Politics - Federal

Feds Double Gas Tax Transfer, Increase GO Transit Money

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 03, 2009

The Federal Government committed last year to double the federal gas tax transfer to municipalities to $2 billion per year and make the transfer permanent so cities have stable and predictable funding.

Ontario's share doubles this year from $373 million to $746 million, of which Hamilton's share doubles from just under $16 million to just under $32 million.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry announced today that they will also accelerate the first $1 billion payment so that it arrives three months early.

This is part of a steady shift in Federal policy away from funding projects through the Building Canada Fund, which has drawn criticism for requiring matching provincial and municipal contributions and for a slow approvals process.

As Transport and Infrastructure Ministre John Baird explained in a press release, "We are working together with all levels of government to stimulate regional economies, cut red tape, get shovels in the ground sooner, and get Canadians back to work."

In January of this year, while Parliament was still on prorogue, the Big City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities petitioned the federal government to flow new infrastructure money through the gas tax. Instead, the January Federal budget emphasized tax cuts and credits and flowed money through the Building Canada Fund.

In March, responding to growing criticism of the slow pace of stimulus spending, the Federal Government announced a $3 billion slush fund to be doled out between April 1 and June 30, overseen by the Treasury Department.

While the provincial gas tax transfer must be spent on transit and increases or decreases based on ridership growth (Hamilton's provincial gas tax transfer has been falling due to weak ridership growth), the federal gas tax transfer comes with no strings attached. Until now, Hamilton has used the federal transfer on road infrastructure and to offset pressure to raise transit levies.

GO Transit Improvements

Also today, Minister Baird announced $213 million for GO Transit through the Building Canada Fund, on top of the $249 million in joint federal/provincial funding already committed earlier this year.

The funds will cover: a Steetsville bus storage facility; improvements to Exhibition Station, Clarkson Station, Burlington Station, Oriole Rail Station; a training fueling facility at Aldershot Station; a bus maintenance facility in Ajax; a bus terminal at Richmond Hill Centre; a second GO station in downtown Barrie; bridge improvements over Credit River, the Young Street Bridge in Aurora and other locations; a bus storage facility in Aberfoyle; track maintenance and upgrades across the network; refurbishment of 45 existing locomotives; 30 new bi-level passenger coaches; several platform snowmelt systems; 56 new bicycle shelters in addition to the 46 already built; integrated GPS systems for all GO buses; and 6,800 new parking spaces at 12 GO Stations.

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 jason (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 19:48:40

awesome news. Think of all the potholes we'll be able to fill!

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 23:19:58

I wonder if the announcement of a train fuelling facility to be constructed at Aldershot means that the rumoured electrification of the Lakehsore line has been put on the back burner?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2009 at 16:18:05

It's disappointing that none of the GO transit improvements seem to be taking place in Hamilton. Unless we're one of the places they're going to increase parking? As for the refueling station Aldershot as a GO station has the space for a refueling station, and if they're planning on extending service out towards Niagara Falls it would make sense to have something approximately halfway along the route. It could be that extending service is more of a priority than electrification in the short term?

Also interesting Barrie is getting a second station but no mention has been made of a potential second station for Hamilton, despite the fact it has been discussed for several years.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted April 04, 2009 at 22:37:34

Regarding a second stop in Hamilton, there really isn't a feasible location on the existing track, so I can't see another stop in Hamilton until the line expands east.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2009 at 02:07:22

Downtown Barrie Station is a one stop extension of the Bradford line into downtown Barrie rather than stopping at the South end of the city (similar to extending service from Aldershot to Hamilton GO Centre). The capacity expansion on various rail lines helps both VIA and GO, and it is my understanding it is the precursor to all day service on the Georgetown line as well as an expansion of that line to Guelph and maybe Kitchener. Most of the rest is caretaking except for the "training fuelling facility" at aldershot. That is puzzling.

I hope we spend our extra 16 million wisely. We should commit to using it towards our share of the LRT so we can put shovels in the ground asap after the BCA is done. If we get started during the recession it will save us costs, compared to waiting to the city's tax base recovers.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2009 at 09:38:16

Regarding a second stop in Hamilton, the location talked about for years has been near Liuna Station, as the CN rail line could support all day service to Toronto, whereas the current downtown location cannot because of the track configuration and the amount of freight traffic.

As for the fact it will have to wait until they expand eastwards, if the spec is to be believed (no corroborating info on the GO webpage) Go will be offering 9 bus trips each way to Niagara Falls staring this September. The trips will be rush hour service on weekdays only.

Of course the bad news is the trips connect with the GO train system in Burlington. Hopefully they will stop in Hamilton. We need is a champion for the city who will draw transit through this area instead of around it, much the same way McNab did for the railway.

Stations will be located in Grimbsby, St. Catherines, and Niagara Falls, likely near the QEW. There was no mention of rail, which is what these cities have been pushing for.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted April 06, 2009 at 12:09:30

That sounds like it would be more of a replacing the downtown station, which, I can see be being beneficial in terms of all day service, but it's not great location wise (proximity to most bus routes).

It doesn't really make sense for buses that are essentially bound for Toronto to stop in Hamilton as it actually takes less time to get to Burlington than downtown Hamilton, particularly in heavy traffic times.

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By Good News for All (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2009 at 12:55:47

The Niagara Buses will most likely make a quick stop at the Nash Rd GO Stop (You know, the giant pkng lot?).

I agree... it wouldn't make much sense to have a Toronto-bound bus pull into Downtown Hamilton from the QEW. It would add at least another 20mins to the trip.

I think it's just a start to getting GO into Niagara, so Niagarians?/Niagarites? can sample GO for when the Trains start pulling in, they will recognize the service and be more prompted to use it. THEN it [the Train] will stop in Hamilton, most likely at James North GO.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2009 at 14:10:33

I'm still trying to figure out who they think is going to take this Niagara Falls/Toronto route. Is it businessmen? Families? (Unlikely without weekend service) Students?

I think if that question was answered more clearly then we'd be able to figure out whether or not to make a case for service from Hamilton.

Then again maybe GO is content to sit back and let greyhoud and coach canada supply travel between Hamilton and Niagara, although this seems counterintuitive to their stated goal.

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