One of the challenges the average Hamiltonian faces in trying to sort out the LRT question is the explosion of facts and figures being cited to support opposing positions.
In a recent article, Raise the Hammer’s Ryan McGreal –an LRT supporter writes:
By attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in new dense, urban, mixed-use developments along the transit corridor, LRT helps us achieve the goal of raising the density of uses on our existing infrastructure – and generating more money to help pay for it.
Writing in a similar vein, the Hamilton Spectator’s Paul Berton wrote:
…LRT is not just about transit; it is about economic development. LRT has the ability to transform the Hamilton economy. We know from the experience in other cities that it will spur development along the route, create its own environment of investment, and that these businesses will pay taxes.
We went to Metrolinx’s Hamilton Main-King Benefits Case February 2010 to see what the transit agency itself had to say about potential development along the LRT route. The benefits cited by Metrolinx are over a 30-year period (2009-2038). Referring to Option 2–the full implementation of LRT along the “B” Line route from Eastgate to McMaster– Metrolinx reports:
the full LRT option will create a larger overall impact area than the BRT option and therefore implies that more land value uplift benefits will accrue to the project. Within the area impacted under this option, the average uplift is between 1.5% and 3.2% It is estimated that the potential uplift in assessment value as a result of this Option may result in between $50 million to $144 million.
Given that Hamilton’s commercial tax rate is about 3.4 percent of assessed value, $144 Million would produce about $5 Million per year in incremental tax revenue. Metrolinx makes no assumptions about potential new development, possibly because much of the route is already fully developed as largely commercial assessment with some medium density high rise between the Queenston Traffic circle and Eastgate. There is no compelling reason for existing property owners along the route to demolish and build new, although undoubtedly there is some potential for redevelopment of the most distressed section of King Street from Gage Avenue to Victoria Street. But to try to assign a value or a timetable to such redevelopment would be speculative, and has to be weighed against an investment of approximately $800 Million with an annual carrying cost of between $30 and $40 Million per year.