Mississauga transit union ramps up campaign to ‘Keep Transit Public’

Mississauga transit union ramps up campaign to ‘Keep Transit Public’

Mississauga transit operators have launched a campaign pushing for operational control of the Hurontario Light Rail Transit project.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) members from Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and Toronto gathered in front of Metrolinx headquarters on Tuesday to gather support for their “Keep Transit Public” campaign. Mississauga’s ATU Local 1572 is demanding MiWay be in charge of running the 20-kilometre Hurontario LRT (HuLRT) rather than a private consortium chosen by the province.

“We are moving forward on this project with hopes, not with facts, …” said Jack Jackson, president of ATU Local 1572.

Concerned about the impending operating costs of the LRT, Jackson accused the city of being short-sighted when it comes to how much this project will have to be subsidized by taxpayers.

“They are so focused on the carrot that the province is dangling in front of them — the $1.4 billion in capital funding. But they’re not telling the municipalities all the negative that’s going to come with this funding,” he said.

A March 2016 consultant’s report anticipates annual operating costs to be $21.3 million, but Metrolinx will not say how much of that will be the city’s responsibility once the system is fully constructed.

“We’re really just getting together to begin those conversations,” said Jamie Robinson, director of community relations with Metrolinx.

So far, the city has committed $53 million in funding, above and beyond the $1.4 billion provided by the province. This includes $26.6 million approved by council in July for boulevard enhancements, streetscape upgrades, bus bay shelters, lighting and utility relocation. Two weeks ago, council approved an additional $26.3 million for infrastructure upgrades along the Hurontario corridor.

“I think it’s fair to assume the City of Mississauga is going to have a fair bit of debt downloaded onto them, so why not take responsibility of the system?” Jackson said.

But according to Metrolinx and the city’s senior leadership team, the Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) procurement model for the HuLRT requires a private consortium to be responsible for operating and maintaining the system for at least 30 years.

“This approach transfers risk to the consortium and provides a strong incentive for high quality design and construction since the same people building the project will be responsible and accountable for operating and maintaining it after it is complete,” explained Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Barrasa.

Geoff Wright, the city’s commissioner of transportation and works, said the city has no issues with this model, but is eager to begin negotiations to find out who will be financing the operations.

Once the HuLRT is complete, there will be a reduction in MiWay services, including the removal of the 103 Hurontario Express and reduced frequency on route 19. The consultant’s report estimates the reduction in bus hours will result in a $15.7 million cost savings.

“It’s only normal to think that jobs will be impacted,” said Jackson, who represents approximately 1150 Local ATU members. He added, the city remains non-committal when it comes to protecting MiWay transit operators from potential layoffs.

A petition is available online at the “Keep Transit Public” campaign website.