At yesterday’s Planning and Infrastructure Meeting councillor Doug Whillans (wards 2/6) tabled a motion to have city staff come up with three preferred routes to the Hurontario-Main LRT. It passed in a 7-4 vote. So does this mean the LRT conversation has been revived? Will Brampton be able to move forward and actually have light rail in the city in the near future?

The Main St LRT was slated to begin construction in 2018, so a look at new potential routes may be promising for the city. Could we be on our way to having a LRT under construction within the same timeframe? The answer is no, probably not.

Some of the reasons cited against the Hurontario-Main LRT was the evidence provided to support it. Some councillors called into question the “truthfulness” of reports provided to them by staff and even questioned studies done by external engineering firms, city planners, and the province itself.

Now, the very same city staff whose integrity, work ethic, research and findings were previously called into question have now been tasked with finding three other preferred routes. But with no real guidelines and metrics given by council, it begs whether this will be just another fruitless attempt at creating some sort of mythical solution to Brampton’s transit problems; a solution that will likely never come to fruition.

It also leads one to question the reasons for denying the initial Hurontario-Main LRT project. Was it actually based on a lack of evidence and study? If the evidence was faulty and the facts skewed, how can council now trust the same city staff, engineers, and planners to come up with evidence to support other routes? It may very well be that LRT routes are deemed worthy and unworthy based solely on council opinion, and that the facts at hand.

Throughout the LRT debate we kept hearing, we need a “Made in Brampton solution,” yet no one could say exactly what that was. As it stands, a “Made in Brampton” solution generally means a long, drawn out decision-making process where consultants, facilitators, and others are hired and paid exorbitant amounts of money, only to end the process without ever having made a real decision. It’s clear that Brampton needs change. But if things run in true Brampton fashion though, the city will never see a LRT come to fruition, which is truly a disservice to the citizens, especially those who rely on public transit. Which in Brampton’s case generally tends to be people of low and middle incomes, students, seniors and the disabled.

A few facts about the Hurontario-Main LRT studies:

– It was studied over the course of seven years – since 2008

– Brampton was responsible for 25 per cent of the cost to study the route, and Mississauga for the other 75 per cent

– Studies to decide whether a route is viable include environmental assessments (EA), transit project assessment processes (TPAP), and/or others. These studies cost millions of dollars.

As Brampton moves forward, the burden of funding will fall solely on the city. Mississauga will not be helping to shoulder the cost of studying these three alternative routes, leaving Brampton taxpayers to ante up the money.

At one point some councillors were pushing for a route up the Etobicoke Creek into the Peel Memorial health campus. It’s not clear whether city staff will suggest this route, but like many alternatives, including a route down Steeles Avenue to Kennedy or a tunnel up Main Street — a LRT subway — it could mean a sizeable tax increase for residents.

[irp posts=”4476″ name=”Councillor Gael Miles questions motives of LRT decision”]

The tunnel option up through the Downtown for example, would cost upwards of $500 million which would equate to a six per cent tax increase for residents for 30 years to fund. Suddenly, that fully funded $400 million surface LRT up Main is looking much more appealing. Should Brampton residents have to pay the price because council members simply didn’t like the route?

If residents do indeed have to pay the price, should we be the ones to decide where the LRT goes? Who are these alternative routes really for? Brampton residents, or for the six councillors who voted not to accept $400 million dollars worth of funding from the government, therefore potentially placing the financial burden of future projects on Brampton taxpayers?

Many infrastructure projects are funded by three levels of government. The municipality pays one-third, the province pays one-third, and the federal government pays one-third. It’s not often that a fully funded project, that requires no immediate contribution from the municipality, comes along.

The best Brampton can hope for, if any of the chosen routes are even seen as viable, is to have two-thirds of the cost covered. But in the midst of Brampton’s failure to cooperate with the provincial government, it stands to reason that no one will be lining up to give this municipality money anytime soon.

Currently Metrolinx has over 40 projects under their Big Move initiative looking to be funded.(Map here)  So the idea that Brampton will a) find consensus on any one given route and b) manage to get any sort of funding to build said route, is just a pipe dream.

It seems for now Brampton has lost its opportunity, no matter how some want to spin the story. The Hurontario-Main LRT was shot down based on the whims and dislikes of some, that much has become evident. If real facts, data and research were the deciding factors in this case, council would have listened to staff when they sent a resounding message that the fully funded Hurontario-Main LRT was the best route — no alternatives should be necessary.

These three alternative routes seem a bit of a ruse. A ruse to pretend that Brampton is actually moving forward, to a better city and to better transit. In reality though, Brampton’s LRT was dead on October 27, when 6 councillors rejected $300 million  voted to stop it a mere two kilometers into Brampton’s city limits. Bramptonians won’t be fooled by this ruse

[irp posts=”4406″ name=”3 Takeaways from Brampton’s LRT Vote”]

Would you support a tax increase to fund an alternate LRT route?