A Burlington Transit bus in Downtown Hamilton at night. Generic photo for illustrative purposes
A Burlington Transit 1-Plains bus in Downtown Hamilton. Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

Hamilton City Council unanimously approved splitting the area-rated cost of local HSR bus service in Waterdown between ratepayers in Waterdown and ratepayers in the former City of Hamilton (Wards 1 – 8 and 14).

With the change, the $538,000 annual operating cost of the 18-Waterdown HSR bus route is funded 68.8% by Waterdown ratepayers and 31.2% by Hamilton ratepayers for approximately $370,000 and $168,000 respectively.

The report submitted to City Council recommending the change states “Ward 15 is benefiting from the change in the split of Route 18-Waterdown, which now allocates the Burlington Portion of the route to Hamilton, which was previously allocated to Waterdown.”

A spokesperson for Zegarac says the change is the result of Burlington Transit discounting their Route 1 bus service to Aldershot GO, and the HSR extending the 18-Waterdown bus to Plains Road to connect with Burlington Transit there. (The 1-Plains bus operates into Downtown Hamilton)

“When total kilometres increased between 2019 and 2020 (12.4% increase), it became inequitable to charge Flamborough as the kilometres operated in Waterdown did not change,” wrote Jacqueline Durlov in response to TPR questions. “All additional service kilometres were added in Burlington”.

In response to a follow-up question from TPR, Durlov says the HSR added one bus to peak service on the route due to the extension. “These additional hours not only provided time for the extended trips to take place but also improved operating time and reliability across the route”.

Without the change, the transit levy for the average Waterdown ratepayer would be $122 for this year. With the shift of part of the operating cost to Hamilton transit levy, the Waterdown transit levy is $109. The cost as part of the Hamilton transit levy is less than a dollar.

Under Hamilton’s area-rating transit policy, former suburban communities only pay transit operating costs based upon the service they receive.

Prior to this change, the 18-Waterdown bus was operating cost was fully paid by Waterdown ratepayers, including the portion running from Waterdown to Aldershot GO.
The City does not know how many of the riders of the 18-Waterdown bus reside in Hamilton.

Area-rating was implemented when Hamilton’s six former municipalities were amalgamated into one municipality in 2001 as a hold-over from pre-2000 practice of suburban councils purchasing transit service from the HSR. Since 2001, successive City Councils have punted the issue of transit area rated past each election.

The current Council created a Transit Area Rating Review Sub-Committee to review area rating. The Sub-Committee’s start was delayed in December when not enough Councillors showed up to its first meeting, and the sub-committee failed to make quorum. It met in February to create a framework for review.

Editorial Note
City Council watcher Viv Saunders tweeted about this change on April 23.
I acknowledge her work providing valuable eye upon City Hall finances.
Production Details
v. 1.1.0
First published: May 4, 2020
Last edited: May 5, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman
Edit Record
v. 1.0.0 original version
v. 1.1.0 added paragraph about additional peak bus added to route