Light Rail

Mayor Bratina to Chamber of Commerce on LRT

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 06, 2013

As part of his talk to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina spoke at length about light rail transit (LRT).

Following is a transcript of Mayor Bratina's comments on LRT:

The Chamber ... has made a clear statement about LRT for Hamilton. Council, on the other hand, is awaiting a comprehensive transit master plan that incorporates a number of modalities including light rail.

But even though the, quote, "The Big Move", the Metrolinx plan, that their documents have suggested that 100 percent funding for the capital cost of LRT, no formal commitment is expected until the Metrolinx funding strategy is released in June.

Despite the suggestion of 100 percent funding, Hamilton has already spent $9 million, including $5 million of our own tax revenues, to prepare our LRT plan, projected to cost $1 billion.

This would make it the most expensive project undertaken by the city, more than double the Red Hill Parkway, and higher than the cost to service the Aerotropolis lands - the estimate in that is over $700 million.

So how can we possibly pay for this? Currently, following on this because I'm not good at math, and Mike Zegarac is here from our finance department and he gave me some, we sort of had to work through rough numbers.

But rough estimate, extrapolated from the $20 billion sales tax collected in Ontario, indicates that for Hamilton, a one percent sales tax increase would produce in Hamilton $100 million a year. If this could be returned to us in full, it would provide us with a real opportunity to address our serious infrastructure deficit and help fund new projects such as transit and LRT.

The public would have to be sold on that tax and the projects. You want these, how do you want to pay for them?

In American cities, things such as LRT are approved and funded through referendums, as just occurred, for instance, in Virginia Beach VA. Taxpayers there approved an extension to their LRT and paid for it by a half percent local sales tax increase.

Mayor McCallion in Mississauga recently stated the need for 100 percent funding for the Hurontario Street LRT.

I spoke to Hazel about this, and she said the project will lose money for several years and require significant costs for operations and maintenance. That's why it has to be, all the capital upfront has to be paid for, somehow, so that on the residential tax base, the ticket sales, the transit sales revenues and so on, could be applied to the operation.

And Hazel said it will be our job, as mayors, to make the case to our residents about the need for this to address the severe congestion problems.

In our case, LRT is presented as an economic development tool, not a cure for congestion, since we really don't see it to any great extent, except perhaps for around the Meadowlands on a Friday afternoon in Ancaster [chuckles], there's a lot of congestion there.

So one of the things I urge everybody to do is download a report that I brought along with me. It's called - and let me just show it to you [gets the report] - The North American Light Rail Experience: Insights for Hamilton, prepared for us by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics.

The overall conclusion of the report is that light rail transit has the potential to work in Hamilton under the right set of circumstances, but it will be a long, challenging and costly process. And I really appreciate the excellent work that was done, and you can find it and download it, it's online. I even have a couple of copies at my office. But if you're into this subject, you have to read this document.

You can read an RTH summary of the study that was published last August.

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 Kiely (registered) | Posted February 06, 2013 at 11:22:36

and higher than the cost to service the Aerotropolis lands

Catch the weasel wording there, "service", just service.

Make no mistake, Aerotropolis is the most expensive and wasteful project in this city's plans.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2013-02-06 11:23:46

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 07, 2013 at 00:05:52

Maybe the new casino can pay for it, lol.??

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2013 at 10:50:07

We're in Metrolinx's 25-year plan, so it's reasonable to expect that we'll break ground by 2031. Pending fiscal capacity, of course.

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By Tom West (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2013 at 13:39:38

Misleading things in the speech:
1) The "$1 billion" cost would be for both the B-line (MacMAster to Eastgate) and A-line (waterfront to airport). The B-line has always been planned as a stand-alone project that would cost ~$600 million.
2) He talks about getting 100% provincial funding, then how asks how the City will pay for it!
3) "LRT is ... not a cure for congestion, since we really don't see it to any great extent". Seriously?? Does this guy ever travel downtown?? The B-line LRT is about adding transit capacity - transit users along the corridor will all tell you how over-crowded the buses are. LRT will fix that so more people will take transit, and hence reduce congestion.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 10, 2013 at 22:01:58 in reply to Comment 86142

To be accurate, the B-Line cost was estimated at around $800 million a couple of years ago. That cost would include a maintenance yard that would serve both the B-Line and a future A-Line. I believe Mayor Bratina is quoting a $1 billion price based on an assumed increase in nominal costs between when the estimate was made and when he expects the line will be built (if it is built).

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 11, 2013 at 08:19:59

Hopefully Glen Murray will clarify things.

http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/02/10/wynne_makes_charles_sousa_finance_minister_in_cabinet_shuffle.html

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By pearlstreet (registered) | Posted February 11, 2013 at 11:37:32

The ellimination of HSR busses should counter something. Congestion will increase with more development. Why not build parallel to the increase of demand as this is so timely anyways! Yes, increase my taxes. I can afford it - my house will rise (an average of) 30% (within one km of this new system).

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