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City Staff scrambling to pull together LRT figures.

 

City Staff scrambling to pull together LRT figures.

Hamilton council have ordered city staff to provide information that will help determine the final figure on the annual cost to the city for the operation and maintenance of the LRT system. They have two weeks to pull the numbers together. Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster told councillors that the best estimate of the O&M cost is $600 Million over 30 years or $20 Million per year. Asked why the government put the cost at $900 Million over 30 years in figures it released in December of 2019, it turned out that the $900 Million was a result of adding inflation over 30 years. In other words, both numbers are accurate depending on whether or not one chooses to account for inflation.

As the deferral motion read, staff have been asked to:

report back to GIC regarding the net operating costs after the 18 buses on the B-line have been removed, eliminating Development Charge Exemptions, fare revenue and the Hamilton Tax Increment Grant Program, and other incentives, that the City may build in to credit the cost of the LRT operations and maintenance.

Need to consider LRT impact on existing HSR revenues

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster

Verster said the $20 Million operating and maintenance cost would be reduced, first by the LRT farebox revenue, and secondly by the elimination of 18 buses currently serving the east-west corridor. Staff are being asked to subtract from the operating and maintenance cost to the city, the savings from cancelling 18 buses on lines that will now be displaced by the LRT. What is missing from this request is some estimate of the revenue loss from the removal or major modification of those bus lines that will be displaced. The Lines that will be replaced or significantly altered as a result of LRT, in addition to the B-Line Bus route, will be the King Bus, currently the number one revenue generator, the University Bus- another significant farebox contributor and the Delaware Line. Four of the HSR’s top revenue producing lines will be either eliminated completely or have their ridership sharply reduced as a result of LRT. That means, just to maintain the status quo financially, the LRT ridership needs to come close to the combined ridership of the lines it will displace. So for council it’s not just the operating and maintenance costs they need to be concerned about, its whether the $30 Million annual subsidy to the HSR will go up. Verster, said with the increased capacity of LRT units and increased frequency, traffic on the LRT line could double over the next decade or so. But for that to happen demand has to be there. The HSR ridership had been going backwards before the pandemic hit, and with more permanent remote work a likelihood, it will likely not significantly increase for some time.

HSR kept out of the picture

This kind of financial analysis should have been requested years ago, but from the beginning of the LRT debate, HSR has been kept away from the table, no doubt because two previous transit directors, both purged, kept coming up with inconvenient truths—namely that major bus service enhancements would be needed (BLAST network) in order to get transit usage in Hamilton up to a point where it could support or would even need, LRT. But now that we understand, as Assistant Deputy Minister James Nowlan told councillors Wednesday, the actual movement of people is only but one of the reasons we spend billions on transit, (probably the number three reason, after economic uplift and social objectives) –maybe none of this matters.

Affordable Housing: Where’s the new money?

Speaking of social objectives, when Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, made her triumphant announcement of the $1.7 Billion in federal cash for LRT she declared that the gift was contingent on “community benefits” being part of the deal. She referred specifically to affordable housing. In Wednesday’s discussion it was clear that from the provincial perspective at least, there is zero cash for affordable housing, just the possibility that there might be some spare land available for the purpose. As councillor Chad Collins observed, the extra billions over and above what would have been needed to install Bus Rapid Transit and BLAST, would have completely wiped out the waiting list at City Housing Hamilton. Poverty champions, Councillors Nann and Wilson, did not allow the lack of commitment to affordable housing dampen their enthusiastic support for LRT, and the property value uplift it will bring. Speaking of BRT, there was a moment in Wednesday’s Q&A session where Phil Verster was asked about Bus Rapid Transit, and he started to praise it, describing York’s BRT as “fantastic”– but , realizing who he was talking to, he quickly checked himself.

Fiscal leadership

Mayor Fred Eisenberger warned councillors that if they don’t jump aboard LRT, the billions will go somewhere else, like Toronto, which is probably true; but at least in Toronto they actually can demonstrate the need for LRT and subways. Spending public money where it actually provides the most benefit to the most people is an outdated concept to be sure. Hamilton’s Anchor Institutions Leadership group, (HAIL), only one of which (Dofasco) is a significant payer of either income or property taxes, and whose members collectively account for about $3 Billion in taxpayer dollars each year, have studied the matter carefully, and are urging Hamilton council and senior governments to get on with the LRT and while they are at it, find some money to fund the BLAST system. They are right– in these times, what’s another few hundred million?

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  • One has to focus on the O&M garage .first year cost $20M fast forward to a finished LRT.The cost now will be around $40M per yr.Now add our cost for HSR subsidized $30 M a year now.Add future cost to subsidize both transit operation.Yet failed ridership numbers will still not be enough to cover all the cost.What are we really looking at.A LRT that only supports one single route.It the true what ever that’s going to be will land on the Hamilton tax payers.WHT DOES THIS MAYOR AND COUNCIL IGNORE THE FACT THAT HAMILTON IS ON TWO LEVELS.STOP IGNORING THAT.WE NEED A TRANSIT SYSTEM TO SDDRESS ALL OF HAMILTON,S TRANSIT NEEDS.BOTTOM LINE HAMILTON CANT AFFORD TWO SUPPORT TWO TRANSIT OPERATIONS.ITS ALSO A SYSTEM (LRT) THAT WE WILL HAVE NO SAY IN ITS OPERATIONS.AHUGE MISTAKE.

  • Mr Sims, I hear your rage and angst. Given this recent GIC meeting, it us only an exercise as councillors who asked questions may not really know what their constituents want or how they feel.

    If this moves forward, it is going to be a disaster, as small businesses who may barely make it thru the pandemic cannot make it thru the construction phase. Never mind the low income people they will displace in this process.

    The world has changed and many who can work from home will want to keep that format, so I fail to comprehend that businesses will invest money for space to conduct business. Who is going to able to afford the housing they say is affordable.

    I envision ancient Rome, as the players who want to create spaces that would put individuals such as Caligula and Neto as examples to follow.

    You are correct that trust is s major issue, the young ones know better then the people who claim to be leaders and give vision.

    You notice the deal made with the consortium, has been in camera. And some of the same players with the consortium , are the same who have lobbied unfairly for the LRT.

  • From start to finish this whole thing is a political push for LRT.Metrolinx has also been looked at for its operations by the auditor general again a lot of concerns but nothing done.Council did bring up T.H..F. as Hamilton tax payers got burned.One can trouble coming down this track.Lets not forget the cost of other scandals RHVP,Sewergate which will run in the millions.Can We the city tax payers of Hamilton afford to pay out for these scandals and TWO TRANSIT SYSTEMS?
    TRUST IN CITY HALL AND COUNCIL HAVE BEEN LOST.TIME FOR A CHANGE.

  • Steel ,wood ,labour hydro all going up.Cost at this has been low balled .Example the garage from the first example of cost.All these things I pointed up will go up.STOP IGNORING THE FACT THAT HAMILTON IS ON TWO LEVELS NOT ONE.GROWTH ON THE CITIES UPPER LEVEL IS OUTPACING THE LOWER LEVEL.REALLY ALONG THIS LRT ROUTE IS A NUMBER OF DEAD ZONES.OTTAWA AND KENILWOTH WERE MORE VIBRANT FIFTY YEARS AGO. NOT MUCH OF A INCENTIVE TO TRAVEL EAST.THERE IS NO REAL INCENTIVE TO VISIT THE CORE WHEN YOU CAN GET MORE OUTSIDE THE CORE.JACKSON SQUARE TO MANY IS A MESS.KING AND JAMES JUST A HOTSPOT FOR PAN HANDLERS .

  • Mr Sims, you have brought up several relevant points.

    Are you faulting those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale when the poverty industry designed and which has grown, is leaving too many in the streets with no hope.

    I fault the poverty roundtable and the Hamilton community foundation which have contributed to the growth. As the saying goes, actions speak louder then words. Writing reports is not action, in not allowing low income people to organize into their own voice has impacted the result you see daily.

    I ask what is the point of having elections when private bodies can lobby behind the backs of those elected for their own self interests?

    The boarded up townhouses on James N had 93 units of geared to income housing yet the deal made sees only 46 units of hundreds will be gear to income or social housing? The greater need in the city is housing for the homeless, the insane housing prices affects the rental marker which is becoming more and more unaffordable, thus the end result is more homeless people.

  • Just a question on the M&O garage today cost is legged at $20M the original was$40M .It both cases there should be a print out of all the facts that got to this cost in each case.WHY THE DIFFERENCE?
    There MUST be some facts related to these cost WHERE IS IT?

  • When this mayor and council instill the lack of TRUST with a number of scandals.Like Covid it could spread through out other departments.WE THE PUBLIC MUST NOT FORGET THAT TRUST MUST BE EARNED BACK.AT PRESENT THERE IS NOTHING TO INDICATE THAT.CHANGE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM IS NECESSARY.

  • Bottom line here LRT will cost Hamilton tax payers.E-Buses will save money.Smart cities see the advantage of these E-Busesets keep all our transit HSR.We don’t need two transit operations.LRT will be a private operation You will have NO SAY.

  • No democracy in this city.No ballot vote on this LRT project.Tax Payers get the shaft again.One transit system in Hamilton is enough.Wr can’t afford two.FACT!!!.Time for a change.Those that support this political agenda MUST be VOTED OUT.Lets support our own HSR Hamilton can’t afford to operate two transit systems.

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