Special Report: Light Rail

Comparing LRT and BRT For the B-Line

If we are going to invest in rapid transit, we should aim to maximize the potential for net benefits.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 09, 2014

In the ongoing public debate over Hamilton's rapid transit plan for the east-west B-Line between McMaster University and Eastgate Square, some people argue that we should be focusing on a bus rapid transit (BRT) plan instead of the light rail transit (LRT) plan that City Council submitted to the Province last year.

A careful reading of the commentary suggests many of the people advocating BRT aren't actually clear on what they're talking about. So what is BRT, and why don't LRT advocates support it as a cheaper, more politically palatable alternative?

As its name suggests, Bus Rapid Transit is a rapid transit system using buses. What distinguishes BRT from conventional bus service is that it:

From a technology perspective, the main difference between BRT and LRT is that LRT vehicles are electric trams running on rails that are powered by overhead wires, whereas BRT vehicles are internal combustion engine buses running on tires on the road.

In terms of construction, they are similarly disruptive. The roadbed needs to be rebuilt for BRT, with a concrete surface to handle the weight of all those buses.

The capital cost to build BRT is lower than the capital cost to build LRT - but not vastly cheaper. According to a recent study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a transit consultancy that promotes BRT, a full system that fulfils all of the major BRT criteria costs close to half as much to build as an equivalent LRT system.

The study finds that "Gold Standard" BRT combined with exceptional land use planning produces a similar relative return on investment to LRT - relative because it costs less to build but attracts less new economic development.

But the capital cost is only part of the financial picture - and in the case of Hamilton, the part that the Province has promised to fully fund. Hamilton will be responsible for the ongoing operating cost, and it is here that LRT really shines.

BRT requires a lot more vehicles (and vehicle operators) than LRT to carry an equivalent number of passengers. Since operator wages are the major part of transit operating costs, this drives the per-passenger operating cost for BRT up.

In addition, LRT vehicles last three times as long as BRT vehicles, require less ongoing maintenance and are cheaper to power.

Finally, LRT is much better at increasing ridership than BRT, and the per-passenger cost declines as the number of passengers increases. As a result, LRT works out to be significantly cheaper to operate than BRT.

Since the purpose of rapid transit is to attract high numbers of new riders and leverage new private investment to shape land use around the line, BRT is necessarily an inferior option along the B-Line.

This is a corridor that already carries 13,000 transit rides a day on an overburdened transit system characterized by frequent "pass-bys" of full buses.

13,000 passengers a day would be in the middle of the pack for North American LRT systems. We would already have that ridership on opening day, with huge potential to grow ridership dramatically from there.

(Compare Charlotte, North Carolina's Lynx LRT system, which opened in 2007 and was expected to carry 9,100 passengers when it first launched, increasing to 18,000 by 2025. Ridership has already grown to 15,400 (as of 2013 Q3) and most riders are new to transit.)

The area around the B-Line has an intact urban built form ideal for accommodating medium- and high-density urban development, but it has been under-performing for decades due to the city's singular focus on suburban sprawl.

Decades of neglect and demolition have left huge opportunities for new infill developments along the line, and especially in the downtown area. Despite this, downtown is still the city's single largest employment cluster with 24,000 jobs, most of them paying above the median income.

Because the lower city is under-performing its potential, it has tremendous potential for uplift with a new rapid transit system combined with a favourable land use policy to encourage urban development. If we are going to invest in rapid transit, we should aim to maximize the potential for net benefits.

As for the argument that BRT is more politically palatable, that falls apart when people realize that BRT will be just as disruptive to existing automobile traffic as LRT - but with a much smaller payback in terms of economic uplift and car trips replaced by transit trips.

This last-minute BRT push is not driven by a desire to make the 'right' rapid transit investment. It's mostly driven by a desire not to make any rapid transit investment at all. The first step is to use BRT to kill LRT. The next step will be to whittle BRT down until it looks pretty much like the express bus service we already have today.

If that happens, the status quo will be preserved at the devastating cost of another missed opportunity to transform Hamilton's future.

A version of this was first published in the July, 2014 issue of Urbanicity.

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.

61 Comments

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2014 at 09:44:20

"Has passenger boarding stations rather than bus stops"

Difference?

Also do we have figures on the operating vs capital cost? How long would it take to recoup the difference in capital costs?

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted July 10, 2014 at 15:48:00 in reply to Comment 103095

For a real-life example of what a BRT looks like (including disruptive construction) take a ride to Highway 7 in Markham. York Region is building a Bus Rapid Transit system now and I can assure you, it is just as disruptive to vehicles as Light Rail. http://www.vivanext.com/mediarelease/rel...

Here's a map http://www.vivanext.com/project-map/

Here's what a BRT station looks like already in the GTA at Warden Ave. http://vivanext.com/blog/wp-content/uplo...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:42:59 in reply to Comment 103095

A passenger boarding station means an enclosed area that you must pay to enter, and then from that enclosed boarding area you board the vehicle without payment. This creates faster boarding and improves the throughput of the vehicle.

Think about a subway station - you enter the station, pay at the gate, and then wait at the platform. When the train arrives, the passengers file in without fumbling for change or dealing with any representative of the transit organization.

An articulated bus will usually have 3 sets of doors, but you can only enter from the front door because this is where you pay. In a BRT, passengers enter through all 3 doors.

With longer spans (800m), traffic light control, and fast pickup/dropoffs (thanks to the stations), a BRT can move faster than car traffic (unlike glacial city buses).

Now the mechanical details:

Notice train stations often have a single central platform. This reduces the amount of space the platform needs - a necessary plan for Hamilton's 4-lane King Street (King may end up getting reduced to 1 lane when it's passing a platform, I'm not sure what the plan is)*. So the idea is you'd have the normal sidewalk, then a Rapid Transit lane, then the enclosed platform, and then another Rapid Transit lane, then the auto traffic lane(s). Assume the platform is an enclosed space about 3 meters wide with a pay gate at one end and sliding doors on the side to board the vehicles. Riders must cross the first Rapid Transit lane (a crosswalk often exists at the front of the platform so riders may cross in front of the stopped vehicle), pay to enter the platform, then await the vehicle. Notice that I just say "vehicle" - it works the same for LRT vs BRT.

An interesting ramification is that the vehicle is unloading/loading into the middle instead of the side, which means that right-side-door vehicles must travel on the left side of the platform, or else we must use left-side-door vehicles.

*aside, this is why they should build the thing on Main. 5 lanes cut down to 3 lanes during open spans and 2 lanes at transit platforms seems much more palatable than 4 going down to 2 and 1. Convert king 2-way and then we've got symmetry - 3 lanes of 1-way Cannon coupled to 2-3 lanes of 1-way Main, and then we go James North style along the whole freaking length of King Street. But the plan is King LRT and I'll take it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 21:34:32 in reply to Comment 103106

Think about a subway station - you enter the station, pay at the gate, and then wait at the platform. When the train arrives, the passengers file in without fumbling for change or dealing with any representative of the transit organization.

Instead, they do it at the gate. It shifts the problem from one location to the other. I don't see the benefit there, especially if there's only a single entrance. How large are these "boarding stations" anyway?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 22:09:18 in reply to Comment 103144

That one's easy. It isn't a "problem" at the gate because waiting time is used to pay the fares.

When you pay to get on the bus, the bus is standing still while you put in your coins or whatever.

When you pay to get on the GO train, you pay while waiting and the only idle time for the train is the actual physical transfer of people.

Presto readers are a given; I haven't read up on how platforms will handle cash fares, perhaps it's in the Rapid Ready pdf.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 14, 2014 at 16:45:32 in reply to Comment 103148

When I was in Houston they had ticket machines on each platform where you could put cash in and get out a pass - similar to those solar powered parking kiosks.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 22:05:39 in reply to Comment 103144

The benefit is people pay when they come in and they're alteady waiting anyway, not when the team comes in and everyone wants to get on board at the same time. So it's faster, more efficient and less stressful for everyone.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:22:56 in reply to Comment 103095

I think that the difference between passenger boarding stations and bus stops is that a passenger boarding station would be separated off and would have fare payment integrated into it. A bus stop is literally just a sign on the sidewalk where the bus stops, but you have to build passenger boarding stations seperately, they usually have shelters.

I think the argument that BRT supporters have been making is that with trains you need to build stations for level boarding and fare payment whereas with BRT you could just use bus stops; however this is false, because part of what makes a BRT not just a bus is that it has stations for level boarding and fare payment.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:14:36 in reply to Comment 103095

How long would it take to recoup the difference in capital costs?

Zero days. The Provincial government has committed to fully fund the capital cost for whatever rapid transit Hamilton decides to implement. For the city of Hamilton there is no benefit to choosing the technology with a cheaper initial investment and every advantage to choosing the one with a lower operating cost (i.e. LRT).

From the point of view of the Province, the incremental cost of LRT over BRT is a drop in the bucket in the context of all the projects in the Big Move, so for them it doesn't make sense to choose BRT purely as a way of making the project affordable; Their goal is improving regional and local transit so presumably they would want Hamilton to choose based on what is more suitable, not what is more affordable. Remember that the Province is not paying the operating costs, so they don't get to recoup capital investment by saving on operating costs.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-07-09 10:16:59

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 20:15:58 in reply to Comment 103098

Huh? I happen to be both a City of Hamilton and Province of Ontario taxpayer. So the question "how long would it take to recoup the difference in capital costs?" is a very meaningful question to me.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 14, 2014 at 19:30:31 in reply to Comment 103138

Yes but because the capital and operating costs come from different budgets, the 'time to recoup' is theoretical. What does it really mean? The province can't say that they recouped their initial investment since they won't be operating the line. The city can't claim they saved on the capital cost since they are not paying them either way. Furthermore, the costs fit into budgets that are different by several orders of magnitude. A one time cost of $400M to build LRT instead of BRT is relatively small compared to the provincial budget, and even to the total planned spending by the province on transit projects in the next 15 years. Meanwhile the operating costs of a rapid transit line are pretty high relative to a city's budget. RapidReady estimates $14.5M per year, and BRT could be double that- but the financial impact that would have on the HSR and the city of Hamilton would be much larger than the impact on the province of paying for LRT. Lastly, while you might pay provincial taxes, so do 12 million other residents of Ontario. There are only 520,000 in Hamilton, so the tax bases really are not comparable. So actually i would say that 'time to recoup costs' isnt that meaningful.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-07-14 19:34:25

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 15, 2014 at 00:20:02 in reply to Comment 103218

The fact is that both the capital and operating budgets come from only one source: my wallet and all the other taxpayers.

Provincial government taxpayers in London and Toronto have the same vested interest in provincial government spending in Hamilton as I do in those cities: It is my money and I want to see it well spent.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 15, 2014 at 11:46:20 in reply to Comment 103222

The fact is that both the capital and operating budgets come from only one source: my wallet and all the other taxpayers.

This is inaccurate. The operating costs would come from the wallets of Hamiltonian tax payers, while the capital cost would come from Ontarian tax payers. To equate them is naive and a gross oversimplification. I'm not arguing that we shouldn't care about whether this is a wise use of provincial funds; I'm arguing that it is not as simple as adding up the savings made by the city and equating them to the extra capital investment required by the province, since they are funded by different, albeit overlapping, tax bases.

If we want to talk about whether this is a wise use of provincial funds, I think a better way to look at this would be to compare the initial capital investment to how long it might take for the province to recoup that cost in increased income tax, corporate tax and sales tax revenues resulting from economic development around the B-line. However, it seems to me that this question has already been answered because, as the article states, the ITDP found that BRT and LRT give a similar ROI relative to their capital cost in terms of economic development. Given that, it seems pretty short-sighted to choose BRT solely on the basis of making the project cheaper, especially when the Province is planning to spend $2B per year on transit investments.

In other words, people in London and Toronto don't really care about whether Hamilton saves money operating an LRT instead of a BRT, but in 20 years they will care about whether or not increases in Hamilton's tax base enable the province to spend money on transit in their communities.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-07-15 11:47:25

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:38:17 in reply to Comment 103098

Thanks very much for the answers, I appreciate it!

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By Hamiltonguy (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 09:57:30

I have been following this issue here and via other sources for quite some time. One question that I am finding difficult to answer: why is the economic and development impact greater for LRT vs. BRT? If this is in fact true, it would be a wonderful way to revitalize this part of Hamilton. But...I can't understand why it would be so dramatically different.

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By redmike (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:19:50 in reply to Comment 103096

cause people like certainty and commitment before investing. laying the infrastructure for lrt is a commitment, like buidling a road. a brt sytem as advocated by some in hamilton is just extra buses in a semi dedicated bus lane. a brt rapid transit "solution" as advocated by some in hamilton can and will be folded up at the first available moment, over money or other issues real or imagined. developers wont build in that scenario like they will in a dedicated infrastructure scenario.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:26:40 in reply to Comment 103101

This is not really true if you read the article. BRT requires dedicated infrastructure including a cement road bed, stations and separated lanes. Laying the infrastructure for BRT is just as much of a commitment as laying the infrastructure for LRT; if its not, then what you are actually describing is just express buses and you can't make the same claims about economic development that you could about BRT.

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By redmike (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 11:28:43 in reply to Comment 103103

but the "brt advocates" arent advocating a gold standard brt with dedicated roadways and dedicated boarding platforms. thats too expensive for them. "brt advocates" are advocating for the least amount of investment possible. the article we all read makes clear that if you a gold standard infrastructure investment in brt, your almost at the lrt level of infrastructure investment cost wise. so why build a brt that costs more to operate over the long term?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 14, 2014 at 19:42:34 in reply to Comment 103111

This is a little confusing. If BRT advocates actually mean just higher frequency bus routes, they cant claim any economic development improvements over what is already in place because hamilton already has that on the B-line. They are essentially suggesting that we shouldn't be trying to attract development at all. However if they mean gold standard then there is evidence that BRT does provide some benefits in terms of economic development, but not as much as LRT and like you said, at that point why not go all the way since LRT makes a lot more sense in a dense urban environment.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 12:42:32 in reply to Comment 103111

I'd imagine that most BRT advocates are simply envisioning a more frequent B-Line service with a few added bike locks and benches. BRT-Lite at best.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:01:28 in reply to Comment 103096

One reason could be that electric LRT vehicles are cleaner and quieter than diesel buses. I would think a street-front patio or apartment balcony overlooking an LRT would be more pleasant than one overlooking a BRT because it would be quieter and you wouldn't be smelling diesel fumes all the time. Those properties would be worth more in terms of rent/lease values and would be more attractive as potential developments.

This is not to say that BRT has to be loud and dirty, but I am not aware of any BRT system that is electric.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-07-09 10:03:35

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 11:14:44 in reply to Comment 103097

Agreed. As someone who cycles on Main Street, riding behind buses is an extremely uncomfortable experience. I've tried playing leap frog, but decided it wasn't worth the risk, so I am stuck behind them, and it is disgusting. They belch out black smoke full of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, soot, and NOx, making it difficult to breath. I try to avoid Main St. during rush hour because it is a scary place to ride, but in the warmer months, I avoid it because of the air pollution.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2014 at 14:20:12 in reply to Comment 103109

I don't enumerate the list of horrible chemicals, but yes there's nothing as particularly miserable when cycling as a faceful of filthy bus exhaust. Screws up my lungs for the rest of the ride.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 20:21:22 in reply to Comment 103123

I enumerate. From page 2, Health Effects of Air Pollution from Traffic.

Traffic-related emissions are a complex mix of pollutants comprised of nitrogen oxides (including nitrogen dioxide), particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, ozone, and many other chemicals...

Whereas, the LRT is powered by electricity generated at Niagara Falls.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-07-09 20:49:16

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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:18:40

The other reason is the infrastructure attached to LRT means that it is a permanent part of the city. There is much more of an attraction living and working close to a 'train' stop than a 'bus' stop.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 10:39:28

"ecades of neglect and demolition have left huge opportunities for new infill developments along the line, and especially in the downtown area. Despite this, downtown is still the city's single largest employment cluster with 24,000 jobs, most of them paying above the median income." The only area is in the core which is parking lots for the most part. The rest of the line only has green spaces that could be developed. These higher paid jobs are all government jobs

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By Captainkirk (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 13:23:27 in reply to Comment 103105

H1 wrote, "These higher paid jobs are all government jobs" Wrong. 76% of those jobs are privte sector.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 11:02:21 in reply to Comment 103105

You are just a bullshit spewing machine, aren't you.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 21:45:37 in reply to Comment 103108

Go away.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 22:05:57 in reply to Comment 103145

No.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 11:02:47 in reply to Comment 103147

Yes.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 12:23:13 in reply to Comment 103108

What's the matter? Truth hurts?

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By evelyn woodhead (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 12:46:38 in reply to Comment 103113

Nobody but you has any idea wtf that post even means. And maybe you don't either...

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 20:55:16 in reply to Comment 103116

I would suggest that someone who asserts that all jobs which pay above the median income are government jobs... has a few issues. Of course, an anonymous poster for such an absurd statement.

Just for the record, I used to be a federal government employee. When I retired from the Canadian Army and became a professional Accountant working in the private sector, my income went up.

Since I am not an anonymous poster, I'll sign myself,

K40 592 576 Captain (retired) Kevin C. Love, CD

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-07-09 20:58:17

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 11:41:15

All of the RT opponents wouldn't bat an eyelash if all of this spending (insert multiple here) was going to new/expanded road construction. They either do not understand or refuse to accept that there is no more room for roads on top of the fact we can't afford to maintain the one's we have now. They're all too "affluent" to even consider taking public transit. After all, buses are just for students and the poor.

I fear that this city will never move forward with this sprawl centric generation at the helm. The lower city is just a sewer to them. I mean you would only live there if you had to; right?

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By Rise up! (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 14:51:44 in reply to Comment 103112

We need to rise up! Plain and simple.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 12:31:22 in reply to Comment 103112

I don't support sprawl, I believe in sustainability. I am told that the LRT will, not may but will bring economic development. No one can prove this as a fact. the development is to occurs along the LRT line. however there is no ware along the proposed line than anything can be built. if it was part of some master plan for redevelopment them perhaps it might be worth wile. on its own it just replaces busses used by public to get around. BTW I was opposed to both the link and red hill projects.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 08:05:32 in reply to Comment 103114

"No one can prove this as a fact. "

An economist would have no difficulty saying that it is proven that urban investment follows light rail.

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By Grow up (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 14:56:49 in reply to Comment 103114

H1, seriously, whatever you are, can you please endeavour to an education and upgrade to an H10 version? As it stands, H1 appears very outdated, disposable.

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By Stop it (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 14:59:13 in reply to Comment 103128

Grow up, you have to give H1 the benefit of the doubt that his/her comments come from a sincere place, and that he/she simply needs to be shown the evidence/logic behind LRT support. Put downs will likely only cause an individual to become more defensive/ positional.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2014 at 15:15:41 in reply to Comment 103130

I think many people did give H1 the benefit of the doubt at first but then H1 began to follow a troll pattern:

1) Make absurd glib 1-line claim A.

2) Commenters patiently and lengthily explain why A is false and B is true with well-supported arguments.

3) Fail to acknowledge B.

4) Re-post absurd glib 1-line claim A in the next article.

5) Another commenter patiently repeats step 2.

It's a waste of everyone's time and frustrating to watch it happen over and over again. Eventually it will get to the point where Ryan will ban the offender as he did with Allan Taylor, but obviously he leaves that option as a weapon of last resort.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 20:56:12 in reply to Comment 103132

I wish there was a way to block a user by IP or something on this site.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 12:47:01 in reply to Comment 103114

Have you actually gone along the proposed route and taken a mental study of the properties and lots along it? I take the B-Line bus several days a week and do just that. Theres a huge amount of underutilized vacant lots and abandoned or barely functioning 3 story commercial buildings along Main Street between Parkdale and the Delta, and King Street all the way to downtown. This is also not even taking into account the massive amount of land that just opened up at the former City Motor Hotel spot, a proposed LRT stop.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 08:07:32 in reply to Comment 103117

There is plenty of empty lots and proposed redevelopment along Main West as well. But the growth doesn't just happen right on the line; it happens in a radius of a few blocks.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 15:34:01 in reply to Comment 103117

Now that's an answer. Fact based, no estimates or guess work. others can learn from you lead.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 13:25:28 in reply to Comment 103117

Also, current buildings will be renovated, expanded or even torn down and rebuilt

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 14:49:07

It's not new yet an interesting discussion we're having here. Many people seem to be born being adverse to change. We have been so engrained in the "car is king" culture that many are afraid of the changes being discussed here and elsewhere. I wonder how much of a stir there would be if the government said they were going to provide 800 million dollars for road repair/construction.

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By JayRobb (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 17:11:35

Speaking from experience, blunt conversations generally lead to reality checks rather than blank cheques.

And for a possible preview of that blunt conversation on Hamilton transit, there was this column in yesterday's Toronto Star, courtesy of R. Michael Warren - a former corporate director, Ontario deputy minister, TTC chief general manager and Canada Post CEO...

"The credit rating agencies will be looking closely at next week’s fiscal plan. Moody’s recently affirmed Ontario’s current rating, but downgraded the outlook from stable to negative. Moody’s warned the province that continued accumulation of debt could jeopardize their rating and thus increase borrowing costs. The interest on the current debt is a staggering $11 billion a year — the third-highest expenditure behind education and health care.

"Over 60 per cent of the province’s public infrastructure is more than 50 years old. The $130 billion, 10-year infrastructure plan was a welcome election commitment. So was the promise to make future infrastructure investments based on “rigorous business case analysis.

"Not all the dozens of transit, road, school, hospital, college and university projects mentioned during the election can be priorities. Next week is an opportunity to begin using the business case criteria to identify the highest return projects for early implementation. This is another area where investments can be phased in slowly until the operating deficit is eliminated."

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By mountain guy (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 18:31:17

Soldier along with LRT for the B line and and save the BRT for the A line. As for exhaust fumes from buses.Easy fix. Bring back the trolley buses. I had the privilige of riding Vancouvers new flyer trolleys recently and they climb hills have ac and are eerily quiet. A plus from that would be that you wouldnt have to punch a hole in the escarpment to get an LRT train up the hill

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2014 at 10:15:57 in reply to Comment 103137

I like this thinking. I like it because the context is what is the most appropriate mass transit system for the City and not just the cheapest capital cost only measure. LRT, from every measuring stick I can see, is the most appropriate system for the B Line in the lower city. It addresses the goals of the lower city along that east-west corridor. The A line going up one of the mountain access roads might very well need a BRT. Completing the last of the engineering and assessment work (which is already underway) will help make an informed decision on the most appropriate system to use that matches the goals of that line.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 12:50:50 in reply to Comment 103137

LRT is a long trolley bus

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 21:04:47 in reply to Comment 103137

I suggest you talk with an HSR maintenance planner. Such a person will tell you that having three totally different and incompatible technologies is a maintenance nightmare.

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By mountain guy (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2014 at 23:34:17

The trolley buses that are out now are the exact same new flyer buses the hsr currently has on the road right now. They just have electric motors instead with two sticks on the roof. You would have mtc crews doing overhead wires and electric motor work with lrt anyways and the trolley buses utilize the same technology.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted July 10, 2014 at 16:41:18

For my part, there isn't much confusion in what has been promised. The Government of Ontario has promised to cover the capital costs of whatever transit system Hamilton chooses. To top that, we are all Ontario and Hamilton taxpayers so, one way or another, those capital costs are being addressed. The big question is, not what is affordable, but what is appropriate.

RTH has mentioned several times the lower city, at its current level of HSR service, is actually making money! See "pass-by" references above and existing demand to support LRT/BRT of whatever right out of the gate. So, the question in the lower city is not how to grow ridership from scratch (unlike other parts of the GTA) but rather how do we build on already good ridership to attract non-riders and how to accelerate the development of the lower city?

If we go into the BRT/LRT debate with that question top of mind, the issues turns quickly from being a simple point a to point b in as cheap a way as possible debate into how much investment dollars can be spent to get as big a return as possible in property tax elevations.

LRT wins hands down from every study or report or case example I've seen.

I think that answer gets lost in the confusion over what LRT is suppose to be.

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By wally (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 17:28:27

An advantage of BRT is that buses are free at certain points to leave the busway and become local service. This is flexibility that LRT does not have. If there is an accident blocking the tracks, an LRT is screwed. If a bus unit breaks down, the transit authority could probably divert standard units. You likely already have a bus repair depot, and so do not have to invest in a 20-acre train yard as LRT requires.

While buses do spew pollutants, LRT are not necessarily end-to-end cleaner. The electricity might come from Niagara falls, but then again, it might be imported from a coal-burning US plant. Newer bus generations of clean diesel or diesel hybrids might help as well. Rubber tires on buses do wear quicker than steel wheels LRT but are probably quieter. FWIW Montreal subway uses rubber tires.

Buses do not have unsightly overhead wires.

Finally, I'm guessing an articulated bus has about the same capacity as a 2-unit LRT.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 21:30:33 in reply to Comment 103170

An advantage of BRT is that buses are free at certain points to leave the busway and become local service.

Then it's not BRT. It's just an express bus which is what we have now.

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By wally (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 17:33:40

You could build a BRT first, and convert to LRT later.

You build the dedicate right-of-way, stations or stops, and the traffic light priority system. Run the buses on that. If you later decide to have an LRT, you add tracks, overhead wires, power substations, and buy some LRTs.

If you build an LRT first, the capital cost (and therefore risk) is much higher.

Once again, BRT is flexible. You can start cheaper, and upgrade later.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2014 at 10:10:03 in reply to Comment 103172

Yes, you can convert from BRT to LRT. Likewise, you can convert from LRT to BRT. However, in either case, you're doing the job twice. Again, the Government of Ontario (and all taxpayers) have already promised to cover the capital costs of whatever transit system Hamilton chooses, this is a mute point. The debate is about what is the most appropriate system for the lower city not what is the cheapest. Again, the lower city already has money-making ridership that will be able to sustain dedicated linear mass transit from day one (BRT or LRT). The question now is - if we are going to spend multi-millions of dollars of taxpayer money ANYWAY, and tear up our streets ANYWAY, what's the biggest bang for our buck?

LRT wins that debate from every study, case example, advocacy group and economist I've seen.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 21:33:08 in reply to Comment 103172

You could build a BRT first, and convert to LRT later.

Wait, what? I assumed you were advocating BRT as a lower cost option. This is hands down the most expensive option. Since you don't seem to have a problem with throwing money around, why not just do it right the first time?

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By redmike (registered) | Posted July 10, 2014 at 21:09:25 in reply to Comment 103172

is that "allan taylor"? wally reaaallllyy reminds me of "allan taylor"

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 10, 2014 at 18:16:13 in reply to Comment 103172

But the capital cost of both phases is going to be astronomical compared to the single-phase LRT. BRT systems can involve a full concrete road. Unless the LRT and the BRT have the exact same ground clearance (including the rail lines) that concrete road would have to be ripped out for LRT. How's that for cost?

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