Mayor Fred Eisenberger appeared on the Bill Kelly Show March 11 to discuss the cancellation of Hamilton’s LRT. He asked why the Mississauga Hurontario project is going ahead as planned while Hamilton’s has been cancelled. The Bay Observer has examined the Benefits Cases for both Hamilton and Mississauga, both performed by the same consulting firm, and identified several differences between the two projects:
Hamilton will have much lower ridership
Revised 2031`ridership projections contained in a 2015 internal Metrolinx report pegged Hamilton ridership at about 4,500 passengers during the peak AM period (presumed to be 6AM to 9AM ). Current ridership is about 3,300.
Mississauga will carry 21,400 during the same period, according to the same consultant—more than 4 times the ridership of Hamilton.
Hamilton lacks a direct GO transit connection
In the Hamilton business case the consultant noted “Connectivity is a key piece to transit network planning. A convenient passenger connection between Hamilton’s rapid transit network and the GO regional rail service could improve and facilitate the regional connectivity envisioned by the Big Move.”
The Mississauga LRT will connect directly to two GO Lines—the Lakeshore West at Port Credit , and the Milton Line at Cooksville. Hamilton LRT has no direct connection to GO. The closest it gets to a GO station is the Hunter Street GO station (approximately 1/3 kilometer) from the proposed James Street stop. But long term GO planning has the Hunter Street station relegated to a peak hour only station. The West Harbour station, which will be the main hub for all-day GO is a kilometer from the nearest LRT stop. The Metrolinx 2015 paper described the lack of direct GO connectivity with Hamilton LRT “a major concern.”
Need to Transfer
At Present it is possible to travel by frequent service from eastern Stoney Creek to either Dundas or Ancaster in a single continuous bus trip. With LRT it will be necessary to transfer onto LRT at Eastgate and at McMaster to accomplish the same trip, or wait for reduced direct service. The 2015 Metrolinx report says, “further consideration of the impact of a fixed transit line on the remainder of the Hamilton bus network is required.”
LRT will force Hamilton to borrow
The Ministry of Transport has fixed the construction cost of Hamilton LRT at $2.8 Billion. With the provincial commitment of $1 Billion, that leaves $1.8 Billion to be found. Federal transit cost sharing programs, as were used in Kitchener Waterloo and Ottawa, require a municipal contribution of up to 1/3. Hamilton will need to come up with $800 to $900 Million to meet its share. Whether it comes from a pension fund at a low rate, or some other source it will still be borrowed money by the city. The city’s current debt policy sets the upper limit of borrowing at approximately $1.2 Billion, with roughly ¾ of that already spoken for with the Woodward water project underway. It would take a vote by council to increase that ceiling. Council has repeatedly stated in past it will not contribute to capital costs for LRT. Something will have to give.
Read confidential Metrolinx Report
In 2015 Metrolinx commissioned a report on LRT projects in Hamilton and elsewhere in the GTA that cast serious doubt on some of the assumptions that had originally led to the decision to proceed with LRT. In particular the cost benefit analysis supporting LRT over BRT was thrown into question, as were issues like speed of the system and supposed economic uplift. The full report is here.