Municipal Election 2010

Candidates' Ideas on Doubling Transit Ridership

We asked candidates if they support the city's goal of doubling transit ridership by 2020. Of the 43 respondents, 42, or 97.7%, answered Yes and one, or 2.3%, answered No.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 25, 2010

We asked candidates:

The City of Hamilton has committed to doubling transit ridership by 2020. Do you support this goal? If so, how would you realize it?

As of this writing, 43 candidates, of 51.8% of the total, have responded. Of the 43 respondents, 42, or 97.7%, answered Yes and one, or 2.3%, answered No. You can read all the candidate responses on the RTH election site.

Mayoral Candidates

Ten mayoral candidates provided responses.

Michael Baldasaro would "create bus stations within each of the seven Cities, connecting them to the centre of the [Greater Hamilton Area]." The bus stations would also act as community centres so that citizens can "meet for coffee and get to know one another as we wait to connect with our ride."

Bob Bratina highlights the city's fare structure, stating, "Another City slogan might have been 'best place to raise a Fare.'" He argues that fare costs must compare favourably with parking costs. He has also asked for a staff report on municipalities that have reduced or eliminated fares.

Mahesh Butani wants to "adopt a more holistic planning approach which aligns our economic development goals with transit design." He calls the current system "fractured" and blames it for "retard[ing] our city's growth" and perpetuating "the continuing dependency on automobiles for local commuting."

Fred Eisenberger believes "securing Light Rail Transit for Hamilton is the key goal under this priority." He will "create and personally lead a government relations SWAT team made up of civic and community partners to press other levels of government for LRT funding, with a goal of $850 million to $1.5 billion in necessary funding."

Edward HC Graydon would "lower the bus fares immediately back to $1.50." He adds, "To me it makes very little common sense to be talking about LRT all while many Hamiltonians are living hand to mouth."

Andrew Haines asks: "How about we double the transit ridership by 2011 instead?" He would do this by providing full service to the entire city, lower the fare to $2 with a 25-cent 120 minute transrfer, and expand HSR to operate electric taxis.

Glenn Hamilton "would support that goal by making the bus routes user friendly and have better shelters for winter months."

Ken Leach would create an "arms-length transit corporation" to reduce government overhead, rationalize service and "ensure that we place transit where and when needed." The transit corporation would be overseen by a board of "business leaders and community spokespeople from throughout our city."

Tone Marrone would "implement the bus rapid transit", lower bus fares, offer free seniors' passes at age 70, and offer affordable teenage bus passes. "Taking the bus is great for the environment and promotes the sense of community. I'm all for it."

Steven Waxman would establish "a 3rd party citizen review and consultation to deteermine what Hamilton needs and wants, create a plan and follow it." He identifies "accessibility and scheduling" as the keys to success, and wants HSR schedules to mesh with GO schedules.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

11 Comments

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:02:55

Funny, nobody's saying "drivers that aren't dicks."

I know it's a nasty, hard job, but come on.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:59:29

The fare issue continues to blow me away. It's simple economics (cue A Smith) - every time you charge extra, you make it a little bit harder to ride a bus. This is especially true when it comes to fare increases which can't be made up easily without "exact change". $2.10, $2.40, $2.55 - it's not just the rising price, it's the fact that if you don't have dimes and nickels you're going to have to walk home or overpay.

The question isn't how to get more students and seniors on the bus - its' how to convince people who have the ability to drive to choose another option instead. That means making public transit something that's fast, efficient and reliable - not just continuing on with the "lowest common denominator" approach.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 11:11:01

"fast, efficient and reliable" is a start. You also want it to be not-miserable. And that means making sure that the main east-west lines aren't rolling sardine-cans. And that you don't do the "3 busses rapid-fire and then 45 minutes of nothing" scheduling. And drivers that don't look like they're going to have an aneurysm when a woman tries to get a stroller onto the bus.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2010 at 14:51:31

Tracking, measuring and studying fares would be a big start. Seems like they only have a lot of really basic numbers on the go right now – X number of people used the HSR last year – but can't break things down much further. And yet I can track arrivals and departures through Google Maps. Go figure.

What I often stick on is the matter of the real costs associated with services like the HSR. Inflation tends to edge upwards at about 2% a year, unionized labour rarely accepts wage freezes, and peak oil continues to make all gasoline dependent motors more expensive to operate: A barrel of oil might cost 2-4 times as much as it did at the turn of the century.

If we want better service, more frequent service and fewer sardine cans, it would seem that the money for that is either coming out of the user, the taxpayer or both. I honestly have no idea how fares have increased vis-a-vis the Consumer Price Index, but obviously something has to give. (Especially once the Baby Boom cohort becomes eligible for free transit.) But since the suburbs generally enjoy crappy HSR service, they tend not to use the bus as much, which in turn makes it less relevant to the daily lives of the electorate, which robs the transit issue of its political muscle since it's easily painted as a lower-city perk.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 14:58:27

Yup. Eventually Ward 7 is going to get annoyed that they have twice the population of the lower-city wards and is going to start asking for another seat on Council... and Ward 7 has no interest in being anything but car-country. As much as it could be, nobody waxes nostalgic about saving Concession Street the way we do about downtown.

Realistically, if the various car-country wards actually sat down and realized what their voters want and actually use, our plans for downtown intensification and transit improvement would be hopelessly screwed.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-25 14:01:43

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2010 at 15:11:22

Alternately, the HSR could secure the resources for service improvements and a fare freeze, but opt to locate the majority of service improvements in growing suburban wards, thereby taking a bite out of that area’s stubborn car culture (thereby yielding some not-inconsiderable environmental benefits), plus extending the political currency of the service into areas that have shown themselves to be the most politically active and transit-averse. It would doubtless chafe with the 5/10 sardines, but in the long run it might actually be a smart play for the HSR.

Just riffing here... feel free to rip a hole in my butterfly net.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 15:45:26

I fully understand that rising oil costs put added strain on transit budgets, but raising fares is an amazingly short-sighted way to deal with it.

And Pxtl is right - so many of the reasons that the HSR is unpopular have to do with factors (like rude and abusive drivers or shoddy scheduling) which could resolved without millions of dollars.

We need to give up the idea that people are going to ditch their cars out of some sort of noble self-sacrifice for the environment and wise urban planning. As someone who doesn't own a car and never plans to, I can tell you that I avoid it for purely selfish reasons. They're expensive, complicated, dangerous, unhealthy and not really all that enjoyable. Unfortunately, I avoid buses for many of the same reasons.

If city planners want people to treat mass transit like a serious transportation option then it needs to be one. Would you bet a $80 000/year job on HSR schedules?

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 25, 2010 at 16:00:34

The only immediate, cheap change that I can see to increase ridership is for the city to eliminate the by-law which requires businesses to have a certain number of parking spaces per whatever. That will serve the two-fold purpose of encouraging many new businesses to open while at the same time creating a parking nightmare where it's more convenient for people to take the bus than to drive around forever looking for a parking spot.

The HSR probably needs to increase the McMaster student fee and put even more buses on the East-West lines to reduce congestion on those buses.

And I think we need to stop complaining about how expensive the bus is. The HSR ticket prices are cheaper than every service in the Golden Horseshoe except St. Catharines, which is the same price.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2010 at 16:28:31

@ Undustrial: "I fully understand that rising oil costs put added strain on transit budgets, but raising fares is an amazingly short-sighted way to deal with it."

I'm not saying that it has to be fares. I'm just saying that if you want a fare freeze or rollback, you'd do well to have some alternate financing options in hand. And again, when there's more active voting power in Wards 6-8 combined than Wards 1-5 combined (going off 2006 numbers), it might make sense to address transit gaps in mountain wards in order to gain the political leverage needed to convince pols to throw real money at transit. Otherwise you're looking at more sardine cans.

@ d.knox: "I think we need to stop complaining about how expensive the bus is. The HSR ticket prices are cheaper than every service in the Golden Horseshoe except St. Catharines, which is the same price."

I somewhat agree with this as well. I believe there have been pilot projects to offer subsidized passes to those who can't afford the general rate, which seems sensible. But again, if government's commitment is flat and costs rise, the math suggests you'll either see higher fare or lower service. And LRT/Metrolinx, if and when, seems fated to push fares upward to a market norm. Where that will be is anyone's guess, but transit services from Burlington through to Toronto currently charge $3.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2010 at 17:44:15

The thing with public transit is that wherever we want to see it go, we need more people using it. Higher ridership means more frequent busses/trains, more voting clout, and a much better sense of where to put new routes. And given what we spend on individual roads, it's insane that the fares for transit have to keep going up. Why is it that when drivers need to get somewhere quickly and efficiently it's seen as an economic benefit, but when transit users do, it's a "drain"?

Gods bless the LRT debate for finally stirring some sense into this whole topic.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 25, 2010 at 18:25:37

I see that HSR public relations is just as up to par as last time I had to call them:

http://www.joeycoleman.ca/2010/10/umm-wh...

Comment edited by jason on 2010-10-25 17:26:31

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