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|