Monday, April 11, 2011

The Region's LRT ridership estimates: pie in the sky


The figures for other cities are from Wikipedia.

This analysis was done by Dave Ramsey. Dave's conclusions:
  1. The estimated daily boardings of 56,000 in 2031 are overstated by at least 40,000.
  2. Just like every city in North America with a population of less than 1M, KW will not need the LRT or BRT to cope with its public transit needs now or when the population reaches 462,000 in 2031.
  3. If LRT is installed, the numbers show it will be a financial disaster. With 15,000 daily boardings rather than the estimated 57,000, subsidies will skyrocket over those forecast. In 2002, after 24 years Edmonton’s LRT had 36,000 boardings with an annual subsidy of $13.7M (see “ETS Light Rail Transit” bulletin). With less than half the boarders, the region’s subsidy will be about $21.7M instead of the $3.8M forecast (see ‘Connecting to the Future’ Summer 2009).

9 comments:

tomslee said...

Here is a chart of those numbers (fingers crossed). The top left dot is KW.

Yappa said...

Wow - that shows the problem pretty effectively!

Michael D said...

You can't eat your cake and have it too. If you reduce Waterloo Region to the two cities served by the first phase, then you should reduce the massive metro areas of all those cities to the very small portions served by the respective LRT systems.

What's actually relevant is the amount of stuff that is actually near the line, or is connected easily with the line. And then the relevant measures are boardings per kilometre of line.

The iXpress, and proposed LRT, do not branch out into low-density nowhere places - they travel a corridor which has a far bigger proportion of the destinations, jobs, and housing in our region than the systems and sprawling cities you list. It's a different kind of transit line, and it is able to play a larger role in the transportation system here.

What credibility do your predictions have when they can't even explain current ridership levels on the iXpress? The iXpress really is bursting at the seams with 9-10,000 average trips per day, and massive overcrowding (including south of downtown).

This year the number of trips will be increased 50%, and chances are that ridership will again jump dramatically with the breathing room and better service levels. By next year we will probably already have your predicted 15,000 daily riders, just on the iXpress alone, to say nothing of Route 7 (which is currently more frequent). And that's without any of the next 20 years of growth.

"Just like every city in North America with a population of less than 1M, KW will not need the LRT or BRT to cope with its public transit needs now or when the population reaches 462,000 in 2031."

Maybe Calgary should just shut their C-Train down and put those 250,000 daily riders on mixed-traffic buses?

Yappa said...

Hi Michael,

I appreciate your comments a lot even though we seldom agree. :)

Re the CTrain, I just posted a new report about that. Ouch. Not such a shining example as people say.

Re increased ridership, I think it's widely known what caused it: the UPass. A few thoughts about the iXpress:
- Has the frequency increased from every 15 minutes to every 10 yet? I know they finally decided to do that.
- Peak hours of iXpress are 2-4, apparently. That leaves space for working commuters.
- Why aren't there rush hour modifications such as short loops and added buses?

Even if you replace 462K with 729K, the comparison shows that our boardings estimate is way, way out of whack. And unlike most of those other places (if not all), our regional population includes a lot of people living in townships who aren't covered by transit.

Michael D said...

I commented on your C-Train post, but the comment didn't make it through. Regardless of it being a shining example or not, its ridership is not in question.

"Re increased ridership, I think it's widely known what caused it: the UPass."

It's not widely known by me, sorry. Though certainly students are more likely to persist in the face of sardine conditions.

"Has the frequency increased from every 15 minutes to every 10 yet?"

That will happen at the end of June.

"Why aren't there rush hour modifications such as short loops and added buses?"

There are. Scheduled and unscheduled short-turn buses are used between McCormick and Fairview.

"Even if you replace 462K with 729K, the comparison shows that our boardings estimate is way, way out of whack."

So are our actual current ridership numbers, then.

"And unlike most of those other places (if not all), our regional population includes a lot of people living in townships who aren't covered by transit."

Actually, we have a much larger urbanized and transit-accessible population than probably each and every one of those metro areas. The number of people that live in our townships is nothing compared to the number of people that live in outlying highway-adjacent suburbs and exurbs in counties surrounding the inner cities.

Yappa said...

Hi there,

I don't have access to the numbers easily, but maybe you have. I recall that iXpress is about 10K today. That number increased markedly from previous ridership amd that jump occurred right after the UPass came in.

It's a big step to 56K. In fact, I think the 56K, while presented as a forecast, is really based on the number the region wants to have by then.

Given that the iXpress still runs every 15 minutes, you can't really use the (alleged) over-capacity of it to justify LRT. There is too much capacity left in the iXpress model just by running more buses. They could also use bigger buses. They could also do more short turning. They could also run a rush-hour service.

Yappa said...

PS: Sorry about your comment on the Calgary post not getting through. I hate it when that happens.

Michael D said...

GRT ridership has been increasing dramatically, and U-Pass is not the only reason. You can see the continued increase last year, despite the only U-Pass addition being UW grad students.

Weekday ridership on iXpress is 9-10,000. Ridership on the 7 is 15-20,000. Some of that balance will shift this year, as the iXpress finally becomes competitive on frequency with the 7.

"Given that the iXpress still runs every 15 minutes, you can't really use the (alleged) over-capacity of it to justify LRT."

I'm not. I'm using its capacity issues as an indication of much higher ridership demand than is currently being served.

"There is too much capacity left in the iXpress model just by running more buses. They could also use bigger buses."

For how many years? And then what?

"They could also do more short turning. They could also run a rush-hour service."

I'm really not sure what you are suggesting here, or why you think it is helpful.

If a highway has a bottleneck, it doesn't matter how much capacity exists elsewhere along the route -- you can't get through. Similarly, a transit line is only as good as its busiest section -- regardless of how many different routes are composing that section.

This year King Street will have 14+ buses per hour per direction all day long, reaching 20 buses per hour during peaks. Odds are that there will still be capacity issues, particularly since the downtowns continue to grow.

Yappa said...

I've addressed the capacity issue on another recent post's comment section. But a few points here:

Short turning and adding peak hour buses is all about managing rush hour, something we don't do very well around here.

I hope that ridership goes up enough to justify a fixed route transit system. aBRT is a far better approach because it is not expensive to transition to BRT or LRT from aBRT.

The aBRT plan being discussed in Cambridge for the whole route includes "bus bypassing shoulders," which I assume refers to a way to go faster on the hiway.