Special Report: Light Rail

More Mixed Messaging on LRT Funding

This week, we heard contradictory messages from Provincial officials on whether Hamilton will have to contribute some capital funding toward the B-Line LRT.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 06, 2013

Will Hamilton be expected to contribute some of the capital cost of a planned east-west LRT line? Will the amount we contribute help determine Hamilton's place in the Metrolinx priority list? It seems to be impossible to get a straight answer to these questions.

Just this week, Hamilton heard two contradictory messages from Provincial officials.

On Monday, Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel quoted Leslie Woo, vice-president of policy, planning and innovation for Metrolinx:

"If a municipality has an ability to present a financial contribution to the projects, that gets bonus points," Woo said in an interview.

Acccording to Dreschel's column, Metrolinx will use a city's direct capital contribution as one of its criteria in determining the order in which projects in its phase 2 priority list get completed.

On the same day, an article [behind a paywall] in YourHamiltonBiz.com quotes Transport minister Glen Murray saying the opposite:

"I am not looking, and nor do I think Metrolinx will be looking, to be influenced by direct municipal contributions to rate the priority of projects," Murray said in an interview.

"As much as we, of course, always love to have our municipal government partners as co-investors in these strategies, it is not part of how we rate the projects."

According to the article, Murray said the priority is to "maximize the growth in your tax base and the attraction of new investment and new jobs and private sector investment".

He added, "Hamilton is really leading the way on that" and praised Hamilton's "really good strategy about value planning and using infrastructure to help build your tax base to build infrastructure."

History of Mixed Messaging

This mixed messaging on LRT funding is not new.

As recently as the October 13, 2011 general issues committee meeting, Metrolinx vice-president John Howe told Hamilton City Councillors, "100 percent capital funding is the current Metrolinx funding assumption. And I think it was depicted clearly in the York Region example. That's our current funding assumption model for the Hamilton LRT project."

But last August, Mayor Bob Bratina announced that then-Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli told him Hamilton would have to cover some of the capital costs. However, neither Chiarelli nor anyone at Metrolinx would confirm how much this share might be.

Bratina raised the issue again last Monday when Councillors were considering the Rapid Ready staff report, but staff confirmed that their understanding from Metrolinx is full capital funding.

In a CBC article on the same day, Metrolinx spokesperson Malon Edwards also confirmed that Metrolinx intends to provide full public funding.

However, Edwards has repeatedly told RTH that "no final decisions have been made on technology," holding open the possibility that Metrolinx might try to fund a cheaper-to-build bus rapid transit (BRT) system rather than LRT.

However, the research on transit investments - including the Metrolinx benefits case analysis on Hamilton's rapid transit plan - overwhelmingly demonstrates that the net economic development benefit from LRT is far bigger than for BRT.

Given Minister Murray's claim that Metrolinx will prioritize projects based on economic uplift potential, that augurs well for LRT.

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, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 13:49:50

It's clear that we're still on track to have some form of rapid transit sometime in the next 30-45 years, even if we have to cover some of the capital costs.

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By Province of Ontario (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 16:43:00 in reply to Comment 87069

We absolutely 100% guarantee that you'll get some sort of transit that's at least slightly faster than what you have now, funded possibly 100% by us, or possibly partially by you, or maybe 100% by you and installed by the year 2025, or maybe 2050 at the latest or at least by 2100 at the absolute very latest.*

*This is not a guarantee.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 15:39:18

This comment really stood out as another example of mixed messaging:

Murray said the priority is to "maximize the growth in your tax base and the attraction of new investment and new jobs and private sector investment".

This has been the basis of City staff's argument to Metrolinx to fund LRT in Hamilton. However, others (including Metrolinx spokespeople, the Mayor and the Spec) have said that the top priority is to reduce congestion, which is why Mississauga's project is still described as LRT.

If the economic stimulus argument (and by extension city-building) is the top priority, then Hamilton's LRT project should stand out as one of the most competitive! But what is the true priority list ... it is very difficult to tell.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-03-06 15:40:08

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 17:23:57 in reply to Comment 87070

But what is the true priority list ... it is very difficult to tell.

Indeed. Perhaps for people like Ms. Woo to keep their cushy positions at Metrolinx for as long as possible? Cynical opinion I know, but looking more and more to me to be the case.

It was a questionable strategy in the first place and seemed to some to be more about the mandarins seeking total control than the as-sold notion of doing things better. I fear it has proven to be the "anchor around the neck of all projects" some critics said it would be.

Giving total control to an oversight group like Metrolinx is great if that group is hyper-competent, sadly Metrolinx is not and now all projects they touch will suffer.

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By Truss (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 19:11:47

"and nor"? Seriously?

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By anothercapitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2013 at 15:43:38

Not going to happen people.

Congestion is much worse in other areas and to be quite frank, from a political point of view, those areas are more important than Hamilton right now.

Look for upgrades in the bus service and that's about it

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2013 at 13:04:40

"Two of the Las Vegas-based casino giants angling to build in downtown Toronto have asked the provincial Metrolinx transportation agency for help that would improve their competing pitches. The news follows revelations that the chair of Metrolinx, Rob Prichard, and another board member, Doug Turnbull, have registered as lobbyists for the consortium led by one of those companies, MGM Resorts, and are recusing themselves from any casino-Metrolinx dealings."

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2013 at 16:19:02

“They recognize the fact that we are in need of some special attention.” - Chris Murray.

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/894048--dreschel-full-lrt-funding-a-long-shot


“We will not be giving special treatment to Hamilton.” – Glen Murray

http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/899999--province-won-t-play-favourites-with-transit-funds-minister-says

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted March 13, 2013 at 12:23:29

"Murray backtracks on LRT comments- but he's still a big fan" by Andrew Dreschel on the spec.com today: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 14, 2013 at 04:11:58

Call it what you will, tax or toll we just cannot afford to pay more. There is only one pocket these tariffs come out of and that is the taxpayer's. That pocket is empty. We are already taxed above and beyond, enough is enough it has to stop and stop now. LRT is just too expensive for a city like Hamilton.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By getoutfromthehammerwhileyoucan! (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2014 at 18:24:46

Why should the suburbs pay for this? We were forced into hamilton. Most of us don't like hamilton at all. You call yourselves the city of waterfalls? 3rd largest city in Ontario? Only because you couldn't take care of yourself. Hamilton sucks. You're not getting an LRT, just a bus line. If you get an LRT, it'l mean Let's Raise Taxes for the rest of our lives to maintain it!

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