It comes as no surprise that Transport Minister Steven Del Duca has said Hamilton will not get the $300 Million is was looking for to upgrade bus service. The government would face a flurry of one time capital requests from other Ontario cities if it were to accommodate Hamilton’s request. Fair enough– that is certainly a valid political reason for inaction, but it also underlines what has been wrong with the whole transit issue from the beginning—it has focused on transit toys—LRTs and subways– instead of focusing on the real purpose of transit—moving people efficiently. It’s like somebody said ‘let’s start with trains and work backwards from that.’ If you want to build a highway in Ontario you have to provide the ministry with every argument of why you shouldn’t build it and present every possible alternative. Only after the alternatives have been eliminated can the project even begin to be considered. With transit it is the reverse. Just by applying the words ‘public transit’ to a project it might qualify for a fast-tracked Environmental Assessment process. The form-before-function fallacy is already being played out in Toronto with the Union-Pearson Express. The project has cost more than half a billion dollars and was a white elephant from the day it opened because of the high fare. Conventional GO service goes through the Malton station which is only 2 kilometers from the airport. One wonders if it wouldn’t have been cheaper to extend the existing airport elevated tramway to the GO station, or some other connection allowing passengers to ride to the airport for $7.70 instead of the $29 the Pearson Express was charging. Such a system already exists at Newark Airport, where the Airport tramway connects with conventional rail heading into Manhattan. Last year when Hamilton transit staff presented Rapid Ready—a proposal to greatly enhance the mountain and suburban bus system—it was treated as a blasphemous attack on LRT; instead of the necessary precursor that would ensure the success of LRT by feeding more passengers into it. Part of the problem is that Hamilton has never had the opportunity of considering what kind of transit system it could develop for $1 Billion. As a result we are missing out on the chance
to develop the best possible blend of LRT and bus service. Instead it’s been ‘take LRT or leave it’ from a province that increasingly demonstrates scant ability to manage these increasingly complicated files.