Federal budget largesse fuels HSR debate

News Mar 29, 2016 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

The city estimates the latest federal budget is worth up to $36 million in extra bus bucks for Hamilton over three years.

In theory, that's enough to buy 70 new HSR buses, or put down a substantial down-payment on a new garage for an eventual Mountain-bound express fleet.

The catch, of course, is that the city would have to come up with matching cash for any transit project that qualifies for the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.

Council will "obviously want to tap in" to the dangled transit cash, said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, but he added it will be a few weeks before members sit down to discuss a priority list of possible projects. "We have a need, and transit expansion throughout our community continues to be a priority for us," he said.

The new federal transit fund, which will pay up to 50 per cent of eligible project costs, will allocate about $1.48 billion to Ontario. The amount available to individual cities will be based on percentage of ridership — in Hamilton, about 2.44 per cent, or $36 million.

That's good news with a side of painful irony for transit advocates, who have complained for years as the HSR ridership of 21 million flatlined compared to neighbours like Waterloo — a trend that in turn dropped our annual share of the provincial gas tax.

Council has approved a 10-year HSR improvement plan that calls for new express buses shooting up Mountain corridors and a $200-million bus maintenance and storage facility. But a cash request to the province — which is already funding a $1 billion Hamilton LRT — hasn't panned out, so far.

The federal transit cash could theoretically pay for 70 conventional compressed natural gas buses, said transit director Dave Dixon. "But in reality, if we buy those buses now we have nowhere to put them," said Dixon, who continues to favour building what skeptics call the "bus barn."

Eisenberger called the $200-million price tag "a bit of a reach" but added a new bus facility is one transit priority "among many."

Those priorities also include a "long list" of resident-requested infrastructure improvements like bus shelters, Dixon added. "We wouldn't have trouble finding ways to spend the money," he said.

Coun. Chad Collins said he'd love to see the HSR extend the B-line express route further into Stoney Creek beyond Eastgate Square. But Collins added he has "some concern" that the city's theoretical allocation of federal cash could be tapped for the LRT project, instead.

He noted council recently signed off on a memorandum of understanding that calls on the city to support provincial efforts to obtain federal funding for the $1-billion project. "I just wouldn't want all our transit dollars ending up in one basket," he said.

Eisenberger said it's understandable if the province wants to defray billions in looming light rail transit costs in Hamilton and elsewhere. "But I don't think that's the direction (the federal government) is heading in with this particular funding," he said.

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

Federal budget largesse fuels HSR debate

News Mar 29, 2016 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

The city estimates the latest federal budget is worth up to $36 million in extra bus bucks for Hamilton over three years.

In theory, that's enough to buy 70 new HSR buses, or put down a substantial down-payment on a new garage for an eventual Mountain-bound express fleet.

The catch, of course, is that the city would have to come up with matching cash for any transit project that qualifies for the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.

Council will "obviously want to tap in" to the dangled transit cash, said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, but he added it will be a few weeks before members sit down to discuss a priority list of possible projects. "We have a need, and transit expansion throughout our community continues to be a priority for us," he said.

The new federal transit fund, which will pay up to 50 per cent of eligible project costs, will allocate about $1.48 billion to Ontario. The amount available to individual cities will be based on percentage of ridership — in Hamilton, about 2.44 per cent, or $36 million.

That's good news with a side of painful irony for transit advocates, who have complained for years as the HSR ridership of 21 million flatlined compared to neighbours like Waterloo — a trend that in turn dropped our annual share of the provincial gas tax.

Council has approved a 10-year HSR improvement plan that calls for new express buses shooting up Mountain corridors and a $200-million bus maintenance and storage facility. But a cash request to the province — which is already funding a $1 billion Hamilton LRT — hasn't panned out, so far.

The federal transit cash could theoretically pay for 70 conventional compressed natural gas buses, said transit director Dave Dixon. "But in reality, if we buy those buses now we have nowhere to put them," said Dixon, who continues to favour building what skeptics call the "bus barn."

Eisenberger called the $200-million price tag "a bit of a reach" but added a new bus facility is one transit priority "among many."

Those priorities also include a "long list" of resident-requested infrastructure improvements like bus shelters, Dixon added. "We wouldn't have trouble finding ways to spend the money," he said.

Coun. Chad Collins said he'd love to see the HSR extend the B-line express route further into Stoney Creek beyond Eastgate Square. But Collins added he has "some concern" that the city's theoretical allocation of federal cash could be tapped for the LRT project, instead.

He noted council recently signed off on a memorandum of understanding that calls on the city to support provincial efforts to obtain federal funding for the $1-billion project. "I just wouldn't want all our transit dollars ending up in one basket," he said.

Eisenberger said it's understandable if the province wants to defray billions in looming light rail transit costs in Hamilton and elsewhere. "But I don't think that's the direction (the federal government) is heading in with this particular funding," he said.

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

Federal budget largesse fuels HSR debate

News Mar 29, 2016 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

The city estimates the latest federal budget is worth up to $36 million in extra bus bucks for Hamilton over three years.

In theory, that's enough to buy 70 new HSR buses, or put down a substantial down-payment on a new garage for an eventual Mountain-bound express fleet.

The catch, of course, is that the city would have to come up with matching cash for any transit project that qualifies for the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.

Council will "obviously want to tap in" to the dangled transit cash, said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, but he added it will be a few weeks before members sit down to discuss a priority list of possible projects. "We have a need, and transit expansion throughout our community continues to be a priority for us," he said.

The new federal transit fund, which will pay up to 50 per cent of eligible project costs, will allocate about $1.48 billion to Ontario. The amount available to individual cities will be based on percentage of ridership — in Hamilton, about 2.44 per cent, or $36 million.

That's good news with a side of painful irony for transit advocates, who have complained for years as the HSR ridership of 21 million flatlined compared to neighbours like Waterloo — a trend that in turn dropped our annual share of the provincial gas tax.

Council has approved a 10-year HSR improvement plan that calls for new express buses shooting up Mountain corridors and a $200-million bus maintenance and storage facility. But a cash request to the province — which is already funding a $1 billion Hamilton LRT — hasn't panned out, so far.

The federal transit cash could theoretically pay for 70 conventional compressed natural gas buses, said transit director Dave Dixon. "But in reality, if we buy those buses now we have nowhere to put them," said Dixon, who continues to favour building what skeptics call the "bus barn."

Eisenberger called the $200-million price tag "a bit of a reach" but added a new bus facility is one transit priority "among many."

Those priorities also include a "long list" of resident-requested infrastructure improvements like bus shelters, Dixon added. "We wouldn't have trouble finding ways to spend the money," he said.

Coun. Chad Collins said he'd love to see the HSR extend the B-line express route further into Stoney Creek beyond Eastgate Square. But Collins added he has "some concern" that the city's theoretical allocation of federal cash could be tapped for the LRT project, instead.

He noted council recently signed off on a memorandum of understanding that calls on the city to support provincial efforts to obtain federal funding for the $1-billion project. "I just wouldn't want all our transit dollars ending up in one basket," he said.

Eisenberger said it's understandable if the province wants to defray billions in looming light rail transit costs in Hamilton and elsewhere. "But I don't think that's the direction (the federal government) is heading in with this particular funding," he said.

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec