The provincial government is currently evaluating the task force report into transit options for Hamilton that completed its work in the spring. The task force recommended three options to be given equal consideration the the evaluation: LRT, Bus Rapid Transit coupled with the BLAST express bus network, and all day GO train service. That evaluation is expected to be complete in the next few weeks, at which time Hamilton City Council will have to choose an option. Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge has provided the following opinion piece, which has also been offered to the Hamilton Spectator. Councillor Partridge’s article follows:
Judy Partridge Article
It has now been revealed that the true cost of Hamilton’s LRT will be significantly more than the $1 Billion from the province. The ill-conceived LRT (streetcar) which would run from McMaster to Eastgate Square has thankfully been canceled by the province. The revelation that the actual 30-year cost of the project was closer to $5 billion than the originally budgeted $1 billion came as no surprise to many of us. The increased costs will most definitely be put on the backs of our taxpayers who cannot afford more tax increases. It never made any sense to me, and to some of my council colleagues, how Hamilton would receive an LRT line for significantly less cost than to build and operate everywhere else in North America.
Ridership on the HSR has dropped considerably in the post-COVID world. People are scared and no longer taking transit. As more and more companies shift to having employees work either full-time or part-time work from home the need for transit will also drop. The reduction in ridership has led to significant losses for transit operations all across the globe. With operating costs and lifecycle costs that could balloon north of $60 million a year Council is left to ask who’s going to pay these increased costs? One way or another, it will be the residents of Hamilton. Premier Ford stated recently he was “Not prepared to put the burden of the tax on the backs of the people of Hamilton.”
The taskforce and report convened by Minister Mulroney in assessing alternative ways to spend the billion dollars in Hamilton, did not solely recommend building LRT. It made recommendations that if followed would benefit the entire city while not burdening tax-payers with increased taxes they cannot afford.
The Council approved the Rapid Ready Report, often held up by advocates as a blueprint for building LRT in Hamilton, that calls for the creation of three new rapid bus links to connect to the existing HSR network, to connect all communities of Hamilton. It includes our three GO stations that were completely bypassed by the now-canceled LRT.
The way forward now is the Council approved BLAST Network including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to the airport. We must rethink transit to ensure there is connectivity to all areas of the city. The proposed BLAST network runs through all 15 wards of the city and will help to connect areas that were previously not served well by transit. The proposed BLAST network would help connect people like never before.
For the people of Waterdown/Flamborough, the L line would connect Waterdown directly to the newly constructed GO station on James St. and the Aldershot GO station. For the people of Elfrida and Upper Stoney Creek, the S line connects them directly to the new Confederation GO station. The Taskforce’s report also calls for the improvement of GO Rail service along the Lakeshore line to bring all-day 15 minute GO service to Hamilton. That promise has been dangling before us for more than 20 years. It’s time we took the opportunity to finally realize it. All-day GO service will help alleviate pressure on our highways and give Hamiltonian’s fast, efficient, and easy access to the rest of the GTHA, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Anyone who has to drive the 403/QEW every day will appreciate having an option to take a modern and rapid transportation network that can get them where they need to go without having to sit in bumper to bumper traffic.
I was elected to help build Hamilton’s economy and help solve the problems residents of Hamilton face every day. During the last election I heard repeatedly from voters, please do not build the LRT, we need better transit everywhere. I heard you loud and clear, and will continue to oppose the LRT and to work with my council colleagues to start the process with our provincial partners to get the money flowing to make better transit connectivity a reality. It is time for the Mayor, Council and staff to work hand in hand respectfully with our provincial MPPs and the Premier to build the best transit for everyone in Hamilton. We need to listen to the residents we talk to every day and not just those fixated on LRT. We need to get this right. We need to open our minds to new transit options and a path forward to greater opportunities for our residents.
Judi Partridge is the Councillor for Ward 15 – Flamborough