Special Report: Transit

Benchmark Study: City of Hamilton's Proposed New Bus Garage

This article will benchmark the proposed new Hamilton garage against new public transit bus garages in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and East Gwillimbury.

By Kevin Love
Published March 09, 2015

this article has been updated

Many people have criticized the proposed City of Hamilton Ten Year (2015 to 2024) Local Transit Strategy plan. This plan's proposed new bus garage has been called "...a $200 million bus mansion."

This article will benchmark the proposed new Hamilton garage against new public transit bus garages in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and East Gwillimbury. In comparison to these other four benchmarks, does the proposed Hamilton bus garage represent value for money to the people of Hamilton?

Toronto, Ontario: NcNicoll Bus Garage

The first benchmark for comparison is Toronto's McNicoll bus garage. Just like Hamilton, the City of Toronto is looking to expand its bus fleet and is constructing a new garage in Scarborough.

This TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) bus garage will house 250 buses, for a cost of $181 million or $724,000 per bus.

This new garage will include bus fueling and maintenance facilities. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and be completed in 2019.

Calgary, Alberta: Stoney Bus Garage

The second benchmark for comparison is Calgary's Stoney bus garage. This bus garage will house 400 buses for a total cost of $240 million or $600,000 per bus.

This new garage will include bus fueling and maintenance facilities for both Compressed Natural Gas and conventional diesel buses. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2016 and be completed in November 2018.

Edmonton, Alberta: Fort Road Bus Garage

The third benchmark for comparison is Edmonton's Fort Road bus garage. This bus garage will house 300 buses for a total cost of $196 million or $653,000 per bus.

This new garage will include bus fueling and maintenance facilities. $5.1 million has been earmarked to build space for a credit union, a café and an on-site daycare facility. Construction is scheduled to last from 2015-2018.

East Gwillimbury, Ontario: GO Transit Bus Garage

The fourth benchmark for comparison is the recently completed GO bus garage in East Gwillimbury, Ontario. This bus garage houses 36 buses for a total cost of $20 million or $556,000 per bus.

This new garage includes bus fueling and maintenance facilities. It was completed on September 8, 2014.

Hamilton, Ontario: Proposed HSR Bus Garage

The City of Hamilton has produced a Ten Year (2015 to 2024) Local Transit Strategy plan. This plan proposes a bus garage to house 126 buses for a total cost of $200 million or $1,587,000 per bus.

This proposed new garage is to include bus fueling and maintenance facilities. Design and construction is proposed for 2015-2019.

Comparison of Cost per Bus

Comparing the cost per bus for these new garages gives us:

Cost per Bus by City
City Cost per Bus
Toronto $ 724,000
Calgary $ 600,000
Edmonton $ 653,000
E. Gwillimbury $ 556,000
Hamilton $1,587,000

Going through my head right now is the Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong." The proposed Hamilton bus garage has costs per bus of over twice the most expensive benchmark comparison. It just doesn't belong.


Update: some details of this article are in dispute, specifically the cost-per-bus calculation, which divides the total cost of the bus facility by the number of new buses proposed under the HSR Ten Year Plan - 81 express buses and 45 local buses for a total of 126.

We have contacted the City for clarification and will update this article when we receive a response.

Update 2: The City has confirmed that the HSR Ten Year Plan only calls for the purchase of 126 buses, but notes that the new bus facility will be built to accommodate up to 225 buses. Dividing the $200 million cost by the total capacity of 225 buses rather than the planned increase of 126 buses gives a cost of $888,889 per bus capacity.

According to Kelly Anderson, spokesperson for the Public Works Department, the larger facility confers the following benefits:

  • It is an efficient size of garage to build;
  • It will provide capacity for future growth (ie. so we are not building another facility 5 years after this one is completed);
  • It will allow us to optimize deadheading saving significant operational costs.

It will also provide "much more flexibility around [articulated] buses."

Currently, the HSR has a fleet of 226 buses and a storage facility on Upper James that can accommodate up to 225. The new bus facility will be in addition to the current one.

Kevin is a professional accountant and a retired infantry officer with the Canadian Forces. Kevin keeps encountering people who were students of his father, Dr. Robert Love, who was a professor at MacMaster University from 1977-2008. He lives near Durand Park in Hamilton and is currently Vice-Chair of the Hamilton Cycling Committee.

27 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 08:47:09

anyone who is shocked by this, raise your hand.

Anyone??......... hello??.........

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By Probster (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 09:11:04

Has this been raised with our idiot leaders?

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 09:33:39 in reply to Comment 110049

Check out the GIC meeting video from last Friday. It was brought up several times.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 09:33:52

I'm not entirely sure of the numbers but wouldn't Hamilton's entire bus fleet fit in the garage being built by Edmonton? For the same price?

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By Probably (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 10:11:43

We probably have to pay more for staff parking. They wouldn't want to take the bus you know.

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By Fackkk (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 10:11:52

Wtfffff?!

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By dsafire (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2015 at 12:45:48

How many huge warehouses do we have sitting empty in the industrial sector? Could NONE of them be retrofitted as a garage? Gods know it wouldnt matter if it was a contaminated site for this use, would it?

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By William (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 13:05:33

Any info on whether the price per bus calculations are for 40' or 60' busses? Makes a big difference. Maybe its better to look at cost per passenger capacity?

Either way I think there must be some facility sitting empty that could be retrofitted.

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By walter (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 13:52:59

Who's the friend of the council that's building this garage? Was there a bidding process?

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By Howard (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2015 at 07:40:21 in reply to Comment 110074

The transit department has used 180 million as the estimate for construction based on the Calgary and Toronto numbers only and have then added on $20 million for land acquisition. It is an estimate only. No contractor has been chosen to build the facility because the facility has not even been designed.

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By Corrupt (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 19:13:27 in reply to Comment 110074

Exactly the right question to ask. Who is benefiting from this nonsense? There is major corruption in this city, clearly. These snakes in suits are arguably worse than the Ford brothers in Toronto.

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By larry di is (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 14:09:55 in reply to Comment 110074

larry is bldg it wit his own hand

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2015 at 13:55:09 in reply to Comment 110074

I assume the bidding process happens after they get the commitment to pay from the province. Having a builder planned now would be putting the car so far before the horse that they can no longer see each other.

Remember that council's "plan" they voted for was just "go to the province for money for this plan".

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 14:50:20

let's also not forget the this plan was whipped together at the last minute, and bypassed the senior management team as reported today by Dreschel. The numbers weren't finalized until 'the night before the presentation'.

Hamilton stinks at planning and making good choices when given years to do so. I'm supposed to believe that a quick napkin plan thrown together in an attempt to kill LRT is sound and well-planned out?? Lol

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By Screwed (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 15:15:59

I hate to admit it but it's true as Ryan says that the province and city are both screwing Hamiltonians together. But I disagree with Ryan when he says we did this to ourselves. We didn't do this to ourselves, this is being done to us.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2015 at 17:12:37

It would be nice to see some numbers on average wages and property values in each municipality. Both land and labour cost FAR less in Hamilton than Calgary or Toronto - factor that in and these numbers would look even more embarrassing.

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By myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2015 at 17:23:10

Not to mention the fact that Metrolinx is currently building a GO Transit Bus Maintenance Facility in Hamilton right now - for 40 buses at a cost of $24 million.

http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1437665/...

On the high end at $600k/indoor bus parking spot.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 21:51:32 in reply to Comment 110092

Which raises the question...are there any other municipalities or transit providers in the vicinity that also need to house, maintain and fuel buses? Would there be economies of scale gained by going together say, with Halton Region and Metrolinx on a facility?

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By tell us the truth (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2015 at 09:07:37

I don't get it? Whats wrong with the garage on Upper James? Why do they have to park buses inside anyway. More waste of taxpayers money. Just like the school board and their ultra waste of land and the new school board building!

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 10, 2015 at 09:25:14

The Union Pearson Express cost $465 million. At the very least we could use that money to build an express train service across the lower city on existing tracks.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2015 at 10:16:01

For scale:

hamiltontransit.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/quickwins_remaining_funds.png

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 10, 2015 at 10:39:08 in reply to Comment 110105

woah. The Mohawk Transit Terminal is an actual full terminal complex with bus lanes, new signals, a small terminal area in the building etc.... The Mountain park and ride was literally a few bus stops, concrete islands and parking spots.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 12, 2015 at 02:26:00

Just want to point out that David Dixon clarified last night that the garage is actually supposed to house 225 buses, which brings the per bus cost down to around $890,000. Still the highest cost but by a much smaller margin.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 12, 2015 at 12:23:45 in reply to Comment 110129

We don't need a Taj Mahal. I would question it even if it was the lowest cost per bus.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2015 at 09:58:19 in reply to Comment 110134

Yes, I wonder how much is costs to build a Costco?

I get much of the money for the new building is for equipment, but if Costco can build a store next to an operating store and then tear down the old store like they did in Ancaster, I don't understand why a more substantial building is required to service buses.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 12, 2015 at 07:39:12 in reply to Comment 110129

We updated the article yesterday to reflect the fact that the facility is designed to accommodate up to 225 buses. But it remains true that the City only plans to add 126 buses over the next ten years.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2016 at 13:13:41

Regardless, we really need to see an HSR bus expansion.

Could this be partially built, say for $150 million, with room to expand to the rest of the fleet?

Could this be the recipient of some new federal funds, since federal is looking for shovel-ready transit projects to fund quickly?

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