Special Report: Light Rail

Rapid Ready: Staff Recommend a Real Commitment to Integrated Transportation

Councillors will receive a staff report recommending a broad commitment to active, integrated transportation and a submission to Metrolinx for Hamilton's B-Line LRT.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 25, 2013

Today's General Issues Committee (GIC) meeting, starting at 9:30 AM, will consider a 263-page transportation report called Rapid Ready - Expanding Mobiliy Choices in Hamilton [PDF].

Thanks to Joey Coleman, you can watch a livestream of the meeting.

The report recommends that Council direct public works staff to submit the report to Metrolinx as Hamilton's submission and plan for a B-Line light rail transit (LRT) service.

If Council decides not to submit the report, that would "terminate the B-Line project from further advancement and would contravene the requirements of the Contribution Agreement." The report recommends against doing this.

As part of Hamilton's preparation for LRT, the report also recommends a number of other measures to support LRT success, including growing ridership on Hamilton's bus network, encouraging multi-modal transportation that seamlessly integrates walking, cycling and transit, and establishing land uses that support active transportation.

LRT Capital Cost and Financing

The proposed LRT line has a proposed capital cost of $800 million in 2011 dollars, though staff believe this can be reduced through "value engineering" the line. If we assume an $800 million capital cost and 2 percent inflation per year, the nominal cost if the project starts in 2015 would be just under $866 million.

The traditional operating assumption for Metrolinx projects has been 100 percent capital funding by the Province, as Council heard from Metrolinx vice president John Howe in October 2011. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto is already confirmed to receive 100 percent capital funding.

The original capital fund for Metrolinx projects is spent, and the arms-length group announced last November that they are now working on the next phase of projects, which includes Hamilton's LRT. Metrolinx will be publishing an Investment Strategy this June that will outline opportunities to generate the revenue that will pay for the next phase of projects.

Last summer, Ontario Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli said Hamilton would have to come up with some of the capital cost, though neither he nor Metrolinx would provide any specifics about how much. Mississauga has been telling the Province that it expects the same 100 percent funding arrangement that Toronto has received.

LRT Operating Costs and Benefits

The staff report assesses that a new LRT line would generate a number of operating costs and benefits, with a significant net benefit.

On the cost side are $2.9-3.5 million in increased operating costs for transit, plus $8.7 million in ancillary costs related to snow removal, street lighting and loss of parking revenue.

On the benefit side, the Canadian Urban Institute estimates that LRT will triple the number of development projects along the transit corridor, from 32 projects to 108. That would bring in an addition $22 million in tax benefits, plus $30 million in building permit fees and development charges. The assessed value of properties along the corridor would increase by $29 million over 15 years.

Building LRT would also save the city $79 million on backlogged unfunded infrastructure maintenance projects along the corridor.

The construction of the LRT would produce 6,000 jobs, including 3,500 in Hamilton, and add $443 million to Ontario's GDP.

Among non-monetary benefits, LRT would improve public health by reducing air pollution from driving and encouraging more walking and other active transportation. The LRT would support a more compact, walkable land use and built form around the line.

LRT is also "known to be attractive to tourists, commuters and residents and can significantly enhance a city's image."

Finally, LRT will allow the City to meet Council's direction to double transit ridership, as well as meeting the Provincial mandates under Places to Grow.

Preparing for LRT

To ensure that LRT has the best chance of success, the report recommends a number of measures the City can take to prepare for it.

The City needs to raise the profile of public transit in the community by improving the quality and reliability of the service and promoting its broader use by "re-position[ing] Hamilton's public transportation network as viable and attractive."

Currently, there is a perception in Hamilton that public transit is a social service for people with limited options rather than a legitimate transportation choice. That perception is reinforced by the City's own transit policies, which treat transit as a cost centre to be minimized rather than an investment in quality of life.

According to the report, the City needs to engage communities in finding ways to improve transit service so that it supports community stability and redevelopment.

The report also recommends developing a "multi-modal 'active transportation' network connecting transit, walking, cycling, inter-regional transportation, carpool, car share, bike share and park and ride." This recognizes that walking, cycling and transit can work together to provide full mobility through the neighbourhood, the city and the region.

That integration includes building multi-modal transit hubs "to create seamless connections between local, rapid and interregional transportation services".

While the HSR has traditionally regarded cycling as something of a competition - or at least a nuisance - this report recognizes that cycling and transit support each other. "Cycling plays a major role for medium distance travel by extending the catchment of transit by reducing trip time to/from bus stops and traversing the escarpment for example."

The report also recommends re-orienting the bus network to "feed planned rapid transit corridors" and encourage new neighbourhoods to "establish travel patterns in advance of implementation."

In anticipation of LRT, the report recommends a dedicated rapid transit lane along the east-west B-Line, which is currently operating way over capacity. The report argues that this commitment to rapid transit would smooth the path for LRT by identifying and fixing any issues that come up.

Growing Transit Ridership

The report presents the City's transit ridership positively, but the reality is that ridership has been stagnant for years, barely keeping up with population. As the report notes, "To achieve gains in active transportation mode use, the level of investment in transportation needs to greatly outpace the rate of population growth."

Council has directed staff to meet the goal of doubling the rate of transit ridership by 2020, and the report acknowledges that this goal cannot be achieved without transforming how the city funds, organizes and integrates transit.

Comparing Hamilton to cities with much higher ridership levels, like Winnipeg, Victoria and Quebec, the report concludes, "The proven most successful approach to transit ridership growth is to provide higher levels of service frequency and duration. For Hamilton, this equates to about 250,000 hours of new service to reach" the range of those cities.

Focusing on Winnipeg, the report notes that it has grown ridership by 30 percent over the last decade through a transit vision that prioritizes integrated land use, safety, efficiency, equity, well-maintained infrastructure and financial sustainability.

The report makes clear that Council needs to direct funding to improve the transit network and grow ridership according to Council's already-approved transit objectives.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:05:59

"Value engineering" is my new favourite euphemism. Is that where the missing L got to?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:19:32

LRT is a no brainer

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:31:28

"There may be a need for some reduction in service
frequency to fully utilize the available train capacity."

Great. Now we have to worry about a missing R.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 14:20:40

The City needs to raise the profile of public transit in the community by improving the quality and reliability of the service and promoting its broader use by "re-position[ing] Hamilton's public transportation network as viable and attractive."

I've recently started taking the bus again and in my experience it has improved over previous years. The HSR needs to attract back all those who went back to their cars after a full bus drove past one too many times.

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By JayRobb (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 14:34:32

Agree that light rail transit running thru the core and linked to all-day GO service would be a smart long term investment (would eliminate the need for more taxpayer funded / subsidized parking lots and garages and would get large numbers of people in and out of the core quickly for work and events).

Yet how much of Hamilton's stagnant public transit ridership is due to short commute times within the city and an abundance of cheap parking?

When I worked at Dofasco, my crosstown commute was under 20 minutes thanks to some one-way streets with synchronized lights and the parking was free.

It takes me less than 10 minutes to drive to my current employer and while parking isn't free, it's not prohibitively expensive either. The few times I've taken the bus to work, the 10 minute commute's become a 45 minute bus ride and a 10 minute walk. And those extra 55 minutes don't make life easier at the back end of the day when the kids have afterschool lessons.

Our family went to a Hamilton Bulldogs game last week. It took all of 5 minutes to drive to Copps and we paid just $3 to park at a municipal garage. By comparison, we take the GO Train to weekend Jays games because it's cheaper, quicker and more convenient.

Until the cost of driving in time and money is greater than the cost of taking public transit , I can't see those who have a choice in how they get around choosing to park the car in favour of a bus or train. And these are the folks who can afford to pay full fare and help subsidize an expanded transit system. If a tax hike for public transit went to a referendum in the 2014 election, would it pass?

Not sure what the solution is? Maybe more pain at the pumps, higher parking rates downtown, addition of congestion pricing / tolls and a conversion to complete streets would convince more of us to choose transit?

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By mikeyj (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 16:40:29 in reply to Comment 86742

There is an assumption held still that anyone who can afford a car would inherently want to pay for the luxury of owning a car, and value such time savings over the near constant financial drain of an automobile.

Not that owning a car is wrong, just that it is a luxury, and treating it as a necessity only fuels mistaken beliefs like: Transit users don't have a "choice in how they get around" & Car owners are "the folks who can afford to pay full fare".

Which are pretty silly things to assume.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 18:20:52 in reply to Comment 86747

Yeah it's a hard mentality to break and I'm guilty of it. Only recently taking transit around Hamilton and into Toronto have I started to realize/admit that I can do all I need without relying on a car. Admittedly we will still be a one car family, but I'm selling mine to let the HSR chauffeur me about. :)

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 15:12:53 in reply to Comment 86742

Between 1986 and 2006, Hamilton's transit modal share dropped from 10% to 8%, a 20% drop in share.

That shift has been partly attributed to the gigantism of suburbs since that time, suburbs that have never enjoyed comparable service levels to the lower city. It has also been put down to the declining intra-urban live-work levels; in 1986, 86% of Hamiltonians worked in the City of Hamilton, but in 2006 that had dropped to 75%.

LRT is an important step toward getting back to 1986 per-capita usage levels. Getting most of downtown's 23,000 workers out of their cars and into public transit seems like a notable milestone.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 16:46:05

Just for fun...

Commute Times from Home to City Hall (Calculated via Google Maps)

Councillor: Drive Time (One Way) vs Transit Time (One Way)

Ward 1, Clr McHattie: 5-7 min by car or 9-11 min by transit
Ward 2, Clr Farr: 7 min by car or 19-20 min by transit
Ward 3, Clr Morelli: 8 min by car or 15-24 min by transit
Ward 4, Clr Merulla: 8 min by car or 20-26 min by transit
Ward 5, Clr Collins: 10-14 min by car or 33-34 min by transit
Ward 6, Clr Jackson: 12 min by car or 27-29 min by transit
Ward 7, Clr Duvall: 14 min by car or 28 min by transit
Ward 8, Clr Whitehead: 13 min by car or 35-50 min by transit
Ward 9, Clr Clark: 17-19 min by car or 56-58 min by transit
Ward 10, Clr Pearson: 21 min by car or 50-60 min by transit
Ward 11, Clr Johnson: 27 min drive or 56 min by transit
Ward 12, Clr Ferguson: 17-19 min by car or 50-80 min by transit
Ward 13, Clr Powers: 15 min by car or 50 min by transit
Ward 14, Clr Pasuta: 28 min by car or 129-154 min by transit
Ward 15, Clr Partridge: 26-28 min by car or 80-90 min by transit

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 17:13:18 in reply to Comment 86748

FWIW, McHattie walks. ;)

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 21:37:04

Nice to see this.

Dr. Ninh Tran, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health, told councillors the city’s transportation system "should put people first," and that cars should be “an option, not a necessity."


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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 22:36:15

All this positive reports and sentiments, and for what? So council can stick them on the shelf and continue cowering in fear of fully funding bike-sharing?

It just makes me so sick to read about what goes on at City Hall...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 22:36:50 in reply to Comment 86761

That should say "fully funded bike-sharing".

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 07:21:14 in reply to Comment 86762

Ya say that to councillor Kackson he sais he won`t spend a DIME on bike sharing , its in the spec

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 07:25:30 in reply to Comment 86770

that was councillor Jackson .. lol

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 23:14:44

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 23:32:55 in reply to Comment 86764

FUTURE planning.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 08:13:28

"Hamilton city council hot on LRT, cool on bikeshare proposal" by Adam Carter on CBC Hamilton today: http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

The article notes that CBC Hamilton received an e-mail from Malon Edwards of Metrolinx stating that Metrolinx intends to fund 100% of the capital cost of Hamilton's transit plan as one of the "next wave" of projects through a new investment strategy to be presented to the province and the municipalities by June 1, 2013.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2013-02-26 08:13:44

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 08:47:44 in reply to Comment 86781

That's all well and good, but Malon Edwards heads up Media Relations. This is why even the most enthusiastic support has an escape hatch, highlighted by the article’s nimble conjugation exercise around “intention”. I’m sure that all at Metrolinx have the best intentions. Worst comes to worst, we can devote them to roads infrastructure.

Success on the 100% funding ask comes down to agreeing on to a funding strategy, because no funds have been dedicated to this "priority” (another upbeat but squishy word): “The 'next wave' of projects requires a funding source,” “It is our intention that funding for the Hamilton project, like other projects across the GTHA, would be provided through Metrolinx’s upcoming investment strategy.”

Not to sound like a Ward 6 councillor, but I would be hearing direct from Metrolinx brass or the Minister of Transportation, ideally about commitments and timelines.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 08:48:35 in reply to Comment 86788

*Not to sound like a Ward 6 councillor, but I would be more interested in hearing direct from Metrolinx brass or the Minister of Transportation, ideally about commitments and timelines.

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