Downtown Bureau

HSR Bursting at the Seams

It does the city no good to add new riders in far-reaching areas of Stoney Creek or Ancaster only to lose riders in urban neighbourhoods who can't squeeze on the system.

By Jason Leach
Published January 24, 2007

Recent issues of RTH have had many great pieces regarding transit in Hamilton. This trend will likely continue throughout 2007 as we experience some of the best service enhancements in many years and begin planning for a BRT or LRT system in the city.

A new route - #56 - will begin service between Eastgate Square and the Heritage Green neighbourhood in Upper Stoney Creek this year.

The #10 Beeline Route will see service increased beyond the current rush hour-only format to an all-day service with buses every 10 minutes from 6:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

In just over a month, the newest buses purchased by the HSR will hit the streets, including the 60-foot Hybrids whose unique paint job was recently unveiled.

Rumours are floating around town that Mayor Fred Eisenberger is keen on seeing the senior levels of government invest significant money into a BRT system for Hamilton, and possibly even an LRT for the McMaster-Eastgate. More to come on this in future issues.

This much I know. Whatever improvements the HSR implements this year will not solve our congestion problems. They are steps in the right direction and are more than welcome by transit users like myself, but will only make a slight dent in relieving congestion on HSR routes.

Over the past month, I've had the experience of being jammed into the #35 College like a Tokyo subway-rider on more than one occasion. Talk about getting to know your neighbours.

My wife wasn't quite so lucky.

She had an appointment at McMaster last month and as usual, left our place with our two small children to take the bus to Mac. We live near Dundurn and King so there are endless buses coming by that head to McMaster. It's quicker, easier and cheaper than driving to campus.

On this particular day, she arrived at the bus stop at around 10:15 AM. Her appointment was at 10:45 AM, so she had left plenty of extra time.

Thirty minutes and eight jammed drive-bys later, she was still standing there hoping that just one bus would come through with room for her.

Every bus that passed - the #1 King, #5 Delaware, #10 Beeline, and #51 University - was so packed that there was no room for any more passengers.

She barely managed to cram on the ninth bus that arrived and made it, fashionably late, to her appointment at Mac.

This was mid-morning, not rush hour.

Later that day, she said what any normal person would say after an experience like that: "I guess I'm going to have to use the car and drive to Mac from now on when I have appointments there."

...and search for parking, and pay for parking and get the kids out of the car and walk across campus - all a general nuisance compared with stepping on and off a bus.

The HSR needs to increase service and if possible, add new service where it currently doesn't exist. However, I'm of the belief that it does the city no good to add new riders in far-reaching areas of Stoney Creek or Ancaster only to lose riders in urban neighbourhoods who can't squeeze on the system.

My initial suggestion to the HSR is to do the following with our six new articulated hybrids when they arrive in early March:

The city will seriously need to look at buying another batch of these buses next year and hopefully move quickly on BRT/LRT.

In the meantime, let's try to shore up the existing service as much as possible so we don't lose riders at a time when public transit has returned to favour among Hamilton residents as a serious travel alternative.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Hammer Town (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2007 at 18:45:34

Hey Jason
I am a regular HSR Rider and Us the Beeline as often as I can. I agree the going from Downtown to McMaster is tough at almost anytime of the day. However i usually am on the Beeline from the area around Ottawa to Eastgate and usually get on the Beeline and there might be 10 people on there at the most and I sit and wonder is this really worth running all day? But hey I get off work at 9pm so I will almost always used the Beeline now instead of the King.

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By Hammer Town (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2007 at 18:47:04

Hey One more thing. I herd a lilttle while back that the HSR wanted a Rymal Rd Route from The Wal Mart power Center in Ancaster to the New Meadowlands East? Have you herd much about this?

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By al (anonymous) | Posted January 25, 2007 at 10:55:29

Even in Suburban areas it can get bad. Even with the School Extras added, getting across the Mountain from about 2:30 to 4:00 is hell.

Once i got out of school at 12

i didn't get home to three because of the buses

the hsr really needs to step up and do better

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted January 30, 2007 at 08:21:03

I've got a few friends who are bus drivers and from what I hear, the HSR is understaffed and desperate for new drivers. There is also a significant number of older drivers right now who could retire at any time they choose.

From half the stories I hear about their experiences there's no way I'd ever take that job. Getting spat on and abused for moving people around all day? No thanks.

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By Chris (A.K.A Bubblez) (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2007 at 16:20:29

I you ask me, I think the HSR should have bought all hybrid busses instead of 22 diesel busses...with this climate change. diesel busses still spew out pollution. on the hybrid, the gas engine shuts off when the bus stops... Is the HSR buying more hybrids?

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