Special Report: Light Rail

Revised Merulla LRT Motion

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla has revised the text of his LRT motion, which he will present to Council on Wednesday, May 11.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 05, 2016

Yesterday morning, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla circulated the text of a motion he plans to bring to the next City Council meeting to reaffirm Council's support for the Province's commitment to full capital funding for light rail transit in Hamilton. Since then, he has revised the text of his motion, which he will bring to City Council at the Wednesday, May 11 meeting.

Here is the revised text:

Whereas the Province of Ontario, in May 2015, announced $1.0 billion in funding for Hamilton's B-line (and north spur) Light Rail Transit (LRT) project which begins the implementation of the City of Hamilton's rapid transit strategy; and

Whereas the provincial funding covers 100% of the capital cost of the LRT project which includes investments to renew critical City infrastructure such as sidewalks, road surfaces, water and sewer lines along the LRT corridor; and

Whereas the City of Hamilton has already entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Metrolinx signaling the City's intent to work collaboratively with Metrolinx to fully implement the LRT project; and

Whereas it is acknowledged that the LRT project is one part of the City of Hamilton's broader transit strategy as outlined in the City's Rapid Ready report and Ten Year Transit Strategy

Therefore, be it resolved, that Hamilton City Council reaffirm the acceptance of the $1.0 billion dollar investment in infrastructure and public transit that the Province of Ontario has provided for the express purpose of completing the LRT project.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger has already indicated that he will second the motion.

To a casual observer, this motion seems to come right out of left field. Council doesn't have to vote on anything until next Spring, when the Class Environmental Assessment amendment, being jointly prepared by the City and Metrolinx, will be presented for final approval before submission to the Province.

Until then, all the approvals are already in place to direct staff to work with Metrolinx, engage the public and develop the LRT plan.

Indeed, Council has voted consistently and repeatedly in favour of LRT over a large number of motions and plans stretching back to early 2008, when they first established the Rapid Transit office and directed staff to undertake a Rapid Transit Feasibility Study.

However, Council's support for LRT has recently been clouded by one or two loud and insidious voices of opposition: Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins, who has voted in favour of LRT at every turn but now says he opposes it; and Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead, who claims to support LRT even while he steadily undermines it as part of his cute war against the lower city.

One may be forgiven for wondering why anyone, even someone who doesn't particularly support LRT, would turn down full capital funding after it was already committed by a higher level of government that is willing to bear both the financial and political costs.

As Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly was quoted saying in a Hamilton Spectator article: "[T]o reject $1 billion? I don't think anybody is that foolhardy."

Let's hope Councillor Skelly is right. Meanwhile, it's definitely worth taking a few minutes to remind Council why they voted to support LRT in the first place.

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Mack (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2016 at 15:47:32

This motion is disturbing because allows an opportunity for more wavering and sabotaging of LRT plans when the matter has already been decided. There is no turning back now but this motion makes it seem that there is.

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By Surbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2016 at 15:49:12

Interesting wording in the Motion. Simply is asking Councillors to confirm their acceptance of the funds. It's no longer asking them to confirm their support of LRT. What's the point? Can't imagine anyone will vote against "accepting the funds"

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 05, 2016 at 15:59:23 in reply to Comment 118301

Council is voting to support Metrolinx building LRT in Hamilton using $1 billion in Provincial funds. Council is voting on whether to accept the Province making a $1 billion transit investment in the city. An investment they asked the province to make!

The city would look ridiculous after the requesting the City provide funding for LRT, welcoming the request last year, and signing a memorandum of understanding and then essentially saying: "just kidding ... we didn't really mean it when we put in that 200 page request for LRT funding and signed the memorandum of understanding"! Don't forget that almost all the councillors around the table are the same ones who supported the original request for provincial funding back in 2013.

Don't forget that the vote to submit the request for 100% Provincial funding for LRT was unanimous back in February 2013 ... even Councillor Collins supported it! Nothing fundamental has changed about Hamilton's LRT project has changed since then, except the Province actually came through with the 100% funding the City requested (and they modified the design so it doesn't impinge on Collins ward).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-05 16:08:48

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By Surbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2016 at 16:11:24 in reply to Comment 118303

Personally, I liked the first draft better. It actually contained wording about Council supporting LRT. This one doesn't. That's what I meant by what's the point. They can still agree to accept it, which they will and continue their antics. I thought the point with the first draft was to stop undermining this worthwhile project.

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By Ralph (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2016 at 16:44:59

Some of these councillors are real dick heads, asking irrelevant questions they wouldn't pose about any other project or initiative.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 06, 2016 at 07:57:08

I don't think there is any need to panic. The way I see it the big kids have come to the sandbox and they're going to build an LRT.

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