The mayoral candidate's recent comments on both light rail transit and bus rapid transit continue a pattern of being just factually wrong.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 14, 2014
Last Saturday's Hamilton Spectator included a collection of extended quotes from mayoral candidates Brad Clark, Fred Eisenberger and Brian McHattie from when the candidates met with the newspaper's editorial board.
Clark's segment included a series of claims about the city's light rail transit (LRT) plan that just aren't true.
We are not in a position to create a viable, successful LRT route.
Both the City's Rapid Ready LRT plan and the Province's Benefits Case Analysis conclude that Hamilton is well-positioned for a viable, successful LRT route with a large overall net benefit to the city.
Third-party studies from McMaster University and other independent researchers also conclude that Hamilton LRT will be successful with supportive land use and transportation policies.
We don't have the population.
We have the population. LRT is a highly successful transportation technology for a city of around half a million residents.
Edmonton began developing its LRT system in 1974 when it had a population of 445,000. The system opened in 1978. Calgary began developing its LRT system in 1975, when it had a population of less than 470,000 residents. The system opened in 1981.
We don't have the density.
We have the density. The east-west LRT route is through the old part of the city, an area with an intact urban form, a large population of transit users and lots of room for further growth through new development.
The ridership is not sufficient, it's at the very bottom end of the scale for LRT.
That just isn't true. The B-Line route carries 13,000 passengers a day right now on our under-funded, over-stressed express bus system.
According to the Rapid Ready report, we would launch on day one with ridership in the middle of the pack for North American LRT systems. By 2031, our ridership would be among the highest on the continent.
Daily LRT boardings per kilometre
In addition to his claims about LRT, Clark is also saying things about bus rapid transit (BRT) that aren't true.
He has been arguing that, instead of accepting full capital funding from the province to build an LRT line, we should instead accept a BRT line that costs less to build.
BRT is a rapid transit system using high-frequency buses running on dedicated, physically separated lanes with stations where passengers buy tickets in advance.
According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a full "Gold Standard" BRT system can achieve a similar relative return on investment to LRT - relative because it costs less to build but attracts less investment in new developments around the line.
Clark has been claiming that Hamilton can get the development benefits of rapid transit with BRT rather than LRT, but it turns out he doesn't support BRT any more than he supports LRT.
When Clark uses the term "BRT", what he really means is merely express bus service like we already have on the B-Line: no dedicated lanes, no stations - just more buses.
Forget about the boom in transit-oriented development that will take place if we muster up the vision and leadership to follow through on our LRT plan:
Distribution of new taxable assessment without LRT vs. with LRT (Source: Canadian Urban Institute)
Clark's transit plan is to throw a few more buses at the status quo and call it a day.
Now we know exactly what Clark meant at the Hamilton Business Leaders Breakfast debate when he said, "We need to enhance BRT."
When Clark says "BRT", he doesn't mean BRT, he just means express buses running in mixed traffic like we have today.
Likewise, when Clark says he wants to "enhance" the "BRT", he doesn't mean investing in making it a higher-quality, higher-order rapid transit system, he just means adding a few more buses.
To borrow Craig Burley's unofficial tagline, "Hamilton: Good Enough For the Likes of You."
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