Transport Action BC

2012, May 31

Public Transit Boosts Local Economies

Filed under: city transit, Rapid Transit, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Rick @ 8:52 pm

Some intriguing numbers surfaced in media reports on the recent disruptions of Montréal’s Métro. The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal  and the Montréal Economic Institute  provided estimates of the economic impact (lost productivity) of the disruptions.  The Board of Trade estimated the 90 minutes of disruption cost the city’s economy $11,000,000 while the more conservative MEC estimated $9,300,000. Put positively, the Métro generates significant productivity benefits to Montréal’s economy.

Unfortunately, details on the methodology used to derive these numbers are not available. However, the number can be used to calculate an order of magnitude estimate of the value of public transit to a local economy.

Operating conservatively, I‘ll assume the productivity impact [PI] is a high estimate, given the political situation under which it was released.  Therefore, I’ve reduced it by approximately 50% to $5,000,000 per 90 minute time period [MTP]. Also, I’ll assume that most of the productivity impact of the Métro is provided during the peak hours when the system is at its busiest. Peak hours are generally considered as 06:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 or 6 hours / business day which equals four, 90 minute time periods:

  • 4 (90 MTP) X $5,000,000 (PI / 90 MTP) = $20,000,000 PI for 1 business day.
  • 20 (business days / month) X 12 (months / year) X $20,000,000 (PI /business day) = $4.8 billion PI / year.

Thus, Montréal’s transit system has a positive, $4.8 billion productivity impact on the city’s economy each year.

The Société de transport de Montréal [STM], which operates the transit system, has a 2012 operating budget of $1.23 billion. I’ve used the total budget number because the Métro and bus system operates as a network of interdependent modes – customers have to reach the subway somehow. Using the PI / year calculated above, we find that the public investment in Montréal’s transit system, through fares and taxes, generates an annual return of almost 400% in productivity impacts:

  • {($4.8 billion PI / year) ÷ ($1.23 billion STM 2012 operations budget)} X 100 = 400%
  • Eliminating the percentage gives a constant of 4, which I’ll call the TPI [Transit Productivity Impact]

Assuming, and remember we’re dealing with orders of magnitude in this discussion, that TransLink’s transit operations provide a similar boost to Metro Vancouver’s economic productivity, we can estimate the impact of transit using TransLink’s 2012 budget. TransLink forecasts that transit operations will cost $871 million and transit police $29.6 million for a total of about $900 million. I’ve included policing costs in the calculation because their presence adds safety, security and comfort to the transit system, thus encouraging ridership.

  • $900,000,000 (TransLink 2012 transit operations budget) X 4 (TPI Factor) = $3.6 billion PI / year.

Thus, in spite of all the negative publicity TransLink has received lately, the organisation still provides significant economic benefits to the region it serves. Admittedly, this is a very basic analysis based on an unsubstantiated number from a media release in a highly charged environment. However, it should help us move away from the image that public transit is simply a costly drain on taxpayers which only benefits a few (the “loser cruiser” attitude). Public transit must be treated as a valuable, respected, public investment tool that, in addition to social and environmental benefits, also has significant economic ones.


2012, May 11

Kamloops Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge

Filed under: Pedestrian — Tags: , , , , , — Matthew @ 10:25 pm

The long awaited bridge and paths linking the eastern end of downtown with the Rivers trail and the Valleyview are complete. See the bridge and trails on OpenStreetMap. The bridge and trail will do a lot for walking and cycling in Kamloops; linking parts of the city that have been disconnected for decades. The highway interchange (the Trans Canada and the Yellowhead Highway junction) and the Canadian Pacific mainline go through the area. There hasn’t been a safe way to walk between Valleyview and the central area of Kamloops until this new path opened.

Some people complained about the high cost of the trails and bridge, saying that the money would have been better spent building more parking spaces at the hospital. It certainly was expensive and did go over budget, but it was a difficult site with the railway and highway on-ramps in close proximity, and both had to remain open at all times. A lot of retaining walls had to be built to squeeze the trail in between the existing lanes. Poor decisions in the past when the interchanges was built led to this expensive solution today. Why didn’t they build a proper sidewalk at the time? That’s a good question, but I think the idea was that people should be forced into cars or the infrequent bus. Walkers and cyclists were just not thought important enough. We’ve come a long way since those dark days, but it is still an uphill battle to get proper and safe sidewalks, paths and bike lanes so that there are real alternatives to driving. I think Kamloopsians will grow to appreciate this important link on the eastern side of the city.

Coincident with the new bridge and paths is a new designated bike lane through central Kamloops. Aligning along Nicola and St Paul streets, which see less car traffic then nearby roads, it links the new bridge to the west (downtown). The north side of the bridge connects to the River’s Trail and an unpleasant sidewalk on the Yellowhead highway bridge towards Tk’emlups Band territory. The east link connects to on-road bike lanes on Valleyview Drive.

These links will certainly attract a lot of users once they discover it, but the bike route will soon frustrate commuter cyclists due to the number of stop signs and “Stop and Dismount” signs.

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