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LRT Vote - April 2024

Light Rapid Transit Map

The Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada are funding a 14-kilometre Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project. Metrolinx is the provincial agency overseeing the project. Metrolinx indicated that they were open to input from the City of Hamilton regarding the role the City wanted to play in the LRT's operations. The final decision, however, rests with Metrolinx. Regardless, in all cases, Hamilton LRT will remain publicly owned.

City of Hamilton staff put forward several operating models for Council's consideration. I supported the staff recommendation, which called for the private operation of Hamilton LRT for a limited time. The purpose of this letter is to share why I took this position and to be accountable to Ward 1 residents for my vote.

Evidence

When I campaigned for office in 2018 and again in 2022, I committed to making my decisions based on solid evidence and with an effort to use my best judgement. This commitment is especially important for the Hamilton LRT, a project that Ward 1 residents overwhelmingly support. Residents expect me to do what I can to ensure its successful construction, protect the public interest, and lay out the conditions for its future expansion.

A multidisciplinary team from every division of the City informed the staff's conclusion and an independent entity with expertise in high-order transit systems reviewed the methodology and recommendation.

Risks

City staff's comprehensive assessment has identified significant risks for Hamilton taxpayers and future transit users if there is an immediate separation between the parties responsible for design and construction from those handling operations and maintenance. Simply, when the same party that builds the system is also responsible for its operation, that party has a stronger incentive to build for excellence and avoid unexpected operating costs. This approach also minimizes the risk of costly disputes and finger-pointing once the system is operational. The City of Ottawa is currently dealing with the consequences of such separation, which we want to avoid in Hamilton.

Council was also advised that it would be highly unlikely that the City would even be able to enter the procurement process and bid on an operating contract because the City would not be able to deliver the minimum experience needed to qualify. The City has no experience operating a light rail transit system.

Public Transit

Unfortunately, some have misconstrued this deliberation as the City's attempt to privatize public transit, This is far from the truth. Let me reiterate - Hamilton LRT will remain publicly owned. The recent and planned future investments in HSR are a testament to our unwavering commitment to the future of public transit in Hamilton.

Between 2015 and 2024, Hamilton's 10-year local transit strategy resulted in capital projects worth $78.8 million in city investment. Furthermore, an additional investment of $125 million between 2024 and 2026 is expected, mainly for a second Maintenance and Storage Facility so that Hamilton can get new buses (and HRS operators) on the road.

The majority of Hamilton City Council, buoyed by Mayor Howarth's amendment, voted for a transition of operations of Hamilton LRT to the HSR at year 5 of the 10-year agreement. This proposal will ensure that the City (HSR) has the runway to prepare for assuming LRT operations. I believe this is a very positive commitment to a collaborative partnership with the Province/Metrolinx, the City (HSR) and ATU 107.