Our embattled LRT project has yet another (unexpected) bridge to cross: Who should operate it?
The ATU has a strong, province-wide campaign to “Keep Transit Public”, advocating against the DBFOM model used by Metrolinx on most of their projects. They argue a privately operated LRT in Hamilton is “stealth privatization”, that it will reduce service quality, impact safety, and that it would be financially riskier. However, on their website they have very little evidence, facts, or data to support these claims.
In taking a closer look at the points made by the ATU, they don’t really hold up. The “stealth privatization” argument doesn’t make much sense because the LRT remains publicly owned.
While P3s (public-private partnerships) can affect transit service quality, this occurs only when the private partner is in charge of planning, and when the public partner does not require that a certain level of service is met. In addition, the ability of P3s to impact rail transit service quality is low. Unlike bus routes that can be redrawn at minimal cost and in minimal time, setting up and changing rail service requires years of planning, consultations, and approvals. The only risk of service quality in the Hamilton LRT P3 would be train frequency, and it’s a safe bet that Metrolinx will require minimum frequencies.
Through all the talk of whether the HSR should operate the LRT, we’ve forgotten to ask if they can.
As someone who relies on the HSR for getting anywhere within the city, the shortfalls of the system are obvious. God save you if you are on the mountain on a Sunday waiting for a bus, where hour long wait times are the norm.
The issues with the HSR all lead back to the top: City Council.
We are the only city to my knowledge that has an area rating system. Area rating is holding our transit system hostage, all so a select few areas can continue to enjoy lower taxes. If Hamilton’s City Council is committed to transit, it needs to end area rating.
Additionally, we need to better respect the HSR’s needs. Over the next 4 fiscal years, from 2018-2021, the HSR requested $228.5m in funding. Divided equally over the next 4 fiscal years, we’d fund it to the tune of $57.1m per year. In fiscal year 2018, we’re funding it $19.4m, so, we haven’t even funded the HSR halfway of what it says it needs to properly operate. That means the HSR still needs $209.1m in funding. Over the 3 fiscal years from 2019-2021, that would mean funding it to the tune of $69.7m per fiscal year. I understand the challenges of meeting our budgetary needs, but it isn’t hard to realize we have many avenues to increase revenue to support our transit system.
While City Council mulls over why transit usage is flatlining, the answer is clear. City Council doesn’t properly fund the HSR, which affects the ability of HSR management to properly manage.