Light Rail

Mayor Bratina on Asking for Full LRT Funding and Being a Champion

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 28, 2012

The Hamiltonian recently posted an interview with Mayor Bob Bratina on light rail transit (LRT). The interview is worth reading in full to get a sense of the Mayor's thinking on light rail, but a couple of items jumped out.

Bratina told CBC in August that the Minister of Transportation told him Hamilton will have to come up with some of the capital costs for its east-west B-Line LRT.

This is a new development that goes against the funding model for Toronto's Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is being fully funded by Metrolinx, and against the expectations of Council, who have been told that 100% capital funding is the Metrolinx model.

On the matter of Metrolinx funding, Bratina told The Hamiltonian:

The understanding of the municipal contribution ranged in different Councillors' minds from zero to one-third of the total, which is upwards of a billion dollars. It will be up to Metrolinx to create the funding strategy which is due in 2013. The presumption is that they would work out a partnership with the Federal Government to cover the total cost of all projects, not piecemeal. The original investment strategy published by Metrolinx in the Big Move document was based on $50 billion dollars over 25 years, or $2 billion a year.

RTH contacted the Mayor and asked whether he would be willing to demand the same 100% capital funding that Metrolinx has given to the 52 km in LRT projects already approved for Toronto. He responded:

The GTA approved lines are based on relief of serious congestion problems, which have negative economic and environmental impacts. Our plans are based on the promise of new development at some time in the future. Council can, if it wishes, pass a resolution calling for the Mayor to demand 100 percent capital funding, which I would present to Metrolinx and the Province. The decision, of course, would remain in their hands.

Bratina concluded:

The concern would be how many demands the City is making of the Provincial budget and what other requests might be jeopardized.

In his interview with The Hamiltonian, the mayor also made reference to the recent study (read the RTH report) published by the McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL), which states that a successful LRT plan requires "a political champion", who "can help to realize success by marshaling resources, building coalitions, and resolving disputes."

RTH asked the mayor if he can envision a circumstance in which he would politically champion Hamilton's LRT plan, given the MITL study. He responded:

[That] question requires a highly speculative reply, given that no one can say what the local budget impacts might be. To date we have little on which to base the interest of the development community in supporting the "B" line routing. (By comparison real and significant interest has materialized with regard to a Hamilton casino.)

This is not the first time Bratina has claimed that developers are not expressing interest in LRT. In mid-2011, the Spectator surveyed Hamilton's development community and found lots of support for LRT, mingled with frustration at the mixed signals coming from Hamilton's leadership.

Reporter Meredith Macleod quoted developer David Blanchard, who explained, "No one is going to run in and buy up all this stuff on a dream." The consensus was that developers are waiting to see if the city and province will actually commit to LRT.

Also in mid-2011, the City's Rapid Transit manager reported that the department was receiving interest from people looking to buy real estate along the LRT corridor and talking to developers both inside the city and outside the city "about what impact LRT would have on their future decisions to invest in Hamilton (or not)."

Those discussions were part of a Nodes and Corridors study that identified changes the City needs to make to the zoning around the LRT line to facilitate reinvestment.

The Realtors Association of Hamilton and Burlington strongly supports LRT, as does the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and a large number of neighbourhood, business and service organizations.

Meanwhile, Councillor Brad Clark has expressed outrage at Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli's announcement that the Province will not fully fund Hamilton's LRT. Clark, who was Minister of Transportation from 2001 to 2002 under former Premier Mike Harris, accused the Liberal Government of "betray[ing]" Hamilton.

There is ample evidence that the Liberals promised to pay 100 percent of the cost of a Hamilton LRT. So I was dismayed when Minister Chiarelli denied it! I was equally surprised that Mayor Bob didn't think to bring along copies of the Liberal Media Releases by the Premier and Minister McMeekin promising 100 percent funding for LRT.

He concluded, "LRT now has many more hurdles to jump."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2012 at 08:07:13

If there are many developers that want LRT in the city to drive development then why do they not fund part of the bill? It worked in Detroit. About 25% of their LRT project is funded by private business. But then their LRT is much shorter than Hamilton's projected B line and is in a city that is much larger.

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By Tom West (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2012 at 11:32:42 in reply to Comment 81301

That's a good point, but the complaint is that Toronto gets 100% form the province, so every city should get the same deal.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 28, 2012 at 09:01:07

What relevance is the fact that a casino might come here? Such a random sentence to add into an LRT discussion.

Look at real estate listings and how many of them say "near future LRT stop".... evidence from the entire world is overwhelming that development does come to LRT lines. Oh, but this is Hamilton. I forgot. World-wide rules don't apply to us.

(Cue reference to Buffalo in 3...2...1..)

Comment edited by jason on 2012-09-28 09:01:39

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:28:55

So wait, we destroy the livability of our city by leaving all our streets one-way to make sure we've got the smoothest-flowing traffic in the province, and for this sacrifice we're rewarded with not getting funding for LRT?


Maybe the province should be asking Toronto to convert their streets to 1-way to alleviate the congestion before deciding that the Metrolinx plan is necessary... oh wait, that would be a terrible idea.

So why is that expected of us?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 22:02:43

Ultimately irony, the Star quotes Mayor Bratina in their story on the Markham Arena:

"Back in Hamilton, Mayor Bratina said civic pride should not come at such a high price. He believes private entrepreneurs should build big arenas, and the city’s money could be better spent being put directly back into the community.

“There are a lot of great cities in the world that don’t have NHL or NFL franchises,” he added. “They are not a requirement for a world class city.”"

Funny to read him saying this considering all the money we put into a big arena in Hamilton for the CFL...

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 08:20:16

The Hamilton Community News website has two local news items: "Bratina becomes reluctant passenger on LRT trip". Bratina's current belief is that the LRT line would cost about $1 Billion and Hamilton's share of the cost would be about $300 Million.

"Casino debate down to wire, says mayor". At a recent speaking engagement in Stoney Creek, Bratina conducted an informal poll of 61 respondents of which 37 favoured a casino and 24 did not. Bratina concluded that "This room reflects the general sentiment (of having a casino in the city),said the mayor."

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2012 at 11:23:44

So we should choose our casino trajectory based on 37 "votes" yet utter silence from the anti-two-way side dictates that decision?

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2012 at 16:36:46

They were called “quick wins” — a list of transportation projects across the region published by Metrolinx in 2007 that could be turned around without the usual long wait and billion-dollar bill.

Ranging from bike racks to express bus lanes, the list was meant to persuade the public that the province’s fledgling Toronto-area transportation authority was serious about confronting congestion.

Five years later, it’s not clear that the public is convinced, or that Metrolinx has had any impact on the space squeeze commuters face in their cars or on transit, with daily round-trips averaging 80 minutes — among the longest in North America.

Even Metrolinx boosters, such as the Toronto Board of Trade, that believe the problem demands a regional solution fear the agency has been constrained in leading what needs to be a transformational change as a further 2.6 million people flood the region over the next 20 years.

“Metrolinx needs to be allowed to lead,” says board of trade CEO Carol Wilding.

“They were set up for a particular purpose; they were given authority. They need to be able to move forward with their mandate. The province needs to allow them to do what they were set out to do. We continue to believe that quite strongly.”

Wilding made the comment recently while discussing strategies to find the $40 billion Metrolinx still needs to complete its Big Move regional transportation plan.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is floating the idea of a supersized Metrolinx — merging the TTC’s rail operations with GO Transit and potentially giving it responsibility for critical arteries such as the Don Valley Expressway and Highway 427.

Following the resignation Monday of Premier Dalton McGuinty, the issue could be up for public debate sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the agency’s harshest critics suggest Metrolinx has most notably offered a smokescreen for inaction by the province, which has offered municipalities no help with paying the operating subsidies that are draining their own scarce revenues.

Toronto Councillor Gord Perks said Metrolinx has “handed out a lot of big books with pretty maps. They’ve provided an exciting new brand; they’ve had meetings; they’ve acted as a training ground for a string of young professionals in the communications area.”

But, “for people who ride transit, Metrolinx is of no benefit.”

Some suggest the agency has been handed an impossible task: breaking through gridlock with scant resources. The Liberal government committed more than $10 billion to Toronto-region transit, most of it allotted to five mega-projects — four LRTs in the city and bus rapid transit in York Region.

But its Big Move plan, released in 2008, prescribed $50 billion worth of projects over 25 years — and provided no recommendations on where the remaining $40 billion would come from. Now, with Queen’s Park in a state of suspended animation, the prospect of decisive action on taxes and tools appears to be fading.

Hamilton's "Quick Win" pitches:

In all, staff has presented 10 potential projects totalling an estimated $106 million in “one-time” capital funding that would meet the Metrolinx criteria and included:

• James Street (north end) Rail Station infrastructure to support GO Transit and Via Rail service (funding committed under a separate announcement);
• Cycle and pedestrian network and/or infrastructure investments (funding committed under a separate announcement);
• Vehicle improvements - 60-foot Hybrid articulated fleet on the balance of the B-Line;
• Intelligent Transportation systems - new GPS/CAD/AVL on all Transit vehicles (HSR & DARTS), automated stop announcement on HSR fleet, and security cameras on HSR fleet;
• Downtown Multi-model Transportation Terminal - funding for an expanded McNab Street terminal;
• Improvements to the current B-Line service - upgrade to full Rapid Transit;
• New Waterdown Commuter Link to Aldershot GO Transit station, Burlington GO Transit Station, Burlington Downtown Terminal and Hamilton Downtown Terminal;
• New Airport, Mohawk College, Hamilton Hunter Street GO Transit Station, Downtown, Waterfront, James North GO/Via train station Rapid Transit connector service;
• New South-mountain, Ancaster, Industrial Park, East Mountain Power Centre, Eastgate Mall Rapid Transit connector service;
• New Ancaster Meadowlands, Central Mountain, Centre Mall Rapid Transit connector service.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:34:05

Surveys from the province’s regional transit agency, Metrolinx, obtained by The Globe and Mail under an access to information request, show people in Toronto and Hamilton are opposed to paying new taxes and fees to raise the billions needed to expand regional transportation infrastructure.

The documents include a September, 2011, Environics poll of residents in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas that found 70 per cent of the 2,500 surveyed agreed that government “has enough money to improve road conditions and transit; they should not need to further raise taxes or fees.” Twenty-four per cent disagreed with the statement and 6 per cent were undecided.

There was at best tepid support for four specific tax measures – road tolls, a parking levy, a regional sale tax and a gas tax hike – designed to pay for new transit options, estimated at least $2-billion a year for 25 years.

As well, the documents show Metrolinx held focus groups with representatives of 21 regional stakeholder groups, including seven chambers of commerce, for advice on selling tax tools to bankroll major transit programs.

Among their recommendations: Give the public a limited number of realistic funding options and rely on a trusted leader to promote the plan.

In an interview, Metrolinx chief executive officer Bruce McCuaig acknowledged the agency has to step up its efforts to communicate its long-range vision to Greater Toronto and Hamilton residents.

“We need to be doing a better job of explaining those issues,” he said, adding that Metrolinx will be rolling out a high-profile public-education campaign later this fall.

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