In an interview with CHML’s Bill Kelly yesterday, Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the price tag for bus rapid transit would exceed $1 Billion. “We know that LRT or BRT doesn’t fit into the Billion dollars,” he told Kelly, later returning to the subject, stating, “if you compare (Hamilton LRT) with all the other projects in Ontario, you and I can agree that the Billion dollars doesn’t do it…It doesn’t do it for BRT quite frankly.” Because Bus Rapid Transit was removed from consideration for Hamilton as far back as 2008, there has been no in-depth analysis of Bus Rapid Transit Costs for Hamilton. Metrolinx estimated the cost for 14 KM of Bus Rapid Transit in 2010 at $171 Million in 2008 dollars based on what York Region had paid for its Bus Rapid Transit System which had recently opened. In today’s dollars and adding the 8KM “A” Line BRT to the equation, the total cost would work out to about $330 in today’s dollars. That number is consistent with research conducted by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy which has studied Bus Rapid Transit systems worldwide Their 2019 paper pegged Bus Rapid Transit costs in North America at an average of $15 Million per kilometer which would work out to $330 Million in the case of Hamilton’s proposed “A” and “B” Line network.
Elsewhere in the interview, the Mayor repeated the assertion that LRT will bring greater economic uplift than Bus Rapid Transit. A 2015 Metrolinx report took a critical look at the economic uplift projections stating that it saw little potential for development from Eastgate to downtown—that most of the economic uplift would take place from Downtown to McMaster. It also gave Bus Rapid Transit a 50 percent cost-benefit edge over LRT in a standard or medium growth scenario. The Auditor General criticized the Wynne government for ignoring the report and instead announcing funding for LRT. The full 2015 report can be found here. http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/projectevaluation/benefitscases/2015-01-13-Hamilton-BC-Summary-Report-v4_5-with-note.pdf
Also in the interview Eisenberger referred to the Transit Jury he had promised in the 2014 election at to advise him on the best transit solution, saying, “(the Valeri Task Force Report) confirms everything we’ve been saying about LRT right from the very beginning—the Transit Subcommittee—the Citizens Jury that we put forward said similar things…so basically the report aligns itself to Light Rail Transit in the city of Hamilton.” In fact the Jury was almost shelved as Eisenberger decided to go to Queen’s Park to negotiate transit cash with Premier Wynne in January 2015, saying there was no point in a citizens transit jury if the city didn’t know how much funding was available. A year later the jury issued a report that said, “As the province has announced through Metrolinx to design, build , operate and maintain the LRT and the route is set, the jury accepted these decisions as givens.” The report confined itself to issues of implementing LRT.