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LRT Vote deferred after marathon meeting

 

LRT Vote deferred after marathon meeting

It was an all-day marathon, but out of it Hamilton’s General Issues Committee gleaned a few more nuggets of information about the Hamilton LRT project in a question and answer session with provincial transportation officials. In the end the expected vote on asking staff to develop a Memorandum of Understanding was deferred for two weeks to allow staff to provide council with more information.

Operating and maintenance $20 Million/yr

First the issue of who will get the LRT farebox was cleared up-it will go to the city. On the issue of the operating and maintenance cost of an LRT system councillors were told the annual cost in year one will be $20 Million.  Asked why it was now $20 Million when provincial figures produced in 2019 showed $30 Million, Metrolinx President Phil Verster and James Nowlan, an Assistant Deputy Minister with MTO talked about the difference between allowing for inflation over the lifecycle of the project. The 20 Million will be the first-year cost to Hamilton only, they said.

James Nowlan, Assistant Deputy-Minister MTO

HSR might not supply drivers

The guests talked about how the $20 Million could be reduced by deducting the farebox revenue and any savings obtained by the displacement of roughly 18 buses and drivers. But then council was told that HSR drivers may not end up operating the system as had been assumed after the 2017 debate where it appeared the matter had been settled. What was not addressed was the question of the revenue impact LRT might have on some of Hamilton’s top revenue-producing bus lines that will be displaced by LRT.

Utility Replacement

Verster described breaking the project into component parts and tendering separately on each portion as a way of mitigating the massive cost overruns that have plagued some of the other LRT projects in the province. The first component he said would be the replacement of the utilities under the route and he suggested that work could start as early as next year. With regard to utilities Verster made it clear that LRT would not result in a wholesale re-build of the underground utilities along the route, but only those utilities that needed to be moved or placed deeper. He also said that Metrolinx would only replace existing utilities—that  Hamilton would have to pay the difference if they decided to enhance the utilities in any way by

Cost overruns

Asked what would happen if the project ran over its $3.4 Billion budget, Nowlan confirmed that the cost overruns will be borne by the province. Councillor Chad Collins remarked that he thought the $3.4 Million was probably a low estimate given that it was developed in 2019 dollars.

Affordable Housing discussed

Councillor Tom Jackson, in a spirited round of questioning, wanted to know how the LRT can succeed without first implementing the BLAST express bus network. He pointed out that two previous transportation managers in Hamilton had prepared reports that said BLAST was a necessary precursor to LRT. He also questioned the fact that LRT has no connection to GO transit. In a speech following the question period Jackson talked about the amount of affordable housing that could be purchased with the more than $2 Billion in extra money that has materialized in recent weeks. He made specific reference to councillors Nrinder Nann and Maureen Wilson, both advocates for affordable housing but who have come down strongly for LRT. For her part Nann asked about the so-called “community benefits” that were discussed by Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna when she announced federal funding for LRT. Specifically she inquired about money for social housing, and the answer seemed to be there will be no cash out of the $3.4 Billion but maybe some of the land that Metrolinx has acquired for the project could be used as a site for housing.

Eisenberger: questions have been answered before

Mayor Fred Eisenberger suggested that the Memorandum of Understanding that council was being asked to approve was essentially the same document that council had approved in 2016 except for changing the dates. He stated as he has in the past that the questions councillors were asking had all been answered in the past. He tried to get Phil Verster to agree with him that unlike Bus Rapid Transit, LRT was shovel ready to which Verster replied, “I would not say there’s a huge difference in shovel-readiness,”–adding, “a BRT running on a busway–there’s less work to be done underground.”

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  • LRT boss Phil Verster is here to spin a positive story.All,s good.M&O cost $20 million or more.(not set).The real cost will be much higher as time goes on.This garage will have experts in mechanic,hydraulics etc.Products used there will have health risk.Use of detergents for inside and outside of cars,defrosting agents,oils,grease etc.High cost to Hamilton to update sewers,hydro and a operation to collect these dangerous chemicals.We already know that steel and wood cost will continue to increase operating cost.Today still many answered questions.Trust in the Mayor and Council still not there.Far to many scandals.

  • If We took the test again We would FAIL the required ridership numbers to make it a success.Ridership numbers might decline after the pandemic as more people are working from home.As Phil Verster said when it came down to LRT or BRT the LRT would have higher ridership.One thing he forgot We don’t have the ridership numbers and won’t for years.The core is uninviting,unsafe and is a mess along this LRT route especially the N side of King St.If live in the core that’s fine but those that don’t have No reason to go there.More growth of population and Jobs are on the upper level of this city.The core has become a social service provider.Thats all.

  • Mr Sims, you wrote the core has become a social service provider. Well yes there are more services for the homeless and others down in the city however people struggling come from all over the city and even from outside the city. That plan started thru the Harris years and the shift from government responsibility to charity or if you like The Ministry of Plenty, in Orwellian language, grew.

    The question I ask are the services provided actually helping individuals who are homeless, others like myself in fear of losing my home because I cannot afford to move and there is no spot for me to go. Shelter allowance of ODSP is maxed at 497.00 per month. I will know at the end of this month when the LTB hearing occurs whether I lose everything to be left in the streets because I can no longer afford housing and despite the propaganda pushed by the city there is all this help, is a falsehood.

    I always remember the scene from the movie, The Corporation where the upper crust in the penthouse, sipping their champagne and munching on caviar as they stare out the windows at the dystopian view of the street below.
    .
    To me, it makes no sense to put this money into a train while so many struggle.

    To organize the low income into an effective voice, as this group dont vote, they are not asked what they need, no the upper crust is always telling them , this is what you need. Judgement and condemnation is really how they are treated.

    As with Vital Signs report, many in sectors have lost work and now are in a new reality. People have to change their way of thinking, do more listening opposed to yapping.

    My councillor is pro LRT yet wrote a blog piece with a very negative view disparaged the homeless living in tents and that they should not be putting their tents in parks. Where are the homeless to go? Why not set a location where the people can go, people have skills and they need to use the skills they have to create a better place, a long with assistance that does not judge or condemn.

    • Mike on the O show Babcock had a guest on the when the subject came up about money for low income needs his comments that there has always been money for these projects.I for one and I hope that many residents still feel the same way I do.With so many scandals TRUST IN THE MAYOR AND SOME COUNCILLORS IS JUST NOT THERE.Im glad council had brought up Tim Hortons Field.Tax payers got burned on that one.No one brought up the negative aspects in KW and Ottawa just the positive.In both cities tax payers are fed up with their LRT,s

  • Would the Mike be Mike Fortune? Now there is another obsequious individual. If Mike ,is who i am asking for clarification on, he admitted on radio, he has no post secondary education. He sort of inferred, he has angst about those younger and have more education, outshining him.

    REFERENDUM, should of occurred.

    • Your right Mike.A vote for the mayor and LRT was to reduce the risk of a No vote Much the same with citizen Jury which I was part of.After that project members of the C.J. were to go out and promote the LRT to business along the route.Ten public meetings with metrolinx showing and telling business we don’t pay for lost income during construction.Save up,re-locate or shut the doors.Pathatic.Sad part it will be the same message from metrolinx.

  • $20M for the first year for the M&O garage.with rising cost of labour,material etc Bombardier is also a concern.quality issues,dilervery problems etc.Hydro cost never goes down.Steel and wood will increase year after year.FORGET THE FIRST YEAR.EVERYTHING IS GOING UP.

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