By Ryan McGreal
Published February 14, 2013
The good folks at The Hamiltonian asked me to comment on the Big Move consultation that Metrolinx is currently holding on potential funding sources for the next phase of priority transportation projects, and specifically the implications for Hamilton's LRT planning. Here is the text of my response, which The Hamiltonian published last night:
My advice is the same as it has been for years: Hamilton's political leaders need to be strong, vocal champions for light rail transit.
Mississauga is muscling its way past Hamilton right before our eyes, mainly because their political leaders believe in LRT and are championing it both publicly and in their direct dealings with Queen's Park.
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is loudly and steadily calling on the Province to provide the same funding arrangement to Mississauga's LRT that Toronto has received for its LRT - the full capital funding that Metrolinx was established to manage and allocate across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
In contrast, the silence from Hamilton is deafening. Our leaders aren't talking about it, and our municipal government isn't engaging the public on it. The City's Rapid Transit website hasn't been updated since January 2012 - over a year ago - and they didn't even bother to advertise the Metrolinx Big Move consultations currently happening in Hamilton.
This is doubly frustrating since Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has recently been touting last year's LRT study by McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics, which specifically argues that LRT needs a political champion to be successful.
The "sense of urgency" about LRT that former rapid transit manager Jill Stephen used to talk about has evaporated. Over five years into our LRT planning, Metrolinx actually seems to be moving backward, now referring to our plan not as "LRT" but as "RT" - using an as-yet-unspecified technology.
This transformative, once-in-a-generation opportunity is sliding off the table while the City takes a passive, wait-and-see approach.
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