Demonstrating the benefits of real transit connectivity across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will make it easier for the Province to sell the public on a long-term funding arrangement.
By Daniel Rodrigues
Published October 11, 2011
There is no question that Metrolinx and the Ontario Government have placed transit high on the priority list for the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area (GTHA). With their numerous studies, white papers, and The Big Move, the GTHA is in a position to change the transportation scene radically in the next 25 to 30 years.
Unfortunately, there are many questions on the priorities of the projects needed to transform the GTHA and where the funding will come from to make everything possible.
For Hamilton, those questions carry more weight on moving forward than their neighbours to the East in Toronto. The primary reason for the aforementioned statement has to do with the funding questions.
Currently, Metrolinx is studying funding alternatives aimed at feeding the required $2B/year transportation transformation for the next 15 or so years. There are four different options being reviewed at this time:
For Hamiltonians, tapping into our population base to fund primary transportation upgrades in the GTA sans the "H", would probably go over like the proverbial 'lead balloon'.
This creates an opportunity for Metrolinx and the Ontario Government: "How do we get Hamiltonians to recognize that the above funding options are just as good for them as they are for the rest of the GTA?"
The answer to that question lies with two-way, all-day GO train service and LRT/BRT expansion services.
Faced with these answers, the push appears to be on to get the easier-to-implement option up and running first, which is GO.
With key Hamilton leaders championing the need for a GO expansion, while at the same time painting a picture of non-urgency around the LRT/BRT expansion services, the stage is set to position Hamilton in a priority position when the next round of funding is doled out.
After all, GO requires less start-up capital to expand services than LRT; it would immediately create a truer connection between Hamilton and Toronto; and it would impact vehicular traffic on the major roadways to the betterment.
Unfortunately, any LRT/BRT service expansions focused on Hamilton alone sans the GTA would carry the same angst for those residents who may feel slighted at having to opt in on a funding formula that has no connection to them - just like Hamilton would feel the angst funding a primarily GTA project.
Metrolinx needs to set a course on softening the wallets of the residents and businesses within the GTHA. Taking a macro approach first to establish true connectivity within the GTHA should minimize the objections to the "ask".
What is at stake here is more than just improving our transportation linkages; there is also a need to continue to attract residents and businesses to the GTHA knowing that it would cost them more to operate (due to the increased levies for Metrolinx), in the name of better efficiencies.
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