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Combine good transit with a strategy to reduce parking and you have a recipe for success. The transit doesn't have to be light rail necessarily, but having excess parking supports single-occupancy car use. At McMaster, that means the university's parking department insists they need to keep almost 4,000 parking stalls for less than 3,000 cars at peak.
A successful strategy in Edmonton used "Promotion of transit ridership through the gradual reduction of long-term parking in the downtown core relative to growth in the area" to contribute to the move away from car-dependency.
Yes, McMaster needs a transportation demand management plan.


Mac report illuminates issue of LRT for city

Senior Hamilton bureaucrats are carefully studying a report produced by McMaster University researchers that suggests that light rail transit has the potential to succeed in Hamilton but will be a “long, challenging and costly process.”
The study looked at successful and failing LRT systems across North America in terms of their ability to attract riders and new development.
It will be a big part of a staff report coming to councillors that will definitively recommend whether the city should forge ahead with building an LRT line for Hamilton, said city manager Chris Murray.
“It will speak to all the things we need to do to take advantage of the growth opportunity Hamilton is enjoying.”
The university report, produced by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics and commissioned by the city, is “good advice to staff and council on how to move ahead with LRT,” said Murray.
Though he stopped short of saying LRT is now a city target, he said Hamilton has “already invested heavily” in LRT.
“I don’t think the feeling is out there that LRT isn’t worth pursuing.”
But Mayor Bob Bratina has repeatedly shot arrows into the hearts of those pining for B-line LRT stretching 13 kilometres between McMaster and Eastgate. It’s projected to cost between $875 million and $1 billion to build.
He has stated there is no public “clamour” for LRT, no development interest and “no convincing argument” for dense economic development along the corridor. He said LRT would be a serious option for Hamilton if a million people moved to the city in the next five years.
As well, the city’s rapid transit office was disbanded and its director left the city.
All of that prompted a motion from council in October supporting the continuation of a full investigation into the feasibility of light rail transit for Hamilton.
Then Bratina said in December that he would not be a champion of LRT, yet Metrolinx officials have said cities need to advocate for their projects.
Co-authors Mark Ferguson, senior research consultant at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics, and PhD student Christopher Higgins examined the success and failure of light rail transit projects in 30 North American cities.
They conclude: “light rail transit has the potential to work in Hamilton under the right set of circumstances but it will be a long, challenging and costly process.”
Lessons for Hamilton include:
  The need for patience about ridership growth and development along the line. It has taken Edmonton’s LRT 30 years to show considerable ridership gains.
  Strong political leadership is necessary because many taxpayers outside the affected wards will question the merits of the project.
  LRT advocates “must not make unreasonable claims towards the perceived power of rapid transit to induce major land use changes and broader economic growth on its own.” It must be part of an overall strategy.
   LRT projects elsewhere have mostly meant a redistribution or focusing of development that would have happened anyway, rather than a net increase in investment, the researchers caution.
“Light rail transit cannot induce major land use change and broader economic growth on its own. Rapid transit should be understood for its potential to act as an important catalyst in an overall package to reshape a growing urban area.”
So, LRT worked best in cities experiencing rapid population and employment growth, such as San Diego, Charlotte, Denver and Minneapolis. In Buffalo, LRT did nothing to reverse its decline.
“Despite challenges in recent decades, Hamilton can hardly be described as a city in decline and in fact is experiencing respectable growth,” the researchers said.
“The challenge will be to funnel some of this growth along the B-line corridor.”
Another hurdle is that LRT tends to work better where congestion is an issue. The researchers point out that movements along the B-line are “fairly efficient with low levels of congestion for automobile commuters” thanks to one-way streets and synchronized traffic lights.
On the other hand, the corridor serves a number of key destinations and employment areas and connects to regional transit. Ridership on the existing B-line is strong and the corridor features reasonably high densities, says the report.
They say large parking lots along the proposed east-west LRT corridor, dubbed the B-Line for the current bus route, are “ripe for redevelopment” and that young professionals and empty nesters are attracted to transit-oriented living. The growing cost of operating a car may push more people into using transit.
Murray says the staff report, expected to come before council sometime in December or January, will lay out short-, medium- and long-term investments in transportation, including everything from pedestrian mobility, road investment and two-way street conversion. Transportation director Don Hull is heading up the project.
Murray said the city is studying LRT in the context of the city’s growth and as part of an overall look at transportation in the city, including other modes of transit, pedestrian mobility and one-way street conversions.
“We can’t look at LRT in isolation from everything else we’re doing. The notion that LRT is an island is a mistake.”
Murray said academic research on major investments and policies is crucial.
“We need objective, third-party input. The community expects it,” Murray told a group of academics and transportation industry players at a conference in Burlington this week. “You play a critical role in discovering what is the truth.”
Murray cautioned that the city is $150 million to $250 million a year short on infrastructure investments.

LRT in North America
Calgary C Train — 3 lines, 66 stations, 49 km of track
  Highest ridership in North America (266,000 daily weekday passengers or about 5,400 passengers per kilometre)
  Lowest costs per weekday passenger at $2,913
  Promotion of transit ridership through the gradual reduction of long-term parking in the downtown core relative to growth in the area
  Transit-oriented development has been lacking in many suburban areas served by LRT where large park-and-ride lots have been provided, rather than adjacent development. A number of stations are located in the middle of expressway medians
  Population has doubled in 30 years, economy has boomed
Buffalo Metro Rail — 1 line, 15 stations, 10 km
  Among the most costly systems to build and operate at $39,159 per weekday passenger
  Stagnant ridership numbers (22,000 daily weekday passengers, or 2,200 per kilometre); second lowest in North America
  Small system, so passengers per kilometre of track compares favourably to other cities
  Decline of population and employment in the Buffalo region
  Disappointing results in redevelopment along its system and revitalizing declining neighbourhoods. Transit oriented development virtually non-existent
Minneapolis Hiawatha Line — 1 line, 19 stations, 20 km
  Eight-year-old system showing potential in ridership and exceeded expectations (27,000 daily weekday passengers, 1,350 per kilometre)
  Part of broad-scale plan to revitalize downtown with new housing, jobs, and other services
   Connects major destinations, including Target Field, the Mall of America and the International Airport among several others
San Diego Trolley — 4 lines, 53 stations, 86 km of track
  The first new light rail system built in the United States in over two decades when first line opened in 1981.
  Daily weekday passengers of 98,000 or 1,140 passengers per kilometre
  Cost per weekday passenger of $19,216
  In first decade, had little impact on city development or densification of downtown.
  Since then, city planners have offered incentives to encourage transit-oriented development. A number of TOD projects have resulted, although vast majority of these have occurred outside of the downtown core in largely suburban areas.
Edmonton, 1 line, 15 stations, 21 km
  94,000 daily weekday passengers or 4,500 per kilometre
  Cost per weekday passenger of $10,859
  A number of policies to encourage transit-oriented development have been implemented, although the vast majority of projects have occurred in largely suburban areas.
Cleveland — 2 lines, 35 stations, 24 km
  Lowest ridership statistics for any North American city at 9,000 daily weekday passengers (about 400 weekday riders per kilometre)
   An anemic effect on promoting new development
  New TOD planning initiatives have been undertaken as of 2007 and downtown is showing a fair amount of development momentum, but it would be hard to make the case that this is being driven by public transit

Source: The North American Light Rail Experience: Insights for Hamilton, McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics
905-526-3408 | @meredithmacleod


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