Transit in Hamilton could undergo a massive change if a new transit plan drafted in conjunction with McMaster researchers is approved. Titled re-Envision the HSR, the plan would see bus routes re-configured to connect multiple hubs across the city, rather than concentrating all routes into the downtown core. The current downtown-focused routing is fundamentally unchanged since the 1950’s before shopping malls were developed and when the Mountain was sparsely populated. Dundas and Waterdown would see substantially improved service. There is even a recommendation to explore extending service to Binbrook.
An open house is taking place today from 1 to 6 pm at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre 100 Main Street WestAn open house will be hosted from 1 to 6 pm with presentations at 2 and 5 pm. Register Online. Or see link to re-envisioning plan below.
The proposed network would be similar to the BLAST network that was approved in 2007, but with enhancements. One of the goals of the plan is to increase the number of residents who live within 400 meters of bus service. Another is to reduce the number of times a transfer would be needed. Transfers were listed in a public survey conducted by the HSR as a major disincentive to transit use.
The plan envisions four rapid routes that include:
- The planned LRT route from McMaster to Eastgate Square. The McMaster study was conducted at a time when there was LRT uncertainty, but the authors suggested the reconfiguration would also work with Bus Rapid Transit. Many of the routes in the redesign connect with the LRT corridor at one of its stops—not necessarily at the two termini—but anywhere closest along the route.
- The existing A-Line connecting West Harbour GO with the Airport
- A new “L” line that would go from Waterdown to Centre Mall into the downtown, but then would head up the mountain and serve Mohawk College, Limeridge and end up back in the lower city at a proposed Kenilworth LRT hub.
- Another L Line would provide express service From the West Harbour GO to Centre Mall, again following a route that would zigzag up and down the mountain.
The plan calls for significant expansion of service in Stoney Creek with transit hubs established at the Confederation GO terminal, Eastgate Square, but also at Elfrida, Heritage Green and Stoney Creek.
Connectivity to GO terminals is a major feature of the new layout. Currently the West Harbour GO station is served directly by one bus route—the A Line. Under the new system there would be at least seven buses serving the station. Similarly the proposed Confederation GO terminal will be served by multiple bus routes. This will be in addition to several routes serving the downtown GO Centre.
The route changes will place public transit to within at least 800 meters of more than 300,000 residents—in many cases much closer—an improvement in transit accessibility of more than 57,000 residents.
The challenge with the plan will be the cost. Adding the new routes will add an estimated 55.8 million increase in the annual operation cost, although the report notes that an increase of $36.5 million was contemplated at the end of implementation of Year 5-10 of the 10-Year Local Transit Strategy, making the actual increment $19.3 m. But that assumes the 10-year transit strategy was going to be fully implemented, and council already found it necessary to pause the 10-year plan twice because of financial challenges. Another challenge is the sharp loss in transit usage caused by the pandemic that has still not fully recovered. Still it is a futuristic plan that is designed to attract people to public transit who have not used it before, and that could help restore ridership.
The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plans over the spring and summer. The full reconfiguration document can be accessed here.
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