With so many residents appearing as delegations to Hamilton City Council in the last two years; either supporting or opposing  LRT; it was often difficult for observers to separate fact from fiction and rationality from emotion. With positions on the divisive project firmly entrenched, the phrase. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” could apply to some on both sides of the issue.

One delegate, however, stood out from most of his peers by not only being unemotional, but also by coming to the meeting armed with actual data to support his position. Gaspare Bonomo, a mathematics professor at Mohawk College (and currently running for council in Dundas) tried without success to persuade council that some of the underlying assumptions that led to the selection of LRT over Bus rapid transit, were deeply flawed; and indeed, if the correct assumptions had been applied, LRT would have been rejected as an option long ago.

As Bonomo tried to explain to councillors, a big chunk of the value attached to LRT over BRT was the travel time that was being used to calculate the relative benefits of the two transportation modes. A Metrolinx report issued in 2010 estimated that LRT would cover the 14.2 KM route in 26 minutes, while bus rapid transit would take 34 minutes to go from Eastgate to McMaster. Using a formula that assigned a value of 22 cents per minute of time saved, multiplied by the estimated number of passengers over 30 years, the report estimated that LRT would provide $500 Million more in what it termed “Transportation user benefits.” than BRT. Even with that advantage the report showed that BRT still provided better value for money than LRT. But as Bonomo pointed out, the assumption that LRT could cover the route in 26 minutes was itself deeply flawed, taking into account the congestion that would be inevitable through the downtown core. The speeds necessary to complete the trip in 26 minutes were simply unattainable. Metrolinx acknowledged this fact in subsequent literature it used to inform the public. A Metrolinx publication  is now estimating the travel time for LRT at 32 minutes, which if the case, would provide a benefit-cost ratio of less than a third that of BRT. For a transportation option to qualify for funding it must show that the “Transportation User Benefits” are more than the capital cost. The “Benefit-Cost ratio” should be greater than 1.0. In the case of Hamilton’s BRT, if the slower transit speed is factored in, it would have a benefit-cost ratio of .49—half of the minimum threshold for receiving funding. None of the above takes into account that these “transportation user benefits,” have no real cash impact since there is no way of monetizing a travel time saving of two minutes or eight minutes.

The Metrolinx study also made a fundamental error in estimating the growth in population along the proposed LRT route. Noting that Hamilton’s population was expected to grow by 160,000 by the year 2030, the report incorrectly stated, “Much of this residential and employment growth is expected to occur in the Downtown Hamilton Urban Growth Centre.” In fact, most of Hamilton’s growth will take place on the south mountain and suburbs and downtown population will only grow by six per cent. This was a critical error that would factor into the projected ridership available for LRT. Metrolinx estimated that LRT would attract 1950 passengers per hour, compared to the present usage of 1100 passengers per hour on all of the buses using the King Street corridor.

Even though the Metrolinx report did not explicitly endorse LRT, correspondence that appeared at the same time as the report’s release pointed to political pressure to present LRT in as favourable a light as possible. Gaspare Bonomo says he learned that a Metrolinx manager quit over the controversy with the Hamilton Benefits Case Analysis. While the study in question was conducted eight years ago, it is still the foundational document that is cited when supporters claim the LRT “has been studied to death.”

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.


  1. Bonobo

    October 9th, 2018

    Regarding the claim that “most of Hamilton’s growth will take place on the south mountain and suburbs and downtown population will only grow by six per cent,” this is a projection rooted in the GRIDS forecast, begun in 2003 and released in 2006, working only from draft versions of legislation such as the Places to Grow Act and Greenbelt Act and Niagara Escarpment Plan. That plan is currently being updated as GRIDS 2, using contemporary data modelling and final legislation. Forecasts from the 2006 GRIDS report is based in data that is now up to 15 years old.

  2. Ian Sim

    October 10th, 2018

    The LRT study presented shows a lack of truth coming from metrolinx.Its great to see that this study showed that facts that were presented by metrolinx were wrong.That seems to be the one common factor when dealing with metrolinx.It has been a concern from the start.Examples of wrong doing are there to see.It seems that metrolinx cant operate without scandal after scandal with millions in public tax dollars wasted.The scarey part is with all these examples we see nothing being done about it Can we afford to ignore it?

  3. jim graham

    October 13th, 2018

    years of needless construction in order to install rail……so that buses can continue following right behind trains in order to provide an acceptable level of service. Sounds grand.
    All whilst not improving a single other current transit shortcoming. Nada.
    Ms. Kathy was the architect, and Uncle Ted was the champion. They have been dealt with, now it’s Fred’s turn.
    Thank-you Donna. Your statue will be out in front of that Hamilton sign.

    • Demi

      October 14th, 2018

      Rapid transit will entail dedicating two lanes to single route whether you’re spending $1B on LRT or $300M on BRT. All other vehicles travel outside of that RT-dedicated lane. Because it’s dedicated.

      • jim graham

        October 14th, 2018

        wrong again. What you describe would be wasteful and unnecessarily disruptive. We are going to avoid all of that nonsense.

        • Demi

          October 17th, 2018

          The “more buses” solution is less disruptive than rapid transit. It also means that the province doesn’t need to fund new roads, new sewers, utility reconstruction, and all of that “nonsense”. They don’t even have to fund buses, since capital funding for transit is already provided through gas taxes. Best of all, more buses in mixed traffic won’t increase congestion, because drivers must yield for buses.

          When the province okayed $1B in funding for B-Line LRT, LRT opponents have claimed that “this is $1B that the province doesn’t have.” The MPP for Flamborough Glanbrook campaigned on that talking point through at least two elections. And now that the deficit is 50% higher than it was in 2015, and now that the province is another $25B in debt, and now that the premier has slashed revenue streams (taxes pay for things, even if it’s chipping away at deficit and debt), there’s presumably even less money.

          In fact, if you look at the funding arrangement for Metrolinx projects such as this, the winning consortium covers the entire capital investment and is paid back over time once the project is completed to the province’s satisfaction. So it’s a win-win. Local taxpayers get to pay up front for $1B in infrastructure, assigning it as they see fit, and the province will pay the City back whenever that work is finished to their liking. Truly a made in Hamilton solution.

          After all, Doug Ford is a man of his word.


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