“The Hamilton Street Railway is broken”, Karl Andrus opened public delegations Tuesday evening by stating. “In fact, it’s more broken than its been in my lifetime”
Andrus’ delegation was the first of many to bring facts to Council. He presented statistics on past HSR funding, past HSR service levels, and inflation adjusted figures. In 1986, the HSR moved over 31 million passengers, in 2016, the HSR moved only 21 million. Inflation adjusted, the 1986 HSR budget amounted to $112,105,600 in 2018 dollars. The HSR’s budget in 2017 was $63,455,410.
Andrus criticized Council for making cuts to the HSR in 2017 which caused the present transit crisis.
“Riders are organized, we’re angry. Your platitudes, half-truths, and public investment records in this vital service will be judged come election time”, Andrus told eleven Councillors present. Absent Councillors were Farr, Whitehead, Ferguson, Vanderbeek, and Pasuta.
Craig Burley, a lawyer who rides the HSR, reinforced similar points. He opened by explaining to Council the cost to the local economy of delays to the LRT project, especially delays to economic development that will result from the project.
“I’m a regular rider, I use it most days to get to work”, Burley told Council of the HSR. Burley reminded Council that many people delegated during last year’s budget asking Council to fund the HSR.
“The planned HSR service standard improvement in 2017, that you decided to cut, were the addition of new buses, 29 drivers, and 34 000 hours of extra service”, Burley reminded Council.
“And what did we see happen in the second half of 2017?” Burley said referring to the Transit Crisis. “I’m not merely imploring you not to make the same mistake again, I honest don’t think you will, I know you’ll be deeply tempted”.
“I think the City took a tremendous black eye in the second half of last year related to HSR funding”.
Attending McMaster as a Mountain Resident
Three young women from Hamilton Mountain spoke to Council about the challenge of attending McMaster relying upon the HSR.
Stephanie Bertolo, a Ward 6 resident, spoke on behalf of the McMaster Students Union as their Associate Vice-President Municipal Affairs. She told Council that cancelled HSR service is impacting undergraduates, and if not fixed, could result in McMaster students not seeing value in their HSR UPass.
Christine Yachouh, a recent McMaster graduate and Ward 6 resident, shared her experience as a “young professional living in Hamilton”.”As a commuter student using the HSR to get to McMaster was definitely a struggle. It took anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes … versus the 25 minutes it would take if I were driving by car”.
Deanna Allain, a Ward 7 resident who will be attending McMaster starting in September, told Council of the bypass problems on the 41-Mohawk bus, and the problem of missing buses.
“In September, I will need to take two buses from my home on the Mountain to reach McMaster. A trip that takes me about 45 minutes and I have very real concerns about buses being full or cancelled”, Allain told Council.
“I’m concerned that I will have to double my expenses by either moving into residence or the Westdale area,” Allain said of the service issues with the HSR. “It is very important that you vote to resume the 10-year local transit strategy and increase funding for HSR services so that Hamiltonians do not have to consider doubling post-secondary expenses to attend Hamilton’s own McMaster University”
No Questions from Council
During the 90 minutes of public delegations, Councillors had no questions for delegates, sitting silently and listening.
Council voted three days later, on Friday, to tentatively approve the 2018 budget with a 1.9% average tax increase. The HSR budget increase was included in the approved Public Works budget; confirmation of Council’s budget decisions will be done Thursday March 8 at a 9:30am Special Council session.