Hamilton transit doesn’t need privatization
An independent commission would be accountable to the people of Hamilton
An arm’s length commission would solve HSR’s problems — not privatization.
As an HSR bus driver for almost 29 years, and the president of ATU 107 — which represents HSR employees — I’m all too familiar with HSR’s shortcomings.
Schedules haven’t kept up with demands. Large parts of the city are under-served. Holidays, weekends and special-event service is often lacking.
The HSR, under city management, clearly does not work as well as it could and has not kept up with the growing need for transit in our city. Whether this is a problem of bad hiring choices by HR management, or meddling from city bureaucrats, the result is the same. The HSR needs to be a lot better than it is today.
But just because you don’t like the direction of the school board, doesn’t mean the solution is to privatize public schools.
The Liberals have already privatized Hydro. Should we add privatized health care, too? No.
The HSR belongs to us. All of us. We own it. And because we own it, we can change it.
If we choose privatization over making our public transit service better, your votes will mean nothing in terms of the service you get. Your LRT service will be defined not by whether it is good for the people of Hamilton, but by the need to continuously shrink the bottom line for profits that will be delivered to distant shareholders who you will never meet.
Privatization of the operations and maintenance of the LRT will leave Hamiltonians with no control over it, yet still leave us responsible if and when problems arise.
Profits must increase year after year. The only way this can be done is by reducing service, reducing safety and increasing fares. Ridership goes down or, worse, accidents happen. When costs exceed profits, private companies declare bankruptcy and walk away having made themselves richer and a city poorer. The mess left behind is ultimately felt and paid for by citizens.
It’s easy enough to criticize the HSR, but doing something about it will take conviction and courage. If, as many critics have pointed out, the current relationship between HSR and the city isn’t working well, then perhaps an independent commission — like the TTC in Toronto — is the best way forward. We had one in the 1970s — The Hamilton-Wentworth Transit Commission — but it was repealed by the Ontario government to allow council to take direct control.
An independent commission could be comprised of elected officials, citizen appointees and other vested interests, such as ATU and transit advocacy groups. It would remove the HSR from direct political manipulation and would make it more accountable to the people of Hamilton, who are the only shareholders for whom a local public transit provider should produce results.
We have the power to demand better transit in this city, and by keeping the LRT run under the HSR, we have the power to make the whole system better. World class. Is that a power you want taken away?
We can use this historic opportunity to demand better public transit across all of Hamilton. Or, we can hand the HSR’s largest fare generating line over to a profit-motivated private consortium, leaving the HSR weaker and the overall system compromised with less democratic control and oversight.
For us, the choice is clear.
By keeping the LRT run under the HSR, we have the power to make the whole system better.
An HSR bus using its disabled wheelchair access. Union chief Eric Tuck argues the city needs an amalgamated transit commission, not private operation of the LRT system.