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Province will own rapid transit lines

The provincial transit agency has announced it will own and control the rapid transit projects it is backing, rather than municipal governments.

By Citizens at City Hall

Published by Citizens at City Hall on Jul 24, 2009

The provincial transit agency has announced it will own and control the rapid transit projects it is backing, rather than municipal governments. Metrolinx has already formally notified Toronto and York region of its operating principles and it appears these would also apply to any Hamilton light rail or bus rapid transit projects funded by the agency.

A report to the first board meeting of the reconstructed agency earlier this month set out "five key principles" including "Metrolinx ownership and control of the new, designated transit projects" as well as "clear project governance" that could include public-private partnership agreements.

"Metrolinx will be responsible for approving project scope and budget, and for approving the terms and conditions of owning, constructing, operating and maintaining the new assets," states the report. "The procurement of construction services, transit vehicles and other project capital requirements will also be the responsibility of Metrolinx, working closely with municipal partners."

The report also says that "municipally-requested changes to project scope, and the corresponding impacts on construction costs and schedules, will require Metrolinx Board approval", while promising a cooperative approach with local transit authorities. Another prerequisite of Metrolinx funding is a fare card system that can be used across the golden horseshoe.

Letters detailing these conditions were sent last month to Toronto and York officials where the five priority Metrolinx properties costing an estimated $10 billion are located. The Toronto projects are all rail-based, while in York, the existing VIVA bus rapid transit network will be substantially expanded.

The Metrolinx board heard that $3 million has been allocated to Hamilton for rapid transit studies, but whether that will be light rail or buses has not been determined, and the expected completion date is still blank. The description does promise "service frequency of five minutes or less".

Several options for the east-west route between Eastgate and McMaster have been proposed and city officials are asking for public comment up to the end of this month.

At the end of June, Waterloo regional council endorsed a $790 million light rail system for the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge urban area expected to be operational in the first two cities in 2014.

"In future years, people will look on this decision as doing more than anything else to manage growth and shape Waterloo Region," said Waterloo regional chair Ken Seiling.

"Our ability to cope with growth and ensure our future quality of life will depend on providing a transportation system that encourages intensification, limits urban sprawl to protect our agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands, and avoids gridlock by providing alternatives to the dependence on cars as we grow."

Federal officials immediately announced a $160 million "first instalment" of funding for the project.