Special Report: Light Rail

Rapid Transit 2.0: Toward a Successful Plan for Hamilton

We need to harness and re-invigorate the rapid transit planning process and send a strong message to the province that we get it, we want to stop sprawling and start intensifying in a serious way, we're all in on your vision for the region and are willing

By Chris Higgins
Published April 29, 2015

Dearest Hamilton, city I call home, your rapid transit plan sucks.

I mean, a lot of great work went into it over the last eight years, but it has clearly failed to capture the imagination of residents, the support of council, and the attention of the province.

I propose an intervention - a planning and thought exercise. One that can hopefully re-ignite the rapid transit file here. What follows is a long list of thoughts and strategies we can use to really make this project happen. They are broken out over 7 topics and are, of course, just my humble opinion.

Background

A State of Confusion

First, let's summarize 9 years of rapid transit planning in Hamilton since the McGuinty Liberals promised to build the the A- and B-Line LRTs:

LRT funding circle
LRT funding circle

What has transpired is an apparent state of confusion among all parties.

On the province's side, it has been consistent in repeatedly noting that it would fund 100% of a rapid transit project for Hamilton.

Previous minister of transport Glen Murray said it, current minister of transport Steven Del Duca said it, Premier Kathleen Wynne said it, and the new provincial budget allocates money for 'rapid transit' for Hamilton with vague shading indicating it won't get off the ground for at least a few more years.

That is RT, not LRT or BRT. To affix a B or L to the RT, the province has made it pretty clear in the past that we need to decide what our priorities are. If we want LRT, they've argued that serious work still needs to be done to solidify the LRT business case.

On the City's side, it spent $3 million of provincial money to plan for LRT. A litany of reports were produced, many public consultations took place and the line was planned to a state of 30 percent - implementation-ready when funding became available.

Then in 2011, priorities apparently changed to focus on all-day GO service instead and all work on LRT outside of the minimum required by the province was suspended. Manager of the project Jill Stephen resigned for greener pastures shortly after, and her replacement Justin Readman followed suit in 2013.

Still, to make its case for LRT, the City submitted the 'Rapid Ready' report to the province back in 2013. Then this past January council voted to kill the Metrolinx-funded King Street bus lane pilot project, sending a nice signal about how suburban councillors in particular view transit in the core.

Vote to kill bus lane (Image Credit: Alistair Morton)
Vote to kill bus lane (Image Credit: Alistair Morton)

Then a week later it briefly seemed like things were finally moving on the file as Mayor Eisenberger left a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne stating that the province would fund 100 percent of the B-Line LRT.

But the Premier then followed up by noting that no specific commitment to LRT had in fact been made, and that the province would fund whatever option we decided.

Then, in March, council added a request for $300 million for new buses and a $200 million bus maintenance facility as part of a ten-year strategy to build ridership in preparation for rapid transit.

Besides coming totally out of left-field, the ten-year strategy has us in the paradox of arguing we need to increase transit ridership in preparation for rapid transit, all the while noting that ridership will not meaningfully increase until we have rapid transit.

Furthermore, the Mayor warned that this motion could be construed by the Province as an implicit willingness to defer the B-Line LRT, which by all accounts it has been.

Finally, the most recent development is that we are now deferring the rapid transit file to a Citizens' Forum to re-examine plans and decide on the best way forward, though terms of reference have not yet been decided.

The Province Moves On

In the time we have been dithering here, LRTs have been funded in Waterloo, Ottawa, Toronto, and now Mississauga and Brampton. And with the release of the new provincial budget, things really couldn't be more clear.

Basically, all indications from the province have been: Look, we will fund a project, just get your sh-- together Hamilton.

Given the complete lack of consensus surrounding the rapid transit file from council even with 100 percent funding, I can't say I blame them.

Just look, we have the 'Bad':

Hey Doug, fun fact: the B-Line serves your ward! Check the maps further down.

And the Ugly:

While I am sure Councillor VanderBeek read the Rapid Ready LRT report front to back since taking office, she apparently missed this bit about utility costs being considered part of the project:

Preparatory Works: Includes the removal of existing pavement surfaces along the corridor for the construction of the guideway, relocation of signs, signal heads, controllers, etc. Also includes cost estimates to remove/relocate/install all structures for municipal services (water, sanitary & storm water) and the relocation of infrastructure for hydro, communications and gas.

Ward 5's Chad Collins is particularly incredible as the B-Line LRT would actually travel to his ward.

Councillor Chad Collins of Ward 5 ... doesn't want LRT even with full capital funding. Investment in GO Transit is a safer bet, he said, and he worries about the implications of LRT funding on improvements to the rest of the transit system.

Because why support rapid transit for thousands of riders when you can fight for rapid transit for hundreds?

[Collins] has become a vocal opponent since the fall election, saying his residents don't want it and that it will hurt business. He also took an active role in killing a two-kilometre downtown bus lane seen as a precursor to LRT. He said on Monday that the Eisenberger and Wynne news didn't sway him.

Apparently immune to irony or the consequences of his position, he continues to press the province for information on funding for a project he doesn't support:

@Kathleen_Wynne thank you for investing in Ontario municipalities, however can you please confirm what you've allocated for #hamont?

— Chad Collins (@Chad_Collins5) April 23, 2015
And:

I don't know why they wouldn't just say "here's $900 million for Hamilton." I don't understand how all other communities have made submissions, and we've put in our submission and we still don't know.

Break the Cycle

How to get beyond this confusion? It is time to break the cycle. What follows is a high-level work plan for rapid transit in Hamilton.

Now normally the prudent thing to do is let the city's Rapid Transit staff do their jobs, but, well, who might they be?

Understand the Parameters

To start, let's look at some parameters informing my thought process.

Assumed Capital Funding

Our first parameter is an assumption of about $1 billion in available funding for Hamilton. It could be less, it could be more, no one knows.

But other regions and municipalities have secured that amount or more, and our present ask is for about $1.1 billion between the B-Line LRT and ten-year transit strategy.

The province, of course, has not committed to any amount. But I think the point is if we can come up with a solid business plan, they will fund it.

Emphasis on Regional GO Connections

When the mayor left his meeting with premier Kathleen Wynne, she noted that whatever project we build, the province would like it to connect to their new GO station on James North.

This is a reasonable request - a large chunk of the provincial budget for transit is focused on regional connections, and our two GO stations are urban and parking constrained, so using transit to feed them is entirely logical.

GO Service Adjustments

That said, there appears to be a renewed focus on the Hunter Street GO Station from the province.

The Bratina years were marked by a focus on attaining all-day two-way GO service at the James North GO Station by 2015. The station is on track to open, and the recent provincial budget process has revealed that electrified, all-day, two-way and 15-minute Regional Express Rail (RER) service would come to the Lakeshore West line, but only to Burlington GO station.

Instead, Hamilton would get four trains a day at James North and hourly service between the existing Hunter Street GO station with more trains during peak hours.

We're clearly left a bit out in the cold on the electrification and 15-minute service front. This is understandable, given the revised timeframe to implement RER and the fact that Metrolinx does not yet own track beyond Burlington GO.

It's disappointing nonetheless, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding RT in Hamilton. But the point is, there seems to be a renewed emphasis on the Hunter Street GO station as the primary connection point between Hamilton and the rest of the region, and this will have to be taken into account.

Rapid Transit Benefits

I will assume we are all well-versed in the potential benefits of rapid transit in Hamilton. If not, it is worth a re-visit to the city's old LRT website.

Note that the problems I have previously raised with such assumed benefits is the idea that they will accrue to Hamilton by virtue of LRT when instead they rely on supportive policy and planning (see below). Anyone who assumes LRT is a 'magic bullet' is kidding themselves.

Regional Planning

The province of Ontario is the de facto regional planner for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and in my opinion they're largely doing a good job of it.

For Hamilton, the Greenbelt provides a boundary to urban sprawl, and the province has designated nodes and corridors in which we are to intensify to ensure the city grows in a responsible manner.

Hamilton intensification areas
Hamilton intensification areas

While we have paid lip service to the notion of nodes and corridors, I argued in a previous RTH article that we have yet to take any real action to ensure higher-density, mixed-use, multi-modal, and pedestrian friendly growth occurs in these areas.

Given how serious the province is about growth planning, I suggest we come around to these ideas and implement them into policy. And do it now, not just contingent on provincial dollars.

Political Constraints

One of the first rules of Political Science is that the decisions of governments are partly outcomes of the institutions that made them.

In our case here, amalgamation made us a single-tier municipality. Like the City of Toronto, this means there is no second-tier regional municipality looking over us like the Region of Waterloo, Halton, Peel, York, or Durham.

The cynic in me has come to believe that this governance structure is in many ways incompatible with sensible long-range transit planning.

Essentially, with only ward councillors, the only voice for the whole city is the mayor, and given limits on mayoral powers in Ontario, he is just one voice among many on council.

In contrast, regional governments represent the best interests of the region as a whole. In the case of Waterloo, for example, LRT is being led by the regional government, which provides a layer of isolation from the intensely localized demands of municipal ward councillors.

Waterloo Regional reurbanization corridor
Waterloo Regional reurbanization corridor

In Toronto, we can see how single-tier government produces divides along urban and suburban lines, resulting in projects like the Sheppard and now Scarborough Subways, vastly overbuilt for their suburban contexts while higher-order transit in the downtown goes sorely needed.

And just when you think progress is being made, another election cycle jettisons the previous plan.

In Hamilton, things are arguably even worse. Compared to Toronto's urban and suburban divide, we are amalgamated with urban, suburban, and rural areas! Is it any wonder we cannot effectively plan and implement future visions of this city in increments longer than four-year election cycles?

Spectator editorial cartoonist Graeme Mackay recently ran a startlingly accurate cartoon that sums up the state of transit planning in Hamilton, where the fiefdoms of ward councillors trump planning for the best interests of the city as a whole:

Public Transit Map of the Fiefdoms of Hamilton, 2015 (Image Credit: Graeme MacKay)
Public Transit Map of the Fiefdoms of Hamilton, 2015 (Image Credit: Graeme MacKay)

Given that this is the only government we currently have, our choices are: A) design rapid transit in accordance with these constraints; or B) de-amalgamate and go back to a Hamilton-Wentworth regional government.

I guess we could do both, but given my time on this earth is finite and I would like to be riding rapid transit sometime here in the near future, I proceed from an assumption that we've all chosen answer A in the short-term.

For 'Rapid Transit Planning in Hamilton 2.0,' this may mean working with a keen eye to how decisions are made by designing a compromise that can reach more parts of the city.

As the options later will demonstrate, bringing more areas of the city into the conversation may be able to generate increased support for rapid transit.

Still, bringing more wards in may not change the opinions of councillors like Chad Collins who oppose LRT even when the current plan traverses their ward.

Here this likely comes down to more fundamental issues of world view wherein despite potential benefits, rapid transit may be seen as a threat to an automobile-oriented status quo.

Also worth keeping in mind: in 2007, Dalton McGuinty made a promise for two LRT lines in Hamilton, one that many have raised in frustration with our current state of affairs.

But there is one problem with this promise: the areas in which the lines would travel still didn't vote for him. While we have Ted McMeekin, Hamilton has consistently voted in members of the opposition in the downtown and central and east mountain provincial ridings.

Now let me stress that I don't believe for a second that the province is not governing in the best interests of all of Ontario. But as a thought exercise, it might be worth starting from the assumption that if the governing Liberals are going to pour $1 billion into a NDP stronghold, there better be a good business case.

Ridership and Density: Business Case Confusion

The B-Line corridor is already relatively dense and in my analysis, compares quite favourably with other LRT lines around the region. Note that the particular dataset we are using for employment under-represents employment at McMaster, which should be quite high.

Density: population and employment per hectare, B-Line corridor
Density: population and employment per hectare, B-Line corridor

As for how such density translates into ridership, two seemingly contradictory estimates along the B-Line LRT have come out, and it is hard to understand just what is going on.

First, Rapid Ready argued that on day one, at 1,000 daily boardings per km of track, Hamilton's LRT would achieve levels of ridership comparable to LRT peers in the base case, and an absolutely stellar doubling of ridership to 2,000 as a day-one high estimate. By 2031 we would be on par with Edmonton.

Looks good, right? However, poring over the numbers that informed this chart (Appendix A of Rapid Ready, which themselves come from the 2009 IBI Group HSR Operational Review), the assumptions seem wonky and are based on the LRT taking different proportions of ridership from different bus routes, and I am not sure how daily boardings was derived.

Daily B-Line LRT Boardings per Kilometre
Daily B-Line LRT Boardings per Kilometre

This year, an opposite take came out from David Dixon's 10-year transit strategy presentation, where using the metric of passengers per peak hour, it was noted we actually have pretty dismal ridership along the corridor, barely worthy of BRT let alone LRT.

Chart: appropriate transit mode at various peak passenger levels
Chart: appropriate transit mode at various peak passenger levels

So what's the deal? Is the B-Line LRT, or any rapid transit for that matter, a non-starter along the corridor?

Again I have no idea if Dixon's numbers make sense, where they came from, how long of a corridor they are averaging over, and whether they are based on the same 2009 by-hand counts conducted by the IBI group. Furthermore, they always seemed odd to me as a frequent user of buses along the corridor, where I regularly encounter this:

Not enough ridership!
Not enough ridership!

Looking for some numbers that made more sense, I re-estimated where we stand relative to our LRT peers. Using the 2009 full-year ridership numbers for the 1-King, 5-Delaware, 10-B-Line, and 51-University buses in Appendix A of Rapid Ready, I assumed all these lines would be incorporated into the new B-Line rapid transit.

Unlike the city's estimates in Rapid Ready, I left out the Stoney Creek lines and assumed no additional by-choice riders would be attracted. This results in a little more than 8.5 million annual riders along the corridor. Numbers for other cities are from 2014.

Where do we fall compared to yearly ridership totals for other LRT systems? Are we that dismal?

Annual riders and riders per km for various cities
Annual riders and riders per km for various cities

Well, the B-Line RT would fall about 20th among all 29 US and Canadian LRT systems, somewhere between San Jose and Pittsburgh. Not bad.

But this of course is an absolutely meaningless statistic, as many cities have much larger LRT systems and thus can attract more riders. Normalizing it by the length of each system provides a standardized view of annual ridership performance. Sorting by this, the results are telling:

Riders per km and annual riders for various cities
Riders per km and annual riders for various cities

Here, assuming a 13.4 km rapid transit corridor from planning documents, Hamilton's B-Line corridor boasts the sixth-best ridership per kilometre.

Sixth-best. Absorb that for a minute.

Never mind smaller peers like Charlotte or Minneapolis, that is better corridor ridership performance than cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, and even LRT poster-child Portland.

And this is just base ridership from 2009, which is before the McMaster U-Pass came into effect.

As for what that means for Dixon's ten-year transit plan numbers, either the IBI Group's counting kids were wrong, or some more explanation is needed.

Decide on an Alignment and Technology

The next task is to decide on an alignment and the transit technology to serve it. The way I see it, we have a few options.

Option 1: B-Line LRT with Spur

First is the B-Line as LRT.

B-Line LRT
B-Line LRT

The strengths of the B-Line are the corridor itself - high ridership, medium-to-high density, and many important trip generators along the line, from the downtown core to McMaster, the stadium, and Eastgate Square.

A new spur also connects the B-Line to the James North GO station as recommended by the province, though the Hunter Street GO station still lacks a direct connection.

Tight urban context along James Street and the International Village mean the LRT most likely runs in mixed-traffic like a streetcar. Using King for the LRT also allows automobile traffic in the eastbound and westbound directions to continue to use Main and Cannon respectively.

Compared to buses, LRT technology also maximizes the potential of the corridor to attract new riders and economic development, so long as the other steps related to supportive planning outlined later in this document are followed.

Downsides from a single-tier municipality point of view are that the B-Line only has stations in 6 wards - 1-5 and 9, which has resulted in some arguing that it does not benefit the whole city.

Still, the conditions along the B-Line mean LRT can be a home-run for Hamilton. If we are going to build one piece of infrastructure, this is clearly it.

But if we are really going to press reset on the rapid transit planning process in Hamilton by way of a citizen's panel, it is worth considering some of our other potential options.

(Sidenote: we could, and probably should convert Main, King, and Cannon to two-way traffic, but I don't see a cost-effective way of doing that as part of this project, given the massive costs involved in re-engineering the Highway 403 ramps. And they were just re-constructed. So unless there is a better idea, I think they will have to stay for now. Also, I don't think they are necessarily incompatible with urban and pedestrian friendly environments; many pedestrian-oriented cities have one-ways and work just fine. Instead, given our constraints, more complete streets and less parking downtown through TOD (see below) should be viewed as another way to solve the localized problems associated with these streets.)

Option 2: B-Line and A-Line BRT

The second option is BRT. For the B-Line, BRT has all the same parameters as Option 1 above, minus the extra kick that comes from the intangible (but proven) 'sexiness' of LRT, as well as higher operating costs from lower capacity and additional corridor pollution from diesel buses.

Nevertheless, we can't diminish the fact that BRT can provide exemplary rapid transit service and does so in many cities around the world.

But given the parameters we are working from, I see no reason to go to a BRT-only B-Line, aside of course from cost savings for the province. If we are going to build one corridor, it should be LRT.

I do however support the B-Line as BRT, conditional on also constructing the A-Line at the same time. If we can get two lines of BRT for the same capital expenditure as it would take to build just the B-Line as LRT, that would be an interesting proposition:

B-Line and A-Line BRT
B-Line and A-Line BRT

Such a plan achieves many goals: the B-Line works from its strengths in the lower city and could potentially be built right to Dundas.

To facilitate a shift in parking, I have extended the line westward one stop where park-and-ride service could be provided in the hydro lands west of McMaster. Similar park-and-ride roles in the central and east end can be played by sharing parking at the stadium on non-game days and at Eastgate Square (more on this below).

The A-Line, on the other hand, connects to both GO stations, the airport, Mohawk College, and the new developments that are slated to occur on the waterfront.

However, ridership on the A-Line is significantly lower than that of the B-Line, meaning headways will be longer to keep the service more cost-effective.

Note that while here I have the A-Line extending to Twenty Road, which is essentially greenfield, it would most likely stop at Rymal Road with only periodic service to exurban areas and the airport until demand grows.

But as a blank slate, greenfield also provides an amazing opportunity: master-planning this station area as a suburban TOD community integrated with the A-Line can create a sorely-needed anchor node and demonstrate our vision for creating more sustainable suburban development in the future.

Also worth noting, the Mountain Transit Centre storage yard is just a little bit further down the road, so A-Line buses will likely already be going there anyhow.

The A-Line in tandem with the B-Line can also impact congestion, something many here have cited as their primary lack of interest in B-Line transit.

One of the worst bottlenecks in our transportation system is at the intersection of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and Highway 403 in the AM and PM peak, and many travellers are using this route to travel to jobs in the downtown and the west end.

Rapid transit and park-and-ride facilities can shift some of this demand to transit, potentially relieving some of this congestion.

To summarize, what emerges from this option is the start of a network of rapid transit across the city, the benefits of which can outweigh the downsides of BRT. And from a local political perspective, the addition of A-Line service brings more wards into the conversation, particularly those on the mountain.

There is precedent for such action. With the help of the province and Metrolinx, York Region is presently active in constructing two full dedicated-lane BRT lines (37 km at a provincially-funded cost of $1.4 billion) branded as 'VIVA Rapidways', and aside from tracks the service can be similar to LRT:

VIVA BRT rendering
VIVA BRT rendering

In terms of cost, the Metrolinx King-Main Benefits Case estimated the cost of the full B-Line BRT as $220 million in 2010. Assuming the A-Line is similar, this suggests both could be constructed for less than the $750-850 million cost of the B-Line LRT.

Furthermore, what is confusing about all of this is that our additional $300 million ask to the province tacked on to Rapid Ready - for 25 new buses and a storage facility - is basically asking for the key pieces of BRT, but without any actual rapid transit planning. For comparison's sake, Metrolinx estimated we would need 36 buses for the B-Line BRT.

Option 3: A- B- and C-Line BRT

If we are really going to go the multiple-line BRT route, I think this is the option we should press for:

B-Line, A-Line and C-Line BRT
B-Line, A-Line and C-Line BRT

Call the lines whatever you want - red, yellow, and blue, 1, 2, and 3, or A, B, and C (something better than BLAST?). With only a few minor changes, we can maximize the potential of the A-Line corridor by sharing it with additional service to Limeridge Mall (which is designated as an Intensification Corridor in provincial and local planning) and Hamilton Health Science's growing hub of medical activity around the General Hospital on Barton Street.

The greater demand that results from these connections would also allow headways on the main trunk of the A- and C-Lines to be increased.

If Option 2 above leaves money to spare compared to the B-Line LRT, this option is both cost-effective, maximally-connected, and hopefully politically appealing for residents and council.

And lest you think I am making it all up, the core of this option was outlined on Page 34 of the original Rapid Transit Feasibility Study (PDF) - I have just added a no-brainer spur to Barton and moved it and the Limeridge link to a separate line.

Option 4: Hybrid Model

As a final option, let's consider a hybrid model that builds both the B-Line as LRT and the A-Line as BRT.

Phased B-Line LRT and A-Line BRT
Phased B-Line LRT and A-Line BRT

The phased option for LRT along the B-Line corridor has existed for some time, and was given prominent billing in both the Metrolinx King-Main Business Case Analysis and its cover letter [PDF].

But I would again argue that by omitting stations east of the Queenston Traffic Circle, savings on LRT should be used to build the A-Line BRT. Express or traditional bus service can connect the remainder of the B-Line corridor to the LRT. Stations west of McMaster and at Twenty Road can also be omitted if need be.

It makes sense from a cost perspective - in the Metrolinx BCA, the phased LRT has a cost of $655 million, leaving $345 million from our hypothetical $1 billion to fund the A-Line as BRT. From that, I would argue that if there is enough money left, we should do the phased B-Line LRT and both the A- and C-Lines as BRT depicted in Option 3.

Even if it is just the B- and A-Lines, this whole plan is a good compromise: LRT where it can have the greatest day-one impact, and the A-Line to connect it to the mountain, Mohawk, both GO stations, and the waterfront.

And the plan still reaches a number of wards, though 5 and 9 lose their stations. But as noted in the introduction, their councillors never wanted them anyway.

Option 5: Bare-Bones Phased LRT

One last option to be considered is the least ambitious of all: LRT from McMaster University to the James North GO Station. Note the original plan detailed below was for McMaster to James Street - I have amended it to reflect the premier's emphasis on a GO connection.

Bare-bones phased B-Line LRT
Bare-bones phased B-Line LRT

It may seem like this is a non-starter given the parameters I was basing this discussion around, but the idea has had some traction in the past. This is primarily seen in Jill Stephen's 'secret' memo in 2010, where talks were underway with Metrolinx to build this section of LRT in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. To paraphrase the text:

We also spoke about the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games and how that could factor into the decisions around rapid transit in Hamilton. John (Howe) introduced the idea of a hybrid decision and we discussed how Pan Am could be a catalyst for a funding decision ... We then spoke about the construction critical path ... This is when the statements about a phased LRT system for Hamilton were made. The phased system would run from McMaster to James Street and be in place in time for Pan Am.

If only... But as Jill's memo goes on, it is apparent that this plan fell by the wayside in favour of providing Hamilton with $3 million to design and engineer the B-Line LRT while waiting for further action. Said action has still not occurred in the 5 years since.

Despite its limited ambition, if it came to a matter of phasing, we could still do this in tandem with a B-Line BRT on the rest of the route and an A-Line BRT to MacNab transit terminal and gradually build out the rest of the network from there.

Enact Supportive Planning

Picking route options is the fun part, but this is where things get serious. Any choice must be supported by planning and policy. Non-negotiable. And the sooner you enact them (in advance of RT because we still presently have regular 'T'), the better.

Transit-Oriented Development

Planning for higher density, mixed-use, and pedestrian friendly development on Complete Streets is what we need to solidify the case for rapid transit here in Hamilton and to ensure it maximizes its return on investment.

It is easy to look at the successful examples of other cities with LRT such as Minneapolis, Portland, Charlotte, or Calgary and assume things here will be the same.

But the major conclusion from our 2012 LRT report for the city was that to achieve such success, rapid transit needs to be supported with complimentary land use and transportation planning to promote transit-oriented development (TOD).

Here is a picture worth a thousand words in explaining TOD around an Edmonton light rail station:.

TOD around Edmonton LRT station
TOD around Edmonton LRT station

I have written about this in the recent past in an article lambasting the city for focusing on only one-half of the symbiotic relationship between transportation and land use in the Transportation Master Plan Review Review, so I won't repeat the core arguments here.

I will point out that our competitors have taken this aspect seriously: Brampton and Mississauga are both actively engaged in corridor planning with Brampton about to implement zoning changes to make TOD a reality, and Waterloo region has an aggressive growth strategy that heavily emphasizes intensification alongside its ION LRT.

In recent US examples, those that receive federal funds for LRT must engage in TOD planning. So comparing expected results here against those cities while not doing TOD ourselves is going to lead to disappointing results.

Transportation Demand Management

Shift parking supply from the downtown core to transit stations.

There are many policies that can be adopted to alter transportation demands, such as time-of-day and distance-based fare pricing, and I outlined many of them in our MITL LRT report (PDF). For now I want to just reiterate the issue of parking.

In an earlier article, I produced this depressing map showing that ¼ of the surface area in our downtown core was is dedicated to parking.

Downtown Hamilton Parking (click image to view larger
Downtown Hamilton Parking (click image to view larger

In the interest of producing a larger and more diversified tax base, this trend needs to stop and more productive uses of this land need to be found.

Astonishingly, the MMM Group recently determined that we need greater parking supply, and the CBC reports that City staff are in preliminary discussions to build more parking in the downtown core.

Thankfully, rapid transit can be a fundamental tool for shifting parking supply outside of the downtown core.

This is the exact strategy used by Calgary, and as the ridership numbers above have shown, this has paid off handsomely. The city has a vibrant downtown and actually boasts a transit mode share for downtown trips greater than 50%, which is unheard of.

To accomplish this, park-and-ride lots can be created at key rapid transit stations like my addition of a station west of McMaster in Options 2-4. Parking can also be shared among existing developments, such as Eastgate Square and at the stadium on non-game days.

Still, the wealth of cheap parking downtown means this strategy may not work in the immediate term. But swaths of vacant land and the zoning measures above should lead to greater development in the downtown core, reducing parking supply there and driving up the cost of spaces that remain, which in turn should lead to greater rates of utilization for park-and-ride facilities and ultimately increased transit ridership.

Integrated Transit Service Network

Rapid transit presents an opportunity to create a hierarchical network of rapid, express, and local transit that can improve service across the whole city.

There is a crucial opportunity to view rapid transit as the backbone of a redesigned transit system that can benefit the entire city. But this was a major factor not championed by previous planning efforts in Hamilton, resulting in many arguing that the B-Line only improves transit along its small corridor and does nothing for them in outer areas.

This should be incorrect as buses on the rapid transit route can be reassigned. However, the Rapid Ready report took the view that in addition to the B-Line LRT, the 1-King, 5-Delaware, and 51-University buses would actually continue to operate alongside the LRT.

This should not be the case moving forward, as B-Line rapid transit can accommodate these riders.

Existing bus routes need to be re-aligned to act as feeders to the rapid transit corridor. In the case of LRT this can mean freeing up buses to travel on other routes.

Furthermore, these routes can also be redesigned to act as either express or more local routes. This is the exact tactic adopted by the Region of Waterloo, where a system of local buses feed into express routes that then feed into the ION LRT.

Waterloo ION LRT route and feeders
Waterloo ION LRT route and feeders

The end result would mirror something like this map conceptualized in the Rapid Ready report.

Rapid Ready BLAST network
Rapid Ready BLAST network

Essentially, no matter which option we choose, this means using rapid transit as a catalyst for creating the rest of the BLAST network as express bus services to support it.

Contribute Local Funds

This is where things get interesting, and before you immediately balk, hear me out. To show the province we are serious about transit and jump to the front of the pack for funding, we should contribute local dollars to the project.

This can mean city funds, but a better strategy is to solicit external funding from other parties that benefit from rapid transit.

Around the world, many transit agencies have been proactive in using the benefits of transit to secure contributions from external stakeholders, whether through private-sector construction of transit stations that would provide their developments with thousands of new potential customers, to monetary contributions to help see a project come to fruition.

In Detroit, for example, that city's M-1 LRT project is actually being led by a consortium of private-sector companies.

As a Hamilton example, rapid transit connections can save Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster from having to acquire additional land to build parking. Realizing this, an argument can be made that they could in turn contribute use some of these savings to contribute to the project.

The same goes for the city - shifting parking demand outside of the downtown can save the city from building the costly new structured parking garage the MMM Group said we will need in the near future at a cost of $20-23 million. Dedicate these tangible savings to rapid transit.

Outside of external private and public-sector stakeholders, meaningful local contributions can also be raised through land value capture.

Everyone likely has heard about how LRT can increase land values (not magically but with supportive policy). Metrolinx estimated that the B-Line LRT could produce total property value uplift of $144 million, while BRT could produce uplift of $77 million.

As part of my thesis, I revisited this type of analysis. Using 2004 parcel-level assessed values (all we could access), I inflated them to 2014 values using Teranet's Hamilton house price index.

From there, I developed a few uplift assumptions. The first assumed no supporting policy - just the B-Line LRT. Depending on the station, this could raise values for residential properties by 3-4%, condos 3-5%, commercial 3-7%, and vacant 4-7%. These rates declined over distance to reach zero at a distance of 550 metres from a station.

The second assumed a two-way street conversion that increases the value placed on transit accessibility, as well as some TOD land use planning that begins to create a more vibrant downtown and constrain parking supply. Together these measures increase uplift to a maximum of 8% for some properties. Higher rates can certainly be achieved through more aggressive policies, but let's see the exercise through.

LRT value uplift
LRT value uplift

The end result of these scenarios is total land value uplift of $89.71 million and $158 million respectively. These numbers are just estimates based on some broad planning assumptions, so it is just illustrative of what we could shoot for. But similar uplift amounts have been seen in other LRT station areas around North America.

From here, the question is really what to do with these increases in land and property values. Assuming the total amount collected by the city remains the same, the nature of municipal taxation is such that any increases in values, and thus increased taxation in one area, should be offset by lower taxes somewhere else.

Basically, higher land values that result from the public investment just result in greater profits for private homeowners.

Tax-Increment Financing provides a way to capture the increases in land values that come from rapid transit directly and use them to pay for the project. Essentially, a TIF district is created around a new station encompassing properties that benefit from the project.

Any increases in land value caused by the project - the tax increment - are then dedicated to a special fund for a defined period of time to pay off any debts incurred by the project, after which the full taxable assessment of these properties is released back into the city's general tax base.

This process is depicted below.

Tax increment financing
Tax increment financing

With this understanding of the potential for TIF districts to generate local revenue and the ways in which we can increase this revenue through TOD planning, there is a rationale for exploring the imposition of TIF districts to raise local funds for rapid transit in Hamilton.

Much the same as John Tory is attempting to do for the SmartTrack project in Toronto. Special Assessment Districts and joint development on city-owned land can also capture value, but these are topics for another day.

The point is, these tools are out there, we just need to get past our stubborn refusal to think outside the box. In order for TIF districts to work though, land values must increase from the project, so it is in our interest to pursue planning measures to ensure rapid transit generates the maximum possible return on investment.

Understand PPP Construction and Operations

One additional area I want to cover concerns the construction and operation of rapid transit projects in Ontario as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs or P3s). This is the Alternative Financing and Procurement model followed by Infrastructure Ontario.

Essentially, it means that a rapid transit line in Hamilton will be designed, built, and potentially operated and maintained by a private sector company.

The private partner finances the project itself, helping to ensure that the project is built on time and within-budget. The public sector then pays for the project over a period of time, typically 30 years.

This is how LRT projects are proceeding in Waterloo and Ottawa, and to some extent Toronto. In Toronto's case, I believe they negotiated to have TTC employees operate the Eglinton LRT.

Below is the payment schedule for the Ottawa LRT, where $2.1 billion is to be paid to the PPP provider from 2011 to 2048 as project milestones are achieved.

Ottawa LRT repayment schedule
Ottawa LRT repayment schedule

This type of arrangement will almost certainly be the case here, and is why the current B-Line LRT is designed to a state of 30% - the private partner finishes the design and constructs the project. To my knowledge, this characteristic of the project has never been raised locally.

Essentially, there is the potential that the HSR will not operate the line, though it will be integrated with local service, and looks like this can be negotiated. Furthermore, it may be that if the city were to contribute local funds they could be paid out over a long period of time.

Again I am unsure how this would all come together for rapid transit in Hamilton, but it is worth looking into the implications of this model in greater detail.

Get Serious about Data Collection

There are two types of policymaking - evidence-based and opinion-based. When you don't collect data for policy formulation and policy evaluation, you cede the discourse around a project to opinions.

Of course, data does not always lead to evidence-based policy, as some councillors may still vote against projects even if their own survey indicates support for it.

But the point is, we need to do a better job locally of collecting information for policy evaluation. This is particularly important for pilot projects like the bus lane, Cannon Street bike lanes, complete streets, or urban changes that are sure to draw the ire of suburban councillors.

For transit, I am unsure whether our buses have them or not, but automatic passenger counters have existed for a long time and can provide accurate counts of bus ridership.

If, like was the case with the IBI Group's HSR Operational Review, manual counting using some people with clickers is really all we still have to base our long-range planning on, this is completely absurd and needs to change.

Any investment in rapid transit will need to demonstrate it is a worthy one, so please - make sure we are getting the right data going forward.

Get some Rapid Transit Planning Staff

Finally, get some rapid transit planning staff, or at least give whoever is doing it now greater power and visibility.

To make RT 2.0 in Hamilton work, greater public engagement and communication is required and more planning needs to be done to make a solid case going forward. This includes having the rapid transit project lead to actual changes in land use planning, preferably sooner rather than later.

I think accomplishing this will mean removing the RT file from the institutional behemoth that is Public Works and creating a rapid transit and associated TOD planning office where it should be: Planning and Economic Development.

The project is too big, too important, and too potentially transformative to be considered merely transportation infrastructure.

We have a ton of work left to do in Hamilton to really get rapid transit off the ground and ensure whatever we build achieves maximum return on investment. All of this demonstrates to the province that we are serious.

Conclusion

How to conclude? It is readily apparent that the state of confusion in Hamilton is real and that we are soon to forward the issue to a citizen's panel for further study. Part of the problem is ambiguity from the province, but given how we've handled the file locally, I can't blame them.

How to fix it? A few years ago we wrote in the MITL report that LRT in Hamilton would be a long, challenging, and potentially costly process and later I got called out for another piece arguing LRT would be no magic bullet.

But this is the story in basically every city, and we have no reason to expect otherwise here. 30 cities around North America have built LRT systems, and in no case was it a magic bullet for all their ills. I'd like to think we've learned something from the Detroit People Mover and the monorail on 'the Simpsons'.

In that report and other works since then, I have tried to point out that the planning process here was already lacking, and going into RT blind on issues such as transit-oriented development would lead to potentially sub-optimal results. It is intended to be a call to action: Look, if we are serious, start doing these things.

Now I am no supreme authority on rapid transit. But the budget has prompted me to collect all these thoughts in one place in the hope that they can help contribute to snapping ourselves out of this confusion.

To move rapid transit forward here will take work, vision, and political will. It will be difficult. It may even be impossible given that our single-tier municipality seemingly guarantees that long range planning occurs according to four-year election cycles.

One hope is the citizen's panel process, where it may very well be that the best project (LRT) gives way to a more pragmatic one that can work within the constraints of our existing system of municipal government. On the other hand, if the current project survives, it will be all the better from going through this process.

But whether it be it LRT or BRT, I hope the steps outlined here will be considered. Some may be particularly appealing for council, like choosing a new alignment.

But if the provincial budget has given us a wakeup call, we need to do all of these steps to end up with a project that is planned for success locally, and one that is so thought-out and in line with provincial objectives that they cannot hope to ignore it.

Across Ontario, other cities are doing these things, creating a solid business case for their projects, and are having them funded.

Like them, we need to harness and re-invigorate the rapid transit planning process and send a strong message to the province that we get it, we want to stop sprawling and start intensifying in a serious way, we're all in on your vision for the region and are willing to act on it.

We just need the right tools for the job and rapid transit is essential for achieving our future as an ambitious city.

But on the other hand, if we look at things and decide it is too much work, that we are the status-quo city, that is fine too. At least the confusion will end and we can all watch as our tax dollars go to transit projects in other cities.

Chris Higgins is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics. His full departmental profile is available here.

51 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 10:00:33

While it's hardly an ideal solution, I'm actually fond of the C-line route - it hits a massive number of trip-generators, although it misses Mac. My preferred option would be 2 short LRTs - the C-line and the half-B-line. The C-line could later be expanded out to become the T-line and the A-line.

I know the old SkyTrain plan was an underground tunnel up the escarpment - can an LRT handle the grade of James Mountain Road, or would that tunnel still be needed?

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 10:23:48 in reply to Comment 111185

can an LRT handle the grade of James Mountain Road

LRT can handle a grade of up to 6-7%. The A-Line feasibility study noted that running it up mountain would require tunnelling into the Escarpment or taking a detour up the Claremont Access. A tunnel would cost more upfront - over $200 million - whereas the Claremont route would divert the line over a much longer span without opportunity for transit-oriented development.

My personal preference for the A-Line is to run LRT from the waterfront to the base of the Escarpment, then run a funicular between the bottom and the top. Edmonton is currently planning to build a funicular, and theirs is priced at $25 million.

Hamilton had funiculars a century ago (you can still visit the remains of one station at the north end of Southam Park, just west of the top of the Claremont Access), but they closed down during the Great Depression. A new funicular would dramatically cut the cost of rapid transit up and down the Escarpment, provide a much higher level of access for residents walking/cycling between the upper and lower city, promote tourism and provide a fun daily commute for transit users.

Edit: I just noticed that I wrote that Southam Park is east of the top of Claremont, but it's actually on the west side.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-04-30 08:12:02

Permalink | Context

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2015 at 06:59:07 in reply to Comment 111187

My personal preference for the A-Line is to run LRT from the waterfront to the base of the Escarpment, then run a funicular between the bottom and the top. Edmonton is currently planning to build a funicular, and theirs is priced at $25 million.

I wonder if anyone has dared breathe "funicular" within the precincts of City Hall yet ...

I was half-kidding when I first started suggesting that we bring back a funicular or two, but it seems less and less funny. Though I would still hesitate to bring the topic up, say, in a Spec thread.

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 11:00:56 in reply to Comment 111187

I think a Claremont route could work since the trains need the storage in the north-east end anyways. A slightly circuitous route going from downtown up James to the station, then along Strachan to Victoria, and then up Victoria to Mohawk College (assuming the Claremont->Mohawk College road is wide-enough to accomodate. We lose access to St. Joe's, but we gain service to HGH.

Permalink | Context

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 10:53:29 in reply to Comment 111187

Interestingly, the HSR never owned or operated the funiculars.

transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4751.shtml

Neat visual, though the Niagara Escarpment Commission would probably complicate new approvals.

raisethehammer.org/blog/2482/modifications_to_glenside_bike_path_through_chedoke_golf_course

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 18:36:03 in reply to Comment 111191

I am not seeing anything about funiculars in that link. Did you mean to link somewhere else?

Permalink | Context

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 11:25:30 in reply to Comment 111256

Funiculars mentioned in "Continued Growth" section of the Transit Toronto link.

The RTH link contained no mention of funiculars but was meant to reference an infrastructure precedent related to the NEC, whose powers impacted the planning and development of a 4m-wide bike path along a former rail line and the groomed north edge of a golf course, half a km from the Escarpment. My suspicion: The NEC might see a funicular as exponentially more invasive.

Permalink | Context

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 11:01:51 in reply to Comment 111191

CORRECTION: It appears that Hamilton owned the funiculars for 10 weeks in the spring of 1932.

trainweb.org/elso/hsr-inc.htm

Not up on the funicular business models, but that 1919 fare, adjusted for inflation, would be around $16 today.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 10:32:01

Does anyone have a link to Mississauga's equivalent to Rapid Ready?

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 10:43:42 in reply to Comment 111188

You can probably find most of what they've put together on the Hurontario-Main LRT website.

At a glance, it includes the Benefits Case Analysis [PDF], incidentally developed by Steer Davies Gleave, the same company that worked with Hamilton on its LRT planning.

That looks somewhat analogous to Rapid Ready.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By asingh (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 11:19:09

Chris, you've written a highly detailed piece supported by evidence and nuanced in terms of political realities in the City of Hamilton. While the City has largely failed to develop a plan given the Ward "fiefdoms" that is in alignment with provincial goals, your post can still invigorate thought on the Citizen's Panel.

If the City is successful at building a strong plan for Rapid Transit , then Hamilton has an excellent opportunity of securing provincial funds to move transit forward and make a more livable City for everyone.

Comment edited by asingh on 2015-04-29 11:24:51

Permalink | Context

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:10:11 in reply to Comment 111196

Waterloo's LRT routing wanders that region's central corridor and touches 4/7 Waterloo wards, 5/10 Kitchener wards and 2/5 Cambridge wards.

Mississauga-Brampton's Hurontario/Main LRT route touches 4/10 Brampton wards and 4/11 Mississauga wards.

Hamilton's proposed B-Line LRT route touches 5/15 wards. Some bridge-building is in order, but council's attitude toward investing in transit infrastructure is also critical.

Permalink | Context

By asingh (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:38:09 in reply to Comment 111215

Agreed: Bridge-building in terms of the benefits of rapid transit for all areas of Hamilton is critical but we also need to hold Councillors to task. The rhetoric used by some Councillors has stood in the way of coming up with solutions and to make decisions that are best for the City as a whole.

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:30:55 in reply to Comment 111215

Indeed. But the Waterloo Regional Municipality who is running the LRT project, while not completely separate from the feelings of its lower-tier cities, doesn't really have to care what the wards want. They actually went with BRT for half the line into Cambridge. Imagine the ruckus of 'what are we, second class citizens' if they tried that with a single-tier municipality?

In Mississauga, now you're dealing with Hurricane Hazel, or at least you have been for much of the life of that project. She gets what she wants and has been steadfast in demanding such from the province.

Permalink | Context

By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:55:53 in reply to Comment 111220

There was a fair bit of noise in Cambridge that could be paraphrased as 'what are we, second class citizens.' As you know, the mayors of each municipality sit on the regional council, and Cambridge's mayor Craig was very vocal. The township mayors supported the Ion, but would not have had the the townships not been excluded from contributing to it (I'm not saying this is fair or unfair).

I'm not disagreeing with you: if anything, this reinforces your point that the Ion may well not have been able to proceed had the decisions been made by a single-tier municipality with councillors from individual wards from the various cities and rural areas.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:07:48

A really in-depth analysis. Quite possibly the most complete that I've seen. My takeaway is the point around regional governance. I think that's something that Hamilton will have to address if we're to move forward. We're just to fragmented under the current set up to implement a unified vision. Our ward councilors have zero incentive to do anything that's not going to get them elected by their constituents.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:07:57

Chris,

Thanks very much for producing such a detailed, data driven analysis of what has happened to Hamilton's LRT planning and presenting us with some options for future success.

Thanks especially for re-analyzing the passenger figures which show that, despite Dixon's unverifialble claims, even the 20% lower 2009 passenger figures show Hamilton's B-line LRT would have excellent per km performance compared with other systems. And, as I point out below, even the current passenger figures are certainly underestimates and the woefully inadequate capacity means there is huge unmet demand, even before densification adds new residents and jobs along the line.

I'd just like to add a bit more background.

First, until the City's Rapid Transit Office was effectively shut down in mid 2011, they were already beginning detailed planning for A-line LRT. The preferred to goal was to build B-line LRT along the full route, and begin building the A-line BRT shortly afterwards (or even overlapping in construction). This was consistent with the 2007 promise and would have achieved some of the network and city-uniting goals you wanted. Council and most of the public have forgotten that B-line LRT AND A-line BRT was the plan!

Secondly, I agree that lack of data is a real problem. HSR measures passengers very infrequently, and when they do they rely on people with clickers. If all users (especially student and senior pass users) were required to tap a presto card the data would be essentially real time and very accurate. During the bus-lane debate we heard that ridership has grown 20% on the Main/King corridor in the last 5 years. This is the only part of the system to show significant growth and will soon account for half the passengers in the entire HSR network. And the growth would likely have been much higher if there was sufficient capacity (buses are jam packed during rush hour).

Thirdly, staff did do an associated land use study to prepare for densification within 400m each side of the B-line. I participated in design charette on densification around King and Dundurn that showed the huge potential for increasing density and economic activity. Similar design visioning was carried out for other nodes.

Finally, the single most important thing for the city to do is reform the Rapid Transit office so there are staff actually working on the project. Clearly, there is much to be done and we've experienced a vacuum since late 2011. No public consultations have taken place, no one responds to FUD in the media and there is no one to liaise effectively with the province and metrolinx.

Recent funding announcements for LRT and GO have shown that many of the excuses given by Council and some staff for doing nothing on the LRT file were false.

Other municipalities did get full funding of capital costs for even more expensive projects, they did not have to choose between GO improvements and LRT (Hamilton is getting neither for the foreseeable future) and strong political leadership and support for LRT did work better than the wait patiently, and grumble from time to time approach of Hamilton's Council.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-04-29 12:13:45

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:20:18 in reply to Comment 111199

Oh what could have been. I only moved here in 2009 so missed some of that early activity. Re land use - I attended a few TOD design events and was pleased with the direction things were being taken. But things just never got past the 'guidelines' stage. All of our intensification corridors need new secondary plans that change zoning in line with these guidelines and what we are to be achieving under Places to Grow. And because we already have transit, this all should have happened long ago.

I am not arguing any of the ideas presented are novel, just that we completely dropped the ball in, you know, actually doing them.

-whoops, should have been a reply to kevlahan.

Comment edited by higgicd on 2015-04-29 12:21:45

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:35:12 in reply to Comment 111201

The 2010 Metrolinx BCA specifically identified the extremely low downtown parking rates (monthly rates much less than taking the the bus!) as a problem that needed to be addressed. They also advised that Main should be converted to two way.

Provided the City does not interfere by protecting surface parking, there is some hope that LRT and general growth in development will eat up most of the surface parking lots downtown and supply and demand will increase parking rates to more reasonable levels. The only good thing about all the surface parking is that it means there is an unusually large amount of available land downtown that can be re-developed in a TOD way.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-04-29 12:39:59

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:39:16 in reply to Comment 111202

How many expert reports has this city sent directly to the circular file?

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:19:23 in reply to Comment 111199

I forgot to add that the Rapid Transit team had also been analyzing Tax Increment Financing and at the time the City seemed quite favourable to considering it.

Council was opposed only to local revenue that would increase local property taxes ... they were open to other forms of local contribution.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:48:57

I have a few comments but I am very busy so I will make them in point form.

  1. You have done a great job of warehousing data and providing outside links regarding the political realities of rapid transit in Hamilton. By the way, don't get hung up on worrying about peak passenger volumes being too low. Many of Toronto's LRT routes have peak volumes of 3-5000 people/hour/direction but, the all day passenger total is what is bankrupting the TTC. The new Finch Ave. West LRT will only has a peak volume of about 2500 p/h/d but the buses are crowed all day and well into the evening but the TTC can't afford to keep adding more buses. In this way LRT is not only going to improve things for passengers and their travel time but the TTC is saving a bundle in operational cost, they only having to run 15-18 2 car trains with a single driver at peak less during off peak versus 40-50 buses and their drivers, for most of the day and well into the evening.

  2. The link still is needed to those who still don't understand why rapid transit is built and its positive externalities. Real data regarding why the status quo will not work has to be hammered home. Most people who don't want rapid transit must be made to understand that, empty wide roads with plenty of lane space for cars for most of the day is not good transportation planning, its a sign the city is in deep peril. When most of the cities around you have varying degrees of serious road space issues its not a good sign that, your roads are mostly empty. The point that needs to be taken to people is that, the days of single family sprawl are over! Not because anyone who has seen ever seen or studied actual design and urban planning thinks so, but that the cities can't afford it any more! Period! Younger generations are not abandoning sprawl housing and private cars in growing amounts because they are young and hip. They are realizing they don't want to live the way mom and dad did and that there are more affordable and livable places that already exist in the centre of cities, everything is really close so walking for most things is an option. Cars that most can't afford to use unless you have a real good job are not the transportation answer that younger people are looking for.

Oh, telling people who are against increased rapid transit funding for BRT or LRT that, rapid transit is a good development tool is not they way to go, they generally want things to stay the same. Many people who don't want to increase costs for things like transit also don't want the wholesale scary changes that new development would bring. Just a tip.

  1. The financial question of local transit funding MUST,MUST be dealt with in Hamilton before any RT's are created, whether they have a L,B or any other letter for that matter. Instead of a series of route plans try to create a series of policy tools to show a path to full real local transit funding, again with the political realities of Hamilton's unique situation. Like I said before, its going to be difficult to apply for provincial funding against all those other cities that want rapid transit as well as all those cities that are going to be asking for phase 2 projects when your city does not even have its local funding in order. A friend were I am currently working said that, if he wanted to purposely destroy or seriously hinder a transit system he would use Hamilton's funding model.

  2. Chris is quite correct, there are many ways to put in local funding but, it is a definite. IF HAMILTON WANTS RAPID TRANSIT OF ANY KIND IT MUST PUT IN SOME LOCAL FUNDING TOWARDS THE PROJECT! It would be great if the province wants to kick in 100% of the LRT/BRT project's capital funding. It would be nice if they kept that promise but, when financial belts tighten, the cities that are willing to put in some type of local funding get the edge over ones that, stand and wait for handouts. Both Ottawa and Waterloo have plans for local funding for their phase 2 projects as well. I make you a guarantee they (Ottawa & Waterloo), will get that provincial funding before Hamilton will get any serious funding for its phase 1 if Hamilton Council continues this current course.

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:00:27 in reply to Comment 111204

Excellent point about competing with phase 2 LRT projects.

LRT typically begins with one or two lines. These lines become successful and very popular and cities then gradually expand them, adding new lines every five years or so.

The problem with Hamilton's "not ready for LRT now" is that if and when these people consider Hamilton is finally ready we will not be in a position to compete for funding with cities that have proven successful LRT lines and now want to expand them.

Saying "Hamilton is not ready now" is not justified by the densities and passengers on the existing Main/King corridor. And it is really a way of ensuring Hamilton will never be able to build LRT and will be increasingly uncompetitive with neighbouring cities. We must get our LRT built in this funding round, or it will never be built.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:56:28

A thoughtful op-ed. I acknowledge and respect the amount of time afforded it. Pro-LRTers here and elsewhere should be proud of this kind of effort.

There's so much to respond to, I'd be hesitant to jump into the fray simply because I'd never profess to have the facility within this discussion that Mr. Higgins has. So for the time being, I'll limit myself to this question:

If you're willing to put this kind of 'evidence' forward regarding ridership:

https://twitter.com/higgicd/status/56479...

does this mean that it's fair game for me to provide readers with photos of near-empty buses across the system?

I am in no way proposing that we don't have a problem delivering what I would refer to as 'humane transit'. I'm on buses daily. On various routes. Which are PACKED. The King leaving the GO Station and two stops later, it's standing-room only. The Delaware PACKED past Gage heading west. The Barton EXTREMELY PACKED; several weeks ago, it took me over an hour to get from Bell Manor Loop to downtown. On and on, et cetera.

However, I can also regale you with instances where there's hardly anyone on buses. I have a half-dozen Delawares going past my front door each hour, and depending on the time of day, I can see less than a half-dozen riders.

I think the LRT cause deserves better moments than one contained in the presentation of the 'Not enough ridership!' visual. Such an approach wins you absolutely no sympathy from those who don't see transit priorities in the ways that you do. And that goes for Councillors.

P.S. I live in Ward 3. And while being an ardent believer in better transit for Hamilton, I was against the bus lane as it was executed. So perhaps you could add a red dot in there for me...?

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:10:40 in reply to Comment 111209

If that is all you're picking on, we're in good shape! I used 2009 numbers to back up my anecdotal feelings. Empty buses will always be a reality. I see them too, especially on the mountain. But there is really no point in fighting about what I saw versus what you see. The root of the issue is that the city needs better data collection.

Permalink | Context

By wklumpen (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 16:33:29 in reply to Comment 111216

I would also like to add that empty buses are not always a bad thing. Part of making a decision for a transit service is whether you are going to build for ridership or coverage. Most transit systems want to provide a blanket coverage that is available to a large amount of people at a low level of service, so that at least some people have access to transit. This is a choice made by transit services, and it will result in empty buses. Personally, I think that's okay.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:57:37

"If, like was the case with the IBI Group's HSR Operational Review, manual counting using some people with clickers is really all we still have to base our long-range planning on, this is completely absurd and needs to change."

HSR data collection is garbage. That's no small part of the reason why the TOL vote went in the dumper.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:04:55

"...buses on the rapid transit route can be reassigned. However, the Rapid Ready report took the view that in addition to the B-Line LRT, the 1-King, 5-Delaware, and 51-University buses would actually continue to operate alongside the LRT."

The Rapid Ready analysis explicitly included the assumption that "18 buses are removed from service" (p. 129 of the PDF), 18 coincidentally being the number of buses servicing 1 & 10 routes hourly at peak.

hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/76D38C17-DC96-4C54-8E55-3A6EA1C71D73/0/Feb25EDRMS_n414203_v1_5_1_PW13014.pdf

Though it does not use it for the basis of its modelling, the report also costs the redeployment option: "It is worth noting that, if a decision is made to redeploy the 18 buses to other routes within the network, there would be an increase of $6 million in gross operating costs."

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:36:01 in reply to Comment 111214

You see - thats what I don't get about that document. The Appendix A (PDF pg 152) I refer to for the ridership numbers is part of that section, and in the bit you talk about they refer to the ridership analysis. Here they estimate two day 1 scenarios - the low where 1/3 of the bus routes lose their ridership to LRT, and the second where 2/3 are transferred to LRT. But the remaining ridership assumes these buses continue to operate.

Permalink | Context

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 15:10:26 in reply to Comment 111221

Or maybe it assumes that the latent transit ridership for the corridor would remain unchanged regardless of which modes service the corridor.

My napkin math finds that from 7am-7pm weekdays, routes 1 and 10 operate around 167 buses (mainly artics) while the 5 and 51 run 150 (occasionally artics). Even if you assume all these buses are the same model, that's a 53% share for the 1&10. Factor the practical capacity and the demonstrated passenger load and you may get to 66%.

The 2/3 explanation is characteristically vague: "Public transportation industry consultants have stated that two-thirds of ridership from the existing B-Line corridor can be expected to transfer to the LRT B-Line causing an immediate 8% city-wide ridership increase to potentially occur with the implementation of an LRT system." (p. 131)

No footnotes or appendices explaining the methodology, just a potential outcome with some numbers attached.

Another notable service assumption: "There may be a need for a reduction in service frequency to fully utilize the available train capacity." It is unclear whether that refers to bus service, LRT service or both.

Meet the new crushload, same as the old crushload.



Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By asingh (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 13:43:27

Councillors need to be reminded not to place the interest of the ward above the interest of the whole municipality. The councillor must base any decision they make on what is best for the entire municipality.

While councillors can provide input on their ward but the council's effectiveness depends on councillors voting for the whole municipality. Councillors also need to ensure to avoid conflict of interest or to make decisions that would benefit them.

A number of councillors seem to have forgotten their duty and the community needs to remind them why they're there.

Comment edited by asingh on 2015-04-29 13:45:03

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 15:07:15

I present you, the logical conclusion, the ultimate Design By Committee solution to our route problems.

It services 6 wards, numerous trip generators, and it would really piss off Sam Merulla which is always good for amusing council sessions.

It also is so ludicrously circuitous that it would get nowhere fast.

The Drunkard's Walk Line

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-04-29 15:14:11

Permalink | Context

By TonyCreek (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 21:32:20 in reply to Comment 111243

What about connection to proposed future Stoney Creek GO station?

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 22:10:17 in reply to Comment 111266

Personally speaking I've never understood the fascination with the Stoney Creek GO connection, or even Niagara for that matter. Is it just the psychological comfort? How many people actually want to travel 1.25 to 1.5 hours to work one-way to Toronto? Or to another stop and then bus to work, because most GO stations outside the core are just parking lots. There will always be a few, but where's the value for money. Even regular commuting to downtown TO from existing Hamilton stations is a long haul. I think the only reason the W5 councillor wants it so bad is its a softball project to help him get re-elected for another 4 years. Gets to look like he supports transit while actually harming the prospects for projects with much stronger business and use cases.

Comment edited by higgicd on 2015-04-29 22:13:05

Permalink | Context

By John Neary (registered) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 10:17:42 in reply to Comment 111267

THIS. By far the better option for travelling to Toronto from points east would be driving to Burlington GO (or express bus to Burlington GO, if we had one) followed by a transfer to a train.

In the long run, congestion on the Skyway might make this unworkable. If that happens, the need for highway tolls will be even greater.

Permalink | Context

By Clarence (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 11:01:42 in reply to Comment 111285

I read Metrolinx and GO transit already bought up the lands and is paying for bridge replacement at Centennial anyway. Any chance they would just drop this project?

Permalink | Context

By TonyCreek (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 09:53:17 in reply to Comment 111267

I agree. Except for part about commute times. Most people's average commute time to work is 1 to 1.5 hours any way, I heard anyway. Better spent on train then driving.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2015 at 10:16:30 in reply to Comment 111282

I have noticed a strong tendency to overestimate the number of people commuting long distances to work.

According to StatsCan, in 2011 the average commute time for people in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was 32.8 minutes, with 16% of residents having a commute time of 60+ minutes.

Toronto CMA was the highest in Canada. In Hamilton CMA, the average commute time was 26.9 minutes with 11% of residents having a commute time of 60+ minutes. St-Catharines Niagara CMA had an average commute time of 20.6 minutes and 5.3% having a commute time of 60+ minutes.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-04-30 10:23:26

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2015 at 10:29:10 in reply to Comment 111284

However, the StatsCan data is from the National Household Survey, which, thanks to Stephen We-Don't-Need-No-Stinkin'-Data Harper, was no longer mandatory in the 2011 Census. As a consequence, its results are not random and may not be representative.

Last year, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing published a Provincial Index for Ontario titled How are Ontarians Really Doing?.

It included a section on commute times and determined that the average daily commute time for Ontarians increased from 47.1 minutes in 1994 to 53.5 minutes in 2010. It similarly found that Toronto commutes are the worst, with an average commute time of 65.6 minutes. The report doesn't break down the data by individual cities or CMAs and it notes (on pg. 62) that the data are not yet available.

CIW includes a section on Time Use. However, its report focuses mainly on the negative health outcomes related to long commutes - higher incidental absence, more difficulty sleeping, stress response, cortisol levels, obesity, subjective wellbeing, and difficulty with relationships and family life.

It also found that when you control for distance, train commuting is associated with smaller health and wellbeing impacts than car commuting, apparently due at least in part to being able to relax, having less exposure to air pollution, and enjoying some active transportation between home and the train station. (Not surprisingly, it found that people who engage mainly in active transportation enjoy actual net benefits to health and wellbeing.)

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-04-30 10:40:56

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 10:10:54 in reply to Comment 111282

Who on earth did you hear that from? See here http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/...

Permalink | Context

By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 15:26:00 in reply to Comment 111243

I like how you've studiously avoided compromising Ward 5's left-turn-for-drive-thru capacity. You've got Chad onside!

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2015 at 15:46:40 in reply to Comment 111247

Yes.

Another merit of this route has nothing to do with the fact that I live in Westdale and work at HGH. Perish the thought.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 18:35:00

Bravo!

An excellent article.

The only criticism that I have is that some links are non-existent.

We really, really need to get our act together in Hamilton!

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2015 at 06:38:35 in reply to Comment 111255

What links are you having trouble with? I just re-tested them and they are all working for me.

Permalink | Context

By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 06:46:05 in reply to Comment 111271

There's a few where I had (link) or (PDF) that are dead, but they are generally incorporated into the text elsewhere.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By John Neary (registered) | Posted April 29, 2015 at 22:19:25

Bravo, Chris. I hope that people at City Hall are still paying attention and that they read this piece and take it to heart.

I really like your idea for the C-line. I've never understood why the current A-line express bus runs north to the waterfront (through a couple of four-way stop signs, of all things) rather than east to HGH, or why the proposed A-line LRT/BRT is supposed to use the same route. The B-line is undoubtedly better suited for LRT, but the number of transportation hubs and major institutions between Barton and Fennell is staggering (HGH, James North GO, King/James, Hunter GO, St. Joseph's Charlton, St. Joseph's West 5th, Mohawk), so I agree that some sort of rapid transit on that corridor is equally important.

True BRT between Limeridge and HGH (or even Mohawk and HGH) would be way more cost effective than running nearly empty buses out to the airport and the waterfront.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RedHill (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 08:19:58

What about LRT link to the planned centennial GO station? Isn't this the line that is supposed to go to Niagara? It is also close to Eastgate Square and Confederation Park. There is a lot of opportunity for intensification there.

Permalink | Context

By All Aboard (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 08:38:36 in reply to Comment 111274

If Hamilton is 10 years out for all day GO what do you really think the prospects are for GO expansion into Niagara anytime soon?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seymor (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 09:50:34

True. Although, Niagara seems very determined to continue applying pressure.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 30, 2015 at 11:51:01

What this whole process needs is to not have every warm body with an opinion weighing in but a small group to study, come up with a plan and implement it. Yes, there will be thousands of angry posts on web forums (from a combined total of 25 people) and thousands of gleeful posts (from a combined total of another 25 people) that the planning group should ignore. Implement it at least two years before an election. The 25 angry people will forget about it. Does anyone remember when York between Dundurn (ok, the high level bridge) and Plains was two lanes each way? Remember the horrified and angry predictions of gridlock etc? It's a non-issue now. People are getting on with their lives and the same will happen with LRT (no matter how it is implemented). It will become a part of the background noise of the city.

Comment edited by ergopepsi on 2015-04-30 11:52:13

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2015 at 12:36:55 in reply to Comment 111298

I would argue the opposite: the project needs broad and ongoing community engagement to explain what LRT is, how it works, why Hamilton needs it and how it will benefit constituents all across the city. Public support was strong while the City was engaging the public and started to wither after the City stopped, following the suspension of the Rapid Transit office by City Manager Chris Murray in 2011.

If you look at successful LRT projects, like Waterloo Region, they are characterized by a robust and ongoing consultation exercise, which gets people on board and reduces the capacity for parochial councillors to curry favour with "silent majorities" by playing wedge politics.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds