Do city staff have the technology to make accurate assessments of ridership change or is it just guesstimating shaded on the positive side to quell the voices of protest?
By Roy Adams
Published November 27, 2007
In response to a question at the November 26 meeting of the Committee of the Whole (COW) focused on transit fares, city staff said that, despite fare increases, ridership increased in 2007 between 0.5 and 1.5 percent.
That rate is well below the average rate of increase in large urban cities across Canada. The most recent Statistics Canada study of ten large urban transit systems showed an average increase of 5.3 percent.
Although below average, the Hamilton figure is still suspicious.
In its report, the city's Public Works Department made no mention of an increase in ridership, despite the fact that staff were trying to convince COW to repeat last year's transit fare increase.
The transit industry recognizes a well-established relationship between fare increases and ridership losses. In previous reports, city staff relying on these ratios have reported that a 15 cent increase in fares would result in roughly 600,000 fewer rides.
For ridership to have increased last year there must have been a ride gain considerably in excess of the estimated 600,000 loss. Where did this gain come from?
In the recent past, significant ridership increases have come about because of discrete events such as the decision of the students at McMaster to include a transit pass in the student fee structure.
What happened last year to increase ridership enough to overcome the almost certain loss due to the fare increase? Do staff have the technology to make accurate assessments of ridership change or is this just a guesstimate shaded on the positive side to quell the voices of protest?
The staff report leaves us in the dark.
Nor does the report include ridership projections for the proposed new services, nor cost-benefit analyses for various options including holding the line on fares.
What would ridership look like if the enhanced service levels were paid for out of the levy?
It would, almost certainly, increase at a faster rate. If so, what would be the impact on premature deaths due to air pollution?
Would paying for the service enhancements through the levy save the lives of Hamiltonians? If so, wouldn't that alone be worth the extra $12 that the average household would have to pay in order to freeze transit fares?
Don't we deserve more than this half-baked, seat-of-the-pants "just do it and see what happens" approach to a key issue? Shouldn't we expect more before our Council makes decisions critical to the health of our community?
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