Comment 101315

By tre (registered) | Posted May 14, 2014 at 21:09:17 in reply to Comment 101293

I appreciate your effort in re-examining the stats. That said, after spending hours studying the reports, I find many problems with the sources you've chosen and your claims.

Starting with the Calgary report:

  • The $0.27 figure is the total operating cost (expenses only, including "operating, maintenance, and utility costs"), not net operating cost (expenses minus revenues) which the Rapid Ready Report uses. If so, you have mistakenly compared two different numbers when you stated "the net operating cost to eventually be about 4 times cheaper if we switched the B-line to LRT".

  • The report uses "passenger boardings" per hour to compute the cost figures. By definition, passenger boarding is different from ridership in that one trip may involve transfers which count as multiple boardings. The Hamilton report estimates per-passenger cost using annual ridership number. This, again, makes any comparison pointless.

As an aside, a commentary in the National Post claims the total operating cost may be as high as $2.88 per passenger. I don't know which one to trust.

Then we come to the Rapid Ready Report, which is also hopeless. For instance:

  • It predicts a 8+16% system-wide ridership increase by year 2031 and gives a further 30% "ridership uplift" for the LRT option. However, it gives no increase in service hours and flat-lines the expenses because, apparently, you don't need to add a single vehicle trip to accommodate a 25-50% increase in passengers. Any transit advisor will tell you this is baloney.

  • Then there is some clever use of wording when discussing the operating cost. The report could have stated the same conclusion: "the likely Day 1 total operating costs on the B-line would drop from $2.66 to $2.04 as there would be an 8% increase in total system ridership, but the total system cost would remain the same at $3.59". I suppose it wouldn't sound as impressive as stating the cost "would drop from $1.07 to $0.45", a deceptive way to present facts to the unsuspecting audience. Same thing goes to the other truthful statement on buses being "50% more expensive per passenger" than the LRT, which could be interpreted incorrectly if you don't read the fine print.

  • Since the report mentions the revenue side of things, it's pretty much necessary to note that a proof-of-payment system, such as the LRT, would be prone to fare evasion that a bus-only system could avoid. A ballpark estimate would give a 5% discount on revenues generated on the LRT portion, which is not something you can neglect in a cost-analysis report.

  • And what is this "ridership uplift" for the LRT? Another baloney I say. According to Waterloo Region's "Regional Transportation Master Plan – Progress Report", Waterloo had an average annual ridership increase of 6.5% since 1999; York Region had 9.3%; Brampton had 8.2%. All three transit agencies invested in their express bus or BRT systems in the last decade, and none had an LRT to this day. If anything, this completely dispels the myth that LRT is the only way to increase ridership.

It's wrong to assume that B-line will achieve similar efficiency as the C-Train. C-Train has significant passenger volume per track mile than the proposed B-line, and so it can operate on short headways and still maintain high vehicle load. For B-line, you will end up with either long headways, which won't be attractive to riders, or underloaded vehicles, which are less efficient.

According to the 2010 report "HSR Operational Review", B-line corridor routes have average afternoon-peak loads ranging from 13.2 for the Delaware route to 20.6 for the University route, and "well below the loading guideline of 53 people". The report also notes that "incidents of high loadings are generally isolated". Dedicated and signal-controlled bus lanes through the corridor can mitigate the problem by reducing delays and increasing corridor capacity. Having the LRT will just make the already-low vehicle load even worse during most times of the day.

And lastly, the so-called economic development is another half-truth that often gets exaggerated. It's common sense for cities to build LRTs in areas with already-planned development or high development potential. You would still see most of that development if you built a BRT or nothing.

Comment edited by tre on 2014-05-14 21:24:34

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