Special Report: Light Rail

Province Clarifies Yet Again That LRT Funding is for LRT, Not Whatever Hamilton Feels Like This Week

It is simply false to claim that Hamilton can turn down LRT and still hang onto the money in a placeholder until we decide what we want to do with it.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 24, 2017

Opponents of the Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) Plan continue to circulate the phony and many-times-debunked claim that Hamilton will somehow be allowed to use the $1 billion LRT funding commitment for some other transportation project instead.

Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was caught off-guard with a question about Hamilton's LRT and responded in a way that seemed to crack the door open for some kind of Plan B. She said:

So, the money that is on the table for Hamilton is for building transit. It's for building transit. There has been a discussion in Hamilton, as you well know, for years about bus rapid transit, light rail, um, we want to build transit in Hamilton to improve the quality of life of people who live in Hamilton. I really hope that we can come to an agreement.

I was very pleased when there seemed to be a decision on building the LRT. You know, I think that's the right way to go and I hope that we'll be able to move in that direction. But that money is for building transit in Hamilton.

It's for building transit in Hamilton and we're going to continue to work with Council. I don't know what their resolution was last night. I don't know what their discussion is right now. I had thought that they had made a decision about the LRT, so it is disappointing to me that there's a back-and-forth on this, I'll be honest. And I hope we can get it resolved very quickly.

RTH contacted the Ministry of Transportation to ask for clarification on the Government's position, and received an email response from Vanessa Miceli at the MTO that explicitly stated: "The funding is not allocated specifically to the City of Hamilton but to the LRT project."

If Hamilton City Council rejects the full capital funding for LRT, the City will have to develop a new transit plan and then submit a new funding request, with no guarantee that the Province will approve the project.

In 2015, the Province turned down the City's $300 million funding request for a new HSR bus storage and maintenance facility and new express buses. Their explanation was that the Moving Ontario Forward fund is for regional rapid transit, not local transit, and that cities already receive both federal and provincial gas tax transfers to help fund local transit.

Likewise, after Brampton City Council rejected Provincial funding for their LRT line (an extension of the Hurontario-Main LRT line in Mississauga), they have had to go back to the drawing board to begin developing a new request.

City staff have confirmed that it will be at least 2020 before the City is ready to submit a new plan for funding consideration - and there is no guarantee that the new plan will be approved or funded.

Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin further confirmed the Government's position this morning, during a question-and-answer session after a Provincial announcement about a guaranteed annual income pilot project.

Reporter Samantha Craggs of CBC Hamilton tweeted:

Just spoke to Ted McMeekin. He made it clear, on behalf of premier, that if it's not LRT, we go to back of line for $1b.

And:

McMeekin says it's no different than applying to build a hospital, getting money and then deciding you want to build an arena. You have to reapply.

And reporter Matthew Van Dongen of the Hamilton Spectator tweeted:

So, Premier didn't take Qs at today's [Hamilton] stop, but Ted McMeekin says she has reiterated "$1 billion is for LRT"

And:

McMeekin also noted [Hamilton] could switch gears, ditch LRT, pursue diff project, but would have to "start from scratch," make new $ request.

It is simply false to claim that Hamilton can turn down LRT and still hang onto the money in a placeholder until we decide what we want to do with it.

Following is the full text of the response from MTO:

As announced in May 2015, and further reaffirmed through the 2016 Ontario Budget, the Province has committed up to $1 billion through the Moving Ontario Forward plan for the capital construction costs to build a new LRT line in the City of Hamilton.

The funding is not allocated specifically to the City of Hamilton but to the LRT project. Investments under the Moving Ontario Forward – Inside the GTHA fund are directed to rapid transit projects that will help improve mobility and manage congestion in the region.

The Province respects the importance of municipal decision-making to support our transit investments. The Province and Metrolinx continue to work collaboratively with the City of Hamilton to advance work on the project, and to achieve the timelines announced in the 2016 Ontario Budget.

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 brundlefly (registered) - website | Posted April 24, 2017 at 17:18:12

so sick of rehashing this, ESPECIALLY WITH COUNCILLORS spreading it as incorrect.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2017 at 17:39:33

This is great news. The takeaway here is that we can reject LRT (which is a bad plan) and reapply for BRT (which is a better plan for Hamilton.) So what's the problem? Unlesss you contend that we should execute a bad plan now instead of a good plan later. If that's your idea then you'd have to explain your thinking. Patton said "a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed later" but no one thinks a bad plan should be executed. Ever. Reject this funding and let's take the *opportunity* to go back to the drawing board. Also, don't you think it's kind of a crummy move for Ontario to make us jump through hoops like this? Are they trying to help Hamilton or what? I can't understand why they're being so robotic about this. No discussion or conversation is allowed? And since when are Wynne and McKeekin such experts on transit modes? This is actually quite mind boggling. Any rational person would see that this is unacceptable.

Additionally, I notice you ignored that McKeekin didn't comment on funding for the Eastgate extension. He said he's open to it. If he's open to it then let's build it. If the votes come in from council will they build it? Why is the funding an issue now suddenly? I thought this project was "fully funded." And without the James St. spur there should be loads of cash right? It's not like they committed to funding the A-Line. Do you see what's happening here? The project is being descoped and you don't even realize it. The Eastgate extension is now suddenly unfunded. Strange.

Comment edited by JimC on 2017-04-24 17:45:40

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted April 24, 2017 at 20:55:36 in reply to Comment 121339

Wynne and McMeeken are indeed not transit experts. However, neither are you, nor are those in council second guessing the plan. What do the actual experts think? LRT is the better plan for Hamilton over BRT. It provides more economic uplift, and its cheaper to operate. Your assertion is based on your opinion, which is just not as important to me as the opinions of professional transit planners.

The province isn't forcing this plan down our throats without consultation, WE ASKED FOR IT, again and again, and tens of millions of dollars of provincial money has been spent planning it. So you think it's unjust or suspicious to say "take it or leave it" after all this time and money spent? What would you do with a child who requested you cook a particular meal for them, and when you're ready to serve it they say "hmmm... maybe I want something else". I would say, "Eat your damn dinner you asked for or go hungry!"

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 24, 2017 at 20:24:00 in reply to Comment 121339

I'ma go ahead and call bullshit on your enthusiasm for Bus Rapid Transit. BRT is just as disruptive to build as LRT - the roadbed has to be reconstructed, concrete poured to support the weight of the buses, dedicated transit lanes, stations with pre-paying for faster boarding, the whole nine yards - but the operating cost is much higher because you need twice as many buses and drivers to carry the same number of passengers as LRT vehicles.

Absolutely no one is seriously interested in real BRT as an alternative to LRT. The only purpose of BRT is to be used as a dodge to kill any rapid transit investment for the foreseeable future.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2017-04-24 20:24:24

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted April 25, 2017 at 07:08:18 in reply to Comment 121340

I'ma?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 25, 2017 at 07:12:11 in reply to Comment 121342

Yep. When I get tired of debating with someone engaging in bad faith, the first thing to go is my adherence to formal grammar, y'all.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2017-04-25 07:12:32

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted April 25, 2017 at 07:28:26 in reply to Comment 121343

Ah'ite

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted April 25, 2017 at 08:15:21

Colour me confused. I don't fully buy that the Premier was caught off-guard or that her remarks were consistent with what we've heard from McMeekin, that the $1B investment is for LRT or nothing. It sounds more in line with what some LRT opponents have been saying, that there's room for renegotiation:

[Councillor] Skelly, however, pointed out the premier said in May that "It's never been LRT or nothing," in response to a reporter's questions about political uncertainty in Hamilton.

And yesterday the Spectator's Matthew Van Dongen tweeted this cryptic message:

But @TedMcMeekin now says whether or not Metrolinx/Prov would quickly give away $1 billion if #hamont abandons LRT is "above my pay grade"

Frankly, I was hopeful when I heard Wynne's remarks, as I read it as her signalling there's room for compromise so Hamilton doesn't lose out on a massive investment in public transit – as we might with tomorrow's council vote. But I realize that such last-minute renegotiations — to switch plans to something more politically palatable, like BRT as a possibility — are virtually impossible to achieve. The more likely compromise strategy is to extend the current plan to Eastgate, which seems in motion. Fingers crossed for tomorrow — and the subsequent dozens of existential votes to come…

Comment edited by jeffzuk on 2017-04-25 08:16:17

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 25, 2017 at 08:38:46 in reply to Comment 121345

The City has always had the option to submit a different plan for funding consideration. That has never been in dispute. What the Premier meant is that the Province agreed to fund our LRT plan because that is the plan we submitted. If we had submitted a different plan, that plan would have gotten consideration instead.

But N.B.:

  • It takes several years to develop a rapid transit plan to a level where it is ready to submit for funding. If we turn down LRT, we can say goodbye to anything before 2022 at the earliest.

  • Last time, we received $3.5 million in funding from Metrolinx to go toward our LRT planning work. It's pretty safe to say we'll be on the hook for all our planning costs if we decide to start over. This is exactly what happened in Brampton.

  • There is absolutely no guarantee that the Province will agree to fund whatever else we decide to ask for. The Province already turned down our request for $302 million to fund a bus barn and new express buses, saying it's not part of their rapid transit mandate. What will the political context be in 2022, after not one but two provincial elections? No one knows.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 25, 2017 at 09:32:53

Like Ryan I also get tired of saying this to BRT supporters, you will need a lot more buses with BRT. Buses that your existing council has had no interest in buying and or maintaining. These extra buses will be above and beyond what the HSR currently uses or has planned to purchase. Just like LRT, any new BRT system in Hamilton will require a new bus garage. One very large new one to handle the existing bus fleet plus the BRT buses or a new garage facility specifically designed for the BRT buses. Which is something your council showed no interest in paying for when they wanted the province to pay $300 Million for, more buses and a new garage, a request which the province rejected! Ryan is correct, the anti-LRT members of your council have no interest in BRT unless its a distraction to stop LRT.

Remember the LRT design Hamilton could look like many of these systems with their built in scalable higher capacity,

http://www.railforthevalley.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Valenciennes-Avenue-Geoge-Clemenceau.jpg https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c... http://www.meridiam.com/sites/default/fi... http://fabritecture.com/wp-content/uploa...

and your system will more than easily match this type of Busways/Transitways in passenger carrying capacity,

http://spacing.ca/toronto/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/09/9719888879_cf12939293_h.jpg http://viatrolebus.com.br/wp-content/upl... https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-_vPaCsTntPk/W...

and with very minor physical improvements your LRT can easily match one of these types of Busways/Transitways in passenger carrying capacity.

http://viatrolebus.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/N__320281129.jpeg http://urbantoronto.ca/sites/default/fil...

This is what happens when a BRT Busway or Transitway System reaches its passenger carrying capacity.

http://www.railforthevalley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/20121022_160446_resized1-e1394029198899.jpg http://wpmedia.ottawacitizen.com/2015/09...

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