Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Metrolinx Slurps Up Hamilton Bus Fare Money to Pay Sunshine List Jobs in Toronto

One of the reoccurring themes of this blog is the ongoing centralization of government jobs serving the province to Toronto, much like what goes on in Bangkok versus the rest of Thailand.

The Star has a good article on Metrolinx charging 905 cities a higher percentage of bus fares to support Presto, the agency's mediocre fare collecting product.

Some councillors in the 905 region are fuming about a potential new deal for the Presto fare card system and are accusing the provincial transit agency of gouging smaller municipalities while giving Toronto a sweetheart deal.

For the past year 905 municipalities have been in negotiations with Metrolinx over a new operating agreement for Presto, the provincially owned fare card system used by transit systems across the region.

A deal has yet to be reached, but a report that went before the regional council of Durham Region last Wednesday revealed tentative terms of a potential 10-year deal.

According to the report, by 2021 the seven transit agencies in the 905 could have to pay a commission to Metrolinx equal to up to 9 per cent of fare revenue they collect through Presto. The municipalities currently pay a commission of 2 per cent, which Metrolinx uses to pay the operating costs of the fare card regime.

Under the terms of a deal the TTC inked with Metrolinx in 2012, the Toronto agency pays a commission of 4.65 per cent.

Before Presto, Hamilton would have received all their transit fares for the HSR. Now using Presto, potentially Hamilton could have to pay 9% of their fare revenue to Metrolinx, which is based in Toronto. On the 2012 Sunshine List, Metrolinx had 262 people making over $100,000 a year. That's a prime example of jobs that were originally done in Hamilton, now effectively centralized in Toronto. This begs the question of whether losing 9% is worth it compared to the hassle and expense of collecting a cash or ticket fare. 

The province enforces Presto by gas tax revenues the province shares with municipalities (in a method highly weighted toward Toronto). What is more ridiculous is that the TTC gets a massive break from Presto compared to other cities (plus the jobs working on the payment system stay in Toronto).

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger should propose to the province to move Metrolinx to Hamilton from Toronto. Being a regional agency (and providing Presto to Ottawa) there's no reason it has to be in Toronto and future workers could live in a much cheaper city and much cheaper digs than Union Station.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hamilton Real Estate Prices Up 27.5% Year on Year in February 2017, Hamilton Centre 31.6%

The Real Estate Association of Hamilton-Burlington is reporting that in February:

Seasonally adjusted* sales of residential properties were 18.1 per cent higher than the same month last year, with the average sale price up 27.5 per cent for the month. Seasonally adjusted numbers of new listings were 2.5 per cent higher than February of 2016.

Residential sales prices going up 27.5% year on year is pretty nuts, although with Toronto prices, a hot spring was expected. Those numbers include more than just Hamilton, for Hamilton alone, the average sale price was up 27.1%. Burlington was up slightly higher at 27.6%. Hamilton freehold prices were up 27.0% versus 26.8% for condominiums, whereas for Burlington freehold prices were up a massive 34.6% versus only 15.7% for condominiums.

Some of the individual area increases in Hamilton were interesting. Mountain properties were up 29.4%. Hamilton Centre properties were up 31.6%. Dundas was only up 12%, but that was only on 39 sales. Hamilton West prices were up 24.4%.

Burlington freehold average price was almost a million dollars, up to $957,120, so Hamilton prices, especially in the lower city are a bargain by comparison. The spring should continue to be hot, however the anticipated rise in the US fed rate by a quarter of a percent (and another potential rate rise in 2017) which indirectly affects Canadian mortgage interest rates could cool things down.

This is fundamentally changing Hamilton. Rent will likely increase due to those who just can't afford to buy a house. Derelict properties will be renovated, although that has already been happening for a while.