Transportation

HSR Fare Hike Back on Table

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 20, 2009

It's transit fare increase season again in Hamilton.

A proposal by the Public Works Department to raise HSR transit fares is coming back to councillors in an upcoming Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting concerning the 2009 budget.

Under the discussion agenda for the February 24, 2009 Committee of the Whole is the proposed fare increase [PDF] referred back by Council at its November 26, 2008 Council meeting:

That the General Manager of Public Works be authorized and directed to implement a Transit fare increase effective January 1, 2009, as described in Table 1 of this report and inclusive of increases across all fare types, such that an increase of 5% in the average HSR fare, or $0.10 per trip across major fare types, is achieved

Thanks to fare increases in mid-2007 and the start of 2008, HSR ridership grew by just one percent in 2008, compared to far higher increases in other Canadian cities.

Public Works has a legitimate need for more HSR funding; but it seems that in Hamilton, the only politically palatable source of additional funding is by increasing fares. Raising the transit levy or (quels horreurs) eliminating Hamilton's regressive area rating system falls outside the pale of acceptable thought.

The real problem is that a majority of councillors still seems to regard transit funding as a subsidy for the transit-using poor rather than an investment in an essential public good.

Until that changes, the HSR will remain squeezed between rising costs and miserly funding, with council approving or nixing proposed fare increases based on the level of public outrage.

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 February 20, 2009 at 11:21:36

"transit fare season in Hamilton again"??
it seems that it's transit fare season every 6 months around here lately. And I'm still standing on King St with jam packed buses passing me.
Nice.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:36:20

Jason and Ryan

If you want better service and if you want to keep up with rising costs transit fares will have to increase. What makes you think that the over taxed taxpayers of Hamilton (most of whom do not use transit) should continue subsidizing transit more than they already do?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:40:05

the same reason the 'over taxed taxpayers' who use HSR continue to subsidize highways and sprawling roads even though most don't drive.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:50:26

So HSR buses don't ride on the road? What are they flying buses?

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 13:41:22

Capitalist, save your energy, you'll never win.......I've been down this road before. Rather then acknowledge that buses cost money, use roads and fuel,of which costs rise over time, the counter argument from RTH regulars is taxpayers "subsidize highways and sprawling roads". Trust me, fairness and common sense does not prevail with respect to this issue on this site!! This site is the voice of the vocal minority.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 13:53:14

Buses run on only a small percentage of the roads in Hamilton.

If we really believe in a user pay principle, then we can institute road tolls, tolls that the buses would pay as well (at a higher rate).

Comparing the total number of km driven by private cars and buses in Hamilton quickly shows that the HSR would pay only a tiny percentage of the total road cost on a user pay principle!

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 17:01:56

Absolutely!! I'd love to have a toll system set up based on user-pay as suggested by kevlahan. How's that for some 'common sense' Balance?? I'm sure you'd love that idea. Let's all pay proportionately. 50 people on a bus or 50 cars with one person in each one. Hmmm, I wonder which would have to pay more? Common sense anyone??

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 19:43:14

Capitalist and Balance...fight the good fight...there are lots of us out here who agree with you. Jason seems to hate the suburbs and he is a Christian pastor according to his bio...must be the same kind of pastor as those American televangelists who hurl fire and brimstone at everyone that disagrees with them. At least he hasn't condemned us to hell, just yet!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 20:37:39

It's actually pretty easy to get a rough estimate of how much more a motorist would pay than a transit user under a true user pay system.

A rough estimate suggests that the HSR buses drive about 9 million km per year (35 routes running at 20km/h between 6am and midnight 2 buses on each route simultaneously 365 days a year ... it's rough but it's the right order of magnitude).

The HSR had 1.3 million passenger in September 2008, so that makes about 15.6 million passengers per year. Therefore, the average km per passenger per ride is 0.6 (9 million km/ 15.6 million passengers). This is the equivalent 'wear and tear' on the road per passenger per ride.

Now, if the transit user takes the bus twice a day 365 days per year that works out to 365 km total wear equivalent on the road. Thus a regular transit user is equivalent to a car driver who drives 365 km per year.

Now, buses cause more wear to the roads, so transit users should pay proportionately more. How much more? The 407 charges heavy vehicles (over 5000 kg) twice as much as cars. So we should say the transit user is equivalent to a motorist driving roughly 800 km per year.

Now, the average motorist in Canada drives about 20 000 km per year, so we have our answer:

In a true user pay system the average motorist would pay 25 times as much as the daily transit user.

It's pretty clear who is subsidizing who here!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 21:18:13

Slight error in the previous calculation: the transit user's yearly 'wear and tear' is 365 * 2 * 0.6 * 2 = 876 km, so the motorist should actually pay 23 times. Let's say roughly 20 times more than the daily transit user ...

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 22:29:08

Ariel...your post doesn't make any sense, but for what it's worth, I don't see any "fire and brimstone" being tossed. I agreed with Balance that common sense would be the way to go in this situation. Kevlahan has provided some common sense numbers that you are all free to digest once you're finished hurling personal insults at people you don't know.
Perhaps you should try defending your position instead of making things up and accusing others of "hating the suburbs". I'd love to see a thought-out defense of your position in a similar manner to the ideas put forth by kevlahan and many others on RTH.
I can assure you that I don't "hate" anyone. However, I do hate the injustice in our society where the lowest income earners in the most ignored and downtrodden neighbourhoods have to continually subsidize the more wealthy and elite. Is that hate?? No, actually it's called compassion, and a desire to see human beings treated fairly - regardless of the size of their paycheck.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 23:55:59

Gee, here we go again. I agree with Jason that it is those, at the lowest of incomes that suffer the most.

If a single person loses their job, exhausts EI and still has not found work, then there is only Ontario Works. The amount received is not enough for shelter never mind food or transportation to find a job, the system does not care if you do not have bus fare to travel to say Burlington for a job opportunity. They do not care if one needs say workboots.

Anyways, the price of diesel has fallen in the last few months so why the urgency for higher fares? Which bureaucrat is getting a raise at the expense of the poor??????

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 04:11:44

The governments are funded through gas taxes, car sales taxes and all the other fees and levies drivers and car owners have to pay. Can anybody actually believe that other taxes are subsidizing roads? Wait until Ryan gets going and tells you about how LRT is going to save the city or how "small" cities with a population of 350,000 like St. Louis (yes! he said that. It is actually 3,000,000 ) have great LRT systems. one of the real problems with transit is the full buses for a couple of hours morning and evenings and the empty buses for hours and hours especially in the late evening. That is the big fly in Kevlahan's figuring. The actual average ride for a transit user is much higher than the 600 meters he claims. Transit systems are a money losing proposition. There is not a single transit system in North America that comes close to breaking even.

We simply have to accept that fact and raise the money to subsidize our transit system. It really is a necessity in every city including ours.

If I remember correctly last year the city kicked in about a $35,000,000 subsidy. In a city the size of Hamilton with a budget as big as it is, there must be some way of getting the HSR a few more million.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 16:23:36

Mr Meister, I'm not claiming the average ride length is 600m.

It is the average ride length divided by the average number of people on the bus (times two to account). This is the 'road wear' per transit user, and is how a 'user pay principle' would charge road users.

Remember, we are trying to calculate how much the transit user should pay for their contribution to road wear compared to the average motorist.

The money Hamilton pays on roads come from property taxes, which are paid by everyone, whether they drive or not.

Of course, there are all sorts of other costs associated roads, which are paid for out of general tax revenue (above and beyond the gas tax): policing, emergency services, pollution, insurance costs and lost work due to deaths and injuries. More recently, we've seen massive subsidies to the petroleum industry and massive grants and loans to the auto industry.

To get a better idea of the full costs, and who pays, please see the federal government report "Estimates of the Full Cost of Transportation in Canada" http://www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/aca/fci/Final...

From the executive summary:

"The major source of transportation’s financial costs is related to the vehicle assets and the operation costs of the vehicles – between $ 145 billion and $ 153 billion."

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 21, 2009 at 21:36:40

"Can anybody actually believe that other taxes are subsidizing roads?"

It's not about "belief". It is the truth. Sorry that reality doesn't fit in with your world view. If gas taxes and "all the other fees and levies" ($75/year plate renewal plus a license renewal every 5 years?) then why is Hamilton wasting 55 million a year on the "roads" budget?

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 22:36:07

Can the people see the financial reports as to where all this money that is collected under the various forms of taxes goes to?

What I see is that those the bureaucracy getting more and more while the people get less and less whether it is services or liveable amounts when they ahve to acdess social servies?

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2009 at 00:48:22

One bus carries 40 people in the space it takes to accomodate 2 cars.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2009 at 03:51:37

Seancb, >> then why is Hamilton wasting 55 million a year on the "roads" budget?

Let's see, 55 million a year for road maintenance versus 27 million for transit. Using these numbers, transit should have half as many passenger miles as does transit, does anybody believe this to be the case? Furthermore, when you consider that transit relies on roads, it should have even higher numbers to justify the current expense.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 22, 2009 at 08:29:33

A Smith,

Again, the 55 million is simply for maintenance and doesn't include capital expenditures for major new construction (such as the approx 500 million spent on the Linc/Redhill).

It also doesn't include money spent on the 400-series highways, which are maintained (and were built) with mostly provincial (and federal) money.

It also doesn't include the costs of policing, emergency services, etc. I mentioned earlier. For a full analysis of the total costs, and who pays them, see the federal report I referenced earlier. Read it carefully to find out the full social costs.

I think you would appreciate a true user-pays market-based solution to fund the full costs of our transportation infrastructure.

That is certainly not what we have now, and complaining about 'subsidies' to the HSR ignores the massive hidden subsidies provided to the private motorist at all levels (from getting the oil out of the ground, to building the cars, to building and maintaining the roads, to 'free' parking at shops, to paying for damage and injuries caused by accidents and pollution).

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2009 at 09:45:57

Icrease the fares. It brings money to the system and makes these loafers appreciate what they've got.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 22, 2009 at 09:57:15

Ariel,

If you agree to apply that same reasoning to motorists (who currently pay zero per-use fees to the city), and eliminate free parking (so non-motorists aren't subsidizing motorists), and put tolls on the Linc/Redhill freeways (to help re-coup the massive debts the city took on to build them), then we can talk.

If one set of users pays directly per use, then all should.

It is interesting to note that originally all major roads into Hamilton (except the Jolley cut) were privately run toll roads ... they were 'socialized' because the road users didn't like the user pay system!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2009 at 11:50:33

Kevlahan, I agree with you. I just thought it was interesting that seancb thought 55 million for roads was a waste, but 27 million for the transit system wasn't.

What would be wrong with selling off the 400 series highways anyway? The government would get a huge cash infusion, be off the hook for maintenance costs and the people who still needed to use the roads could simply pay as they go. We pay for how much water we use, electricity, oil/gas for our homes, so why should transportation be any different? Even China has embraced the idea of private roads (www.tollroadsnews.com/node/123) and their economy seems to be doing pretty well recently.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2009 at 19:14:33

"seancb thought 55 million for roads was a waste, but 27 million for the transit system wasn't."

I never said that, nor did I think it.

Mr. Meister said that gas taxes and other motorist specific fees pay for the roads, and asked "Can anybody actually believe that other taxes are subsidizing roads?"

I simply demonstrated that, indeed, other taxes are subsidizing roads.

That was the end of my point, but thanks for putting words in my mouth.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 13:58:55

I know cash fares have been continually going up, but has anything been done about the price of tickets?

The price of the cash fair is $2.40, whereas tickets are $1.85 for adults... This seems like a pretty large gap, given the fact that anyone who takes the HSR even irregularly can buy tickets. It seems like they're trying to penalize cash fares, or reward ticket use. At the same time though they're discouraging transit use by people who don't use it regularly and don't know about the deep discount tickets offer.

Have ticket prices been increasing in lock step with cash fares, or not? I honestly don't know.

As an aside, mac currently pays something like 110% of a monthly pass, and they get the an 8 month unlimited pass. This is the deal that the Mac students have accepted, and it's reviewed every 3 years or so. The only requirement is that all students are forced to purchase the pass, it's an all or nothing deal. As a student there I thought this was a fantastic deal. Have they ever considered charging slightly more for this? They couldn't go too high, as the students would just vote it down, but I think even charging the equivalent of 2 monthly passes and giving them an 8 month pass would be a phenomenal deal which would have student support, while boosting HSR revenues.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 23:21:44

Robert D: The tickets are still cheaper then cash. But if one earns minimum wage at 40 hrs per week, there take home pay for a 4 week period would be 1255.28, modest rent for a one bedroom would be around 650.00 per month, so that would leave 605.28 to buy food, transportation, personal items such as clothing which is around 151 per week, one would probably need a phone at least. What if they had to pay hydro on top of the rent.

So it does not leave much room for those earning the least amount of money and what if they had a child? Then they would have to get a two bedroom apt which costs more.

Many factors to consider when talking about raising the fares, not all people get pay raises or cost of living allowances. What about those on social assistance, trying to find work, how do they afford it?

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 01:18:55

Grassroots,

Unfortunately I can't respond to your comments to me on the Stadium developement article (site is down on that one) but this forum is equaly relevant.

I do not classify all people on social assitance in the same catagory. I know and have known many people using assistance over the years. I merely make a statement to the negative/users who you well know, there are plenty!

As far as you telling me to walk in their shoes basically (my words not yours) In the past, I have been laid off, I have been on EI, looking for work, trying everything, scrimping together pennies etc. All the while I was out knocking on doors asking if I could cut peoples grass for some money to support my new wife and myself, I would watch the neighbours across the street welcome the taxi driver and his beer delivery every month when the Assistance cheque came in. Never saw them work although they told me they were more than able, "ha ha, why should i, ha, ha"

Until they sort out the bad-uns' you are going to get people like me who HAVE been there standing up for the ones who got off there behinds and really, really worked to get out of the hole. Work is pride, even if it is selling hot-dogs at the Cats games for $8 an hour. And I realize how much the bus can cut into a basic wage pay packet but lets remember the days when people walked to their jobs. I know I used to walk from the West mountain to King and Gage when I was younger. And even today I ride my bike whenever possible.

I now teach my kids how to help the less fortunate who really deserve our help and how to decifer the truly needy from the lazy. Not an easy task when their are people like you putting everyone in the same classification.

I appologize for highjacking this thread but like I said I couldn't respond on the Stadium thread because that page is down. Maybe Jason you could flip it over for me.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 01:21:19

Grassroots,

Unfortunately I can't respond to your comments to me on the Stadium developement article (site is down on that one) but this forum is equaly relevant.

I do not classify all people on social assitance in the same catagory. I know and have known many people using assistance over the years. I merely make a statement to the negative/users who you well know, there are plenty!

As far as you telling me to walk in their shoes basically (my words not yours) In the past, I have been laid off, I have been on EI, looking for work, trying everything, scrimping together pennies etc. All the while I was out knocking on doors asking if I could cut peoples grass for some money to support my new wife and myself, I would watch the neighbours across the street welcome the taxi driver and his beer delivery every month when the Assistance cheque came in. Never saw them work although they told me they were more than able, "ha ha, why should i, ha, ha"

Until they sort out the bad-uns' you are going to get people like me who HAVE been there standing up for the ones who got off there behinds and really, really worked to get out of the hole. Work is pride, even if it is selling hot-dogs at the Cats games for $8 an hour. And I realize how much the bus can cut into a basic wage pay packet but lets remember the days when people walked to their jobs. I know I used to walk from the West mountain to King and Gage when I was younger. And even today I ride my bike whenever possible.

I now teach my kids how to help the less fortunate who really deserve our help and how to decifer the truly needy from the lazy. Not an easy task when their are people like you putting everyone in the same classification.

I appologize for highjacking this thread but like I said I couldn't respond on the Stadium thread because that page is down. Maybe Jason you could flip it over for me.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 08:42:15

Woody 10:

Did I hit a nerve in you?

Have you ever been on Ontario Works?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2009 at 09:02:42

Woody10 wrote:

Unfortunately I can't respond to your comments to me on the Stadium developement article (site is down on that one)

Sorry about that. It should be working now.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 15:39:27

Grassroots, all I'm suggesting is that they might want to raise ticket prices rather than cash fairs if the majority of people are using tickets anyways. It just doesn't make sense to subsidize tickets by such a large degree. I've always been baffled by this.

As for the working poor, doesn't Hamilton still have that project that gives them half price monthly passes? It was up and running during the summer when I was working in the city. Have they discontinued it? I think you just had to bring a paycheque to prove you worked in the city, and your tax info (so they could see your annual income) and you could buy passes half price.

Either way, Mac students are still getting a deal that is far too sweet, the city needs to squeeze a little more out of them. Not much, but even $60 per student would be huge. Adn I'm confident that students would be willing to pay $120 for an 8 month pass.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2009 at 16:24:24

Robert D wrote:

doesn't Hamilton still have that project that gives them half price monthly passes?

IIRC it was a pilot project involving only a small number of recipients who had to apply and to pass a means test. I believe Council is deliberating on whether to expand it.

This, however, is only part of the problem. The other part is that people who do have transportation alternatives will choose not to take transit if the price goes up.

People respond to incentives, and Hamilton's system of transportation incentives is heavily skewed to driving - from our ring highway to our urban one-way expressways to mandatory "free" parking requirements at every destination.

While other cities have enjoyed increases in transit use in the 5-10 percent range over the past year, Hamilton saw transit use go up by barely one percent.

That's an abject failure in our supposed mission to double transit use in the next fifteen years.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 22:35:46

Robert D:

I do believe that the bus pass for low income was for about 500 people, the working poor not for those on ODSP or OW.

But there is issue about the buses that is of a concern. A person who is disabled, menaing who has a walker or mobility device can get on the bus for free and the bus drivers will remove paying customers off the bus when necessary to make room. It has happen to family members three times now, the last time it happened it was freezing cold and with a baby who was less than a month old.

While I feel for the disabled person, does it make sense to boot off a little baby, who is also suspectible to the cold?

These people who run the HSR need to rethink things, one day someone will get really pissed off being kicked off the bus when they have paid their fare. Why should someone who has paid been made to do that?

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