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.