The good Burghers in Hamilton have realized that it isn’t the amount of money you spend on transit, rather how you plan and build rail transit, that makes it successful. This is a lesson that BC politicians and TransLink fail to acknowledge and continue to plan for expensive light metro.
The Canada line is a good example: with the hype and hoopla with claims that ridership is hitting the 135,000 passengers a day mark, the light-metro lobby ignores the fact that subways need daily ridership of about 400,000 to justify construction. The SkyTrain lobby also refuses to admit that the Canada line’s ridership is largely made up of a ‘captive ridership’, where former bus users, who once enjoyed a direct no-transfer service, are now compelled to transfer on to the metro. The other ugly fact emerging is that the Canada Line fares are largely made up of concession fares and deep discounted U-Pass student fares.
This bodes ill for TransLink, despite higher ridership, income is not matching passenger use and there is no evidence of a modal shift from car to transit. The result, the taxpayer must ante up the difference.
In Hamilton, a more affordable and user friendly European model for transit is being investigated and it is time that TransLink do the same.
City Looks to Europe for Light Rail Plans
Meredith Macleod – The Hamilton Spectator
City planners don’t want to follow in the tracks of other North American cities when it comes to light rail.
The consultant hired to figure out how Hamilton should move forward with a hoped-for rail line will be expected to have experience in designing a modern European-style rapid transit system.
That’s a clear indication of the direction city planners intend to take with a proposed LRT corridor stretching 16 kilometres from Eastgate Square to McMaster University.
The vision is to emulate the way European cities built their LRT systems.
* giving priority to transit, pedestrians, cyclists and service vehicles rather than cars;
* making LRT fit the existing streetscape and adapting the design to fit each neighbourhood;
* having minimal or no property acquisition;
* putting the transit line close to buildings and sidewalks.
Jill Stephen, Hamilton’s acting director of strategic planning and rapid transit, says the typical North American approach has been to try to give priority to both traffic and transit and drastically change the streetscape. Often LRT lines have been built on abandoned rail corridors or greenfield space at the periphery of the city.
“We have a lot of similarities to European cities,” Stephen said. “We don’t have a greenfield corridor or an old highway or a rail corridor like some North American cities have used.”
Instead, Hamilton must contend with a set right-of-way and a streetscape built alongside. In some areas of the proposed route along Main and King, the corridor is narrow.
“European cities have used what they had available and maximized it,” Stephen said. “There are models for making this work.”
The tendering for the year-long planning, design and engineering study to lay out the details of an east-west LRT line will close Monday.
A team of city and Metrolinx staff will choose a consultant based on a scoring system and bid price.
Metrolinx, the provincial agency charged with transportation planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is expected to make a recommendation about whether Hamilton should get LRT or bus rapid transit Feb. 19.
Stephen says Hamilton’s transit team has studied transit systems from around the world.
“We’re trying to get a sense of what has worked, what hasn’t and what lessons can apply to Hamilton.”
A delegation from Hamilton visited Portland, Ore., Charlotte, N.C., and Calgary about 18 months ago to see transit systems in action and talk to the people who built and use them.
The team is studying the types of vehicles in use elsewhere, how they’re powered, the routes they take, and how other municipalities have built ridership and consulted with the community.
Stephen said a goal of the Hamilton system will be to reflect the character and history of individual neighbourhoods through the design of vehicles and stations and the use of public art.
“This is a chance to celebrate Hamilton,” she said.
“It gives people a sense of ownership.”
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