LRT will motivate us to ditch cars, From the Hamilton Spectator

What I find interesting about this news item, is the statement, “…….a consultants’ report into the economics of LRT in Hamilton projected the system would need about 34,000 riders a weekday (8.9 million a year) to break even on its operational costs.“; which should put a stop to the SkyTrain’s lobby claims that light rail is expensive to operate! But, those advocating for LRT already knew that.

It would seem that the same figures would hold true for a Broadway LRT, which with the much higher ridership numbers, would not just pay its operating costs, but most or if not, all of its capital costs! Of course this is what the man from ABB told ‘Zwei’ almost fifteen years ago; “A BCIT to UBC and Stanley Park LRT route, would double present bus ridership on those routes in about two to three years, thus attracting enough ridership to not only pay for operating costs, but also to pay for its capital costs as well“!

LRT, built at no cost to the taxpayer!


LRT will motivate us to ditch cars: HSR chief

February 02, 2010

Meredith Macleod
The Hamilton Spectator

Does Hamilton have the ridership to justify light rail transit?

There are plenty of people in this city who think the answer is no.

In letters to this paper, blog posts and opinion surveys, they say not enough people want or need to go downtown and that Hamiltonians are too attached to their cars.

Critics point out that most cities with successful light rail have much larger populations than Hamilton.

Even Don Hull, director of the Hamilton Street Railway, says based on sheer numbers alone, Hamilton probably doesn’t cut it.

But he says that’s only part of the equation.

Present-day transit ridership doesn’t account for changes coming down the road that will push people out of their cars: increasing congestion, growing concern about pollution and climate change, and the inevitability of soaring gas prices.

Light rail transit will transform the city’s transit network, attract new riders and be the critical component that gets people out of their cars, Hull says.

And it brings investment and tax dollars to struggling neighbourhoods, he adds.

“More than population or density or ridership, the key to whether LRT is successful and viable is the support of all three levels of government.”

The B-Line from Eastgate Square to McMaster University — the city’s proposed corridor for a light rail line — affects four of the HSR’s major routes, Hull says.

Collectively, they account for about 50 per cent of the system’s riders.

That adds up to 25,000 to 30,000 trips a day, half or more in peak periods.

Hull says that’s not far off the usage that would be hoped for on an LRT line. In fact, a consultants’ report into the economics of LRT in Hamilton projected the system would need about 34,000 riders a weekday (8.9 million a year) to break even on its operational costs.

Hull says many cities, including Portland, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Denver, quickly exceeded ridership forecasts.

Hamilton is unique in that the ridership is already there, it just has to be shifted from bus to rail. Most North American systems, he says, run on an entirely new line and have to build from nothing.

That’s a big advantage, says Antonio Paez, an associate geography and earth sciences professor at McMaster, who specializes in transportation.

“There is only the potential to gain. It’s a relatively low-risk transition in that corridor.”

The objective is to make transit the most attractive option for getting around, says Paez. Choosing to run rail lines along the busiest routes in the city — King and Main — and cut into, or eliminate, car lanes will achieve just that.

“The goal is to make traffic less problematic for those who choose transit but not necessarily better for those who don’t choose it.”

Once B-Line buses are replaced by light rail, Hull hopes capacity can be boosted in other areas of the city.

In day peak periods, HSR is having trouble meeting demand on many routes, he says.

Another important element is the city’s official plan, which aims to see 100 transit trips per year per capita by 2030. That number now sits at 48 and the target simply can’t be reached without LRT, says Hull.

The beauty of choosing the B-Line for the first leg of an overhaul of the city’s transit system is that about 80 per cent of routes already intersect with the corridor.

“Everything off the Mountain as well as the North End and Bayfront routes meet up with King. It would be virtually an entirely intersecting system.

“That’s very desirable.”

Metrolinx has identified two rapid transit corridors in Hamilton to be developed in the first 15 years — the east-west line that’s on the table, and north-south on James Street from the airport to the waterfront.

Three other routes — Eastgate to the Ancaster business park, the Centre Mall to the Meadowlands and downtown Hamilton to Waterdown — are part of a 25-year vision.

Metrolinx has made no commitment to whether Hamilton will receive light rail or bus rapid transit.

A recommendation on the B-Line corridor is expected Feb. 19.


2 Responses to “LRT will motivate us to ditch cars, From the Hamilton Spectator”
  1. David says:

    This is the type of positive post that helps people see that LRT makes sense for Metro Vancouver.

    Unfortunately TransLink has done a fabulous job of manipulating numbers to make it look like their current rail solution pays its way so the general public is unaware of just how much of a negative impact the light metro has on our transit system.

    There’s no possible way that normal practices of every transit operator in the world, namely refreshing the bus fleet, could possibly explain why TransLink spends almost 25% of its budget paying interest on accumulated debt. If buying new buses and expanding service was that terrible then surely the situation in the 1970’s and 80’s when the entire trolley fleet was replaced and suburban services doubled must have been worse. Strangely nobody can recall the transit operator of the day screaming poverty despite the fact that many of the new routes were running mostly empty.

    Zweisystem replies: Thank you.

    The problem with the RFV blog and posts, Zwei must comment when a post contains wrong or misleading information, they must be acted along. TransLink has indeed done a wonderful job manipulating numbers that in turn mislead people. One such myth used by BC Transit in 1980 was that trams couldn’t use railway tracks so it could not use the Arbutus Corridor. Not that a tram would have used the existing tracks but the ‘spinmeisters’ at BC Transit were using Toronto trams as an example. Needless to say, the good old boys and girls at BC Transit failed to mention that Toronto trams (and I believe the metro system) are ‘broad gauge’ thus not compatible with standard gauge railways! The newly imported ex-Hanover tram sat in the weather because BC Transit firmly stated that it could not operate on railway tracks and was subsequently sold for $1 to Edmonton (and despite a more lucrative offer from BC) where it now runs happily on standard gauge railway tracks.

    This legacy of deliberate misinformation survives with TransLink today.

  2. Justin Bernard says:

    Zwei: Our streetcars, and subways are a 1495mm guage. The gauge is only 60mm wider than the international standard. I cannot believe a transit agency would go as far as to say a railcar cannot run on tracks! Amazing.

    Zweisystem replies: Sadly it is true. Former Premier Bill Van der Zalm was the Socred points man for SkyTrain and his shtick was; “LRT uses a different track gauge than our railways, therefore can’t use regular tracks.” Not one Vancouver newspaper would print a letter trying to set things straight! This is how ‘Zwei’ got his feet wet in the transit debate in the 1980’s.