The City's LRT plan has $1 billion in provincial funding. Tell Council to take YES for an answer.

Hamilton will get on board with frequent train service

In an interview with the Spectator, Metrolinx chair Rob McIsaac talks about what The Big Move means for Hamilton.

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on Wednesday, September 24, 2008.

What does this mean for Hamilton?

I think from a Hamilton perspective, this plan connects Hamilton into the rest of the region in a way that it never has been before with public transit. We'll start to further integrate the city into the broader regional economy.

We're proposing regional walking and cycling paths, an integrated fare system, which will allow people from across the region to have consistent fares.

Our travel information portal will allow anyone in Hamilton to wake up in the morning, turn on their BlackBerry or cellphone and be able to get information about the best way to get to work that day on the road or by public transit or when the next bus is coming to their house.

We've put up with a 30-year-old transportation technology for long enough and it's time to bring ourselves in line with what what other municipalities are doing.

How can you assure municipalities who are worried about funding once the provincial money is spent?

I'm not aware of any 100 per cent guarantees in life. We're proposing a way to move forward with this plan.

We're not going to fix everything wrong with the transportation system in the course of a year and a half. So we think our plan represents a profound start -- it's a turnaround point for a region that desperately needs investment in transportation infrastructure. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but we think we have found a positive way to move forward.

How important are commuters to the Metrolinx plan?

Our plan is all about the regional travellers. That translates into better service for commuters, but it's not about just commuters.

Our studies show that congestion costs something in the order of $6 billion every year. It has a massive economic impact which is beginning to eclipse growth in the region.

If we want to be competitive in a global market, our infrastructure has to be on par with the infrastructure in other cities. We are being left behind.

How can you know that all of these trains will be filled?

We feel quite confident that increasing service on the best-used line that GO transit has only makes sense. The experience of GO is that every time they put out another train, it gets filled. There's a huge latent demand in our view for service along that line.

How expensive will the new trains be?

It's a big expense, but when we talk about massive increases in service on the Lakeshore line, you shouldn't necessarily be thinking about the way GO looks today.

You might well transform GO into a service with smaller cars, shorter trains, but more frequent. We need to do the detailed analysis that will reveal those answers.

Why doesn't the plan specify whether Hamilton is getting light rail transit?

We need to show that the technology and service we're recommending on any given line is providing value for money for the taxpayers' dollars. So, we are leaving open the door to LRT in Hamilton, but we're not saying it's a certainty until we do the detailed analysis.

It's not just about cost, it's about benefits. We will consider the environmental, social, and economic benefits of what's being proposed.

How can you ensure that this plan will continue if a new provincial government is elected?

I can't make any guarantees about what some future government's going to do. All I can do is recommend a plan that reflects my best advice.

I think success breeds success, so if I can get this plan going and show people the benefits it has, ultimately, it becomes more difficult for future governments to turn away from it. I think that future governments turn away from this plan at their peril.