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

Mayor: we must move fast on LRT

LRT is cheaper to operate than a bus fleet, it could change the entire city's image, and may bring Hamilton the kind of construction boom Charlotte saw.

By Rob Faulkner

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on October 1, 2008

Mayor Fred Eisenberger and city staff have less than a month to convince council the city needs light rail.

Then the focus will turn to persuading transportation agency Metrolinx to fund it.

A Metrolinx draft plan last month shortlisted an east-west rapid transit line from Centennial Parkway to McMaster University for funding -- but it didn't specify whether it would be a rail or bus line.

Eisenberger told The Spectator editorial board yesterday city staff are actively pursuing the light rail option.

"I'm confident the majority of councillors will be completely on board," he said.

On Oct. 20, the public works committee votes on whether city staff should continue to work with Metrolinx to make LRT a reality. Council votes Oct. 29.

Metrolinx is expected to decide what projects will be funded in its initial five-year budget in November.

The city wants the east-west line -- using Main and King in some combination -- to be named in the that funding envelope.

Eisenberger said that decision is crucial.

"We've got very close connections with Metrolinx staff. I see (Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac) often. I want to keep it that way ..."

Eisenberger is also on the Metrolinx board.

After touring LRT systems in Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Calgary, initially skeptical Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson is now convinced it's the way to go, if Metrolinx assumes all capital costs.

LRT is cheaper to operate than a bus fleet, it could change the entire city's image, and may bring Hamilton the kind of construction boom Charlotte saw, Ferguson said yesterday.

By city estimates, a two-line light rail system will cost about $1.1 billion but promises to boost land values and revive the downtown.