In approving by a 9-6 vote allowing staff to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Metrolinx regarding the LRT project, Hamilton councillors raised some interesting issues regarding the operating and maintenance costs.
Staff had produced a report predicting that the gross cost of the operating and maintenance agreement would be the $20 Million figure that Metrolinx had suggested when representatives appeared before council earlier this month. To lower the costs, the staff report factored in savings that could be captured by taking 23 buses out of service. Assuming an overall 8 percent increase in ridership as a result of LRT, that would reduce the O&M cost to $6.4 Million.
What appeared to emerge from the discussion, was that at the same time as the city would save money by cutting buses, it would nonetheless continue to invest in the 10-year transit strategy which calls for increased service elsewhere in the system. The 10-year plan was recently reinstated after a one-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic. It calls for $9 million in additional transit spending in the current year, plus another $11 Million in what is described as “un-funded capital.”
Earlier, Amalgamated Transit Union President Eric Tuck and Anthony Marco of the Hamilton and District Labour Council had warned against any measure that would result in the displacement of drivers, reminding councillors that such displacement might be contrary to the collective agreement. Tuck also questioned the LRT project overall suggesting that it would not serve all of the city and that it would exacerbate the housing affordability issues in Hamilton.
Transit staff not able to provide answers to a number of questions about what bus service would look like in the lower city-once LRT was in place, suggesting the work on that issue will only begin now. Throughout the 12-year LRT journey, HSR have been pointedly left out of the discussion, a reflection of a pair of reports produced by former transit directors Don Hill and his successor David Dixon, both recommending significant upgrades to the existing bus system as a precursor to any discussion of higher-order transit.