city to public transit and increasing transit usage. We cannot in good conscience advocate spending $1 billion at this time when there are more pressing issues with respect to public transit.
They also conveniently ignore the fact that, although overall transit use in Hamilton is stagnant, the most drastically under-serviced corridor in the city is the east-west B-Line, which has a lot of unmet demand (in the form of regular 'pass-bys') and already has ridership more than high enough to justify LRT.
On the other hand, did they even check the ridership figures on their preferred A-line to the airport? It is essentially unused compared with the B-line!
And what do they think bus rapid transit actually is? Any self-respecting BRT is physically separated from automobile traffic on dedicated lanes, has signal priority at intersections and will restrict turns and motorists' "freedom" just as much as LRT, while providing much less capacity and minimal economic uplift.
Their argument is basically do-nothing, since their conception of BRT seems to be essentially the same as the current A-line and B-line.
What is more sinister is that their ideas are a carbon copy of Bratina's: all-day GO to James North and Centennial and not much else. Even the all-day GO service is a regional strategic investment, not specific to Hamilton.
So, if by some miracle, the Liberals get elected with a majority, implement the revenue tools, and start investing billions across the region in LRT, will these Liberal MPPS still do their best to ensure that almost none of that spending goes to Hamilton?
I've heard of pork-barreling, but I've never heard of local MPPs doing their best to ensure their constituents don't get their fair share of government spending!
I really can't understand how the argument that Hamilton should be shut out of a major provincial construction initiative makes any sense at all. Imagine the same argument being made by local MPPs over health care:
The government is going has proposed making a $1 billion investment in upgrading hospitals and local health care as part of their province-wide health care strategy. We, the undersigned Hamilton Liberal MPPs, will strenuously oppose this expensive investment by our government in Hamilton. Instead, our prudent proposal is to open five new walk-in clinics, and upgrade the regional ambulance transfer service to Burlington.
It is as if politicians in Hamilton refuse to accept that LRT will not be funded out of local property taxes but rather out of Provincial revenue streams that will be implemented regionally and province-wide.
On the other hand, the many hundreds of millions to be spent from local City property taxes on servicing and subsidizing development at the ill-conceived "Airport Employment Growth District" gets a free ride - literally, since they are so keen on expanding the A-line LRT to the airport.
So, they are really recommending that instead of spending provincial money to intensify development along already-serviced land, we should spend similar amounts of our own municipal money on servicing and subsidizing greenfield urban sprawl to build low-value warehouses around the airport.
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