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Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig
Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig

Metrolinx open to bus-first approach to transit in Hamilton

When Hamilton Transit Chief David Dixon presented his 10 year transit master plan to council last month, Mayor Eisenberger and some councillors expressed concern that the plan, which called for an immediate build-up of bus capacity would send a signal to Metrolinx that Hamilton did not want LRT. This despite the fact that the plan made it clear that the bus upgrades would actually support LRT by increasing transit ridership to a point where industry standards suggest LRT is justified. Currently Hamilton averages transit 45 rides per capita, and the accepted standard for LRT is about 100 rides per capita.

To get some clarity on the issue the Bay Observer directed the following question to Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig:

Several recent published reports in Hamilton have suggested that Hamilton risks losing out on LRT altogether if it goes ahead now with a staff recommendation to ask for $300 Million to fund the Rapid Ready report which was presented to Metrolinx in 2013. Rapid Ready was presented as a necessary precursor to LRT aimed at increasing overall transit usage to a level that would justify higher order transit. Is there a potential conflict between funding enhanced conventional transit now, and a possible future investment in higher order transit?

In his response McCuaig first pointed to the ongoing development of enhanced GO service as an indication of Metrolinx’s support for Hamilton Transit. With regard to the proposed  10 year transit  plan McCuaig wrote,

  “We understand that City Council is considering a proposal from staff to invest in increased bus-based transit service to build ridership as a precursor to a future decision on the introduction of LRT services.  Metrolinx looks forward to receiving Council’s position.  We are currently developing with the Province a plan for the prioritization and implementation of transit projects identified in the Next Wave, which will be released in the coming weeks.”

This comment, coupled with the Premiers earlier comments suggesting that Hamilton’s primary transit requirement  at present is improved GO service or  “regional express rail,” as Queen’s Park is terming it, suggests, Queens Park has already made some key decisions about how to sequence transit improvements in Hamilton, and that LRT is not on an immediate horizon. Still McCuaig acknowledges that enhanced bus service can eventually lead to LRT and his comments still leave the door open to future LRT.

Last week. Metrolinx Hamilton City Council’s General Issues Committee got a second look at the proposed 10 year transit master plan developed by Transit Director David Dixon. With regard to LRT the report noted:  From a transit perspective, the move to higher order services usually occurs when volumes exceed system capacity or when congestion becomes a barrier to operating a reliable service.

Among the highlights of the 10 year Transit Plan:

 

Current transit usage per capita 45 rides
Transit Usage to justify LRT 100 rides
Proposed Improved Service  standards 90% population within 400 meters of peak weekday service
Proposed BLAST Service 10 minute frequency
Immediate needs Funding $6 Million
Immediate needs staffing 50 drivers
Immediate Needs Buses 25 new buses
Proposed Fare Increase Sept 2015 25 cents
Proposes Fare Increases 2016-18 10 cents per year
New Bus Storage area cost $200 Million

 

 

 

About John Best

John Best had enjoyed 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.

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One comment

  1. What time scale does ‘current usage per capita’ refer to? Yearly? Also, it seems that by the end of the plan bus fares will be $3. Not terrible, but the same price as a ride on the TTC, a far superior system.

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