The province of Ontario has yielded to intense lobbying from LIUNA and other LRT supporters from Hamilton and has agreed to ask the federal government for funding to allow a shortened LRT in Hamilton. At the same time Queens park issued a technical report that found that $1 Billion promised by Ontario would only buy an LRT extending from McMaster to Dundurn which, as the report says, would create, “negative impacts due to the short distance it covers, forcing riders to transfer in all but the shortest trips. Bus Rapid Transit on the other hand would “provide enhanced coverage and access, time savings, community improvements, and expanded opportunities for economic growth and development.”
The Federal contribution would allow for an LRT Line that would run from McMaster to somewhere around Gage Park. Ward 15 councillor Judy Partridge, commenting on the shortened route said, “(LRT) was going to be a system that would only serve five of the city’s 15 words—now this shortened version would only serve three out of 15. We need connections to the industrial parks where all the jobs are.”
Chad Collins: “double the price for half the route”
Similar comments were expressed by Ward 4 Councillor Chad Collins, “if this about a return on investment putting all of our resources into essentially half of a transit route it makes little sense from a financial perspective, transit perspective, or economic development perspective. Today’s announcement was double the price for half the route. Federal and Provincial investments would be better invested into our conventional transit system. By investing in the HSR we’d be able to assist a larger geographic area, improve service for more residents and by extension, likely bump our overall transit ridership numbers. “
With the previous LRT project, Hamilton Council still had the final say. There is nothing to suggest there has been a change in the need for council to approve the operating and maintenance agreement even if construction costs are coming from senior governments. Last year the government estimated Operating and Maintenance would cost Hamilton about $30 Million per year.
In making the announcement, Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, said “It’s going to take all levels of government to make a meaningful Hamilton LRT project a reality. Everyone is going to need to pitch in.” The Bay Observer asked the Ministers office if the reference to everyone pitching in, meant that the City would be asked to pay a share. A spokesperson for Mulroney replied, “More funding is always welcome to make the LRT a viable project for the City of Hamilton, however today’s announcement is about naming the Hamilton LRT project for federal funding.”
According to the release, the province “is identifying the Hamilton LRT project as a fifth priority transit project, joining the Ontario Line Subway, Scarborough Subway Extension, Eglinton Crosstown West Extension and Yonge North Subway Extension projects,” suggesting the four Toronto projects would have to be funded before Hamilton.
LRT for $1 Billion not possible
The release said the Federal ask was the only way Hamilton would be able to get any kind of LRT, reading, “the technical review indicates a $1 billion LRT system funded solely with provincial capital would not be of sufficient length to be a viable project to benefit the people of Hamilton. The report suggests a longer LRT, for example running from McMaster and extending beyond Downtown Hamilton to Gage or further, could be a viable option pending federal funding. A feasible LRT project is therefore only possible if the federal government partners with the province.”
Mayor Fred Eisenberger released a statement welcoming the news, “We have now rebounded from a cancelled project in December 2019 to a provincial priority project. However, for the LRT project to break ground, it would require federal participation. Based on that, we are cautiously optimistic.”
Councillor Judi Partridge issued another word of caution, “Council hasn’t approved that a request be made to the Federal Government. I don’t know why they keep hammering LRT—its older technology. Minister McKenna has been going all over Canada handing out money for cutting edge E-Bus technology—it seems like Hamilton is getting the short end of the stick with old technology like LRT.”
Technical report compared BRT and LRT
Along with today’s announcement, the province issued a technical report analyzing the relative benefits of LRT and BRT, and concluded that if there was no federal contribution LRT would not be a viable option. It put forward two Bus Rapid Transit options—one BRT on the B line the second, B line plus A line buses with traffic signal priority and concluded that either BRT line would significantly out perform the Dundurn to McMaster LRT.