‘Glow­ing’ ref­er­ences to LRT in other cities ‘leave out a lot of de­tails,’ doc­u­ment says

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL OPHARDT jophardt@thes­ 905-526-3408

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.

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