Special Report: Light Rail

Lack of Vision Cripples Hamilton's Transit System

With vision and leadership, our current council could be building legacies worthy of naming rights instead of focusing on potholes.

By Sean Burak
Published December 19, 2014

According to this article, there is a shortage of buses on mountain routes.

Ward 7 Coun. Scott Duvall said his office has received numerous complaints from students and parents about HSR buses driving past waiting riders along Mohawk Road during morning and afternoon rush hours.

"We don't have enough buses," he said. "I'm getting a lot of complaints. There is a problem up there."

Duvall said students have been late to class because they couldn't get on the crowded bus. He said complaints about overcrowding, infrequent bus times, transfers and longer times for buses to get to their destinations began when school started in September.

Hamilton started seriously talking about higher-order transit in 2007. If city hall had handled the light rail transit (LRT) file properly from the start, we could have been well on our way with installation by now. We could even have had a portion completed before the Pan Am Games.

If this were the case, we'd be closer to a future where the B-Line would be properly serviced for the first time in decades, and scores of buses would be freed up to be redeployed on other routes across the city.

Instead, we have dragged our feet and accomplished nothing. Will the city continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into automobile lanes we don't need and overpasses to nowhere while investing the absolute bare minimum into transit?

Will we really tell the province "no thanks", and let them buy LRT for Burlington instead? And then will we go back to the province a year later and complain that Hamilton was overlooked by the higher levels of government?

We need to stand up and shout for our piece of the pie while it's there, else we'll be the ants scrambling for crumbs later.

Council keeps talking about being committed to LRT - but we all know that the "100 percent funding" caveat is an exit strategy, not a commitment. If the province requires one penny from Hamilton for any infrastructure related to higher order transit, council has left an opening to pull the plug.

This is not a reasonable position. It's no wonder the province hasn't committed to us. They are not so obtuse that they consider this wishy-washy "if and only if" position as strong support. Looking at it from their perspective, would you commit to Hamilton knowing that they have such a strong exit plan?

What is council's transit plan? LRT with an ejection seat, but otherwise... nothing? We can't change the past but we can start making up for our mistakes right now. All we need is Council's leadership.

The longer we put off transit investment, the more expensive it is going to be to do it later - and in the meantime our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow as we fail to shift any mode share from cars - the most expensive transportation option of them all.

The residents of Hamilton deserve a choice in how they move around. Will Council finally give it to them?

The time for leadership is now. Does anyone on Council care to leave a legacy in this city other than a footnote in wikipedia that says "longest time served"?

We once had leaders with world-class vision who left us a city bursting with infrastructure that still bears their names to this day. With vision and leadership, our current council could be building legacies worthy of naming rights instead of focusing on potholes.

The era of the drive-thru city is long over. Please, Council, help propel us into the progressive future that our hard-working citizens deserve.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

49 Comments

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:36:37

Great article, Sean. I share your frustration.

A telling comment that I heard from Wednesday's Council meeting re: the bus lane was Judi Partridge saying that she "takes care of HER residents and has not heard any positive feedback about the bus-only lane". Whaaat? Since when are councillors supposed to myopically focus on only their own ward to the exclusion of anything else in the entire city?

The question needs to be asked of all council and individual councillors: What is your vision for transit in this city? If not LRT, then how would you resolve the growing issue of inadequate service?

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By Move (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:32:03

Send the mayor and council an email with this article or the like. We need to apply the pressure.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 16:37:55 in reply to Comment 107245

This was actually originally an email to council that has been reprinted here.

Terry Whitehead responded in three words:

"Your kidding right?"

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 23:54:48 in reply to Comment 107251

Can you post the email exchange please?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:52:12 in reply to Comment 107251

Likewise, last week I sent him this article and highlighted the huge line-up at the bus stop on Main Street:

https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2...

His response: 'stop being myopic'.

Apparently it's myopic when hundreds of people wait over an hour for the bus as they get passed by continually (and have been for over a decade), but it's a serious problem that needs immediate fixing when students on the Mountain are passed by for the first time ever.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 23:56:08 in reply to Comment 107271

...hundreds of people wait over an hour for the bus...

Really? When does this occur? My wife has had to wait downtown for, at most, 15 minutes for a bus when passed by ones at capacity. You're not being myopic, but rather, dishonest. No wonder nobody in the municipal government listens to you.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 09:39:48 in reply to Comment 107251

Even the contraction didn't get traction.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:56:52 in reply to Comment 107251

Was that Terry or his hairpiece talking? That thing has a mind of its own.

Actually, what bothers me most is not the glibness of his remark but the poor grammar.

Comment edited by DrAwesomesauce on 2014-12-19 22:00:20

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 23:56:40 in reply to Comment 107260

Actually, what bothers me most is that you believe what was posted without proof.

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By kidding??? (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:04:14 in reply to Comment 107251

What an a-hole.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 17:15:34 in reply to Comment 107251

Oh goody.

As it happens, I just sent my own e-mail, linking your piece and discussing similar issues.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:52:06 in reply to Comment 107245

agreed. Although they've proven they only listen to 'feedback' that lines up with their auto-only biases. Feedback that is for proper city building is called whining, entitled, myopic and doesn't count as real feedback.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2014 at 16:06:25 in reply to Comment 107248

Likewise, 84 personally written letters in support of two-way conversion is not enough to get Council to actually carry out the two-way conversions they had already approved more than a decade earlier.

But four or five emails about water fountains at the stadium counts as a "public outcry".

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By kidding??? (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 21:03:20 in reply to Comment 107250

So where's the accountability then? I'm peeved off at this, esp. Whiteheads response.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 19:57:17 in reply to Comment 107257

He doesn't have to show any respect to anyone who's not going to vote for him, as he has no ambition to be more than a two-bit councillor. Sad, but true.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:48:42 in reply to Comment 107257

there is none. They just happily plod along pretending the rest of the world hasn't figured out how to build healthy, successful cities.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 12:11:55

Normally poor grammar (especially lack or misuse of apostrophes) drives me crazy, but in this case, it's the entire lack of respect in the reply. I guess the feeling of job security is quite cushy at this point in the term.

I notice that in the listing of Sub Committees/Volunteer Committees, there is no listing for a Transit Volunteer Sub-Committee. Therefore, there is no organized conduit from the general public to City Council for suggested improvements. This should change.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 20:00:05 in reply to Comment 107273

Whitehead doesn't have to show any respect to anyone who's not going to vote for him. It's clear that he has no ambition to be more than a two-bit councillor. He'd never run for another position, for fear that if he didn't win he'd have no career prospects outside of politics.

Sad, but his past job history/experience shows it to be true.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 09:35:27 in reply to Comment 107281

This describes fully 3/4s of city council. People who would never have a job if they lost their council seat. Hamilton deserves better.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 16:33:08 in reply to Comment 107273

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

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 21:20:29 in reply to Comment 107276

Maybe fmurray does. Why don't you step up, rather than telling others to shut up.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 23:57:38 in reply to Comment 107282

I'm content with the way things are going, at least on the transit file. Don't need to fix what isn't broken, council-wise.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 09:36:47 in reply to Comment 107286

Over 25,000 pass-bys each year is fine with you? I'm guessing you don't run a business.

https://www.raisethehammer.org/comment/1...

http://www.raisethehammer.org/comment/10...

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:13:47 in reply to Comment 107293

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

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2014-12-23 22:20:05

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 13:57:17 in reply to Comment 107293

Re: Over 25,000 pass-bys each year

The 6,298 pass-bys in September-December 2013 is a four-month sample, so even you assume that the pass-by rate remains constant in the absence of students, that’d be 18,894 pass-bys after 12 months.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 15:55:48 in reply to Comment 107295

A single loop of the 1 King route contains 130 stops. A single loop of the 5 Delaware route contains 202 stops.
A single loop of the 10 Express route contains 30 stops. A single loop of the 51 University route contains 76 stops

So a single rotation of 1/5/10/51 buses have the potential to make 411 stops in all. Any one of those 411 stops could potentially be passed by. Now multiply 411 by the total number of runs being made by the 1/5/10/51 routes over the course of a week, and then multiply that by 52 and you’ll have the total number of potential passbys, against which you can measure the recorded passbys.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 17:58:59 in reply to Comment 107299

Sloppy mental math! A single rotation of 1/5/10/51 buses contains 438 potential stops (and 438 potential pass-bys).

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 15:59:27 in reply to Comment 107299

*Note that from Sept-Dec 2013, the HSR recorded 3,541 pass-bys on the B-Line corridor’s 1/5/10/51 routes.

I agree that pass-bys are to be avoided, and they reflect a poorly managed system. Part of that poor management, IMHO, is that U-Passes are discounted to the point where they present the HSR with as many negatives as positives (eg. crush-loaded buses face more wear and tear on top of the passbys, but ridership revenue is elusive, since U-Pass undercuts the adult pass cost by 80%). If U-Passes doubled in price, that would still be roughly half the student monthly rate — but the HSR might have the revenue to eliminate B-Line passbys, which are shown to constitute 56% of the system-wide issue. (The MSU and the University would presumably see a larger cut of the action for administering the fee.)

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 12:57:18 in reply to Comment 107300

*And* we could invest a higher percentage of our taxes in transit...

If council can't commit to improving existing transit, rapid transit will remain a distant hypothetical. But the HSR is making odd choices given its well-established fiscal realities. WagJagging one of your few moneymaking routes has the predictable consequences of fare leakage and impaired service.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:42:29 in reply to Comment 107319

We need to stop worrying about the farebox. If we are really going to rely on rider revenue, we should also toll some local roads so that we can spend less on them from the general levy

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 14:26:51 in reply to Comment 107327

PWYC, sure. Again, revamping the HSR's business model just comes down to political stickhandling.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 22:43:44 in reply to Comment 107300

Good numbers.

I would prefer we add 50 new attics to the fleet and follow the recommendations in Rapid Ready to have a network of routes that are high frequency, all day everyday so the public knows they are reliable. Ridership would take off.

If we were to lose some of the student riders, that simply means more cars etc.....

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:06:25 in reply to Comment 107303

In light of your fleet numbers, adding 50 buses to service would increase the HSR's annual operating budget by around 20%. Not impossible, but will require some adept stick-handling by council's progressives given that the police are catching flak for a 3%/$4.2 M budget jump.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 22:43:14 in reply to Comment 107300

Or we could invest a higher percentage of our taxes in transit...

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 15:15:25 in reply to Comment 107302

Taxes as % of HSR Budget

1994: 60
2005: 44

hamilton catch.org/vie w_arti cle.p hp

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 22:45:08 in reply to Comment 107302

agreed. And it wouldn't take much considering how abysmally low it currently is. As far as I can tell, our fleet will be 227 buses as of next year. 10 years ago it was 217. 10 whole buses in a decade. We need to be adding 10-15 per year at least with new express routes.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 14:40:23 in reply to Comment 107304

HSR Fleet Size

1988: 284 buses
1994: 172 buses
2005: 204 buses

Between 1986 and 2001, local transit went from handling 12% of morning peak period trips to 6%. (By 2011, it had increased to 9.3%.) Between 1986 and 2001, on an all-day basis, local transit went from handling 10% of trips to 5%.

Sources:
hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.php?id=139
hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/0F8E4AC6-98CC-4BD0-B3A9-26FB6D8EC71C/0/Jun05TransitCommitteeReport06004.pdf
statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-012-x/2011003/tbl/tbl1a-eng.cfm

Related:
raisethehammer.org/article/969/neglected_transit:_time_to_bring_hamiltons_unloved_stepchild_back_into_the_fold

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 14:44:54 in reply to Comment 107295

the person I chatted with from the transit end of things told me it was the results from the last quarter of 2013. Whether they have a typo on that presentation, or perhaps my source was off by a month, I'm not sure.

So, let's call it somewhere between 19,000-25,000 pass-bys per year.
Horrendous either way IMO

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 15:25:19 in reply to Comment 107297

"...complaints about buses speeding by would-be passengers at stops are poised to top 200 for the second year in a row."

thespec.com/news-story/5161141-absenteeism-rate-among-city-bus-drivers-around-14-per-cent

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2014 at 15:52:22

Some more great work being done by areas with far more suburban sprawl than us. Again proving, you build good transit, people will ride. Even out in the car-dependant suburbs:

http://www.vivanext.com

http://thetransitwayblog.tumblr.com

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By taxes (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:49:53

I am all for tolling roads when they eliminate the gas taxes, licensing taxes, environmental taxes and HST on cars.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 16:12:46 in reply to Comment 107328

maybe the government can buy you a car while they're at it....

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By 100 bux a year (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 14:02:39 in reply to Comment 107328

ya... the 100 bux a year plate stickers is going a lonnnng way to pay for the province-wide network of highways and roads.

those of us who drive are subsidized by those who don't. this is a mathematical fact. you don't have to believe it any more than you have to believe the world is round, but it doesn't change its accuracy

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By 10000 bucks (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 00:07:45 in reply to Comment 107329

100 bucks for the plate. 80 for the license. 3000 for the gas. 500 for the tax on insurance. 3000 for insurance becasue that is a tax. 7500 hst for the car. 100 bucks i wish.stfu.

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By fart math (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:49:51 in reply to Comment 107358

You renew your license every year? last I checked it was every 5 years. Insurance companies profit off of you - that's not tax. Same with oil companies. HST is applied to the car only at time of purchase. None of these are recurring yearly taxes but the roads are yearly recurring expenses. The tax on our gas does not cover the equivalent wear and tear and maintenance resulting from each km driven on the road.

You want to talk about the big picture? Shall we discuss auto maker bailouts? The HUGE tax breaks that oil and car companies get while the little guy pays through the nose? Or social cost externalities? Probably not because these are beyond your knuckle dragging comprehension.

It is mathematically proven that we drivers are heavily subsidized. Again, you don't have to believe it but closing your eyes doesn't make it go away.

Try not to get too close to the edge of the earth when you're out fishin'

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By you smell (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 16:40:12 in reply to Comment 107367

So if you only pay a fee once every five years its not a fee? The tax on the car is not a tax because you only pay it once? The government forces you to have insurance by law - hst on the insurance is a tax as is the tax on tires and on repairs etc. etc. the tax on running a new car for five years is probably close to $30,000.00. The auto sector is subsidized but they are not getting any money from bus ticket taxes.

The auto industry is THE driver in western economies. Stop farting and wake up.

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By knob (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:53:51 in reply to Comment 107329

knob with a capital K

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 21:21:43 in reply to Comment 107329

According to this article drivers in Hamilton and Toronto are paying more than their fair share.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 22, 2014 at 21:43:55 in reply to Comment 107345

Nicholas Kevlahan wrote about that Conference Board report in this article.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-12-22 21:44:16

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