Light Rail

Mayor: 'More Focused Discussion' on LRT Funding After Province Says Hamilton Must Help Pay

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 22, 2012

In a report published yesterday on CBC Hamilton, Mayor Bob Bratina is quoted saying Hamilton will have to pay some of the cost of the planned Light Rail Transit (LRT) line.

The mayor met Monday with Bob Chiarelli, Ontario's Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, at the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) conference in Ottawa.

The minister clarified that Hamilton will have to raise a share of the cost of establishing an LRT service, Bratina said in a phone interview with CBC Hamilton on Tuesday.

"It was a relief to finally hear a clear statement from the minister that there will be participation expected from the host community," he said.

RTH contacted Mayor Bratina via email to ask him why it is a "relief" that Hamilton will have to pay some of the LRT cost, given that the Metrolinx mandate is to fully fund regional higher-order transit projects. The Mayor responded:

Council has struggled with the question of funding from the very beginning when the "Big Move" was announced. There has never been any question in my mind that LRT would require some cost to taxpayers and that is now confirmed. We can now engage in specifics of how, when and where LRT would be best suited to meet the needs of Hamilton based partly on our ability to pay. Until this was made clear Council was reluctant to declare specific commitments. I believe you will now hear a much more focused discussion.

RTH also asked whether other LRT systems funded through Metrolinx - like the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, Sheppard East LRT and Etobicoke-Finch LRT, will also require their host city to pay some of the capital cost. The Mayor answered:

I can't answer for other systems. The ones mentioned were part of a specific announcement in 2009 regarding the first five year capital plan that included three million dollars for Hamilton to study the A and B line rapid transit corridors. Subsequent proposals will depend on the June 2013 decision on how the Province intends to proceed with the outstanding transit projects. Words such as "alternatives" and "creative" point to funding sources beyond current Provincial taxation.

RTH has also contacted Minister Chiarelli, Metrolinx, Hamilton MPPs Ted McMeekin and Andrea Horwath and members of Council for comment. More to come as we get responses.

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 Frig (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 08:48:14

" We can now engage in specifics of how, when and where LRT would be best suited to meet the needs of Hamilton based partly on our ability to pay. "

IOTW Bratina gets to reopen the can of worms over what route the LRT should take. Say good bye to all the work planning the B Line, say good bye to LRT in Hamilton any time soon.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 10:34:16

IMO, Any notion of a "stadium precinct" will not work without LRT and TOD.

Just another reason to move ahead with B-line LRT. Let's go!

I say think big, move ahead with both B-Line and A-Line.

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By political process (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 11:03:12

Don't forget this tidbit from the Spec last week: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/779917--mchattie-fears-mississauga-may-get-jump-on-lrt-funding

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Councillor Brian McHattie said on Monday that he's unsure whether Mayor Bob Bratina has lobbied the province to ensure Hamilton is at the top of the list for LRT funding.

“I'm growing increasingly concerned that we haven't heard much about the overall LRT effort,” he said. “We're doing all this great work in Hamilton on the planning side … and it may well turn out that Mississauga has done a better job than us behind the scenes. This is a political process, and at this point, I have no idea where we're at.”

Bratina responded that though he's meeting with Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli next week, he's not optimistic about the province's finances.

“When we see the premier going head-to-head with teachers, you've got to know there's a lot of pressure on spending in the province,” he said.

“I think I'm probably more nervous than I was a couple minutes ago,” McHattie responded. “I know the mayor's office has been involved, I think we need of a multipronged approach here.”

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By Au Pair (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 11:26:12

The Big Move was never more than 20% funded, and Metrolinx's reservoirs are being drained by existing commitments in the GTA. (The province is in similar straits as it begins its five-year climb out of a $15 billion deficit.) This presents an obvious challenge.

The next phase of transit expansion (TBM 2.0) will be driven by an investment strategy. Along with the revised blueprint, Metrolinx will have to offer the Ontario and regional governments a credible road map detailing how they plan to bankroll the grand vision.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 22, 2012 at 12:31:28

Let's just all accept that Mayor Bratina made some kind of back-room deal where he traded the funding for his stadium no-questions-asked and in exchange he'll let the Liberals off the hook on LRT for Hamilton.

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By theOther (registered) | Posted August 23, 2012 at 17:11:30 in reply to Comment 80003

Hence the Mayor's sense of relief: in a City where a Councillor plans to direct surplus funding into a golf simulator, the Mayor appreciates there will be no majority appetite for anything so frivolous an investment as mass public transit. His secret deal is secure.

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 13:29:36

Fred's stadium equally Pxtl, Fred started the stadium process as we know.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 14:35:57 in reply to Comment 80005

AFAIK, Fred did not start any stadium process. WH was the site for previous bids on other games (Commonwealth )well before he became mayor, and Fred certainly had nothing to do with any IWS site. http://www.thecgf.com/media/games/2010/BidBookE.pdf

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 14:37:26

Fred did, in fact, start the stadium process without question at all, and to his credit actually.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 14:49:07

A bit OT, but thought we could all use a chuckle.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 23, 2012 at 14:12:17 in reply to Comment 80009

That is amazing. If only we could embed video!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 22, 2012 at 16:01:29

Matt Jelly said it best

Province: "We probably won't pay 100% of LRT costs like we implied we would".

Mayor Bratina: "What a relief!"

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-08-22 16:01:36

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 20:46:45

If the city has to pay a dime, LRT will be dead in the water. That's why Bratina is so happy. He knows that council will not back it if the city is on the hook for any money. The only reason council jumped all over it in the first place was because the province was supposed to fully fund it.

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted August 22, 2012 at 23:24:29

Captain, I wasn't talking about any specific site for the stadium but rather the process. I admire Fred for going out on a limb and starting the stadium process knowing it would be a controversial topic in the city and not knowing exactly the final outcome when he began the process. I admire his courage. It wasn't an easy move on his part, that is for sure.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted August 23, 2012 at 09:44:37

It has long been suspected that Hamilton would have to pony up some cash. Metrolinx stated long ago that they would fund a basic system and anything more would be up to the city to fund.

I don't think it was ever defined what a basic system included, i.e. does it include platforms?, so it should not be surprise now the city is going to be on the hook for cash.

Like with everything, if it's not in writing it doesn't count (sometimes even when it's in writing it doesn't count...)

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