Light Rail

More Details from Metrolinx on Hamilton's LRT Plan

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 30, 2012

Malon Edwards of Metrolinx has responded to an email request from RTH for more details on the status of Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan at the provincial level after yesterday's Metrolinx press conference.

Metrolinx and the Province have previously refused to commit to the completion of Hamilton's LRT plan, saying only that the original Metrolinx funding envelope did not include money for the LRT and that a decision would have to be made after an investment strategy is completed next June.

In the lead-up to the last provincial election, Premier Dalton McGuinty told the Spectator editorial board that all-day GO train service was the top transit priority and that "over time, we can enter into other discussions about things like the LRT."

However, at yesterday's press conference, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig specifically included Hamilton's LRT in the list of priority jobs for the next phase of project rollouts.

Asked whether this means Metrolinx is now committed to the project, Edwards responded that an update will be posted online on December 5, and that public and stakeholder consultation will take place between December 5 and mid-February. "Metrolinx will be working closely with our municipal partners to determine specifics of the project, including timing, alignment and phasing."

Edwards also confirmed that the phase 2 projects have not yet been ordered in terms of when they will be undertaken. The order and timing of roll-out for the projects "is subject to a number of considerations, including project state-of-readiness, the size of project, possible staging with other projects, and the Metrolinx Prioritization framework."

However, Metrolinx anticipates that the next wave projects will be completed "within 20 years of start of construction, with early results within the first ten years."

Asked whether yesterday's announcement tells us anything we didn't already know, Edwards pointed out that Metrolinx has conducted benefits case analyses (like the Hamilton Main-King Rapid Transit Benefits Case) and detailed engineering and design work on the projects since the original project announcement in 2008. The updated list of priority projects reflects the due-diligence work Metrolinx and the municipalities have done to confirm their viability.

He concluded, "The next step is for all of us as a region to have the big conversation about how we are going to pay for it.

We need to have a conversation with both people and businesses to determine how we invest in our future. Even though the conversation has already begun, we need to be committed to this investment if we’re going to make transportation better across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region.

Paul Bedford, the emeritus chief planner for Toronto and former Metrolinx Board member, argues the investment strategy will need to incorporate some combination of highway road pricing, a new sales tax, an employer tax, an income tax, commercial parking levies, a vehicle registration tax, and a gas tax levy.

Other jurisdictions in Canada, the USA and Europe have used various combinations of these means to raise enough money to invest in transformative higher-order transit projects, and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will need to do the same - even if a new tax or levy is politically unpalatable.

Bedford says the Province needs to "embark on an aggressive public campaign to inform and educate the public, GTHA politicians and stakeholders in 2012" about the benefits of a strong funding model and the costs and consequences of inaction.

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 kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 13:51:07

So, in brief, nothing new, except yet more stakeholder consultations about a project whose scope, funding and timeline remain extremely vague.

Strangely, Edwards comments suggest that the alignment of Hamilton's line has not been decided even though the City and Province have spent millions of dollars on a 30% engineering design and related land use study which assumes the alignment is now fixed. Does Edwards not know this, or is Metrolinx planning to revisit the alignment the City and consultants have already spent so much time and money on? The only remaining question is phasing: is the whole line built at once, or in separate sections (or not at all)?

Edwards tells us to expect a 20 year time frame from the date construction starts (probably in 2014 or 2015, if we're lucky). This would put completion sometime around 2035, 28 years after the original MoveOntario 2020 plan which, as its name suggests, was supposed to be completed 15 years earlier, in 2020.

By point of comparison, Grenoble (with an urban area population significantly smaller than Hamilton) has completed four LRT lines on 35km of track with 74 stations since 1987 (new lines opened in 1987, 1990, 2006, 2007) and is currently extending two of the lines. A fifth 11.5 km line will be completed by 2014. Construction of each line has taken only about two years from the first shovel in the ground to an operating service.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-11-30 13:53:15

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted December 01, 2012 at 15:04:49 in reply to Comment 83338

Where in Edwards' comments do you read a suggestion that the alignment in Hamilton remains in question? I think his response was very general in nature to reference all projects and a standard procedure of review.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 03, 2012 at 09:03:26 in reply to Comment 83365

Right here:

"Metrolinx will be working closely with our municipal partners to determine specifics of the project, including timing, ALIGNMENT and phasing." [emphasis added]

If Metrolinx will (future tense) be working to determine alignment, that implies Metrolinx does not agree that the alignment has been decided.

On the other hand, maybe it's just sloppy speaking or PR boilerplate. In any case, it confuses, rather than clarifies.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-12-03 09:03:44

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 14:02:49

Well if there going to give us more TAX to pay from now and 20 years , they better make it in 10 years for that kind of money grabbing from us , alot of pls well not be here in 20 years and they pay high enough taxs as they are now , if the province is going to aske us for more money they get the ball folling NOM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 14:03:36

I meant Now .. lol

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 14:15:17

Metrolinx has been studiously avoiding this conversation, despite divining its scale, scope and gravity in draft documents more than four years ago.

It does not bode well that after years of procrastination, they have chosen to initiate that momentous discussion six months before they are to present their 25-year investment strategy to the province. Thank goodness we can always rely on the holistic thinking of our civic leaders.

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By downtownbooster (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 14:30:52 in reply to Comment 83341

Ouch! Harsh. But true.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 30, 2012 at 20:54:49

If this is 20 years away, why doesn't the City start a savings special fund now? In 20 years it might have a significant amount of money to help pay for it.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted December 01, 2012 at 04:16:11 in reply to Comment 83350

We better start saving, because if the suggested cost is ~$800 million now, what is it going to cost in 20 years? How can you even begin to speculate about cost over such a timeframe?

Not to mention nothing has even been tendered so the current cost projections are a bunch of BS to begin with... you don't just walk to the local dealer and buy fixed and rolling stock.

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By decades (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2012 at 15:08:27 in reply to Comment 83353

Transportation planning is over such timeframes. Costing is difficult, but if no costs were suggested due to the challenges of projecting over 20 years, the response would be "what are the costs, why aren't you telling us anything?" In other words, Metrolinx is damned if they do, damned if they don't.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2012 at 10:02:32 in reply to Comment 83353

Stop aerotropolis and there's 3/4 of the LRT paid for.

Fighting against LRT is choosing the WRONG BATTLE when it comes to fiscal responsibility arguments.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2012 at 21:37:50 in reply to Comment 83358

Agreed. i think there's merit in waging an Aerotroplis vs, LRT battle. In fact, can it be argued that A-Line LRT could benefit southern Upper James area more?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 03, 2012 at 08:33:45

"Can Hamilton afford LRT?" by Adam Carter on the CBC Hamilton website today:

It is disappointing that the provincial government has reneged on its original promise to fully fund the LRT project in Hamilton after having provided full funding for similar projects in Toronto. With a $2 Billion infrastructure deficit, Hamilton will be hard pressed to find sufficient funding for LRT or AEGD.

One question about the CBC Hamilton article. Given that Metrolinx will not be announcing the LRT funding formula until June, 2013, where did Councillor Merulla come up with the information that Hamilton will have to fund one-third of the cost of the LRT project?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2012 at 08:40:53

I'm glad to hear some councillors are willing to fight the province on this second-class treatment of everyone outside of Toronto. Too bad our mayor feels his job is to represent the Liberal Party of Ontario, instead of the citizens of Hamilton and therefore accept whatever they tell him. We deserve the same funding formula as TO. At the end of the day, we can't afford NOT to build LRT, especially considering other 905 municipalities are now seeing the benefits and jumping on board to develop their own LRT systems. If Hamilton misses this, it will set us way behind our neighbouring cities.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 03, 2012 at 09:07:15 in reply to Comment 83376

I am also happy that some Councillors are publicly questioning why Toronto is getting a much better deal than a poorer city like Hamilton.

I just hope that Council stays focused on the goal of getting appropriate and fair funding for LRT, and not get scared off by an initial offer from the Province they can't accept. This is clearly a political fight now, as it always is for an infrastructure project of this magnitude. And the huge benefits of LRT for Hamilton make it a fight worth having and investing significant resources in.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2012 at 13:48:57

Sizzle does not a steak make, but I guess for the 90% of Ontarians who've never even heard of Metrolinx, this is as good a snapshot of their MO as anything.

Can't wait to see what interactive wonders are served up between now and their delivvery of a comprehensive 25-year funding strategy in six months' time.

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