Transport Action Ontario is a core member of the Move the GTHA (MTGTHA) collaborative, a diverse group of organizations from health, labour, business, policy, environmental and citizen advocacy working together to build awareness, engagement and education in support of investment in the GTHA’s transportation system.
The collaborative intends to release a report in July on the state of transit investment in the GTHA. The report was previewed at a meeting on local and regional transit investment organized by Environment Hamilton. The Hamilton Spectator published a good summary of the meeting, as pasted below:
ARTICLE FROM HAMILTON SPECTATOR, JUNE 23, 2016
Funding Hamilton transportation operations will be pricey
By Joel OpHardt
Hamilton will have to worry about more than just project funding for the LRT. Maintenance and operation are costly too.
Peter Miasek, president of Transport Action Canada, highlighted key features of a report from the group Move the GTHA on the province’s Big Move transit plan.
The Big Move is a provincial transport plan that calls for the construction of a roughly 1,300-kilometre rapid transit network by 2033. Rapid transit would include public transit options such as bus rapid transit, light rail transit, heavy rail and subways.
“Municipalities are already struggling to pick up the year-to-year operational costs” for transit, Miasek told a crowd of about 40 people at the West Harbour Hub Thursday evening.
While transportation projects get funding from all three levels of government, municipalities are often forced to foot the bill themselves when it comes to maintenance and operation, said Miasek.
At current expansion rates, Move the GTHA estimates operation costs of the rapid transit network would cost municipalities $1.6 billion per year by 2022. By 2032 that number would balloon to $3.8 billion per year.
By 2042, municipalities will need to source $78 billion cumulatively to foot the bill.
“We’re going to need a revenue source that starts small but grows rapidly,” he said. “The sad news is no governments have made commitments.”
To add to the concern, Don McLean of Environment Hamilton pointed to Hamilton’s unique property tax policy that employs a varied transit levy according to location. Because communities like Ancaster and Stoney Creek pay about a third of what central Hamilton pays, the city doesn’t have the money to spend on effective city-wide transit investments.
As it stands, the news on the project funding is much better. Between the province, the federal government and municipalities, about $38.2 billion of the necessary $69 billion to complete the rapid transit network has been sourced.
That level of funding would supply the GTHA with about five more years of construction before the funding would need to be revamped.
Despite the operational cost conundrum, Miasek doesn’t shy of away from supporting rapid transit. The business case is there, he said. Congestion cost the GTHA $6 billion in 2013 and will cost it $15 billion per year by 2033, “simply from wasted time.”
If the Big Move succeeds, the number of people living within two kilometres of rapid transit in the GTHA would double to about 80 per cent.
But “everything starts and stops with money,” says Miasek.
The newly introduced HOT lanes would be a good starting point for funding, said Miasek, but “heavy hitter tools” like increasing HST and the gas tax would be necessary.
Miasek says case studies in the U.S. states and local polling show that the public will support new revenue tools if they’re transparent, if they cover all sectors, and if they’re used to fund projects with solid business cases.
Move the GTHA’s report on The Big Move will be published in July.