Special Report: Light Rail

Hamilton Deserves Same LRT Deal as Toronto

Toronto is demanding - and receiving - full funding from Metrolinx for its three new LRT lines. Why is Hamilton content with a much less generous deal that Council won't accept?

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published September 24, 2012

According to a new report out of Toronto, TTC Chair Karen Stintz is saying that the operating subsidy for the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, currently under construction, will be paid by the Province and not by the TTC.

Stintz is quoted saying, "If we're not operating those lines, we're not paying those costs ... I don't know where they're going to get the money."

This comes after the announcement that Metrolinx will own and operate the new LRT lines, not the TTC, and that they will be managed by a private operator.

Her statement was intended to directly contradict Ontario Transport Minister bob Chiarelli's claim that Metrolinx and the TTC are still negotiating an operating subsidy for the new LRTs.

In other words, the TTC's position is they will pay zero dollars towards capital costs, which we knew, and zero dollars towards operating subsidies, which is new.

Why wouldn't Hamilton also be pushing for the same deal as Toronto, instead of making it easy for the Province to make us an offer we can't accept?

Rendering of B-Line LRT
Rendering of B-Line LRT

Need to Confront Province

Toronto is getting $8.4 billion in capital costs, plus an operating subsidy from the province. It seems they are not contributing any of the direct capital costs toward construction.

Hamilton's B-line (and A-line) would be much cheaper, and the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis showed that it would provide a huge economic and social uplift to the city.

Hamilton could definitely afford a zero/zero deal! However, it seems we're content to throw away over a billion dollars in direct capital costs and billions more in economic benefits, just because the project may be controversial and we don't want to confront the province directly.

Toronto has taken precisely the opposite strategy and has been very successful, securing 100% capital funding for the Crosstown, Finch and Sheppard LRT lines.

I really don't understand why Council is not insisting that Hamilton get the same deal as Toronto, instead of blandly accepting the Minister's statement that we'll have to be content with something far less generous.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2012 at 07:01:17

I really don't understand why Council is not insisting that Hamilton get the same deal as Toronto...

At first I laughed, because this would make for a great standup comedy routine. But then I realized you were serious.

So I'll be serious, too: Don't you think that them not taking the tack you're suggesting is consistent with how things have been directed since amalgamation?

Further, what do you think it would take to a) sell the idea of a more concerted approach to residents, and b) get them to pressure those who work for them?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 08:13:12

The L Word - Leadership. Rob Ford's administration is far outperforming ours. Ouch.

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By JM (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 08:41:15

Why aren't we demanding it?

...because council doesn't see it as a priority

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 08:58:38 in reply to Comment 81193

And that's just it: why isn't over a billion dollars in government funding and billions more in direct economic and social benefits a priority?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 09:26:32 in reply to Comment 81196

because it's not in the suburban ring around Hamilton.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-09-24 09:26:59

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By Haruspex (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 09:06:44

Could Toronto be further along in the planning process than Hamilton, and therefore better placed in terms of legerage?

Could there be more Liberal ridings in Toronto than in Hamilton?

Could transit be a more accepted topic of mature political debate in Toronto than Hamilton?

Could transit be a more critical component of the economy of Toronto than it is of Hamilton?

Could Toronto have more socioeconomic mojo than Hamilton?

Would the HSR willingly concede power to a Toronto-based competitor with a superior product, knowing that they would potentially eviscerate their nominal business model if and when the most high-capacity (and possibly the only cost-effective) routes in the city -- those along the B-Line corridor -- lose passengers/fares to LRT? And would that in turn imperil the remainder of the city's transit network, by virtue of making it a bottomless pit for taxpayer dollars, and hence political pinata?

I don't know. But I thought I would ask.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2012 at 09:57:20

The more I hear about it, the more I'm convinced that mayor Bob traded away our LRT in exchange for a stadium downtown in some backroom deal.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 18:00:10 in reply to Comment 81201

See also "Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure"

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 10:24:20 in reply to Comment 81201

You and me both, my friend...you and me both. Bob's support of the Liberals in the last election clinched it for me.

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By JDAWG (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 10:02:45

Who says this line will need an operating subsidy?

Many TTC routes make a profit and subsidise the 24/7 service to remote corners of the city. Several streetcar routes have 60,000 riders daily and that would mean they must take in $100,000 in revenue every single day. There's no reason to think a rapid transit line on Eglinton couldn't replicate this.

The real challenge will be figuring out who gets what revenue. When someone rides a Metrolinx LRT across Eglinton and then gets on the TTC subway, who gets how much of the $2.50? That will take years of negotiating.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2012 at 11:40:47 in reply to Comment 81202

It is pretty difficult to show that any one line is making a profit. Even though the queen line may have 60,000 riders a lot of those riders also use another line be it the subway or Bay St. or some other line. Transit in North America is a money losing proposition because of the size of the cities and low density. There may be the odd exception. I do not know if NYC for instance is capable of breaking even.

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By JDAWG (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:55:48 in reply to Comment 81339

New York doesn't break even and actually has a higher operating subsidy than Toronto, though one must be careful as not all agencies report the same way. The New York MTA issues it's own bonds and counts interest on those bonds as operating expenses. The TTC does not do this.

In any case, I am taking the route split into account. Cash fare is $3. Token's are $2.60. To get $100,000 revenue for 60,000 riders means they only contribute $1.67 to the line. And that $100,000 in revenue is enough to pay three operators to run every streetcar in the fleet 24/7 on just that one line.

They make a profit. The TTC even acknowledges this.

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By Haruspex (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 11:59:30

When it comes to committed funding, is Hamilton on the books for anything at all?

? ? ? ? ? ?

TORONTO, June 14, 2010 /CNW/ - Metrolinx has received approval of its 5 in 10 Plan, which will see all of the Big 5 transit projects completed over the next 10 years....

The Big Move identified 15 priority projects across the GTHA. Funding has been committed and work has begun on several of these: extending the Spadina subway through York University to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre; building a dedicated busway along the 403 in Mississauga; and, linking Pearson Airport and Union Station by rail in time for the Pan Am Games. The Big Move also identified improving Union Station as a priority action, and a major revitalization of this facility, Canada's busiest transportation hub, has also broken ground.

On April 1, 2009, the province announced the largest transit investment in Canadian history, $9.5 billion, to the "Big 5" priority projects drawn from The Big Move's top 15 list. The Big 5 are four light rail transit (LRT) lines in the City of Toronto totalling $8.15 billion, plus an investment of $1.35 billion in Viva bus rapid transit (BRT) improvements in York Region."


Seems like that's the Metrolinx to-do list through 2020. ("Root around under couch cushions for spare change" being unstated but understood.) Have we ever had confirmation on anything to the contrary?

Again, I don't know. But I thought I would ask.

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By kettal (registered) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 13:23:43

Whether the money comes from the province or the city, it's all taxes that we paid, is it not? Is this really worth fighting over & delaying LRT for?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2012 at 13:54:19

One thing that's frustrating about this: provincially, who would I elect to fix this problem?

If I vote Liberal, it's supporting their desire to weasel out of their promises to Hamiltonians. If I vote NDP, it's more of Horwath forgetting she's supposed to represent Hamiltonians and not just the provincial NDP at large. If I vote PC, they'd probably try to dismantle Metrolinx altogether.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 14:21:16

"Toronto is getting $8.4 billion in capital costs, plus an operating subsidy from the province. It seems they are not contributing any of the direct capital costs toward construction. Hamilton's B-line (and A-line) would be much cheaper..."

Much cheaper on the whole, sure, but that $8.4B covers four LRT lines (Eglinton Crosstown, The Finch West and Sheppard East LRT, plus Scarborough RT) and 52 kilometers of new transit routes. Evaluated on a per-km basis, would Hamilton -- Mac to Eastgate, a 14km (?) run -- be much cheaper, or roughly just as expensive?

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By JDAWG (anonymous) | Posted September 24, 2012 at 14:34:22 in reply to Comment 81210

Hamilton's must be cheaper. The Eglinton line has a huge underground stretch which costs far more to build. The Sheppard line includes a tunneled section as well.

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By RL (anonymous) | Posted September 26, 2012 at 17:56:14

Hamiltonians, don't get worked up over the LRTs Toronto gets. From Toronto myself, I can assure you that the deal Toronto gets isn't as promising as it sounds. There's no free lunch, let alone $8.4 billion. The province does not have a stack of cash stored in a vault in the basement of Queen's Park. Metrolinx has been relunctant to discuss its funding plans, but we all know that it's coming down to some combination of regional sales surtax and road tolls in the GTA, which are disguise for a rather large municipal share towards the projects (hopefully Hamilton will be exempt from them if it doesn't get funding for the LRT). Meanwhile, Toronto's LRT lines have already been scaled back in 2009 as result of retracted promises from McGuinty (is this anything new?). Even then, the future of LRT is still uncertain, for there has been non-stop political tension (councillors vs mayor, TTC vs Metrolinx, etc.) over the lines from day one. Given the province's current fiscal position, the Liberals couldn't have done better watching from the sidelines and hoping something would derail the projects without making them look like the culprits. And if nothing works, the province can always tell us "sorry, we don't have the money we thought we'd have" and turn this into another Network 2011 fiasco.

And meanwhile, be realistic and don't expect Queen's Park to pay for the full cost of Hamilton's LRT. Given the province's track record, you should be happy if your LRT ever gets built at all.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2012 at 00:20:08 in reply to Comment 81278

who cares if it's not free, they're getting new infrastructure. Infrastructure costs money! Bring on the road tolls - just build some transit already!!!

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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2012 at 06:41:20

We might see project equity yet!


Two city councillors will be tabling a motion next week seeking to take control of the new LRT lines away from the province.

The motion, submitted by Joe Mihevc and seconded by Gord Perks, calls on city council to adopt the position that the future LRT lines on Shepperd, Finch and Eglinton, as well as the Scarborough LRT project, be controlled by the Toronto Transit Commission.

The motion is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Oct. 2 city council meeting.

Earlier this week, Metrolinx, the province’s transit agency, announced it would be taking over the operation and maintenance of the lines. The motion was filed because the councillors feel Metrolinx isn’t cut out for the job. “If we’re going to deliver high quality transit to Torontonians, then the TTC needs to do it,” said Mr. Perks. “The province isn’t capable.”

The motion appears to have prompted a sharp response from the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation. A statement from Bob Chiarelli implied that any more second-guessing by city politicians would only stall negotiations that are well underway.

“That negotiation is virtually complete and must be allowed to conclude without interference in order to avoid cost escalation,” said Mr. Chiarelli in the statement. “The people of Toronto want to see shovels in the ground, not more unnecessary debate and delay.”

In a letter sent to Metrolinx by Sameh Ghaly, the chief capital officer of the TTC, on Sept. 12, the city transit commission acknowledged that an approach led by the province was a viable option, and would provide the same level of safety to customers as a TTC-lead approach would.

The other viable option outlined by Mr. Galeh was for the LRT to be operated and maintained by the TTC.

Councillor Perks said the Metrolinx approach, which would include bringing in a private operator for the line, would not fare well for Toronto. “I think that the Province of Ontario should have learned their lesson from the 407, eHealth and Ornge, that contracting out public works leads to disaster.”


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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2012 at 09:59:01 in reply to Comment 81296

Paying for regional transit expansion will require the public to support allocating income and sales taxes to the cause, says a new report by the City of Toronto.

While there’s little appetite for raising taxes these days, income and sales taxes collected GTA-wide can generate large sums to put toward Metrolinx’s $50 billion expansion plans, it says.

The report recommends that Toronto officials conduct public consultations and report their findings by next spring.

The document, to be reviewed by council’s executive committee next week, says income taxes collected across the GTA could yield $1.4 billion annually for regional transit expansion, while a 1 per cent sales tax would chip in another $1.3 billion.


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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2012 at 16:14:54 in reply to Comment 81296

If Toronto and the TTC try to take control of the LRT from the province then they are fools. Let the province keep it and pay the costs. Transit always looses money in North America because of the distances involved and the low density.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2012 at 08:01:21

Why would anyone think that Toronto and Hamilton are equals in the eyes of Queen's Park? One is the provincial capital, the largest city in the province the engine that drives the provincial economy which in turn drives the national economy. The other is a former industrial city going through some tough times trying to reinvent itself not affecting the provincial or federal economy very much one way or the other. Toronto has some horrible traffic problems, Hamilton not so much. Toronto is the destination city for work, leisure and dining. Hamilton not so much.

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By Jordan Kerim (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2012 at 22:38:20

It's a shame that more can't be done to improve our urban spaces. As is usually the case, unless people fight for it, it will not become a reality. I used to live in Hamilton back in the late 80s / early 90s but in the last twenty years I've been in T.O. and really sometimes this city can be too much. Hamilton is more quiet and I've never seen a traffic tie up anywhere in the city. There are lots of beautiful old victorian houses for affordable prices. If Hamilton can get all day GO train service then it will help strengthen it's relationship with Toronto. : )

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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2012 at 09:02:25

In the tug-of-war for control of the Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch LRT, the TTC appears to have stared down a Metrolinx plan to privatize the lines.

Two weeks ago, Metrolinx, Ontario’s transportation agency, announced that it was handing operational control of the new lines to a private bidder, arguing that it would shield taxpayers from delays and cost overruns.

“If the project is late, the private sector pays. If project is over budget, the private sector pays,” read a Sept. 20 Metrolinx statement, adding that the privately-operated line would be “fully integrated” with the existing TTC fare structure.

Responding to the proposal as a surprise power grab, TTC chair Karen Stintz threatened to withdraw funding of the lines while Councillor Joe Mihevc readied a motion calling on city council to overturn the Metrolinx decision.

The Metrolinx plan “would balkanize public transit delivery, leading to possible different service standards, a different security system, contorted responses for when the system goes down,” it read.

“Indeed, the original motivation of government in forming the [TTC] in 1921 was to better plan, coordinate and operate the disparate private-sector operators that had been running transit,” added the motion.

Then, on Tuesday, Councillor Mihevc voluntarily withdrew the motion, fuelling speculation that Metrolinx had backed down.

Both Ms. Stintz and Mr. Mihevc had nothing to say on the matter Tuesday night, but on Wednesday morning, the heads of both Metrolinx and the TTC are appearing at TTC headquarters to make an “important announcement about public transit in Toronto.”

Private sub-contracting of a Canadian light-rail transit line is not new. Vancouver’s Canada Line is operated by privately owned ProTrans BC, yet links smoothly with the city’s other, provincially operated, SkyTrain lines.


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By Chevron (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 11:13:41

Toronto’s transit solution can’t end in Toronto

By Mitzie Hunter, Geoff Cape, Cherise Burda, Carol Wilding & Franz Hartmann

The Globe and Mail, Oct. 8 2012

On Tuesday, Toronto’s executive committee is scheduled to consider a city manager’s report calling for public consultations on new, dedicated revenue tools for transit expansion. Most important, the report calls for the regional transportation plan to be implemented and funded on a regional basis. We urge the executive committee to heed these recommendations.

In recent months, Toronto’s city council has shown leadership by connecting the need to finance transportation infrastructure expansion with the need for new revenue tools. But that debate has focused on revenue that would be collected and spent solely within the city. This reflects a well-intentioned desire to address Toronto’s urgent transit needs, and improve life for constituents. For that, they should be commended.

But as the city manager’s report sets forth, council needs to move this discussion forward within the context of the broader region.

Every day, more than 350,000 people commute into Toronto. Nearly as many Torontonians pass them in the other direction while heading to work in other municipalities. Residents and organizations across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area dream of moving faster and more easily within and across municipal boundaries, and reaching that goal requires regional solutions.

The negative effects of congestion are being felt in urban centres across Canada, and municipalities from Vancouver to Ottawa are grappling with the issue in a variety of ways. But the situation in the GTHA is particularly acute. While the region’s economy is responsible for 20 per cent of Canada’s GDP, lost productivity in the GTHA due to congestion is siphoning $6-billion annually from the region’s economy, and it’s expected to reach $15-billion by 2030. Commute times here are longer than car-clogged Los Angeles and getting longer.

Considering the city’s size and central location, Toronto’s councillors are well positioned to lead on this crucial social, environmental and economic issue. Torontonians are used to hearing about big transit ideas that end up going nowhere. The coming debate has the potential to lead toward lasting solutions to the region’s mobility issues. Council could do this by building support for a regional solution.

Many residents are unaware that a regional transportation vision and plan already exist. In 2008, Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the GTHA, released The Big Move, a $50-billion, 25-year plan for creating a seamless, regionally integrated transportation network. It’s the result of intensive consultation that has been adopted by the Metrolinx board with agreement from the region’s municipal councils. Such a plan is needed to support economic growth and dramatically improve how people, goods and services flow throughout the region.

While several key projects in the Toronto region are under way, totalling $12.3-billion, these investments represent only a first step. Nearly 80 per cent of the plan remains unfunded.

Ontario has asked Metrolinx to produce a strategy on how to finance the rest of the plan. With all levels of government facing serious fiscal constraints, the focus is likely to be on a combination of other new revenue tools such as fuel tax, road tolls, parking levies or a percentage on the sales, income or property tax. Metrolinx is required by legislation to submit its strategy to the Ontario government and the heads of the GTHA municipal councils by June 1, 2013. This critical deadline must be met.

Regardless of the tools selected, it’s essential they be implemented regionally. Experts agree that most of the major revenue tools available to fund transportation improvements only work at the regional level and thus require regional co-operation.

Having municipalities such as Toronto participating in this discussion and moving its residents toward acceptance of the need for a regional transportation network and the revenue tools to support it will go a long way to ending our region’s congestion.

The next few months will be critical in building consensus on what actions governments should take to raise the needed funds. Leaders and residents from around the region will be invited to join us in this conversation.

Ultimately, solving the GTHA’s mobility issue will happen only if the region’s residents, businesses and civic organizations are engaged, informed and supportive. A regional transportation network that is efficient, accessible, affordable, publicly accountable and fully connected will benefit residents and businesses across the GTHA. We need regional solutions to pay for it. Toronto’s councillors have an opportunity to show leadership. We urge them to do so.


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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 20, 2012 at 16:19:21

Today's edition of the Hamilton Spectator contains an article by Meredith MacLeod titled "Mac report illuminates issue of LRT for city": http://www.thespec.com/news/business/art...

City staff will be including this McMaster report as part of a larger presentation to the Hamilton city council on the LRT issue.

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