Light Rail

Metrolinx Draft BCA on Hamilton Rapid Transit Now Online

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 12, 2010

A draft of the Metrolinx Business Case Analysis for Hamilton's east-west rapid transit corridor is now available online [PDF link], with summary and recommended resolutions on the agenda for the February 19 Metrolinx Board meeting.

As expected, the BCA shows that LRT has by far the greatest overall economic benefit ($850 million compared to $313 million for full BRT), but is also the costliest (while retaining a net benefit 1.1).

This reinforces what HLR has been saying about LRT v BRT for the past 2.5 years, and explains why there is such strong support for LRT from diverse groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and Environmental groups.

The report also strongly supports the two-way conversion of Main Street and King Street, and says these conversions are essential for BRT or LRT to achieve its full benefits.

The BCA also considers a phased approach (LRT from McMaster to Ottawa St, and then BRT) which has benefits and costs intermediate between the full BRT and full LRT options.

I was very disappointed, however, by the fact that staff are recommending that no decision actually be made:

RESOLVED:

  • THAT the Metrolinx Board approve and publicly release the Hamilton King-Main Rapid Transit Benefit Case Analysis (BCA) report, demonstrating positive benefits for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), full Light Rail Transit (LRT) and phased LRT options;

  • THAT the Board direct staff to continue to work collaboratively with the City of Hamilton on the planning, design and engineering (PDE) workplan for the King-Main corridor in 2010; and

  • THAT staff report back to the Board in late 2010 with a PDE workplan status update.

In other words, even though LRT is clearly the best option in terms of overall benefit, we are still going to keep studying this thing to death and avoid making an actual decision.

(In fact, if we study it long enough we won't have to make a decision because the window of opportunity to get something done will have passed.)

The resolution is also self-contradictory: how can the detailed design and engineering be done when a preferred technology has not even been chosen?

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 12, 2010 at 15:12:48

thanks for the update Nicholas. I just read the report and it's very interesting. LRT would be an 8 minute shorter trip than BRT. That alone is HUGE. The spinoff in EcDev is really the key though. BRT can't hold a candle to LRT. If it could, all of these cities that have been building LRT systems would have stopped wasting their money and just gone with buses. People from Hamilton travel the continent and the world and ride trains in cities all over the place. Not buses though. They'll ride trains in Hamilton too, but not buses.

I hope the right decision is made. It's very rare for Hamilton to have such a huge opportunity at such a transformational project. Usually we're funding these sorts of projects in Toronto. It would be nice to build one here for once....maybe Toronto tax payers will actually have to chip in a little too. Gasp!!

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By Really? (registered) | Posted February 12, 2010 at 15:47:22

I enjoyed the read, as well. It seems to stress Two-Way Conversion of Main & King a lot.

I'm fearing they're going to go with Option 3: Phased LRT (Mac to Ottawa St). Obviously I'm praying & hoping for Full LRT... but with the state the Prov is in, you just never know!?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 12, 2010 at 16:43:38

I love how they make the statement that Hamilton will certainly make the two-way conversion of King and Main due to the obvious benefits. LOL.
Oh, if they only knew.......

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By lukev (anonymous) | Posted February 12, 2010 at 20:41:59

It sure is a good thing that the Metrolinx board was changed "for efficiency." How many deferred decisions and cancelled board meetings have there been now?

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By MarkWhittle (registered) - website | Posted February 13, 2010 at 07:53:48

I read the report too, and I'm not all that impressed. Hamilton will be on the hook for millions and millions of dollars on top of the base price. Hamilton is $600 million in debt and needs almost a billion dollars to upgrade the water and waste water sewage system to even remotely continue with development of any sort. We also are asking for another $14.5 million to cover increased administration costs of government programs and salary increases for staff such as EMS, fire and police services. The only way LRT will come to Hamilton is when Metrolynx pays 100% of the costs to build it. Most present Councilors will be long-gone by then. I predict half will be gone in the fall at the ballot box.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 13, 2010 at 09:35:19

this is one of the rare times where the upfront public investment actually results in the city MAKING money in the long run. Lots of it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2010 at 15:08:43

That's right, buy now, pay later. That's what Bob Rae did to Ontario in the early nineties and it crushed tax revenues. The fact is, increasing public debt does not lead to increased tax revenues, it decreases them.

According to the 2008 financial report pg 2-18...

(d) Total charges for the year for long term debt which are reported on the Consolidated Statement of Financial Activities are as follows:
2008 2007
Principal repayments $ 23,355 $ 19,773
Interest 14,421 13,207
$ 37,776 $ 32,980

(c) Total charges for the year for long term debt - housing corporations are as follows:
2008 2007
Principal repayments $ 2,527 $ 2,424
Interest 3,736 4,018
$ 6,263 $ 6,442

... That's $18.16M every year just on interest. In contrast, the entire 2008 transit budget was $41.3M.

If the city had chosen to save these amounts...

2008
Long term debt – Municipal Operations (Note 7) 329,026
Long term debt – Housing Corporations (Note 8) 74,168

...instead of borrowing them, it could be earning $18.16M every year on interest. That's a difference of $36.32M every single year, or roughly the amount we spend every year on transit.



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By g. swift (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2010 at 19:59:13

yawn, a smith, yawn, scroll scroll scroll, yawn, numbers, yawn, scroll scroll scroll, is he done et, scroll scroll scroll.

i've got a great idea, if the poor sold their babies to rich people for food they could afford to buy cars and then we could solve all our problems! no more nasty taxes! no more public transit! no more public debt! free market at its best!

i would show you how it works with made up statistics and baseless redundant math predicated on fiction that no one will bother to read, but only douche bags do that, right? right?

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By davidsfawcett (registered) - website | Posted February 14, 2010 at 08:59:29

It seems to me that a lot of the opposition to two-way traffic on Main and King would go away if there were another reasonable way to get from east of downtown to west of downtown or the other way around in a car. Notice that I didn't say "to 'bypass' downtown". People are concerned that the two way streets would create a bottleneck even worse then that which now exists between Victoria and James on King St. If Cannon and Wilson Sts. could remain one-way that would provide motorists with an east-west route, and the proposed LRT the two way traffic and revised streetscape which it ideally requires. It's well to remember that most Hamiltonians don't live anywhere near the proposed LRT line. Even if one of its stops is somewhere near where they're going, they're not going to endure the walk to a bus stop, the wait for the bus and a 20 or 30 minute bus ride to connect with it.

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By NumbersMan (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 09:53:49

Methinks there's logic in A. Smith's numbers...keep it up Mr. Smith! Maybe we should send you to city hall.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 10:14:03

@davidsfawcett,

There are two "reasonable way[s] to get from east of downtown to west of downtown or the other way around in a car" without taking Cannon, Wilson, Main, or King. They're called the 403/QEW and Linc/Red Hill. In fact, one of the major justifications for the RHVP was that it would reduce car traffic in the lower city.

Two other "reasonable ways to get from east of downtown to west of downtown or the other way around" include driving on two-way city streets (even with two-way conversion, traffic speeds in Hamilton will not likely be slower than in other major Ontario cities) or taking the HSR.

Those of us who live near Wilson and Cannon don't particularly like the idea of having even more traffic dumped in our backyard.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 10:40:16

Some debt is good. Does anyone have a mortgage?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 10:54:08

Just posting to clarify that I meant my earlier comment not as an argument against LRT on King/Main, but rather as an argument an LRT implementation that shifts even more car traffic to Wilson/Cannon. (Particularly one that keeps the latter two streets one-way with synchronized lights because, well, we can't actually expect people to use the LRT to get across town, can we?)

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 12:16:56

Does anybody else find it strange that any posts talking about fiscal responsibility get down voted?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 14:26:23

and the only people making posts on 'fiscal responsibility' are the ones who have supported spending billions on roads in the last 15 years....

As for a route from east to west through the city, what is wrong with a 2-way Main??
Fennell and Mohawk are 4-lane two-ways across the mountain. surely a two-way street that is 'reasonable' on the mountain can also be considered reasonable downtown. A small, quiet street in Toronto called Yonge is also a 4-lane two way. Seems pretty reasonable there too.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 18:03:42

@jason: amen. No other city that I can think of requires a network of four-lane one-way streets to get people around. The expectation that one should be able to drive from Dundurn to Ottawa on urban streets in ten minutes needs to be abandoned.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 19:19:09

Does anybody else find it strange that any posts talking about fiscal responsibility get down voted?

You name me an enterprise that became successful without making any strategic investments. Go on. I'll wait.

Yeah, thought so.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 14, 2010 at 19:19:53

It's well to remember that most Hamiltonians don't live anywhere near the proposed LRT line

The proposed LRT line runs through the densest neighborhoods in the city.

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By concernedone (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 00:56:49

davidsfawcett

Don't even try to make sense. The people here have tunnel vision. It's their way or the highway. They have the misguided notion that people in this city will suddenly abandon their cars to use the LRT. That will be their downfall. We will not get LRT in this city until vehicular traffic concerns are addressed. The politicians are already hedging their bets. When you hear the mayor say not so fast about two way conversions, you know the whole idea is in trouble.

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By concernedone (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 01:04:46

"The proposed LRT line runs through the densest neighborhoods in the city."

That may be so, but the fact of the matter is most people in this city live nowhere near the proposed route.

In order to get support for the project the pro LRT people are going to have to convince the majority that don't live near the route that it should be built.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 08:07:46

the pro LRT people are going to have to convince the majority that don't live near the route that it should be built.

From here:

Investment in Light Rail Transit (LRT) will:

  • Reduce operating costs per passenger compared to buses.

  • Alleviate congestion by taking up to 300 people out of their cars and into one vehicle.

  • Increase municipal tax assessments due to transit oriented economic development.

  • Reduce pressure to intensify suburban neighbourhoods.

I love how people who don't bother to study the thing sit back and go, Yah well you pro-LRT people will have to convince me. You also have a responsibility to educate yourself before commenting publicly.

Comment edited by nobrainer on 2010-02-15 07:10:10

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 08:17:48

Don't even try to make sense.

Don't worry. He's not trying to make sense.

The people here have tunnel vision.

Yeah, because studying how the world's cities solve their development and transportation problems is more narrow and close minded than defending the status quo at all costs.

They have the misguided notion that people in this city will suddenly abandon their cars to use the LRT.

No. we have the well guided notion that some people in this city will chose high quality transit if they have a choice. They'll chose to live and work near the transit line and that will spur developers to give them the kinds of facilities they're looking for.

You need to leave the GTA once and a while and see how the rest of the world looks. It's not all ten lane highways you know.

We will not get LRT in this city until vehicular traffic concerns are addressed.

What vehicular traffic concerns? You can drive right through the city from end to end in 10 minutes. No city should ever allow that - and most don't. The healthy cities with good economies certainly don't.

If I were just a troll, I'd accuse you now of being anti business. But I'd rather try and stick to the issues, tempting as it is.

The politicians are already hedging their bets. When you hear the mayor say not so fast about two way conversions, you know the whole idea is in trouble.

When you're actually bragging that the lunatics are running the asylum, you know you've lost the argument.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 20:36:46

z jones >> You name me an enterprise that became successful without making any strategic investments.

Debt/Equity
Google (GOOG) 0.125
Apple (AAPL) 0.508
Research in Motion (RIMM) 0.423
City of Burlington 0.762
US Steel (X) 2.298
City of Hamilton 2.824



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By Downtown (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2010 at 02:10:47

If it is so obvious on this forum that we need the LRT, then why is it not done. I guess it's not so obvious after all. Issues to content with are:

1) How much will Hamilton have to pay? I would suspect at least one-third.

2) Will the LRT mess up Hamilton's synchronized traffic light system on Main Street and result in a downtown traffic nightmare like Toronto's.

3) If it is much more cost-effective to use Bus Rapid Transit, why not save the $600 to $800 million and improve the downtown in other ways. Why choose a method that is not most cost-effective. We can improve Hamilton a great deal with the other $600 million.

4) Hamilton downtown is not Toronto downtown! Until the area is cleaned up, nobody is going to want to move here or shop here.

I live right downtown on Main Street, so I would benefit from the LRT, but I still don't think it is the right decision. Our top priority should be to clean up the area. For all those who are in favour of the LRT, why don't you move downtown and see how you like it in its current condition?

Lastly, if I thought the downtown would be cleaned up, I may well support the LRT, but City Hall has created, and then ignored, the downtown situation, and I don't have any hope yet that they will start taking real action to clean up the area.

My, how City Hall loves to spend our money, without dealing with the big picture.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2010 at 07:09:54

f it is so obvious on this forum that we need the LRT, then why is it not done.

I'll pretend your question isn't rhetorical and take a stab at answering it.

The main reason we don't have it yet is that it takes time to plan a major capital infrastructure investment like light rail transit. The City is currently well into the planning phase and has spent much of this year preparing a detailed analysis around routing, rights-of-way, traffic signals, street conversion, public and stakeholder consultation, business impacts mitigation, rezoning around the transit-oriented development corridor, and so on.

The City also recently established a Citizens Advisory Committee and will be presenting the committee this week.

The reason staff, council and the public support the more expensive LRT over the cheaper BRT is that it functions as a transformative anchor for billions of dollars in new investment, not simply as a transportation system. Cities in much worse shape than Hamilton have transformed their downtowns into vibrant, busy, dense mixed use centres through a combination of LRT, people-friendly street design, and business-friendly TOD regulations.

And if you were at Supercrawl on Saturday night, you'll know that people are already willing to come downtown right now.

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