An article in the Globe and Mail notes that Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak would focus regional transit dollars on subways in Toronto and cancel LRT and other rapid transit projects elsewhere in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
Some GTHA mayors, like Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, are upset about this and have called Hudak out for "interfering" with their plans to anchor and focus dense, mixed-use development around their respective rapid transit plans.
Then you have Hamilton's mayor.
In Hamilton, where a future LRT could be nixed by Mr. Hudak's plan, Mayor Bob Bratina said the current plan is to begin with buses and that it would be "likely many years" before ridership warranted light rail.
"The Ministry is well aware that our Rapid Ready transit plan begins with enhanced bus service to grow ridership to ultimately support LRT," he said in an e-mail. "Our first concern therefore is a funding partnership with the province to set the plan in motion."
As City Manager Chris Murray explained to Council, the purpose of Rapid Ready is to make the case for the Province to fund LRT, "and if they choose to for whatever reason defer it, then we're saying we're still there wanting to see the other investments made as well."
But Bratina keeps pretending the report says we should do those other things and then, maybe one day years from now, we should think about doing LRT if it makes sense.
As for his claim about ridership: according to the March 2010 HSR Operational Review, buses operating on the east-west LRT route already carry 13,000 passengers a day. In other words, we have more than enough ridership to justify LRT right now.
More to the point, LRT systems tend to outperform even optimistic ridership growth projections. For example, Charlotte NC's Lynx LRT line, which opened in 2007, was supposed to carry 9,100 daily passengers on opening and grow to 18,000 by 2025.
What actually happened is that ridership had already reached 18,600 by the first quarter of 2008. Nearly three quarters of Lynx riders were new to public transit.
Other cities are now trying to get their LRT system construction plans fast-tracked because Hudak has said he would respect existing contracts. But in Hamilton, our mayor has spent the past three years trying to undermine, stall and delay our LRT plan, which Council approved back in February and the Province says it will build once financing is in place.
It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Hamilton is left out as the only major municipality in the GTHA without a rapid transit plan because our chief magistrate and ostensible champion incomprehensibly refuses to fight for funding from Queen's Park.
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