Metrolinx appears to be in a race with the clock to throw as much money at Hamilton’s LRT project before the elections later this year as to make the project unstoppable. The transit agency has committed $93 million and has actually spent $65 million—about $14 Million of which is to acquire properties along the route. With roughly ten percent of the budget spent, some would argue we have gone too far to turn back. We would argue the opposite—that implementing the Rapid Ready transit plan, which would include Bus Rapid Transit, even with what has already been spent would run less than half of the billion dollar price tag and leave funding available to enhance the Regional Express Rail Service which is the provinces number one transit priority and is a much better allocation of scarce infrastructure dollars. Any property that has been acquired can be banked and re-sold at a later date. It is clear from recent experience with the HSR—declining ridership, cancelled buses, bus stop drive-by’s, and toxic labour relations that Hamilton has nowhere near the basic transit usage or infrastructure to make LRT a success. In fact, we are heading backwards when it comes to transit in Hamilton. We need to do a multi-year build-up to create the kind of transit culture that would justify an expenditure like LRT. Rapid Ready was developed by transit experts with clear eyes, who were not infected with LRT-mania. It would be interesting to know how much of the $35 Million that Metrolinx has spent on consultants actually went to support the massive public disinformation project that has been ongoing since 2008. Free of political pressure, the best transit experts in the province have told us that the purpose of transit is to meet ridership demand, not create it and to decrease congestion; not “economic uplift.” In Hamilton we have neither the necessary demand nor the congestion. What has been spent on the LRT project in Hamilton is regrettable, but pales in comparison to what has been wasted on gas plants and other Queen’s Park misadventures. Time to cut our losses and move on to a sensible transit plan for Hamilton.
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