Councillor calls the BRT A-line plan ‘a joke’
Mountain councillors question bus project
APROPOSED rapid transit line meant to connect the upper and lower city is not going over well with Mountain councillors.
Ontario and Metrolinx announced a revamp of Hamilton’s $1-billion LRT plan Thursday that will scrap a two-kilometre James Street rail spur in favour of adding rapid bus service to the northsouth corridor from the harbour to the airport.
The move al- lows the east- west light rail transit project between McMaster University and the Queenston traffic circle to move ahead independently.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the change was based on bang-for-buck calculations and public feedback. “This community … expressed a desire for enhanced rapid transit connections between the lower city and the Mountain.”
But the reactions of Mountain councillors, so far, range from skepticism to indignation.
“The A-line (plan) is a joke,” said Coun. Terry Whitehead, who told councillors Friday he has “grave concerns” about the proposal.
He also publicly questioned why the province or Metrolinx didn’t consult with him and other Mountain councillors about the details of a transit proposal serving his Ward 8.
“My concern is I’m not sure who is driving the bus,” said Whitehead, who also suggested he would hold a press conference Monday to share detailed concerns about the evolving
$1-billion rapid transit plan for the city.
City manager Chris Murray said he would report back to council with more information about the decision-making process, but added city staff “don’t dictate” to Metrolinx, which is in charge of the provincially funded project.
Whitehead’s comment prompted an incredulous response from Coun. Sam Merulla, who put forward a motion last year asking for expedited improvements on the A-line in tandem with lower city LRT work.
“It was unanimously approved by council, and, in fact, Coun. Whitehead seconded the motion,” Merulla said.
“I’m not sure how he was unaware of that.”
Ward 7 Coun. Donna Skelly asked city manager Chris Murray why no cost or funding details came with the announcement.
“Do we have any idea if we’re going to get any funding for this?”
Skelly followed up later to say she was concerned project planners have so far made three major changes to the rapid transit plan “without council or public consultation.”
The Mountain councillor said she continues to believe the province should cancel LRT and reinvest the cash in citywide transit and battling the infrastructure backlog.
Del Duca said Thursday he expected some of LRT budget cost savings anticipated from axing the James Street rail spur would be available for the A-line BRT. But the province did not commit to covering all capital costs and an estimate was not given because there is no design yet for the bus service.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger has expressed hope the $1-billion LRT budget will also pay for the A-line bus service, which he called a better fit for the city.
But Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson expressed dismay about the loss of the A-line rail spur, which he considered a “gem” in the LRT plan. He also said if the BRT plan results in the addition of dedicated bus lanes on Upper James, the project could cause a traffic disaster.
Ward 11 Coun. Brenda Johnson, who represents the airport end point of the proposed BRT line, said her main concern was the lack of details about funding. “At the end of the day, how will this impact the City of Hamilton’s tax levy?
Coun. Terry Whitehead has “grave concerns” about the plan.