Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk has confirmed that Bus Rapid Transit did not receive adequate consideration by Metrolinx in a number of its Big Move projects including the Hamilton rapid transit project. The auditor general report says that Metrolinx significantly under-estimated the passenger capacity of Bus Rapid Transit, deciding that hourly ridership as low as 2,700 passengers per hour would make it necessary to move to LRT. But as Lysyk writes, “We noted, however, that BRT systems implemented in other cities (for example, Ottawa, Canada; Istanbul, Turkey; New Jersey, United States; and Bogota, Colombia) handle 7,300 to 40,000 passengers per hour. At that time Hamilton was only averaging 1100 passengers per hour on its busy east-west corridor– far below even its lowest threshold for LRT– but apparently Metrolinx bought into the idea that the lure of trains would result in a nearly 250 per cent increase in ridership.

The report says that in 2014 Metrolinx undertook further studies comparing the relative benefits of Bus Rapid Transit and LRT for three projects—two in Peel region and Hamilton. Says Lysyk’s report: “We found that, despite the fact that the draft analyses clearly showed the need to further review whether it is appropriate to proceed with the LRT option for three of the four projects,(Hamilton being one of them) Metrolinx took no action to address the results of its analysis. It indicated that it discussed these results with the Ministry of Transportation in meetings, but it was not able to provide details of what was shared or discussed at these meetings.” Specifically with regard to Hamilton the report says Metrolinx’s 2014 re-evaluation “concluded that BRT is the highest performing investment option under a medium land-use-intensification scenario.” As a result, “Metrolinx recommended in late 2014 that an intermediate business case, considering the changing context and alternative options, be completed before an investment decision (about BRT or LRT) was made. However, Metrolinx did not do any further analysis before the Province committed to funding the LRT in May 2015.”

The report concludes: “The results of these analyses were discussed internally with the then CEO (Bruce McCuaig)  in late 2014. However, Metrolinx did not act on its findings to then critically assess whether it was planning and building the transit projects that would best serve the region.” The Bay Observer has contacted Metrolinx to determine if anyone at the political level was aware of these findings.

John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

16 Comments to: Metrolinx ignored suggestions Bus Rapid Transit was best for Hamilton: Auditor General

  1. Mars

    December 6th, 2018

    A relevant detail glossed over by many critical of B-Line rapid transit is that the Metrolinx business case analysis also makes assumptions about BRT implementation, and those assumptions are at odds with the imaginative “just add more buses” scenario advanced by some.

    “Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Similar to light rail transit operating predominantly in protected rights-of way, separate from other traffic, but using advanced bus technology. Also includes buses operating in mixed traffic on controlled-access expressways that employ congestion management such as tolls, thereby allowing the buses to maintain high average speeds. The capacity of BRT is typically 2,000 to 10,000 passengers per hour, peak direction. Average speed: 15 to 40 km/h depending on station spacing, with higher speeds possible on grade-separated rights-of-way on controlled access highways. Example: Vancouver 98B Line (Richmond section), Ottawa Transitway system.”

    “Controlled-Access Expressway: A high-speed, high-capacity highway with at least four lanes and grade-separated with access to the facility limited to ramps and interchanges. A controlled-access expressway has a typical speed limit of 60 to 100 km/h with daily traffic greater than 20,000 vehicles.”

    Source: http://www.metrolinx.com/thebigmove/en/glossary/

    As defined by Metrolinx, then, BRT could operate in mixed traffic on the RHVP and LAP, but when operating on city streets, it would operate in protected rights-of way, separate from other traffic, but using advanced bus technology. Two lanes of traffic therefore would be dedicated to each and every BRT route, whether operating on King/Main/Queenston (B-Line) or James/Upper James (A-Line) or Centennial Parkway/Rymal Road (S-Line) or Kenilworth/Upper Ottawa/Mohawk (T-Line).

    Reply
    • jim graham

      December 15th, 2018

      but they didn’t have to assume a speed for BRT, did they? But they had to assume a speed for LRT…….one which they have never been able to achieve with any other Metrolinx LRT…..anywhere……ever. Somehow, ours will be the fastest. And where K-W’s LRT will slow down in heavily congested areas……ours will speed up! All in a misplaced attempt to garner “travel time savings” that will never materialize.
      And if you take away “travel time savings” the project no longer even qualifies for Provincial funding.
      A house of cards.

      Reply
      • Mars

        December 16th, 2018

        Metrolinx did assume a speed for BRT, actually. See table 2 on page 26 of the BCA. They assumed that BRT would operate at an average speed of 25 kph. (That’s basically the same as the 10 Express in regular traffic, so it may be understated.)

        If you take away the construction costs of full BRT with dedicated corridor and road reconstruction (an outcome favoured by some), the value proposition of changes considerably. “More buses” is a scenario that is paid for up front by the City rather than over time by the province.

        BRT also involves a municipal capital commitment. The cost of Mississauga’s $528M, 18-km BRT was largely financed by Mississauga.

        “Mississauga’s long-awaited bus rapid transit project is finally complete, albeit over budget and behind schedule.… The city’s portion was expected to cost $123 million for the construction, but it has run-up a bill of at least $20 million more than the original estimates. With land, design and bus acquisition included, the total cost of Mississauga’s portion of the project is at least $328 million, up from the 2007 estimate of $270 million.”

        https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/8003959-amid-cost-overruns-and-project-delays-the-mississauga-transitway-is-complete/

        Reply
        • jim graham

          December 23rd, 2018

          of course you are correct, for BRT, “they” assumed a speed well below levels that are achieved…..well every single day, in every single City in the Country.
          unlike LRT, wherein “they” assumed a speed “they” have never been able to achieve…..anywhere…….ever.
          I suspect even you can see the flaw in this sort of “data”

          Reply
          • Mars

            December 24th, 2018

            Ottawa: “Maximum vehicle speed: 100 km/h. Average operating speed is 35 km/h”
            https://www.ligneconfederationline.ca/the-build/vehicle/overview/

            Vancouver: “Trains operate at a maximum speed of about 80 km/hr (50 mph) over much of the line. Trains are at a reduced speed around stations and in some curves.”
            https://www.translink.ca/About-Us/Corporate-Overview/Operating-Companies/BCRTC/Quick-Facts.aspx

            Calgary: “Although not universally grade separated, the CTrain is able to operate at high speeds on much of its track because it is separated from traffic and pedestrians by fences and concrete bollards. The downtown 7th Avenue transit way is limited to trains, buses, and emergency vehicles, with private cars prohibited. Trains are given priority right of way at most road crossings outside of downtown. As a result, trains are able to operate at 80 km/h (50 mph) outside of downtown, and 40 km/h (25 mph) along the 7th Avenue corridor.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CTrain

            Edmonton: “On Sunday, after two years of setbacks, the Metro Line LRT started running at full speed — though many riders didn’t notice much of a difference. The trains have been running at half-speed due to safety issues caused by software provided by the signalling system contractor, Thales. Deputy City manager Adam Laughlin says the speed is now where it was meant to be. “The increase in the speed is to the original parameters which is running to the speed of traffic, which is anywhere between 50 and 60 kilometres an hour, depending on the roadway that it’s in,” Laughlin said.”
            https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/edmonton-metro-lrt-1.3990665

            But yes, aside from cases where Canadian LRT systems are operating at speeds comparable to traffic, your point is well taken.

            Again, it’s possible that the province will reassess Hamilton and decide that the $300m crosstown BRT they had been considering is the better value, but the basics of the system (road reconstruction, dedicated lanes, reduced station stops) are virtually identical regardless of whether you prefer BRT or LRT.

          • jim graham

            January 21st, 2019

            has Ottawa ever achieved that 35 km/hr speed?
            Ever? Of course not.
            Not yet, just more fanciful nonsense.

            Does Metrolinx operate in Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton? Of course not.So why cite them?
            “If they can do it……..”
            Well that is the point. Why haven’t they?
            Why have they been completely unable to get even close to that average speed?

            And again, if they reduce the projected speed……by even 1 kilometer/hour……than” travel time savings” disappear and this whole house of cards is no longer eligible for funding……..by THEIR criteria.

            We know how fast a bus can travel. A lot faster than this silly train.

      • Mars

        January 5th, 2019

        Hamilton King-Main Rapid Transit Benefits Case
        TABLE 4 OPTION 2 – LRT AVERAGE SPEEDS AND TRAVEL TIMES

        East Section > Eastgate Square to Ottawa Street: 5 stops avg. 1km apart, 35 kph average LRT speed
        Downtown > Ottawa Street to Longwood Road South: 9 stops avg 800m apart, 33 kph average LRT speed
        West Section > Longwood Road South to McMaster University: 3 stops avg 700m apart, 35 kph average speed

        http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/projectevaluation/benefitscases/Benefits_Case-Hamilton.pdf

        Metrolinx’s assumption appears to be that LRT would slow down in the most congested areas.

        Good point about the dangers of speed in the downtown, though. Posted limits should probably be rolled back to a safer, saner speeds no higher than 40km. Edmonton, for example, is changing its downtown speed limits on LRT and traffic to 30km/h, climbing to 55 km/h outside of downtown.

        Reply
  2. Mars

    December 6th, 2018

    Premier Ford is not named in the AG’s report, but he may be disinclined to force the issue of political interference in evidence-driven transit policy. Consider the 2010-2014 period:

    “[Rob Ford] killed Transit City on his very first day in office, upending a plan that was negotiated, approved, funded and under construction. He took it on himself to cook up a new one with the provincial government that would have wasted nearly $2-billion by burying a light-rail line designed for surface travel. He promised to build a vastly expensive Sheppard subway without any real idea of how to pay for it.”

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/ford-pays-price-of-obstinacy-in-councils-rebuke-of-his-transit-vision/article544760/

    The Ford brothers are diving into the Scarborough byelection in a bid to derail the Liberals’ self-proclaimed “subway champion” Mitzie Hunter.

    Councillor Doug Ford came out Monday calling it “disgusting” that the Liberals are trumpeting their Scarborough-Guildwood candidate as a “subway champion” on new revamped lawn signs now popping up in the riding.

    “She’s the subway champ? That’s just disingenuous with the people. She was nowhere to be found for the last two and a half years fighting for subways,” Ford told the Toronto Sun.

    “She’s contradicting herself. She was on CivicAction wanting to raise taxes on the people of Scarborough, she was all pro-LRT, she was handpicked to be on that special committee about transportation … and it was all about LRTs. Where did she just all of a sudden have a change of heart? That is so disingenuous.”…

    Hunter’s “subway champion” signs started to roll out after city council voted to push for a subway extension rather than the Scarborough LRT and the provincial Liberals agreed to shift $1.4 billion from the LRT project towards the subway.

    https://torontosun.com/2013/07/29/ford-brothers-take-aim-at-liberal-subway-champ-mitzie-hunter/wcm/5e03a543-3a7e-4052-9f8b-f4738f087bef

    Reply
    • jim graham

      December 15th, 2018

      Ford wasn’t mentioned in the report……yet you can’t seem to help yourself.
      Some obsessions are hard to shake.

      Reply
      • Mars

        December 16th, 2018

        Point being that if you take issue with political interference in transit policy, the new premier isn’t likely to change much.

        Reply
        • jim graham

          December 23rd, 2018

          point being you’ll go to extreme lengths in order to manipulate the message.

          Reply
          • Mars

            December 24th, 2018

            How so? Is he not Ontario’s premier? Has he not established a track record of politicizing transit policy, and acting unilaterally to the detriment of transit systems and taxpayers’ value-for-money? That’s not going to great lengths or manipulating the message. It’s just providing relevant — and not especially obscure — context to a discussion of the very kind of infrastructure under debate.

          • jim graham

            January 3rd, 2019

            he had nothing to do with the story-something you acknowledge-yet you insist upon insinuating him into the conversation.
            Because if you are not able to personally frame the context, you really don’t have anything relevant to say.

  3. Mars

    January 4th, 2019

    I offer realpolitik context related to the current government. Take for what it is worth.

    Or continue to believe that a government of austerity dealing Tories is going to cut a due-diligence-free $1B blank cheque to a city whose residents have the popular vote to the NDP because it fulfils a Liberal campaign promise.

    Readers (and commenters, and publishers) are free to make up their minds as they wish. I don’t care either way.

    Reply
    • jim graham

      January 21st, 2019

      you insist upon demonstrating your prejudicial views with every comment. If you are not able to frame the context of the discussion, you really don’t have a point.

      Reply
      • Mars

        January 23rd, 2019

        I think you’re looking in a mirror, my friend.

        Reply

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