Transportation

Richmond BC Already Enjoying Light Rail Success

By Jason Leach
Published February 11, 2008

At RTH, we have advocated strongly that Hamilton use the provincial money being offered for our transit system to build an light rail transit (LRT) line from Mac to Eastgate instead of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line.

Among the many advantages of LRT, possibly the most important is the spin-off development that takes place along a transit rail corridor. There are no examples of cities that saw huge amounts of development follow a BRT route. LRT is a magnet for it.

In Portland they like to say that their LRT network is first and foremost "an economic development tool". As we all know, Hamilton could use some economic development, and has ample capacity for a whole bunch of it through out lower city.

An enlightening discussion over on the Skyscraper page highlights the radical difference a rail line can bring over a bus line.

Richmond, BC has had a BRT route running through the centre of town for several years. Currently, it looks like any suburban area you'd find in Canada. Low density, car dependant and full of one-story plazas.

They are now converting the BRT route into an extension of the SkyTrain, Vancouver's elevated rail transit network.

Work is still progressing on this new rail line and already the city of Richmond has received applications or planning documents by private developers to construct 50 new condo towers along the rail line.

Obviously these developments include new retail and commercial space as well.

Why didn't this construction boom happen during the years with BRT running through Richmond? Quite simply, BRT is not LRT. It will never attract this sort of investment.

Hamilton City Council faces a decision on how to spend tens of millions of dollars from the province. Do we waste it on snazzy buses or lay down tracks that will have the potential to attract investment here like we haven't seen in decades?

Don't expect them to make the right choice on their own. Get involved:

http://www.hamiltonlightrail.com

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 jason (registered) | Posted February 12, 2008 at 13:20:19

I had another thought today while listening to yet another CHML show about Lister Block. Why doesn't city hall meet and decide that they're going to aggressively pursue LRT. Make adjustments to zoning where necessary along the line and then private builders and business would willingly and happily spend their own money to build along the route instead of us having to anguish for years and years just to get one building restored. In a very direct way, LRT would help take care of Lister. It improves transit, but more importantly becomes THE catalyst to redevelop our lower city.

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By transitory (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2008 at 21:08:50

I agree that LRT would be a huge boon to the lower city in particular, and it would be a worthy addition to the MoveOntario 2020 fabric.

LRT is definitely preferable to BRT, but I'm still a little confused by the either/or talk about BRT. I got the impression that Queen's Park had only allocated a portion of the $17.5 billion to date. Specifically, $25M or so for two BRT lines, one east-west, one north-south. If the City took those funds and applied it to LRT, you'd have a shuttle from McMaster to Macklin (McMaster U to Eastgate Square is something like 13km, requiring a larger investment... going by Spacing's recent estimates on line costs, $160M-$500M). If more provincial funds follow, we're in luck. But transit is still a political football, so maybe it's better to have BRT making inroads while our politicians lobby like hell for the money it'll take to do LRT right.

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By ron (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2008 at 10:04:14

This comparison between what Richmond is getting vs what Hamilton may acquire is off-base on many counts. First of all, the 'light-rail' Hamilton would consider would be LRT, like a streetcar. What Richmond is getting is SKYTRAIN, which is actually a 'light metro system', similar to the Scarborough RT: ie: effectively an elevated subway which connects the city to the rest of the region, including downtown Vancouver and the airport. Thus the spurt in development.

So Hamilton will gain absolutely nothing by creating an LRT (glorified streetcar). BRT for that purpose would be more cost-effective. Look at the context.

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By rayell (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2008 at 10:49:58

ron wrote:

"What Richmond is getting is SKYTRAIN, which is actually a 'light metro system', similar to the Scarborough RT"

FTFA:

"They are now converting the BRT route into an extension of the SkyTrain, Vancouver's elevated rail transit network."

So stop pretending the article is being dishonest.

"Hamilton will gain absolutely nothing by creating an LRT (glorified streetcar). BRT for that purpose would be more cost-effective. Look at the context."

This sit is chock-full of examples of cities getting LRT like Hamilton is looking at and gaining LOTS of new economic development and new ridership from it. LRT is not just "glorified streetcars", it's fast, large capacity, fully accessible, on dedicated lanes with signal priority at intersections.

It's working in ALL KINDS of other cities, not just Richmond -- like Charlotte North Carolina, Portland Oregon, heck, even little Kinosha Wisconsin -- so I think YOU'RE the one being inaccurate when you pick on just one difference in just one example and try to say that it make the whole argument not valid.

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