LRT MoU says Hamilton Pays for Operations, Not Construction Overruns

Handout/City of Hamilton

Rendering of Hamilton's Proposed LRT looking west at the intersection of King Street East and Wellington Street.

Council will vote next Wednesday (September 8) on the new Memorandum of Understanding for the LRT project. The new MoU is similar to the March 2016 MoU for the B-Line LRT signed with the Ontario Liberal Party government, which the Ontario Conservative Party government cancelled in December 2019.

The City of Hamilton will be responsible for all operating and maintenance costs associated with running the planned B-Line LRT line.

Metrolinx, the Province’s GTHA transit authority, will oversee the project.

The City is not responsible for any cost overruns.

“Metrolinx confirms that the City is not responsible for costs incurred by Metrolinx, the Province or third parties, including third-party utilities, in connection with the Project even if such costs exceed the costs of any approved budget for the Project save and except only if the City has agreed to pay such costs,” reads the MoU.

The Province will own the LRT infrastructure and pay for “life-cycle refurbishment costs after completion of construction.”

The new MoU states the City of Hamilton will receive all LRT farebox revenue and non-fare revenues, such as a portion of advertising sales.

LRT ridership will be included in Hamilton’s gas tax calculations for provincial funding of local transit regardless of who ultimately operates the light rail trains.

“Metrolinx will draft and negotiate a Train Operator Services Agreement with the operator of the LRT system when the operator is chosen,” the MoU states.

The City and Metrolinx will determine if the HSR or a private operator runs the LRT during upcoming negotiations before the project goes to tender.

The MoU does not include cost estimates for the operating and maintenance of the LRT system. The MoU states Metrolinxs will draft and negotiate a Municipal Funding Agreement for these costs.

Passenger fares for the LRT are not included in the MoU. Notably, the MoU does not discuss fare integration for riders in a section devoted to ensuring the LRT operator  “endeavours” to coordinate with the HSR on scheduling, customer service including “handling of customer inquiries and complaints”, and on “a coherent or complementary branding and wayfinding of the Project with the broader HSR transit system.”

The accompanying City of Hamilton staff report signed by City Manager Janette Smith does not mention fare integration.

Community benefits are listed as a topic for further discussion.

“The critical importance of affordable housing and community benefits is acknowledged in the preamble of the MOU,” reads Smith’s report. The report states there is “a commitment by the Province to work with the City and community stakeholders to endeavour to determine how best to support these goals.”

Metrolinx is not paying for City of Hamilton staff who are required to support municipal approvals and projects related to the LRT.

Council is expected to approve the MoU after voting 9-6 in mid-June to negotiate the MoU.

Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark voted no at the time. Clark stated he would not oppose the LRT project after that approval. Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins, who voted against the LRT, is not attending Council meetings as he campaigns for federal office.

Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 9:30 am.

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