Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina interviews Metrolinx President and CEO Bruce McCuaig about the Metrolinx Investment Strategy and how it will impact Hamilton.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 01, 2013
In his periodic broadcast program for Cable 14, "Bob Bratina's Hamilton", Mayor Bob Bratina recently interviewed Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx.
The full interview is worth watching for anyone who takes an interest in Hamilton's LRT plan, but here are some highlights.
Early in the interview, McCuaig and Bratina dance a little bit around the matter of Hamilton's rapid transit line and whether it is going to be Light Rail Transit or some other kind of Rapid Transit. A communication from Metrolinx in early February dropped the L from their mention of Hamilton's rapid transit plan.
Coming together out of that plan in 2008 [when Metrolinx was formed] was a recognition that rapid transit - and rapid transit includes light rail transit, it includes bus rapid transit, it includes subways, it includes GO Transit - that we needed to have a rapid transit line here in Hamilton. Now, with the recent work from the City of Hamilton in terms of the Rapid Ready process, I think that sets the stage and the partnership that we have going forward to deliver on what I think is a great opportunity to build light rail transit rapid transit here in the City of Hamilton.
In his interview with Bratina, McCuaig also talks about the Metrolinx Investment Strategy, which Metrolinx will submit to the Province in June. Metrolinx has documented 26 different revenue tools that regions around the world have used to fund transportation infrastructure and are preparing recommendations on what tools the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area should use to fund the next wave of projects in the Big Move transportation plan - of which Hamilton's B-Line is a top priority.
McCuaig does not offer a recommendation for a specific mix of revenue tools, but he does sketch out the principals Metrolinx is following in developing its recommendations:
We are looking at four key principals that we tested with the public ... and they're principles like dedicated funding. People want to see that if they're being asked to invest over here that it's going for these specific projects. They want to know that there's a straight line commitment between, if I'm paying for something that I'm actually going to get these outcomes. So that's the first principal.
The second one is fairness. There should be a really tight link between, if I'm contributing towards something through investments or revenue tools, then I'm also benefiting. So there's a connection between the costs and the benefits.
The third one is equity around the region. People want to know that if the entire region is paying for our infrastructure that the entire region is benefiting from it. So it's not focused only on one community, that every community from Oshawa to Hamilton to Barrie are going to be receiving the benefits from this.
And I think the fourth one that resonated very well with the public is accountability and transparency. They want to see that any monies collected are being managed properly, are being reported publicly, that people see progress, and they see the outcomes in the end. So there has to be a very transparent way to be reporting back to the public on a regular basis.
Bratina asks McCuaig about the recent mixed messaging between Metrolinx spokesperson Leslie Woo and Transport Minister Glen Murray about funding.
Woo indicated that municipalities that offer capital contributions will get higher priority than municipalities that don't, while Murray said on the same day that municipalities will not be expected to make direct capital contributions.
This mixed messaging is nothing new. In October 2011, Metrolinx vice president John Howe told Hamilton Councillors that Metrolinx was assuming full capital funding of Hamilton's line, but in August 2012, former Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli told Bratina that Hamilton would have to come up with some of its own capital.
In this interview, McCuaig treads carefully and doesn't address the underlying question of whether cities will have to contribute capital, though he maintains that Metrolinx and the Transport Ministry are "on the same page".
I would really put it down to one key piece: we need to have a strong partnership with municipalities for the projects that we're going to be delivering - for no other reason than that we're building this infrastructure on your roads, or under your roads, or above your roads, and we need to have that partnership. And when we're looking at the scheduling of projects, we're going to have to think about project readiness, we're going to have to think about the link between the project and your land use policies to make sure that we're getting as much benefit from intensification and new development as we possibly can. We're going to have to think about the funding, the right staging plan, and how all the projects fit together. So there's going to be a whole bunch of factors that go into the mix.
It seems likely at this point that the Investment Strategy will entail at least in part giving municipalities tools that they can use to generate revenue for investment into rapid transit projects.
In a more detailed look at how Hamilton will connect internally and to the Metrolinx regional network, Bratina draws specific attention to the importance of north-south linkages within Hamilton. Bratina has suggested on many occasions the he believes north-south connectivity is a higher priority than the city's east-west B-Line plan.
When they're talking more specifically about Hamilton's Rapid Ready B-Line plan, things get a bit interesting:
Bratina: [holding up a model GO Train engine] Is there anything we can say specifically right now in terms of other parts of the Rapid Ready planning - is it, are there still various configurations that we might see in terms of how the project evolves?
McCuaig: How the GO Project or the -
Bratina: Not the GO, but the bus, the rapid, the light rail -
McCuaig: Absolutely. Well, we've been working with the City of Hamilton for some time now in terms of getting the LRT projects ready for implementation when it's the right time to do that. So, in going through that process, there are some really specific questions that will have to be answered in terms of alignments, in terms of where vehicles are maintained and stored overnight, for example, where specific station locations are. So there's still work that's being done, largely being driven by your staff in the City of Hamilton, but we're working very closely with them.
And one of the pieces is you look at the implementation of Rapid Ready is, is how do we actually connect up and down the James North corridor so that the new station is well connected to the rest of the local transit system. And there obviously are opportunities for bus connections, but I know the city has plans as well for the A-Line for the future, too. So we want to keep talking about those, and see how we can fit those into the plans.
Again, the full interview is well worth watching. You can learn more about the Metrolinx plan by visiting thebigmove.ca.
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