NOT SO FAST
‘Glowing’ references to LRT in other cities ‘leave out a lot of details,’ document says
Mountain Coun. Terry Whitehead’s 58-page report scrutinizes pro-LRT talking points, derailing some.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead has released a 58-page report that questions the validity of proLRT talking points.
“The reports submitted to the city provide glowing accounts of LRT in other (communities),” the report reads.
“Unfortunately they also leave out a lot of details. These details must be considered prior to beginning a project that if done wrong could cause problems for a generation.”
The report also said Coun. Whitehead’s research focused on “non-partisan empirical reports” while avoiding conservative or progressive think tanks and studies funded by LRT manufacturers.
The resulting document questions pro-LRT data involving topics such as land value, operating costs, ridership estimates and congestion.
The reports cites a 2016 McMaster study, “Forty Years of Modelling Rapid Transit’s Land Value Uplift in North America: Moving Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg” that casts doubt on the idea that rapid transit will necessarily increase land value.
It includes an excerpt that argues that past research has lacked “empirical specificity” with regard to land value, by failing to account for all of the variables involved.
The report later draws from the McMaster study again, suggesting rapid transit functions as a tool for “guiding growth that would have occurred anyway along a particular corridor,” instead of being a tool to generate growth in and of itself.
LRT only has lower operating costs than BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) when ridership numbers are strong enough, said the report. The 2009 IBI “Economic Potential Study” estimated peak time ridership of 1,800 per hour by 2031.
At that number the IBI estimated Hamilton would still be paying more per passenger on LRT by 2031. In fact, it would require 4,000 to 4,500 passengers per peak hour until LRT compares to BRT in costs, the report said.
TomTom, a company specializing in navigation and mapping products, released congestion studies that ranked Hamilton “11 out of 12 cities to be the second least congested city in the country” while Ottawa, a city often linked to Hamilton LRT debates, was the 10th most congested city in North America, the report noted.
Whitehead provided The Spectator with a copy of the report prior to its public release, but did not return calls seeking comment.
He is expected to release the study on his website Monday.
In his summary, Whitehead points out that he has previously been supportive of LRT in Hamilton, and “continues to support LRT done properly.”
Rejecting the current LRT plan does not exclude the possibility of a provincial transit investment, says the report, pointing to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2016 quote “It’s never been LRT or nothing.”
Whitehead also points to Brampton, saying a city councillor told his office they simply plan to submit a new proposal that works better for their residents, after rejecting LRT along the province’s proposed route.