Hamilton Looks to Europe for Light Rail Plans – How About Vancouver?


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.

That means:

* 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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One Response to “Hamilton Looks to Europe for Light Rail Plans – How About Vancouver?”

  1. numberagain Says:

    400,000? Vancouver light metro system as a whole already has this number!

    Your 135000 number for RAV line was outdated. 157000 is the new ridership record as of yesterday, and plus ~250000 for the original Skytrain lines.

    If you argue that the 3 rapid transit lines in Vancouver must be viewed separately, then you know what ? from Hong kong to Tokyo to New York, I can name many examples fully-grade-separated metro line of 10km+ but also don’t reach 400000.

    Zweisystem replies: History repeats itself, the Canada Line post increases every day, just like the fabricated claims of the Expo Line in 1986!

    The 400,000 passenger figure is per line, not network, thus you have jumped the gun. With severe parking restrictions in Vancouver, higher ridership is to be expected on opening and closing Olympic events. Also laser counter on the Canada line do not accurately count ridership in crowded conditions and Zwei has been told by a source that the ridership numbers on the Canada line are not from these counters but by guesstimates by TransLink officials based on inflated Canada Line car capacity, just like the rest of the system.

    As for the 400,000 figure the corollary is, with a metro, the higher the ridership, the lower the annual subsidy.

    It must be remembered in Asia, with cities with large condensed populations, monsoon rains, building light-metro is prudent planning but with the Bangkok ‘SkyTrain’ (Siemens conventional metro) ridership numbers did not match expectation due to fares being expensive, which cause severe financial constraints on the metro. Also in Asia, many politicians want hugely expensive metros strictly for political prestige and those that have been built as such are heavily subsidized.

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