By Ryan McGreal
Published August 04, 2009
Metrolinx, the provincial body charged with integrating public transit across the GTA and Hamilton, published a July 13, 2009 letter [PDF link] from John Howe, the general manager, investment strategy and projects to the Metrolinx Board that explains the new Provincial Framework for Metrolinx projects, specifying that Metrolinx will retain ownership and control over its designated rapid transit projects.
The letter refers specifically to the "Big Five" rapid transit projects in Toronto and York that are already identified as the top five funding priorities for the organization.
While the proposed rapid transit lines for Hamilton are not explicitly mentioned, the letter does make reference to "the bold, collaborative steps necessary to achieve the shared vision of building the regional transit network of the future - starting with the initial five priorities".
The letter explains that retaining ownership under Metrolinx "will allow the province to amortize its $10 billion investment over the useful life of the new transit assets in a fiscally responsible manner."
Metrolinx will be responsible for approving project scope and budget, and for approving the terms and conditions of owning, constructing, operating and maintaining the new assets, in consultation with Toronto and York partners.
The procurement of construction services, transit vehicles and other project capital requirements will also be the responsibility of Metrolinx, working closely with municipal partners.
The plan is for Metrolinx to establish "performance-based operating and maintenance agreements" with the local municipal governments and transit operators in which the projects reside.
In addition, Metrolinx remains committed to "partnerships and cooperation" with municipalities, though any municipal changes to the organization's plans will require Metrolinx Board approval.
All Metrolinx-funded and -owned lines will be integrated with the Presto integrated farecard system, laying to rest fears that the ownership structure might lead to fragmentation of transit service.
The paper also confirms, as Metrolinx officials have suggested, that the province has directed Metrolinx to budget for "baseline" project costs, with municipalities responsible to pick up additional costs over and beyond the baseline costs that Metrolinx has established through their project cost eligibility criteria.
City of Hamilton rapid transit staff are "continuing to work with Metrolinx to see how this impacts Hamilton's plans for Rapid Transit."
The province announced earlier this year that it was going to replaced the Metrolinx board of elected local politicians with appointed policy experts to cut through the perceived parochialism of the elected board and get projects moving more quickly.
The actual appointees were picked mainly from the areas of high tech manufacturing, corporate and commercial law, publishing and communications, culture and tourism, human resources, mortgage financing and securities - with very little representation from urban planning and transportation.
Hamilton's representative on the new Metrolinx Board is Richard Koroscil, the President and CEO of Hamilton International Airport.
Metrolinx staff are preparing a Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) on rapid transit in Hamilton, studying whether the lines should be light rail transit or bus rapid transit. The BCA was to be presented to the Metrolinx Board in July, but that has been delayed until the fall.
(Props to Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) for reporting on the new Metrolinx Framework when no one else in the media seemed to notice.)
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