Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ottawa hid true LRT costs from public

Ottawa ON - In a move that doesn't surprise me in the least, the Ottawa Citizen reported that the Ottawa City Council hid the true costs of its recently shot down North-South LRT line.

"It was an accounting shell game," said Councilor Alex Cullen, a light-rail supporter who turned against the project when costs began to soar.

This is typical of any large scale government project but seems to be more prominent when it comes to LRT lines. The city and transit system often play the "shell game" with the figures to help make it appear that the cost to build an LRT project haven't gone through the roof.

While the City Council of Ottawa deny there was any attempt at hiding costs, the documentation speaks differently.

The Ottawa Citizen had to file a municipal freedom of information request to obtain documents on the financing and awarding of bids from the city and even then, the city is still reluctant to release all the information. Currently, the paper has gone to court to force the city to release the additional documentation.

That tells me that the city was in fact hiding the true costs. This brings one to ask why? The answer is quite simple. The city wanted this line at any cost and knew if the true costs were released, there would be a public backlash.

This sadly is a common situation in when it comes to public transit projects. The accounting shell game keeps the reported costs lower while the actual costs are often hundreds of millions of dollars more. More people are waking up to this little game that governments in both Canada and the United States play so hopefully there will be more pressure to release the true costs of these expensive projects to the public.

2 comments:

Railbus63 said...

What makes this Ottawa light-rail fiasco even more infuriating is that the city has operated a highly-successful transitway for over two decades, true 'bus rapid transit' long before BRT became trendy. But that wasn't good enough - Ottawa just had to jump on the light-rail bandwagon. Even if the rail system as proposed wouldn't even serve the downtown area. Even if it meant compromising the popular east-west transitway services. I hope this project stays good and dead and Ottawa gets back to figuring out how to refine the Transitway system it has to better serve the public.

Jim

RDC said...

It's the "rail at any cost" philosophy that took over in Ottawa. The accounting shell game they came up with to bury the rapidly rising costs to the public shows how desperate they were to ram the line through.

While an LRT line probably would have worked well up there since they do have the population and high transit ridership numbers in place already, the plan turned from a transportation issue to a political prestige issue. When the plans were chopped to eliminate the line from entering downtown, it should have dropped there but the politicians just having to have a legacy for themselves kept the revised plan going and cost the taxpayers even more money.

I agree, the plan needs to stay dead and the efforts put into improving the existing operation.