Monday, March 21, 2011

Region of Waterloo - Light Rail

In June 2009, the Region of Waterloo approved light rail as the preferred rapid transit technology to connect Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge which as has a population of 478,121 according to the 2006 census. In 2010, the Ontario and Federal governments announced funding for the project though in the fall of 2010 there were some concerns about the cost of light rail as compared to bus rapid transit.

Yep, it's the great Bus Rapid Transit/Light Rail debate. Anyway, the staff for the project created a Rapid Transit Implementation Options report which has the following to say about light rail and bus rapid transit. To be clear, the report was talking about Ottawa-style, true BRT not the "BRT" we see in Vancouver or Calgary.
It should be noted that full BRT would be very difficult to convert to LRT because of the cost associated with replacing BRT infrastructure before its service life is over, because conversion is not likely to happen until BRT is at capacity, and because it would be very difficult to operate BRT while building LRT in the same passageway. As far as staff are aware, there has never been a conversion of BRT to LRT in the same at-grade passageway. Ottawa will be the first. Ottawa is avoiding some of the problems associated with converting BRT to LRT by planning to build their LRT underground in their downtown area, at very high cost.

-LRT is much more likely to achieve the objectives of the RGMS [Regional Growth Management Strategy] than BRT;
-LRT has higher capital and net operating costs than BRT, but provides significantly greater benefits;
-LRT has much greater potential to attract transit ridership and to shape urban form than BRT; and
-LRT has a demonstrable influence on land values and is recognized as a planning tool that can support and encourage the development of more sustainable land use patterns.

BRT is cheaper per kilometre to install and to operate than LRT. LRT costs approximately twice as much per kilometre as BRT to install. More details about capital and net operating costs are provided in Section 7.4. Operating costs are shown net of fare box revenue. LRT would have higher fare box revenues than BRT given that LRT (Conestoga Mall to Ainslie Terminal) is expected to have higher ridership than BRT.

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