Light Rail

Metrolinx Not Informed of Change in City Transit Priorities

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 22, 2011

Hamilton City Manager Chris Murray did not advise Metrolinx of his decision to suspend work on the B-Line LRT before informing Council in an email that was obtained by RTH and published on Monday.

According to Robin Alam, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, "Metrolinx was not aware of Murray's decision to scale back activities on the Hamilton LRT initiative until after he had notified Hamilton City Council."

However, she added that Metrolinx remains committed "to continue our work with the City of Hamilton regarding the $3 million in planning, design and engineering funding administered by Metrolinx."

Last Friday, without any Council vote, Murray instructed Councillors that the senior management team had decided to suspend all work on LRT beyond what the City is contractually obligated to complete in exchange for $3 million in Provincial funding to help pay for the city's consultation, design and engineering work.

Staffing at the rapid transit office is being reduced from six or seven members to just one.

Intensification Plan

Among the suspended projects is an intensification plan [PDF] along the B-Line corridor, which planning staff were undertaking in parallel with the design and environmental assessment work.

City staff have been consulting with property owners and developers to understand the regulatory barriers to infill development, so that the City can prepare a Secondary Plan along the B-Line transit corridor that encourages investment.

That work has been undertaken as part of the City's Nodes and Corridors strategy to concentrate new investment around existing urban nodes and along transportation corridors under the auspices of the Provincial Places to Grow Act.

When staff presented the B-Line intensification plan at a recent planning and economic development committee meeting, Councillors Brad Clark and Chad Collins complained that they felt they were being "slowly being backed into a corner" on LRT - even though it was Council who voted unanimously to make LRT planning a top priority.

LRT vs. All-Day GO

With the new directive from Murray, who has publicly expressed skepticism about LRT, the B-Line plan has been de-prioritized and a manager has instead been appointed to lead a task force that will "aggressively pursue all-day GO service" to Hamilton.

Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson is questioning whether it is appropriate for the City Manager to change the city's transit priorities without direction from Council.

Talking to Bill Kelly on 900 CHML, Ferguson said:

Typically when you make strategic decisions, first of all it's done by Council and not by the City Manager and the Mayor alone, and it comes in the form of a staff report with their recommendations. But we never had that...

Drawing on his experience as a project manager at Dufferin Construction, Ferguson also questioned why staff can't move both LRT and all-day GO forward at the same time.

Metrolinx has clearly stated that it has "not asked the City of Hamilton to choose one project over the other" and warned that a project like LRT "will need to be in a state of readiness for funding consideration."

The environmental assessment under way for the B-Line is supposed to be completed by late Fall.

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 Robert Mackenzie (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 10:12:26

"According to Robin Alam, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, "Metrolinx was not aware of Murray's decision to scale back activities on the Hamilton LRT initiative until after he had notified Hamilton City Council."

However, she added..."

Ooops, wrong gender. Robin Alam is a man!

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By Me 109 (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 19:40:49 in reply to Comment 66830

insult spam deleted

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 11:07:29

Mark Chamberlain has written an excellent article titled "Are we asking the right LRT questions?" published in the Spectator today: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 14:07:35 in reply to Comment 66833

So sorry RenaissanceWatcher, mystoneycreek beat you to this link in a reply to me.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-23 14:09:26

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By Mark-Alan Whittle (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 12:50:29

I asked the Metrolinx Chairman about the future of LRT in Hamilton, here's the reply, as directed by the Chairman of the Board.
--
Dear Mr. Whittle,

Thank you very much for your interest in the City of Hamilton's Light Rail Transit project along the King/Main corridor, locally known as the B-line. I have been asked to respond to your inquiry on behalf of the Chair's Office.

Rapid Transit projects take considerable amount of planning, design and engineering before it is in a state ready for funding and implementation. The feasibility work and the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) on this corridor has demonstrated that rapid transit investment will generate positive net benefits for the corridor. Metrolinx in partnership with the City of Hamilton is working quickly to advance the Hamilton LRT project in a responsible manner.

Over the past year City of Hamilton staff, working with Metrolinx, has undertaken planning, design and engineering (PDE) in preparation for an environmental assessment (EA) for this project, which was made possible by $3 million in funding provided by Metrolinx. The notice of commencement for the B-line's environmental assessment was recently issued on June 17th 2011. Before the project can proceed further, a completed EA will be required.

Timing for the major capital funding commitment for this project, at this time, is unknown.

However, once the EA is successfully completed, further preliminary engineering work is required before the project would be ready for construction. Given the further design, engineering, and procurement timelines estimated for this project and its relation to the 2015 Pan AM games, it is unlikely that this project would be constructed and in service in time for the Pan AM Games.

At Metrolinx, we are working towards securing a sustainable stream of funding to construct the transit infrastructure this region needs, as identified by the Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, The Big Move. As mandated by our legislation, we will report back to the Province by June 2013 with an Investment Strategy for the sustainable funding for transit and transportation infrastructure in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

More information on the Metrolinx BCA and Investment Strategy can be found at our website: www.metrolinx.com.

Thank you very much for your interest in this project.

Sincerely,
Ashley Ward
Customer Service Coordinator
Metrolinx

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 13:53:51 in reply to Comment 66837

This is fantastic field work Mark-Alan, are you considering lobbying for LRT in Hamilton?

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-23 13:55:09

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By Mark-Alan Whittle (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2011 at 12:42:12

Since I'm the only locally registered Lobbyist, I'm staying out of it WRCU2, I just like getting my LRT facts straight from the person in charge of it, the Metrolinx CEO. Not the nonsense emenating from city hall, no wonder the taxpayers are confused. That way I can filter out the blue-sky dreaming and manufactured controversy over the issue. I asked ex-mayor Fred Eisenberger how he get's to work from downtown west Hamilton, where he lives, to his job in Toronto. He takes public transportation (GO), then walks (1/2 hour) or takes the subway to his office building. How many Hamilton councillors can claim the same? Short answer, none. That's why there are 16 reserved parking spots seconds from the doors of city hall. The driveway to driveway experience. Too funny, that is.

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