Council has an opportunity to demonstrate that Hamiltonians can count on its leadership to ensure that we do not slam the door on the transformative investment we need.
By Ryan McGreal
Published March 03, 2015
The draft HSR Ten Year Strategy seems designed to kill Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) plan by giving the Province an easy Plan B to fund $300 million worth of the local transit we should be funding ourselves, rather than the $800 million worth of rapid transit they've been promising.
If Council approves this plan, I do not believe we will see any more of the $15 billion Big Move money dedicated to Hamilton transit (notwithstanding a possible GO train expansion) - certainly not to rapid transit, which we were promised and which we have been planning since 2007.
The Ten Year Strategy is being framed as a precursor to LRT, but it over-reaches what Council directed staff to do, which was to develop a plan to invest more local money to grow transit service.
The Strategy itself acknowledges that it will only be enough to get ridership back to 50 annual rides per capita, rather than Council's goal of 80-100 rides per capita. For this reason alone, Council should be sending the plan back - it fails to achieve Council's objective!
We should be funding local transit from the local levy and farebox, not expecting the Province to pay for it. At the same time, we should be asking the Province for the rapid transit investment we cannot make at the municipal level.
This Ten Year Strategy effectively hijacks the city's transportation plan and lets the Province off the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. This is unacceptable.
Council needs to seriously consider the following responses:
Before making any major decisions, Council should move ahead on establishing the proposed Citizens Forum on Rapid Transit, made up of a random, representative sample of Hamiltonians from every ward, to review the rapid transit research, studies and reports to date and make a recommendation. This will provide Council a clear footing for its next steps.
Council should not approve the Ten Year Strategy until there has been an ample opportunity for public consultation and review, including a careful study of what is actually needed ($200M for a storage facility seems excessively high) and due consideration of the implications and consequences of this capital request.
The absence of a planning and land use perspective is glaring. Transportation planning needs to be integrated with land use planning in order to be effective. Council should direct the Department of Planning and Economic Development to get involved in this file with a review of the City's growth plan and the implications of building or not building rapid transit. This should specifically include the cost of not building rapid transit, given the city's large and steadily-growing unfunded infrastructure lifecycle obligations.
Council has an opportunity here to demonstrate that Hamiltonians can count on its leadership to ensure that we do not slam the door on the transformative investment we need to shape a fiscally sustainable future for the city.
Please contact City Council and ask them to follow proper due diligence on the Ten Year Strategy.
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