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Transit decision delayed again

The city will have to wait until January 2010 to learn whether it will receive light rail (LRT) or dedicated bus lanes (BRT)

By Emma Reilly

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on Oct 31, 2009.

A decision about the future of rapid transit in Hamilton has been delayed for the second time.

The city will have to wait until January 2010 to learn whether it will receive light rail (LRT) or dedicated bus lanes (BRT), said Jill Stephen, director of strategic and environmental planning.

Metrolinx, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area public transportation body, was originally scheduled to recommend LRT or BRT in July. That timeline was extended to the fall and a decision was expected in November.

The city learned of the second delay early this week.

"We weren't expecting (the delay). It was a bit of a surprise," said Stephen. "We're anxious to move forward as quickly as we can."

The decision about LRT versus dedicated bus lanes isn't the only delay the city's facing. A $3-million contribution from the province for a rapid transit study announced in April has yet to be delivered.

Stephen said Metrolinx "didn't say a whole lot" about the delays, but said they may have been caused by the changes to the board that will take hold in May.

She also mentioned that the recommendation about Hamilton's rapid transit lines is one of several reports that will be released at the same time, and the other studies are taking longer than anticipated.

In the meantime, Stephen said, her department is moving ahead with plans for LRT. If the city ultimately gets bus lanes, she says the work could be "stepped back."

"We're still moving forward because we can't afford to sit back and wait," she said.

John Howe, vice-president of investment strategies at Metrolinx, said the target date to break ground on the project is still 2011, providing the funding is in place.

"I don't see it as a major concern because this is the work we need to do to get to LRT or BRT by 2011, subject to funding approvals."

The priority for the city, and one of Metrolinx's top priorities, is to get LRT on an east-west B-line from Eastgate Square to McMaster.

The city's tab of the $650-million project is estimated at around 15 per cent, but there's been no official indication of the exact amount.