LRT is the preferred option, but no one will commit to it until a new funding model is decided on by the provincial government.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 13, 2013
I was able to attend the latter part of yesterday evening's Big Move Consultation meeting. It was nice to see that it was very well attended by a wide cross-section of Hamiltonians: people are still enthusiastic about the prospect of LRT in Hamilton.
This meeting was similar to the other public information sessions I've attended: an introductory talk, and then a break-out session divided into groups, each one focusing on some aspect of the project (funding, transport, and so on).
There was nothing really new there, with the main message from the participants being: raise new money from a variety of sources and spend it in an immediate, direct and transparent way on transit improvements.
I was introduced to Gary McNeil, president of GO Transit. We were able to have a long chat, which was very helpful.
Despite the confusing messaging about "RT" rather than "LRT", including an official clarification from Metrolinx that the "original base case analysis for the project did not include a preferred technology" - Gary assured me that light rail transit is still the preferred option for Hamilton.
He told me a new report on LRT would be submitted to Hamilton City Council from City staff soon. He also confirmed that no decisions will be made until the government decides on new sources of funding, as no new projects can be built on the current budget.
As I suspected, the goal of these meeting is not so much to 'consult' the public, but rather to try to get people enthusiastic about The Big Move, Metrolinx's 25-year Regional Transportation Plan, and communicate this enthusiasm to the politicians.
He told the participants that no politician is going to vote for new fees or taxes unless they feel they have strong public support.
We are stuck in the same holding pattern we've been in for the past few years: LRT is the preferred option, but no one will commit to it until a new funding model is decided on by the provincial government.
Of course, once the funding model is agreed, there will be a political scramble to grab a piece of the budget, and then we will be in a very weak position unless our Mayor, Bob Bratina, suddenly becomes a champion for the cause of LRT in Hamilton.
We are still left with the question of why the Metrolinx announcement was so poorly and confusingly written, and why the Media Relations employee who responded to RTH didn't attempt to clarify things.
If you were not able to attend last night's consultation, the next meeting in Hamilton will be this Saturday, February 16, 1-3 PM at Dundas Town Hall, 60 Main Street in Dundas.
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