Special Report: Light Rail

HSR Ten Year Strategy Very Different from What Council Requested

Council needs to push back on this plan and start asking some hard questions about how the city's transit strategy has drifted so far from what staff were directed to produce.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 04, 2015

this article has been updated

With the draft HSR Ten Year Local Transit Strategy [PDF] being presented to General Issues Committee today, it is worth reviewing the Council motion that directed staff to create this document.

The motion [PDF], which former Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie introduced on June 19, 2013, refers to $45 million in new funding for local transit service to be funded mainly from local sources.

It also reiterates the goal, which Council first approved in the Transporation Master Plan, of increasing annual transit use to 80-100 trips per capita by 2025.

The report which staff have prepared looks very different from what they were asked to do. The cost has ballooned to $302 million, driven mainly by a $200 million bus storage and maintenance facility, and most of the new capital cost is expected to come from the Province.

Likewise, most of the new operating cost is expected to come from fare increases, in violation of the principle that transit operating cost should be shared equitably between riders and taxpayers.

Perhaps worst of all, the Strategy itself acknowledges that it will completely fail to achieve Council's ridership target. The only way to reach that target, according to the Strategy, is for the City to go ahead with its rapid transit plan.

The Metrolinx regional transportation fund was established to provide Provincial funding for regional rapid transit projects. It was under the auspices of this funding framework that Hamilton started its rapid transit plan in early 2008.

The understanding was that the Province would pay for rapid transit, while the municipality would pay for local bus transit and integrate the two in a comprehensive transit system.

That is what McHattie's motion called for: local transit spending to boost service levels citywide and support the city's rapid transit plan so Hamilton can achieve its transit goals.

Instead, we have been presented a local transit strategy that offloads funding to the Province, displacing our rapid transit capital request and indefinitely deterring the investment that is needed to achieve our transit goals.

Council needs to push back on this plan and start asking some hard questions about how the city's transit strategy has drifted so far from what staff were directed to produce.

Here is the text of the motion:

Implementation of Rapid Ready - Local Transit Service Improvements and Financial Strategy

Whereas, the Rapid Ready report addresses the need for a $45M investment in local public transit in order to serve the needs of Hamiltonians, and to serve the rapid transit routes;

And Whereas the Rapid Ready report, building on earlier recommendations in Council's Transportation Master Plan (TMP) (2007), calls for transit ridership in Hamilton to increase to 80-100 rides per capita from its current level of 45 rides per capita;

And Whereas the TMP also calls for a doubling of public transit use over the next 15 years from a daily modal split of 6% today to 12% in the 2021 to 2031 long term time frame;

And Whereas the 2010 Operational Review of transit identifies specific priority service level improvements, emphasizing the need for more buses on Hamilton Mountain, and in the former area municipalities;

And Whereas, notwithstanding local transit service improvements made with Provincial Gas Tax funding, there has been no City investment in transit service improvements over the past decade;

And Whereas it is important to consider all sources of funding to improve local transit service levels including but not limited to parking revenues, fare increases, resolution of the transit area rating plan, City operating budget, and funding from the Provincial and Federal governments;

And Whereas the economic, environmental, health and social benefits of public transit are well-known.

Therefore Be It Resolved:

(a) That staff come forward with recommendations for consideration during the 2014 operating and capital budget process with the first priorities for local transit service improvements to begin implementing Rapid Ready;

(b) That staff report back in time for the 2015 budget process to the new City Council on a ten-year Hamilton local transit service level strategy, including specific route recommendations and a financial strategy, with reference to the role played by rapid transit, and with a goal of reaching 80-100 rides per capita by 2025.


Update: this article originally contained a typo indicating that the motion was presented on June 19, 2003. It was actually presented on June 19, 2013. RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

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.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 09:56:41

2003? Seriously? This has been collecting dust for that long?
EDIT: reading through the original motion I'm guessing you meant to say 2013?

Comment edited by jason on 2015-03-04 09:57:41

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2015 at 10:00:04 in reply to Comment 109915

Arrgh, typo. Make that 2013.

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By Question (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 10:14:58

Where can citizens of this fine city go to complain when the elected city officials are clearly not representing them/ majority (e.g. King St. TOL)? Can the ombudsman do anything?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2015 at 10:54:22 in reply to Comment 109917

Can the ombudsman do anything?

Not yet, but once Bill 8: Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act is proclaimed into law, the Ombudsman will gain some oversight powers over municipalities, school boards and universities operate.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 11:57:02 in reply to Comment 109918

Sorry, but I do not believe this is something that an Ombudsman should be looking at. What on earth would this person base any sort of investigation on?

For example, with all the good arguments showcased here (and last night, at the event at Mills Hardware), it's pretty clear that pro-LRTers in Hamilton are passionately supportive of the cause. And you may feel that Councillors 'are clearly not representing them/majority'.

But how do you know that this viewpoint is the 'majority'? (And please don't simply point to the 1,600 or so residents who were consulted when the plan at the beginning of this decade was being worked on. Because frankly, that's a specious argument when you consider what percentage of Hamiltonians that number represented.)

What if you took a vote, if you were -magically- able to get everyone eligible to cast their ballot, and it turned out that the 'majority' were against LRT? What then?

Or, for the sake of argument, let's suppose that despite this referendum result, Council nevertheless decided to go ahead with LRT. And, assuming that the Ombudsman was empowered to 'do something about' it and the 'majority' went to him saying 'the elected civic officials were clearly not representing them'? What then?

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

One of the takeaways for me last night...even putting aside some of the glaring-yet-unspoken differences between Waterloo and Hamilton...was that Waterloo had constructed and maintained across several administrations the conviction of a pro-LRT vision. And the primary way they did this? (Beyond having the right people voted in)

They did a great job of selling LRT to residents. Something that in a Spec op-ed last summer, I pointed out that Hamilton had not seen. (No matter that Ryan took the time to deconstruct my piece here.)

So, to repeat: LRT has never been sold well to Hamiltonians. And by 'sold' I mean provided information, promoted discussion, had passionate advocates, and by 'Hamiltonians' I mean all Hamiltonians. Not just people who get involved in civic engagement in the lower city, most notably by downtowners and environs west.

This point was actually conceded last night: "What have you heard about LRT in the last four years?" UKS Hamilton co-founder Maureen Wilson asked the 120 or so people packed into the Mills Hardware space on King Street. "What have we been doing about LRT in the last four years? Let's start putting it back on the agenda."

For me, here's the basic truth, one I have always gotten derision for, because it connotes the notion that I am trying to dictate how people should be going about promoting and producing civic engagement: Don't look to Council to 'sell' LRT. They won't. It's too contentious, no matter what their voting on it has been in the past. Don't look for the City to do it, no matter what faith Mayor Eisenberger has in a public consult. If you want to change Councillors' minds on this subject, if you want them to act with the kind of conviction and certitude their counterparts in Waterloo have done, you need to get out into the communities and do the selling yourselves. And this applies to any issue. You want another example? Ward boundary reform. It was badly handled by proponents, convincing and widespread support was not illustrated by the petitioners, and therefore, 'defeated'. (Yeah; it was kicked down the road to the current Council to deal with. Which, even with an optimist's spin, equates to 'defeated'.)

Because unless the implications of what today's Spec's article today notes ('Waterloo chair preaches LRT to Hamilton converted') is fully acknowledged and conceded by pro-LRTers, unless there is a concerted effort to generate support at the neighbourhood level, you're going to be faced with unnecessary heartbreak.

To quote one of Canada's best observers-by-way-of-music:

'Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight Gotta kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.'

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2016 at 13:27:11 in reply to Comment 109921

Let's also mention I am impressed by NiagaraGO's passion in bringing GO train service to the Niagara area:

"Niagara smashes through barriers to GO rail expansion"

Also following developments on the @NiagaraGO twitter, as well as www.niagarago.ca.

All the different Niagara-area mayors -- who normally fight each other -- are so unified behind Niagara GO expansion that they worked nearly unamiously hard on this. Given 17 obstacles from Ontario, solved all of them, and committed 1/3rd of the cost of the GO expansion. Now Ontario is working with them. Obviously, this is still tentative, but is quite an obvious incremental improvement to GO service that is easily doable by the end of this decade (assuming #elxn2018 doesn't cancel this mid-construction, 1990s Eglinton Subway Style).

Now they've successfully gotten (provisionally) included in the 2016 Ontario budget. They even, on their own initiative, successfully negotiated a Welland canal GO priority guarantee! (boats now have to wait for GO trains). This is a recent breakthrough. West Harbour GO will be a stop on the new Niagara service, assuming this momentum keeps up.

There is a June 2016 announcement on Niagara GO expansion. West Harbour GO becomes a major stop on the new Niagara 2-way commuter service (yay for #HamOnt, too).

Corollary: I wish Hamilton City council had a similar zeal as the team of Niagara area mayors, on transit improvements in Hamilton (especially HSR).


Side note #1: If only we market HSR better, with publicity, a HSR website, a HSR twitter, and some minor HSR service optimizations (predictability) -- we could win FEDERAL funding for the HSR bus garage expansion more quickly. Federal is currently quickly shoveling money right now to shovel-ready transit/infrastructure projects Canada-wide. Every unfunded transit related project that already had their EA and is shovel-ready, are potential recipients in the next 12 months. Why are we missing this opportunity to get the garage funded, and a potential HSR fleet expansion? In other words: Why are we leaving this MONEY on the table? (This is a separate debate than "how much should the bus garage cost" which the article aims at)

Side note #2: Even today, I sometimes get confused whether I'm able to catch #10 B-Line Express (stops service shortly after ~7pm weekdays, doesn't run weekends) or have to wait for a #1. Google Maps on my phone helps, but it needs to be better. Not everyone uses a smartphone, or knows enough to use transit apps, to "trust" a bus stop. Consider the elderly, as well as those who can't afford data. I often don't bother, and often just grab a SoBi bike, or drive my car (to Aldershot GO), since my working hours often varies wildly due to working late. Depending on where I am in the city, I don't even know which bus stop actually has running buses -- there are multiple bus stops in Hamilton that confusing has no buses stopping at them for several daylight hours (they instead go to an adjacent bus stop for example). It is my opinion that all municipal bus stops (not clearly visibly labelled as "LIMITED SERVICE") should always have a bus passing the stop all day long. Toronto relies on this assumption. I like transit, but why is HSR so confusing sometimes to the point where I don't always bother? Let's fix HSR. Improve HSR clarity 100% across the board. Not just to improve transit numbers, but also to attract FUNDING -- MONEY. Studies/reports are important, but better service visibility, all across the board, reducing confusion, online and offline, makes it easier to keep all of this "on the radar" (including internal government communications, etc).

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-03-04 13:57:47

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By Eggem (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 12:29:02 in reply to Comment 109921

You say a lot without saying anything. Bottom-line is that when presented with the facts most rational people would agree LRT is good for Hamilton. Those that took the time to become educated and expressed their voice, which was/ is a considerable number were blatantly ignored and ironically accused of 'hijacking' the process. This is BS, and I'm all for whipping eggs at corrupt leaders.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 14:09:03 in reply to Comment 109928

Thae fact that you think people are rational is first thing you must do away with in order to sell the LRT, because people for the most part aren't rational, they are emotional beings.

Ask any successful salesperson and most will tell you that people more often than not buy on emotion. Think of house hunting, when someone "loves" a house, it doesnt matter that its farther from work, or any other rational thing. It's "the one". Same with car purchase. There's a reason we all don't drive in sensible cars, emotion. The same goes for all kinds of things, you name it.

You can have a better mousetrap, but there's no guarantee that anyone will buy it unless somehow you can get them emotional about it.


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By Yessir (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 15:58:46 in reply to Comment 109938

Not emotion, but desire. There will always be problems where desire rules the intellect. But I think rationale and desire come together nicely with LRT.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 20:00:46 in reply to Comment 109943

Desire leads you astray. Watch Body Heat.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 13:48:59 in reply to Comment 109928

when presented with actual facts most rational people would agree LRT is a great waste of money.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2016 at 01:41:29 in reply to Comment 109932

To H1:

Imgur

It looks like it's only 10% of area. But did you know the total population of Ward 1-4 is more than 25% of population? They are the population-dense wards. Denser areas get upgraded transit (e.g. subways, LRTs, etc). From Census 2011, Ward 1-4 had a grand total population of (29515+37950+39090+34975)=141,530 people. Metro-wide, population is 519K. Mathematically, 141K/519K = just Wards 1-4 is a full 27% of population -- pulling far more percentage than the seemingly tiny area.

If you're asking rural Ancaster residents, yes, I suppose most there are probably against LRT. But if you're asking urban Ward 1-4 residents, most are in favour of LRT unless you cherrypick areas (e.g. residents who live near industrial Burlington Ave).

Does that mean LRT is a waste of money? NO. It's a large transit initiative that fits together as one large GO+HSR+LRT transit expansion in the next 10 years. All-day GO service, LRT service, and a (roughly) doubled HSR bus fleet -- combined, makes transit far more attractive in Hamilton.

Small World Class Cities (of 500,000 population) often have excellent transit which invariably include a package of what HSR+LRT+GO hopefully should be in 10 years from now. That said, the HSR file certainly will need more work, to help both GO and LRT.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-03-05 01:51:28

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2016 at 01:47:21 in reply to Comment 116843

Also, we should be enthusaic about incremental A-Line LRT extensions to accomodate Mountain residents. Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo have Stage 2 extension work under way while their first LRTs are still under construction, and we can strive to have that, and it's possible to have, say, election 2022 provide funding for an incremental extension that services the Mountain -- while B-Line LRT is still under construction.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 22:56:42 in reply to Comment 109932

You keep using that word "facts" I am not sure it means what you think it does.

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By Charlie (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 13:57:47 in reply to Comment 109932

And comments like that is why you always get faded out.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2015 at 12:15:21 in reply to Comment 109921

how do you know that this viewpoint is the 'majority'?

The OP mentioned the transit-only lane vote. We know that two independent controlled surveys were conducted citywide. The first survey had badly designed leading questions and only called land lines, which means it skewed older and more conservative. It found that more Hamiltonians wanted to keep the bus lane and continue public engagement than to get rid of it. The second survey had much better designed questions and a more representative calling model, and found that a 67 percent of Hamiltonians - a two-thirds majority - preferred to keep the bus lane and make the staff-suggested improvements.

Council voted to kill the bus lane anyway.

Section 2 of the Council Code of Conduct states:

2. The key statements of principle that underlie the Code of Conduct are as follows:

a. Members of Council shall serve and be seen to serve their constituents in a conscientious and diligent manner;

b. Members of Council shall be committed to performing their functions with integrity and to avoiding the improper use of the influence of their office, and conflicts of interest, both apparent and real;

c. Members of Council shall perform their duties in office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny; and

d. Members of Council shall seek to serve the public interest by upholding both the letter and the spirit of the laws and policies established by the Federal Parliament, Ontario Legislature, and Council.

Just last week, Councillor Maria Pearson was chastised in an Integrity Commissioner report for relying on an informal survey to gauge public opinion on a contentious rezoning application, though the report stopped short of concluding that she had violated Section 2 of the Council Code of Conduct.

My sense is that there is an important potential role for the Ombudsman to play in ensuring that the decisions Council makes are consistent with the evidence and the weight of public opinion in the light of sufficient public engagement.

Of course, YMMV.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 16:29:56 in reply to Comment 109923

Ryan I hope so because what's being sold as "silent majority" and half-ass surveying is total BS.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 13:59:46 in reply to Comment 109923

I do not believe that representatives should vote according to opinion polls. I agree with Edmund Burke.

... it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 18:08:46 in reply to Comment 109936

Measure in all is best.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2015 at 15:21:14 in reply to Comment 109936

To be fair, what I wrote was: "... consistent with the evidence and the weight of public opinion in the light of sufficient public engagement." There are three distinct elements to that statement: 1) the evidence, 2) the weight of public opinion, and 3) the fact of sufficient public engagement. All three are important and worthy of due consideration.

The best policy decisions happen when the best available evidence is shared widely and when people have a full, constructive opportunity to talk and listen to each other. When our leaders practice responsible, engaged leadership, those three elements tend to move into harmony and good policies bubble up.

The public won't have good opinions if they don't get good information and don't have the chance to see and participate in responsible discourse. As Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

The role of responsible leadership includes discussing and debating issues with people who hold different opinions in such a way that reasonable people are persuaded to review their opinions in the face of compelling evidence.

What is clear is that the wedge politics of pandering to ignorance, narrow interest and fear is all but guaranteed to produce the kind of bad public opinions that provide cover for craven, self-serving policies.

Likewise, appeals to a notional "silent majority" provide cover to imagine any conclusion you want, since the very silence becomes a blank canvas on which to paint whatever conclusion suits the leader's interest. That said, "silent majority" appeals tend to work best when used in defence of the status quo, since it is always easier to leave something alone than to change it.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 07, 2015 at 10:49:12 in reply to Comment 109941

Ryan, I agree with you. I am mostly reacting to other commentators here who appear to believe in government by opinion polls.

Also , the "Silent Majority" nonsense is based upon Richard Nixon's Great Silent Majority Speech. I would suggest that using Richard Nixon's political techniques says a great deal about the people doing so...

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 05, 2015 at 20:34:22 in reply to Comment 109941

There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the emnity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one. -Niccolo Machiavelli

http://www.quotessays.com/images/machiav...

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 14:49:29 in reply to Comment 109936

I completely agree. This new world of twitter is making it very difficult for them to adhere to these standards but they have to buckle up and be leaders.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2015 at 15:22:24 in reply to Comment 109939

I'm not sure what twitter has to do with lacking the courage to choose the more difficult but better decision. Most councillors simply ignore what their constituents are sharing with each other on social media.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 18:19:55 in reply to Comment 109942

Back in the day, the vast majority, and by that I mean the VAST vast majority, wanted the Red Hill Creek built. That didn't matter to those who opposed it. And today, those same people justify the millions of dollars of waste they caused on their belief that they fought the good fight.

Politics is a difficult business. While I am not a huge Burke fan, we live in a representative democracy. Those are the rules of our game.

The trouble is that getting things done (ala LRT) is a lot harder than delaying or stopping something (ala Red Hill Creek.) One big reason is simply inertia which is why so many people love one way streets. It is hard to get people to change their ways. It is hard to get people to take chances when they are largely happy with the way things are.

Lamenting it does not help. The only answer, in the words of Frederick Douglas, is to agitate, agitate. It may take a long time, but if in the end your position is sound, your efforts will be rewarded.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-03-04 18:22:32

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By BigBrother (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 11:58:35

No timeline to implement measures to improve accountability of elites and government officials, but in the meantime bill C-51 is being rushed through?

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted March 04, 2015 at 15:10:12

I do not understand why they would be proposing to raise all additional funds from fares. As mentioned in the article, it is an accepted principle that the property tax levy pays for transit (our farebox recovery is less than half right now), so why should the levy not pay for part of the proposed improvements?

Fares last went up in 2010. I can understand we may be due for an increase. But these are not insignificant increases. Since 2010, the Consumer Price Index has increased by about 9%. The proposal is for the adult ticket price to increase by 12.5 percent; for the cash fare to increase by 17.6% (double the rate of CPI increases over the last five years); and for the monthly pass to increase by 13.8% for adults (and significantly more for seniors). The proposal then calls for increases (for adult passes) in excess of 4% every year thereafter for the next three, and in the future “annual fare increases of at least CPI.” I assume that means transit riders should expect above-inflationary fare increases from now on, and should plan accordingly.

This seems to be adding insult to injury. The riders who will pay these increased fares are the people who have stuck by the system even as it has offered declining utility. Now, they are being asked to fund- alone- all of the proposed improvements, which they won’t start to experience for several years. Some of them will have in the meantime stopped using transit because of the added cost, either making investments in other forms of transportation (I mean, in some cases buying a car and adding costs to the municipal budget that way), or else just making new habits that do not involve transit.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2016 at 13:59:50 in reply to Comment 109940

I'm also wondering why they aren't considering possible federal funding. Federal is anxious to fund shovel-ready transit projects Canada-wide, and this could be one of them.

Side note #1: If only we market HSR better, with publicity, a HSR website, a HSR twitter, and some minor HSR service optimizations (predictability) -- we could win FEDERAL funding for the HSR bus garage expansion more quickly. Federal is currently quickly shoveling money right now to shovel-ready transit/infrastructure projects Canada-wide. Every unfunded transit related project that already had their EA and is shovel-ready, are potential recipients in the next 12 months. Why are we missing this opportunity to get the garage funded, and a potential HSR fleet expansion? In other words: Why are we leaving this MONEY on the table?* (This is a separate debate than "how much should the bus garage cost" which the article aims at)

Side note #2: Even today, I sometimes get confused whether I'm able to catch #10 B-Line Express (stops service shortly after ~7pm weekdays, doesn't run weekends) or have to wait for a #1. Google Maps on my phone helps, but it needs to be better. Not everyone uses a smartphone, or knows enough to use transit apps, to "trust" a bus stop. Consider the elderly, as well as those who can't afford data. I often don't bother, and often just grab a SoBi bike, or drive my car (to Aldershot GO), since my working hours often varies wildly due to working late. Depending on where I am in the city, I don't even know which bus stop actually has running buses -- there are multiple bus stops in Hamilton that confusing has no buses stopping at them for several daylight hours (they instead go to an adjacent bus stop for example). It is my opinion that all municipal bus stops (not clearly visibly labelled as "LIMITED SERVICE") should always have a bus passing the stop all day long. Toronto relies on this assumption. I like transit, but why is HSR so confusing sometimes to the point where I don't always bother? Let's fix HSR. Improve HSR clarity 100% across the board. Not just to improve transit numbers, but also to attract FUNDING -- MONEY. Studies/reports are important, but better service visibility, all across the board, reducing confusion, online and offline, makes it easier to keep all of this "on the radar" (including internal government communications, etc).*

We're the city where we can potentially get hurt the most by fare increases. Decreases in ridership could potentially hurt our merits of becoming a recipient of funding the bus garage by alternate funding sources (e.g. Federal funds, future Metrolinx quick-wins, 2018 election opportunities, etc).

While fare raises may be needed at some point due to inflation, we currently have built up many low-lying ridership-increase opportunities that are relatively cheap. At $2.15 (via Presto), we are one of the cheaper bus services and I understand this may not be sustainable. But that said, we could increase farebox recovery quite a bit in the next 1-2 years with some well-optimized changes including new users attracted by much easier schedule access.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-03-04 14:07:40

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2016 at 14:24:03 in reply to Comment 116826

...and it doesn't even have to be expensive.

Fortunately, HSR fleet is GPS tracked and its real-time data is accessible by Open Data these days (Kudos). So other apps now routinely use HSR data.

Thanks to HTML5 embeds (Google Maps embed, Transit App embed; TTC uses it at bottom-right corner), the cost of building a HSR website has probably fallen 90%! Just hire a place like Factor[e] or Wise&Hammer, no need for mega corporations for such a bus service.

There's already content on hamilton.ca for maps and www.busweb.hamilton.ca:8008/ (doesn't work through a firewall, I can't look this up from my office) for HSR info. Just merge it into the new website. Give a small local business some business!

Just get it done. It's cheap nowadays, and could help us win alternate sources of funding for HSR improvements of all kinds (including helping getting the bus garage funded). Send a small 5-figure sum to one of the local web outfits. Maybe even low 6-figure if you're looking for a Rolls Royce, but there's so many islands of existing HSR bus content and functioning HSR-compatible 's available (that even works on iPads too!), that they can easily be merged into an official website.

For example, look at how impressive the Matthew Green campaign website had been (they used Wise&Hammer!), and he didn't have to spend a million dollars to run a campaign website almost worthy of a country presidential campaign.

We need to win funding for an HSR expansion.
All cylinders need to be fired, including low-lying apples like these, line up all ducks in order.

Whether online fixes or offline fixes. Low lying apples.

Offline fixes: Even a simple thing such as a "LIMITED SERVICE" or "HOURS: XX:XX] sign on specific bus stops (that has no buses at all during some daylight hours), to things like merging the existing content into a unified mobile-friendly HSR bus website, to provide a "united front" of cheap HSR bus improvements. Whether it's a 20 A-Line Express bus stop (no buses for several hours midday -- in large text rather than fine schedule print) or one of those multiple bus stops near City Hall on Main (separated by route numbers, so that some stops has service at some hours, and it's super easy to stand at the wrong bus stop). I got a very bad impression the first three times I used HSR in Hamilton, because of newbie mistakes like confusing #10 B-Line Express versus #1 bus route, or standing at a bus stop that had no service, etc.

"First-time user marketability of HSR needs to improve"

How about low lying apple fixes???

Clarity. Consistency.

Heck, maybe they can begin by spending just a mere $XX,XXX (five figures) (on one quick fix at a time, like new unified website) to dramatically increase online visibility (and become mobile web friendly too) to better impress the hell out of other government levels who's trying to decide which city X and Y are worthy of what amount of seven, eight, nine or more figures of transit funding. Can't this proceed?

Obviously this is a separate question than "How much should a bus garage cost?" (this article fodder) but if all of this were done, then funding to fill the ENTIRE bus garage, could follow a heck lot more easily in the future if we all spent time focussing on the little things (physical and online), all of which are individually cheap. HSR need to be trusted that they CAN quickly do low-lying-apple improvements, to win the bigger fish.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-03-04 14:47:18

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