Please enjoy our chat with Clr. Terry Whitehead on the topic of LRT.
The Rapid Ready report which the previous council adopted was all about getting ready for rapid transit. The report talks about what needs to be done to get our city to a place where the implementation of a rapid transit system will be a success.
I, along with the rest of my council colleagues endorsed that report unanimously.
I continue to support the Rapid Ready report and had I the opportunity to receive this report today, I would do so again.
My top concerns are:
- The current B-Line ridership peak time peak direction is only 444 people. The remaining traffic is on the King/Main local buses that have closer stops. Changing our stops from the current 3-400 meters to 800-1000 meters will mean those riders will need to walk much farther to reach transit than they do now.
- Operating costs for our current B-Line buses are only $1.07 per passenger. The LRT is estimated at $1.80 per passenger (with 1000 passengers).
- There is currently a negligible speed difference on LRT vs our current B-Line buses. It currently takes 25 minutes to get from the Queenston Traffic Circle to Mac. (Source: HSR) The most recent LRT estimate for this corridor is 24 – 25 minutes.
- Rapid Ready calls for an improvement to our local service by 100 conventional buses to enhance service to increase ridership to sustain LRT. This has not been done, and there is no financial plan to pay for this.
- Rapid Ready calls for improving transit operations on the James and Upper James line – prior to implementing an LRT. This has not been done.
- The study to develop the L, S and T lines has not been done. These lines would feed LRT B Line.
- Rapid Ready calls for the use of Park and Ride lots to funnel people from their cars into the LRT. This is not part of the plan.
- Rapid Ready report says 17% of population lives along the proposed LRT Route (Mac to Eastgate) however we do not know what the number is now along the shorter route. There is also an internal disagreement at City Hall now about the 17% number as no one in Transit seems to know where the number came from.
- Rapid Ready states “The first key contributor to becoming Rapid Ready in Hamilton is to invest in improving transit services and reconfigure the transit network in anticipation of rapid transit” this has also not been done.
- The Metrolinx Report (Steer Davies Gleave) of February 2010 makes assumptions that are contradicted by subsequent reports. Specifically the Metrolinx report states that “Hamilton Rapid Transit will result in reduced auto usage.” However a report by Chris Higgins from 2012 submitted to the City (but not submitted to Council) states: “LRT in and of itself should not be expected to mitigate regional congestion”
- The Metrolinx report states the estimated average speed of an LRT vehicle would be 34 km/h vs a BRT of 25 km/h. However, on the same page 28, that states the speed of an LRT car as 34km/h there is a footnote that also states the LRT vehicle will, in fact, travel at 25km/h throughout the downtown. The table however, and all future math in the report is then based off of the 34 km/h speed, not the actual 25km/h as stated in the footnote. This obviously results in all calculations in regards to LRT speeds as higher. The actual difference between an LRT or BRT vehicle is not identified with this footnote.
- The Metrolinx report refers to Travel Time Savings; however these travel time savings between our current B-Line bus system and an LRT appears to have a nearly negligible difference between the current system and the proposed LRT.
- The Metrolinx report talks about safety benefits through a reduction in automobile accidents as a result of lower vehicle usage. However the Higgins report shows that vehicle usage is not expected to be affected at all as a result of LRT implementation.
- The Metrolinx report talks about reduced GHG emissions as a result of lower automobile usage, however, again the Higgins report shows that automobile use will not be significantly affected.
- The Metrolinx report suggests property uplift of between 1 – 7% as a result of BRT implementation and 4-6% for LRT. However a new study by Higgins and Kanagoglou from McMaster University shows that simply placing rapid transit stations within an area does not affect property values. There are many other factors that need to be considered including ridership along the line before value uplift can be calculated. The study states that usage of the line must be high before any value is placed on its proximity to properties. Poor usage on a line can even have a negative impact on property values.
- Even with the questionable LVU in the Metrolinx report it estimates between 38 – 77 million in increases for BRT and 38 – 106 million for LRT.
- Metrolinx report specifies the cost benefit analysis for LRT at 1.1 and BRT at 1.4. Why are we spending more money to get less benefit?
- We acknowledge the LRT is not being put in to solve a transit problem but an economic development problem. The previous uplift estimates were for the LRT line running from McMaster to Eastgate and the largest portion of the uplift came from the redevelopment of the Scott Park lands. Those lands are now being used by the school board to build a new school, as such there will be no uplift generated at all from those lands as institutional land does not pay property taxes. This combined with the smaller route raise serious concerns about uplift along this line. This route may no longer make the most sense for economic uplift.
- There are many more heritage buildings on King than on Main St that further challenge the uplift in this corridor.
- Higgins states “Transit services were believed to act as a natural ‘magnet’ for development “ but then states “new transit lines alone had a rather anemic effect on spurring new development with many lines also suffering from low ridership.” Even the most optimistic ridership numbers on our proposed LRT B-Line play into these concerns.
- · Many systems in the US were built in the United States with overestimated ridership numbers. The same issue we are seeing in Hamilton’s estimated numbers.
- Higgins states for transit to have a positive effect on Land Value Uplift (LVU) you must first have transit system maturation. Without executing the recommendations in Rapid Ready we should assume our system will have no impact on LVU.
- Transit use rises in respect to congestion. Hamilton has very low congestion relative to places like Toronto or compared to other cities that have robust rapid transit networks.
These are just a few of my many concerns. With the current configuration we will radically impact the lower city. Diverting 20,000 cars a day will create much more congestion and more people will cut through local neighbourhoods. Higgins suggested that for LRT to be successful parking rates must increase substantially and the creation of congestion would encourage more ridership. I do not want a Toronto transportation solution that has resulted in traffic gridlock. We must comprehensively provide a greater level of service in all geographic areas of the city before we start making it more difficult for people who do not have viable transportation alternatives. We only have one chance of getting this right.
How are you dealing with letters of support for LRT, that are coming from certain interest groups. What sort of weight do you place on those sorts of things and how to you balance them as pieces of a bigger picture?
I hold constituency meetings once a month and meet one on one with residents. This past weekend we met with thirty residents and only one was in favour of LRT construction. Previous to that I met 300 residents at a community event where I asked for their feedback. They were also overwhelmingly opposed.
From time to time we do receive emails from residents in my ward that are in favour and we always read their emails and make a note of them; whenever possible, I will speak with them one on one.
Do you think the will of the people where this issue is concerned is understood?
I speak with residents of my ward every day, and during the recent by-election also had opportunity to knock on hundreds of doors with one of the candidates. The response I got during my own election in 2014 and the by-election this spring was overwhelmingly opposed to the LRT along its current route.
Thank-you Clr. Whitehead for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian.
Please note: The LRT issue, as well as other issues, has prompted much good and thoughtful discussion. However, at times, some people will attempt to post comments that seek to belittle others, or otherwise present as unprofessional. The Hamiltonian will be taking a hard line on such attempts and if your comment does not appear, please reconsider how you wrote it and resubmit it, if desired abiding by The Hamiltonian's policy on respectful discourse. If you will be referring to others, please frefer to them using their proper name. Thank-you