The Hamilton Street Railway continues to distinguish itself among peer transit agencies, but for all the wrong reasons.
It’s the worst performing transit agency for ridership growth, it continues to operate inefficient routing based upon travel patterns from the 1980s, it’s finally implementing digital signs in it’s transit terminal – a year late and at a budget of $565,000 for 7 dot matrix and 4 flat panel screen, still can’t get it’s digital clock at the MacNab Terminal working – instead removing it completely, doesn’t provide any open data, and last week HSR’s management drove to City Hall to deliver even more underwhelming news – the HSR’s statistics for PRESTO are significantly behind other transit agencies.
“As of June 2013, PRESTO now accounts for 7.72% of all trips taken. This number is low in comparison to other Transit Providers who are seeing 60% of the fares being paid for with PRESTO,” wrote Nancy Purser in a report to Council’s Public Works Committee.
HSR users are sticking to paper tickets instead of adopting the PRESTO card.
Two years ago, the HSR “Ticket Office” stopped the sale of paper tickets in the hopes of increase PRESTO adoption, there have been advertising campaigns, and the card fee was waived during promotions.
During the 2012 transit budget presentation on February 3, 2012, HSR director Don Hull stated the HSR will eliminate the discounted single fare upon widespread PRESTO adoption and only offer a monthly discount rate. At present, PRESTO and paper ticket users are charged $2.00 per ride.
This has changed with HSR staff implementing a semi-discount for weekly users. However, the discount is not enticing except for the heaviest users who are likely already using the monthly pass.
HSR staff are implementing a new incentive to encourage PRESTO use. After 11 rides in a calendar week (Monday to Sunday), all further rides will be free for PRESTO users. This incentive is exclusive of “co-fare” rides; meaning it paying for two persons on one card will not count towards the 11 rides.
Currently, it is cheaper to ride the HSR on tickets if only taking two rides each weekday with no other HSR travel than it is to purchase a monthly pass.
The HSR wishes to eliminate paper tickets entirely due to the cost of their printing and distribution. However, the PRESTO card requires a terminal at the point-of-sale. At present, cards can only be purchased at the HSR Ticket Office on Hunter, City Hall, Dundas Town Hall, or online.
Hamilton’s public transit system continues to lag behind its comparators in ridership growth, well below the national average of 22 percent growth from 2006 to 2010, and below the population growth of the City from 2006 to 2011 which was 3.05% percent according to census data.
In the late 1980s, the HSR carried over 29 million passengers prior to devastating cutbacks that halved the transit fleet.
Other cities have invested in their transit systems to stimulate growth, Hamilton City Council has steadfastly held the line on the HSR budget.
Council did vote last week to have their Web Redevelopment Committee consider funding open data.
In March, the Minstry of Municipal Affairs updated 2012 ridership numbers and Hamilton recorded another year of declining ridership.
Will Hamilton’s underperforming transit service become an issue in 2014? Only time will tell.
Credit: Much of this article builds upon the great work of Citizens at City Hall’s coverage in February.