LRT For Hamilton, Maybe

The Metrolinx Board Meeting agenda for February 19 includes the Draft Benefits Case Analysis for Hamilton’s King-Main LRT corridor.

The route would link McMaster University with Eastgate Square, and the alignment would be the same for either an LRT or a BRT implementation.

East Section – turning from a segregated terminus adjacent to Eastgate Square the alignment travels westward in a median transitway via Queenston Road to the Main Street / Ottawa Street Intersection.

Downtown Section – the alignment continues westward from the Main Street/Ottawa Street Intersection along a median of King Street East across John Street and James Street through downtown. The alignment continues along King Street West across Highway 403 to Longwood Road South where it provides convenient access to Westdale Village and the McMaster Community. At Longwood Road South the alignment runs southbound to Main Street.

West Section – From Longwood Road South the alignment transitions into the centre of Main Street and continues westward towards the McMaster University Medical Centre before turning north towards the terminus station on the McMaster University campus. (Page 24)

The BCA examines three options: 

  1. all BRT,
  2. all LRT, or
  3. a staged implementation of LRT on the heavier western part of the route connecting at King and Ottawa to BRT for the remainder.  The LRT would be extended to Eastgate Square at a future date.

Common to all designs would be the reintroduction of two-way traffic on what is now the one-way pair of King and Main Streets in downtown Hamilton.

The BCA considers but rejects the option of diverting the route south to link with Hunter Street Station, now the site of GO Transit’s Hamilton rail service.  A GO connection will be important, but to which station?  The recently announced extension of service to Niagara Falls will return train service to the old James Street Station on the north side of downtown.  Indeed, more trains may run through James Street than to Hunter Street.  The rapid transit line cannot connect with both of them.

GO Transit unveiled a plan last night in which it aims to extend all-day train service — that now goes to Aldershot — to a proposed station on the CN line at James Street North. That would involve 10 trains each way between the proposed new Hamilton station and Union Station in Toronto. Niagara would see four trains each way between Union Station and Niagara Falls. Hamilton would keep its eight trains — four each way — that now run between Union Station and the former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway station on Hunter Street.

Source: Canadian Pacific Daily News Scan from the Hamilton Spectator and the Niagara Falls Review, January 27, 2010

After a great deal of number crunching (which I will leave to my readers’ copious spare time), the report concludes:

Overall, the results indicate that an investment in LRT in Hamilton will generate significant benefits and support the City’s broader objectives to revitalize, redevelop and reshape its most significant east-west corridor. While the lowest cost option, Option 1, produces the highest benefit-cost ratio of 1.4, both LRT options generated benefit-cost ratios that are greater than 1.0. The highest cost option, Option 2, also produced the greatest benefits in all accounts, all of which make an important contribution towards achieving the objectives and goals of both the City and the Province.  (Page 51)

This is a straightforward, unambiguous conclusion.  However, there is a covering report on the Metrolinx agenda, and it is not quite so clear in supporting LRT.

Although full LRT is the highest-cost option, it also generates the highest transportation user benefits in terms of travel time savings, ridership attraction and overall “qualitative” travel experience. LRT also carries a stronger potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate more significant economic development impacts such as employment, income and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the city and region. The BCA also identifies LRT as having greater potential to shape land uses and uplift land values along the King-Main corridor.

BRT is considerably less expensive to build and thus generates a strong benefits-cost ratio. At the same time, however, BRT delivers less total benefits and its secondary benefits are less extensive.

On the other hand, the significantly higher investment required for the full LRT option will require careful attention to the partial LRT option to increase affordability – and even to the BRT option if sufficient funding is unavailable for either LRT option. (Page 2, italics added)

This is an astounding statement.  “Sufficient funding unavailable”?  Whatever happened to the brave new world of The Big Move where transit investments would flow like water from Queen’s Park?  Are we suddenly feeling poor, and cutting back on transit options?  This rapid transit line is the second in the “top 15” priority list.

If the BCA had shown LRT to be a poor choice, one might understand taking the least cost option, but that is not the case here.

Metrolinx has some explaining to do, especially in regard to the many other top priority projects in its hopper.  Maybe transit isn’t quite as important as Dalton McGuinty claimed it was back on that sunny day in June 2007 when he announced MoveOntario 2020.

Service Changes For February 2010 (Updated)

The following service changes will occur effective Sunday, February 14, 2010.

Updated to include a table comparing service levels on 512 St. Clair.

305 Eglinton East Night Bus & 354 Lawrence East Night Bus

These routes now operate separately from each other, with three vehicles on each route, and have difficulty maintaining schedules.  To give both routes more running time, one bus will be added, and the routes will be interlined to give each route an additional 15 minutes for a round trip.

Buses will alternate trips on each route.

44 Kipling South

Saturday afternoon running times will be increased, and service will be improved, to counteract reliability problems.  The existing 15 minute headway with 2 buses will change to a 12 minute headway with 3 buses.

116 Morningside & 86 Scarborough Service Blending

Midday headways on the 116 will be widened from 8’30” to 9’00” to provide extra running time.  No buses will be added to the route.  Midday headways on the 86 will be widened from 8’00” to 9’00”.  One less bus will be needed on the 86.

In both cases, the average load will rise from 36 to 38, within the offpeak service standards.

Early evening headways on the 116 will be changed from 7’45” to 7’30” to match the existing 86 headway.

512 St. Clair

Running times will be increased during many periods to reflect actual requirements for this route.  No cars will be added, but scheduled headways will be widened.  The affected periods are:

  • Weekdays afternoon, pm peak, early evening
  • Weekends morning and afternoon

The table linked below compares the April 2007 schedule (just before the west end of the line closed for construction), the original January 2010 schedule, and the revised February version. 

2010 vs 2007 Service Comparison

Zoo Services

The 85 Sheppard East and 86 Scarborough schedules will be adjusted so that the last trip from the Zoo matches its later closing time (7 pm) beginning in mid March.

Driving Time vs Recovery Time

One of the oddities of TTC schedules is that many routes have “recovery time” that is, in fact, little more than a rounding factor so that the headway will work out to an exact integer.  For example, on the 44 Kipling South change above, the new schedule has a 12 minute headway, but this is achieved with 34 minutes of driving time and 2 minutes of recovery per round trip.

A few routes have schedule adjustments that consist of nothing more than reallocating time from recovery to driving.  This means that the actual time provided for a vehicle to make a round trip is unchanged, but the “recovery” which might be used for a break at a terminal is squeezed.

This affects:

  • 34 Eglinton East (peak)
  • 16 McCowan (weekday early evening)
  • 116 Morningside (peak)
  • 224 Victoria Park North