And this: "Jan d’Ailly, a two-term member of city council, said he was surprised to see public opinion sour on the light-rail system approved by regional council. “At almost every single door it is ‘no’ to LRT and that surprised me,” d’Ailly said."
Note that Mayor Halloran didn't say that people aren't willing to pay for LRT: she said they're telling her that they are "totally against having trains running up and down King Street." Opposition to LRT is not all about money. This is not something that's going to be fixed by rejiggering the finances.
When I read things like this, I think LRT is going to be rammed down our throats regardless of what the people want:
[Regional Chair Ken] Seiling let it slip that regional staff were trying to shave as much as $85 million off the cost.
Instead of the region’s original $235 million obligation, he suggested the total bill might be between $150 million and $175 million. And there may be new development charges to pay for it as well.
. . .
The original rail proposal required a regional tax increase of close to nine per cent to cover both operating and capital costs. Such a tax hike appears to be extremely unpopular. Seiling seems to think he will be able to get the new council to back a smaller tax increase of perhaps 5.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent. Why not ask voters directly by providing a plan?
We should also remember the current proposal is already a compromise. To save money, trains will only run from a mall in Waterloo to a mall in Kitchener. Cambridge is to get buses. So what will another $85 million in cuts look like? Cheaper trains? Fewer stations? Buggies for Cambridge?
Whatever cost-cutting manoeuvres the region adopts, it seems certain to result in a reduction in ridership and an increase in the tax subsidies necessary to keep it solvent. So as capital costs drop, operating costs may go up in step.
I'm also rather worried by this comment from Cambridge Mayor and LRT opposer Doug Craig:
What is happening right now is that the LRT debate has been deliberately submerged until after the election. The numbers regarding the 230 million dollar shortfall are being massaged, compromises on capital costs are being trimmed and in early 2011, it will in my opinion, be re-packaged and passed by the new council. The costs to all regional taxpayers will be significant because the operating costs will be 23 million dollars a year and the capital costs will exceed projected estimates. In other words, it's unsustainable.
As far as I can tell, Seiling has not heard one word of the thousands of arguments against LRT. He seems hell-bent on shoving this idea through. He is motivated by a passionate belief that growth in the region will overwhelm road capacity. What he doesn't get is that LRT will only help with that problem if people ride it. People won't ride something that is even more inconvenient than the current bus system - and LRT is much, much more inconvenient than the current buses. Further, the LRT as planned will greatly reduce road capacity and make traffic much worse. It will not solve the problem; it will greatly exacerbate it.