Special Report: Bus Lane

Five Years Later, HSR Operational Review Transit Recommendations Mostly Ignored

Here we are five years later, when the recommendations should have already been implemented. Instead, this fantastic report that was paid for with our tax dollars has been almost completely ignored.

By Jason Leach
Published January 07, 2015

With the staff report on the King Street bus lane going to Council next week, now is a good time to review the final report of the HSR Operational Review, which was prepared by IBI Consulting in 2010.

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

This report was intended to be a five-year work plan to be fully implemented by 2015, and it is packed with excellent recommendations to improve transit in Hamilton.

As far as I can tell, we have only implemented one of those recommendations: the transit-only lane on King, which was implemented as a one-year pilot project. A motion went before Council late last year to kill the pilot without even waiting to find out how it worked.

Missed Opportunities

But look at the recommendations we haven't adopted, which will be familiar to people who have been reading RTH:

It also calls for a re-orientation of some of the long, meandering bus routes that could be streamlined and connect more directly to the express lanes.

Here we are five years later, when the recommendations should have already been implemented. Instead, this fantastic report that was paid for with our tax dollars has been almost completely ignored.

Of course, another fantastic blueprint for transit improvements in Hamilton is the Rapid Ready LRT report, which Council approved nearly two years ago.

We Need Better Transit

I understand the HSR is going to be presenting yet another ten-year transit plan to council next month. I hope it incorporates many of the IBI ideas (better late than never).

We need reliable, regular transit service with a broad network of express routes right now. By eliminating some redundancy on other routes, we can achieve quick improvements to our transit system without big funding increases.

It is mind-boggling to me that we could even be having a council meeting with a possible vote to end our only transit lane in 2015, when our very own consultant reports recommended having several express lines and dedicated transit lanes up and running by 2015.

I hope this council will be the one to take reports like the Operational Review and Rapid Ready seriously and start building a city that can grow and prosper in the future.

There is not a single city anywhere that is booming and successful with a tremendous quality of life that doesn't have a high-quality transit system and a proper land-use plan that encourages transit use by having walking, cycling and street-oriented developments with reduced parking requirements.

As a resident and taxpayer, I strongly urge council to approve the plan coming from HSR with a request for 100 new buses added to the fleet over the next decade. I would also suggest we make a good number of them, 50% or more, 60-foot articulated buses.

Better Operating Costs

Looking through the HSR budget it is striking to see 'employee costs' account for over 50 percent of the total.

Longer buses and - especially - an LRT network will save the city huge amounts of employee costs due to more passengers being moved by fewer drivers.

Toronto's new LRT vehicles on the Elginton and Finch lines each carry 280 passengers. Up to three cars can be linked together to carry a total of 840 passengers per driver.

Likewise, Ottawa's LRT vehicles will have capability of being joined together to carry 600.

And bear in mind that these vehicles will last over 30 years.

One 40-foot bus carries 40 passengers and an articulated bus can carry around 80 passengers. They both need to be replaced every 10-12 years.

The math is simple: one Toronto LRT operator can carry as many passengers as ten Hamilton articulated bus operators - and those buses will need to be replaced three times for every one time the LRT vehicle is replaced.

Why we aren't beating down the door at Queen's Park to demand our fair share of modern rapid transit investment like every other city in the GTHA may be the biggest head-scratcher of all.

Status Quo Doesn't Work

Any Hamilton residents who are still under the illusion that we can continue to plan for universal driving as a viable transportation option in Hamilton needs to look no further than Los Angeles.

Twice last year we had just half of one highway closed down and it caused transportation mayhem city-wide. That is because we have built a city with no viable options other than driving. Add 100,000 people into our city who all have to drive, and mayhem will become the norm.

I call on Mayor Eisenberger and Council to make this the term that future observers look back upon as the one that moved Hamilton into the 21st century and laid the framework down for a successful, vibrant, livable city that could grow and be healthy for decades to come.

We had it correct back in 2001 when we published Putting People First - except that we mostly shelved that plan as well.

Experts all over the world have been telling us for years that the best transit, cycling, walking and vibrant urban city plan is one that puts people first.

A city built around the car gets only cars and outlying big box malls. When active transportation and transit are safe and convenient, people will walk, bike, use transit and support street businesses in their neighbourhoods.

We get the city we plan for.

This article was adapted from a letter to Council.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

21 Comments

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By Jason Nason (@HSRTransit) (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 13:31:33

Interestingly enough I asked and the HSR has no plans to order any more articulated (60') buses after the next order comes in the next few months. Just more 40' buses on the way.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2015 at 13:42:30

To be fair, I think some items were incorporated - for example, various mountain routes were tied into the Meadowlands providing greater connectivity for the West Mountain/Ancaster.

The big thing that the HSR skipped was all the controversial simplification, some of which I think was rightly skipped. While I agree that routes need to be consolidated and simplified, killing the 3,west half of 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12 seems incredibly excessive. I think IBI dropped the ball by not providing a "plan B" for this consolidation process, because I agree that some consolidation of the routes would be great - particularly, IBI's plan was that the Dundas, Ancaster and Ainsliewood (revamped 51) buses would start at McMaster instead of downtown.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 17:15:55 in reply to Comment 107613

yes, some of the recommendations were dumb, and the constant theme of adding more service to parts of the city with low density and empty buses already makes little sense. But much of the rest of the report is fantastic.

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By Jtk21 (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 13:48:38

My work recently moved to Hamilton and I have tried so hard to make public transportation work but I am at the end of my rope trying to stay a rider. Despite only needing to cross the mountain I still have nights where it takes me almost 2 hours to get home. As much as I would like to be an advocate for the service, it is hard to defend and promote something that I have so many issues with myself. I have no choice but to purchase a car and add yet another vehicle to the city streets.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2015 at 15:21:53 in reply to Comment 107615

Please consider writing an article about your experience and submitting it to RTH for publication.

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By HammerCitizen (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 13:54:36

HSR doesn't seem to run like a business. The rider fare is the lowest of anywhere in the area that I know of, and hasn't changed in years. People who make a one time investment into a walker can ride free for life and clog up buses for paying riders. I don't know how much it costs to outfit their buses with handicapped ramps, but I'm sure it isn't cheap, yet disabled riders with wheelchairs don't pay either. Where is it written that just because someone is disabled (in some way) that they are also poor and can't afford to pay like everyone else? The gesture is admirable, but why not help the poor to get transportation rather than "assume" that a disability comes with financial problems. I've been on buses many times and the "free" rides are obviously abused by people who joyride all day long on our transit system costing money to everyone.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 15:51:24 in reply to Comment 107616

The 2010 IBI operational audit found that around 4.5% of passenger boardings were free, and about a third of those were mobility-related.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:48:30 in reply to Comment 107616

Joyriding? On the bus?

I am a frequent rider of the #5 bus, and often because of my schedule I am on it to the end of the route. I have literally never seen a disabled rider (or anyone else for that matter) ride to the end of the line, which in a pure "joyride" situation would presumably be happening all the time.

So take it from me, good Citizen, there isn't any joyriding going on! The vast, vast extra diesel expense to accelerate one person (plus mobility devices) along with the bus is not being wasted. They've got places to go!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:14:49 in reply to Comment 107616

Read the IBI report. The percentage of riders getting free disability rides is very small. We can argue until we're blue in the face about whether they should pay a fee, but regardless: It's a small-potatoes issue for a service with some pretty big problems. Fixating on it is penny-wise, pound-foolish.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:42:49

"Transit lanes out of Limeridge Mall"

YES THIS WOULD BE GREAT. The situation with Limeridge and traffic generally is one that needs dealing with.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:50:27 in reply to Comment 107625

Limeridge and Meadowlands never should have been built. The problem isn't transit per se. The problem is planning

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:54:38 in reply to Comment 107628

The Meadowlands is a clusterf* of immense proportions, true, but I am not going to criticize a city for approving a large suburban mall in 1979 or whenever it was. Limeridge is a bit silly (and especially after the new redesign, terrifically naff) but utterly in keeping with the times.

If anything, since the Linc was built, Limeridge arguably makes MORE sense.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 15:05:15 in reply to Comment 107632

Limeridge and Meadowlands killed the downtown.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-01-07 15:05:25

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:48:30

Hey, Don Hull was only making $160K a year, so you can't expect him to actually work to improve the HSR system for that kind of money can you?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2015 at 16:00:05 in reply to Comment 107626

That wage is perfectly appropriate (if low) for a position with that kind of responsibility.

Don Hull, on the other hand, is not.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 16:03:52 in reply to Comment 107640

Consolation? Don Hull retired two months ago.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:55:54 in reply to Comment 107626

As opposed to say a first class police constable or a fireman, both of who make of 100g per year plus the extra income they earn on the side.

If a vice principal of an elementary school earns over $120,000.00 per year plus benefits, how much should Mr. Hull earn? (We might find out if we allowed private bus services.)

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:51:02 in reply to Comment 107626

To be fair to Don Hull, a lot of the recommendations involved not just HSR operations (not that I am giving him a pass for his operations work) but where other city departments (and of course council) need to come to the table as well.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 14:56:56

"Why we aren't beating down the door at Queen's Park to demand our fair share of modern rapid transit investment like every other city in the GTHA may be the biggest head-scratcher of all."

Because everyone drives in Hamilton! Ask council!

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By BTW (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 16:10:46

BTW, someone please change that decaying overpass walkway roof top. What an eye-sore!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 07, 2015 at 17:22:16 in reply to Comment 107644

Or convert into a High-Line style linear park/walking/jogging/cycling route beginning at Whitehern Museum create a linear garden with benches, trees, plants north to Main St. Cross Main St with a fabulous, high impact crosswalk:

http://gonzalocamacho.com/wp-content/upl...

Continue the linear path/seating/treed garden to this overpass bridge across King.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OSjRb7y9wzI/Uj...

Continue the linear path/garden across Jackson Square rooftop with a ramp way/grand seating plaza at York.

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2709/44936...

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