Special Report: Bus Lane

Parochial Politics and Modern City Building

It's time that some of our Councillors put their car-dominated thinking behind them, and realized that transit is more important to a modern city than cars.

By John Thompson
Published December 22, 2014

"In order to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs". Applied to the efficient functioning of a city, and specifically the current King Street bus lanes debate, this means that there must be give and take for the greater good.

King Street West with bus lane (RTH file photo)
King Street West with bus lane (RTH file photo)

I fine it appalling that Councillor Chad Collins is playing parochial politics, and is quite prepared to treat transit riders as second class citizens, in order to pick up a few votes from King Street merchants.

Hasn't he done the math? One standard 40-foot bus with a capacity of about 40 passengers occupies the road space of two automobiles, which at the very most could carry 10-12 passengers.

It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that transit makes far more efficient use of our roads, and resources, than private automobiles.

In terms of parking, why can't motorists who wish to visit businesses on King West park on side streets? The city could perhaps encourage this with signage.

I congratulate Mayor Fred Eisenberger for recognizing the value of public transit generally in Hamilton, and the bus lane specifically.

It's time that some of our Councillors put their car-dominated thinking behind them, and realized that transit is more important to a modern city than cars.

Apart from efficiency, it greatly reduces air pollution; and with Light Rail, there is no pollution.

John Thompson was born and grew up in Toronto, the city that, in the 1950s, bucked the trend and kept its streetcars. After high school, he took various courses in journalism and writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Centennial College. In 1974 he joined a community newspaper in the Collingwood area as a reporter/photographer, subsequently being promoted to News Editor. Returning to Toronto in 1975, he worked for two years for a government agency as a Public Relations Officer. John's goal of working for the Toronto Transit Commission was reached in early 1977, when he joined the staff as Assistant Editor of the Commission's employee magazine, Coupler. Now retired and living in Hamilton, John is pursuing a career as a freelance writer, concentrating on transit subjects for trade publications.

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By gullchasedship (registered) - website | Posted December 22, 2014 at 11:30:08

What makes you think LRT has no pollution? Even if it's entirely electric, there's still pollution from the production of electricity. Not only that, the production of the vehicles, the rails, and the rest of the infrastructure makes lots of pollution.

Let's not be naive.

Comment edited by gullchasedship on 2014-12-22 11:32:50

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:12:39 in reply to Comment 107314

That's a good point to remember: no form of transport is absolutely pollution free, but there are better and worse choices, and LRT is one of the best (following walking and cycling). Let's count the ways:

  1. Long service life for the vehicles (typically 30-40 years) and rails and basic infrastructure (probably longer than the vehicles). This is far longer than diesel buses or cars (typically 8-15 years).

  2. Like all transit, the emission per traveller is far less than a private vehicle.

  3. There is no pollution at street level where people actually work, walk and live. This is especially true compared with diesel where the particulates are particularly dangerous. It is better to release the pollution farther from densely populated areas, and a single generating facility can afford far more effective pollution controls than individual buses (i.e. economy of scale).

  4. Electricity can be generated in many different ways, the distribution network is already installed, and the LRT can shift (at no cost) to less polluting sources as they become available. Calgary's (of all places) LRT runs entirely off non-polluting wind power. Shifting fuel sources for non-electric vehicles is difficult and expensive.

  5. Finally, steel wheels on steel rails is very efficient: far less energy is need for LRT than for buses.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 12:41:21 in reply to Comment 107314

The source of electricity is much more flexible at the source. Electric vehicles are as green as their juice. As a result the carbon footprint of electric vehicles varies widely depending on how the nation produces its electricity.

You are correct, in dirty heavy coal-burning nations, the carbon footprint of electric vehicles is though to be potentially 4X as high as gas powered vehicles according to this source. Whereas, in Hydroelectric/Nuclear dominated generation areas like Canada the carbon footprint can be half of a gas vehicle. The NYT and WSJ(paywalled) articles articulate similar conditionals.

And Canada, with Ontario in particular, is enjoying a quiet but bumpin' solar boom; other areas growing very fast also 1 2. Therefore the carbon footprint of electricity generation is expected to decrease over time; it already is.

Electricity supply is probably going to experience improvement, whereas petroleum will probably continue to experience volatility. An investment in an electric propulsion system (whether bus or rail) will leverage the evolution of our electricity supply, while making it (original) fuel source agnostic.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-22 12:43:48

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 12:56:04 in reply to Comment 107317

Hydrogen shares some advantages as electricity, as a source-agnostic store of fuel. That has much more development and market adoption ahead before we start seeing it in earnest but they're not wasting any time on that either.

In California household toilets are already fueling cars. That's almost fusion-powered-Delorian level awesome! Seriously, they are turning poo and banana peels into vehicle fuel.

Like I said in a past comment, hopefully I'm not an old man in a few decades watching this same sad sad fight happening in Hamilton and Toronto in general; the "rednecks" fighting to make sure that "poor people" only board "diesel buses" that may or may not stop, and "dui subjects" on bicycles are expected to ride in the diesel exhaust trail ... while everyone else in the world has moved on to a clean and progressive economy.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-22 13:01:58

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 12:34:06 in reply to Comment 107314

Well... no pollution along the service corridor. Which really does matter in our city given the bad air quality report cards we routinely see.

Sure, we could say "industrial pollution is worse" or "there's still pollution at the power generation stage", but that doesn't mean we shouldn't push for improvements at the local level.

Just because it's not 100% pollution free doesn't mean we shouldn't bother!

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By shipchasedgull (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 12:16:16 in reply to Comment 107314

Not a lot of pollution from hydo electric power generation.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 18:43:06 in reply to Comment 107315

Other than the materials to build the dam, the components in the turbines, the transmission lines, the gas spent by people driving to/from work, etc.

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By downtownLeftHamilton (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 19:44:13 in reply to Comment 107340

Another bottom-feeding post from the master of do-nothingism. Let's all shut our brains down and give up then? Since YOU'VE clearly given up why do you bother coming on here trying to drag everyone else down? Go be an anchor by yourself.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 00:47:13 in reply to Comment 107343

the world of online trolling.....

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:00:05 in reply to Comment 107343

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:25:05 in reply to Comment 107350

Why so closed minded to the concepts of good stewardship, continuous improvement, and application of new tech? Why does it invoke such mocking and sarcasm in you?

getting the metals

Everything is made from materials which can be obtained responsibly or irresponsibly. This is a bigger economics discussion that exceeds the scope of your mocking of cleaner energy. Good stewardship always requires diligence to ensure best practices are being applied. It's a greedy rotten world and they often aren't. It is dishonest of you to nitpick one technology selectively using this argument. Material and labor footprints factor into everything, your phone, diamonds, gasoline, clothing, lithium batteries, fuel cells, yet to be discovered future tech, even the hamburger on your plate.

Not to mention there's really no responsible way to dispose of the car's batteries once they are spent.

False. 1 2

Recycling is an important aspect of the battery's journey, even though the lithium-ion batteries used in most EVs and plug-in hybrids and the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in most conventional hybrids are not considered toxic. Both types, unlike conventional 12-volt lead-acid car batteries, are safe for landfills.

Lastly,

I mean, you don't see how it got there, so it must be clean!

While you mock them in between your drives to Mississauga, hard working and innovative people continue to improve our clean energy supplies. If we live in a society where improvement and science is welcomed, the Prius driver doesn't have to wonder about where each charge came from. Just to be an informed and responsible voter and perhaps supportive of clean energy initiatives.

Holy smokes your mind is closed. Or are you just amping up the sarcasm to toy with certain people here.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-22 23:41:03

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:30:53

"Hasn't he done the math? One standard 40-foot bus with a capacity of about 40 passengers occupies the road space of two automobiles, which at the very most could carry 10-12 passengers."
this would be true if everyone lived in the same house and wanted to go to the same destination. Reality is the car is the most efficient use of our roads. each person may need to take several busses to arrive at their various destinations. that would be the equivalent of 30-40 busses, more space that 40 cars! Also each person might have a trip that would take 2 to 10 times longer on public transit. in my case I can drive to work in ten minutes. Public transit would require four buses three transfers and take about one hour. If you add the time I would bet transit causes as much if not more pollution per total trip than driving. Again the busses or LRT will still be operating even if no one is riding. Finally are the Buses not all powered by natural gas in Hamilton?

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted December 29, 2014 at 13:30:45 in reply to Comment 107323

What about when the bus drives with 2 people on board? That's an eternal problem with transit. Cannot get enough buses/trips at certain times and hardly anybody on the bus at other times. Westdale high lets out and all of a sudden there are hundreds of students looking for a bus. Half hour or 45 minutes later nobody is at the bus stop.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 29, 2014 at 15:51:56 in reply to Comment 107442

What about when there are no cars on 16 lanes of highway? That's an eternal problem with roads. Cannot build enough lanes to accommodate everyone at maximum speeds at certain times and hardly anybody on the roads at other times. A shift lets out and all of a sudden there are hundreds of people trying to drive. An hour later there's nobody on the road.

That is unless we start giving people reliable options so that they aren't forced to drive at rush hour because there is simply no other option.

401 What's more wasteful? hundreds of kilometres of unnecessary lanes? or half-empty buses?

Comment edited by seancb on 2014-12-29 15:52:55

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted December 29, 2014 at 13:11:27 in reply to Comment 107323

I believe that at this point all the buses have been converted back to diesel.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 29, 2014 at 14:19:37 in reply to Comment 107441

Yes that is correct, according to this source, most of the fleet is diesel, only a small number of buses are NG. Only recently they want to start switching back to NG.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 14:10:56 in reply to Comment 107323

And I can drive to work in about 2 minutes. But I don't.

I'm such a loser.

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By H2O (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:38:24 in reply to Comment 107323

"in my case I can drive to work in ten minutes." Sounds like an easy trip on a bike.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 13:35:40 in reply to Comment 107323

Without realizing it, you've just made the case for transit investment

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 22:27:05 in reply to Comment 107324

LRT will do nothing to improve the transit situation in the vast majority of cases in the city. the whole system is set up with the faulty premise that everyone wants to go downtown.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:05:26 in reply to Comment 107348

Any new rapid transit solution along the B Line would allow buses to be redeployed to congested or under-serviced routes, thereby improving the transit situation in other areas of the city.

As for the hub-and-spoke model, it is the most often used due to its high efficiency. However you are correct that there are situations where it makes sense to reconsider it. Whether Hamilton is one of those situations I can't say. But there is strong merit to actually looking at where people actually need to go, and if necessary, thinking out of the box to realign routes. The GO station, and the fact that a multitude of routes interconnect at MacNab and along King, does make downtown a pretty significant transportation hub at this time. Hence I think that negates your second point, but it is a good point.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 23:01:33 in reply to Comment 107348

But don't you get it? By building the LRT, people will want to go downtown! You know, to watch their tax dollars head east or west! Then, you'll spend your paycheque downtown, then move there, then never leave! Or, at least, that's what you'd be led to believe by the proponents of this blog.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 00:44:53 in reply to Comment 107351

You've only been told this about 87 times, but the long-term LRT plan is for 5 lines, 3 of which will criss-cross the Mountain, one in Waterdown, two in Stoney Creek, one in Dundas.

We'll all remember your 'logic' the next time someone proposes to build a section of freeway as part of a 20 year plan to add several more sections. 'HECK NO. Because that one small section will only benefit the people who live right along that portion.' I"m sure you were extremely vocal with this point when it was announced there would be a several year gap between construction of the Linc and RHVP. 'ABSOLUTELY NOT, building just the LInc first only benefits those people along that corridor!'

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-23 00:45:32

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:25:42 in reply to Comment 107359

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 22:49:55 in reply to Comment 107392

No, because when I lived in Dundas

Oh so it's all about you. Nice.

You also realize that the Linc and the Red Hill were part of the ring road for Hamilton, right?

You also realize the B-line is one letter in the word BLAST right? Hamilton's ring road took decades to complete and so will the entire LRT BLAST network.

To get the trucks off of King and Main? And it's done that, hasn't it?

Haha...nice one. We wish.

EDIT: in case you don't have access to a Google search engine - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BLAST_netwo...

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-23 22:51:47

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 24, 2014 at 07:27:41 in reply to Comment 107393

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:16:54 in reply to Comment 107359

where will you get the 3 billion to pay for those?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 23, 2014 at 15:20:16 in reply to Comment 107377

same place we get the billions for never ending highway expansion

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 22:24:02 in reply to Comment 107324

I left out I use the Sherman cut. lots of luck using a Bike on that.

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By undecided (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 16:59:46

Where's the bike rack located on an LRT vehicle? I use both modes of transit to get to work.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 21:11:43 in reply to Comment 107336

There was nothing I could find in the Rapid Ready report on a decision regarding whether there would be space for bikes on the LRT cars.

It looks like on Calgary and Edmonton LRT the restrictions are similar or identical to those on GO Trains - no bikes during weekday rush, ok other times.

In the Netherlands, on the Trams there are rush hour restrictions and a surcharge for a bicycle.

It seems consistent across systems, that during rush hours people come first, and emphasis shifts to providing bike parking. The bike share hopefully helps. Not ideal for certain situations, I know. I used to mitigate a similar situation by locking a bike at both Hamilton and Appleby GO stations.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 18:45:10 in reply to Comment 107336

Most have onboard areas where you can store them. Depending on the technology used the bikes either stand up on their back wheel or they stay level.

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By Showstopper (anonymous) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 17:24:58 in reply to Comment 107336

Wouldn't you lock it at the LRT Station/Stop?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 22, 2014 at 18:42:13 in reply to Comment 107337

What if your destination was not immediately off of the straight line? If I was going from Dundas to the east end, I'd need a bike or some other form of transit to get me from the stop to my location. Not that it really matters, LRT is all but dead in Hamilton.

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