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Thursday, May 26, 2016

With David Dixon, Transit Director- On LRT

Enjoy our chat with David Dixon, Transit Director for the City of Hamilton. 

1. Given that you will be leaving the city soon for a new opportunity, can you provide some parting advice on LRT and its potential implementation in Hamilton. What things do you believe we need to look out for and what traps ought we avoid (if any)? 

Good transit needs to be rapid, reliable and frequent. I believe the semi-segregated design currently under consideration will fulfil all three elements.

2. Recently, there have been some councillors who are questioning whether LRT is right for Hamilton, despite previous support and despite the 1 billion dollar funding commitment from the province. What is your read on this. Is this something you had expected and what do you think it means?

As a transit professional and advocate, I believe all transit improvements are positive. This is a large, complex and transformative project – conversations will occur along the path to fruition.

3. How critical is it to have the right numbers in terms of the amount of people using transit, as we approach an LRT implementation? Do you think those numbers will be there for Hamilton and if they aren’t or if they fall short of what is ideal, what do you think the consequences may be? Can we recover from that? 

Like any transit service, the service loading standard should guide the amount of service provided. With rapid transit, a service frequency standard is sometimes also imposed. Operational economies of scale are directly proportional to ridership – ie. rail has much higher operational costs per hour than bus, but also has the potential to carry a far greater number of customers (through train-lining) – so cost per customer will vary depending on what ridership ultimately materializes. 

4. If it were up to you, where do you think we’d get the best value for the dollar- implementation of LRT as envisioned, or expansion and modification of current systems (busses etc.)? 

Both are important and will be required in Hamilton depending on growth patterns and areas of intensification. We must expand the local transit system as growth occurs, and hopefully, add service frequency to lead ridership growth – I am confident we will find a way to do this, particularly in light of the recently announced Federal transit funding.

5. Given the ongoing question of how much widespread support there is for LRT, do you believe a referendum on the issue may be helpful? 

 This is a policy issue currently being debated in the appropriate forum.

Thanks Mr. Dixon for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors. 

2 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 26, 2016

    I think Dixon provided a very good, honest and telling answer for a key question- #3. His answer says it all:
    "Like any transit service, the service loading standard should guide the amount of service provided. With rapid transit, a service frequency standard is sometimes also imposed. Operational economies of scale are directly proportional to ridership – ie. rail has much higher operational costs per hour than bus, but also has the potential to carry a far greater number of customers (through train-lining) – so cost per customer will vary depending on what ridership ultimately materializes."

    Here is where the political gamble and risk is. If you get good uptake on public transit goimng into this project, and that uptake then continues on and hopefully increases, then you're good.

    BUT..amnd it is a big but...if the number of people using transit is not very high and if that continues and drops or does not get better, than guess what? as dixon says, the cost of operating it become more expensive than if you didn't do it.

    Council better think long and hard.

    Role out the red carpet for the white elephant.

    ReplyDelete
  2. AnonymousMay 30, 2016

    Dixon's observations about service standards apply to conventional transit as well. The ridership levels on many if not most suburban routes do not begin to compensate for drivers' salaries, fuel, insurance, etc.

    Mr. Dixon's predecessor noted, in 2013's Rapid Ready, that headway might be adjusted to maximize the capacity of vehicles and maximize the value of ridership. This addresses, in large part, the associated operational costs, since longer headways means fewer drivers required to move passengers.

    It goes without saying that it is difficult to envision demand 10, 20, 30 years from now, but the province seems to believe that it will recoup value by investing in Hamilton's future so maybe council should show a little confidence in it too. Elected office is about more than crabwalking your way around big issues on your way to collect a fat pension.

    ReplyDelete

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