Hamilton city councillors will get a chance to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Metrolinx regarding the Hamilton LRT project next week. What they will see is a lot of areas yet to be negotiated. A city staff report says the areas that require a more detailed negotiation include:
- Municipal Funding Agreement
- Fare and Non-Fare Revenue
- Grade Separation
- Bridge Agreement
- Staffing Agreement
- Commissioning and Acceptance Protocol
- Municipal Infrastructure Agreements
- Schedule I Real Estate Matters
- Permits, Licences and Approvals
- Communications Protocol
- Dispute Resolution Protocol
- Governance Protocol
The first item (Municipal Funding agreements) will lay out the amount the city will pay annually for operating and maintenance. At a presentation in the summer, Metrolinx estimated it could be as much as $20 Million a year, although Mayor Fred Eisenberger has insisted the number is much lower. The city will receive the farebox revenue from the LRT, but what is unknown is whether that revenue will offset revenue the city will lose as a result of LRT displacing some of the HSR’s highest revenue-producing routes—King, Delaware, B-Line Express and University. The success of LRT is predicated on a significant uptick in ridership beyond the pre-pandemic levels of 20-odd million rides per year.
The agreement also stipulates that Metrolinx’s underground utility replacement will not include any projects that are already in the city’s capital budget. At the summer presentation to council Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster also said that Metrolinx will only replace existing infrastructure that needs to be moved one a one-to-one basis—that the city would pay the difference if it was contemplating replacing existing underground infrastructure with larger sewer and watermains for instance. Over the years there had been talk by LRT supporters of Hamilton reaping an infrastructure bonanza, but the MOU suggests there will be some extensive horse-trading to be done on that score.
For those councillors who supported the project in the belief that it would lead to construction of many affordable housing units, the MOU offers little in the way of specifics. The only reference to affordable housing in the 25-page document amounted to little more than a statement of good intentions:
“The Province continues to recognize the critical importance of building affordable housing near transit stations and maximizing high quality jobs and benefits for communities adjacent to or affected by the Project. The Province will work with the City and community stakeholders to endeavour to determine (our emphasis) how best to support these goals of affordable housing and community benefits as part of transit project delivery.” In announcing the federal funding for the project, former Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna insisted the federal funding was “a condition” of federal support.