Best of 2011: Light Rail Transit

Our weekly polls once again proved to be a fantastic mechanism for gauging community support, while one of the most talked about polls from 2011 focused on the necessity of light rail transit in Kingston.  Our readers weighed in with their experience using mass transit in other cities, they proposed possible routes for an LRT in the Limestone City, and we vented about our city’s transportation woes.  When the dust settled, the results overwhelmingly urged Kingston’s Transportation Master Plan to include an LRT system.

Light Rail Transit

Light Rail Transit system, LRT, Kingston, OntarioIn January 2002, Kingston’s Transportation Master Plan reported that:

during the afternoon commuter peak hour, 82 percent of trips were made by car, 11 per cent by walking, 6 percent by transit (3 percent school bus and 3 percent public transit) and just over 1 percent by cycling. Over the next 25 years, Kingston is expected to grow by between 30 to 45 percent, and travel demands will increase concurrently.

Nearly a decade after the 2002 report, traffic jams and rush hour in Kingston may not be close to what commuters in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have to endure, but our traffic woes are nevertheless frustrating and time consuming. Our public transportation scheme has seen some improvements since the 2002 master plan, as bus routes have been expanded and optimized, bike lanes have been established along major arteries, and let’s not forget about the seasonal rack and roll program on board Kingston Transit buses. While these developments may be enough to accommodate local commuters in the year 2011, what direction should our Transportation Master Plan steer us in order to ensure that our transit network remains rapid, reliable, affordable, accessible and sustainable? Should Kingston be having the difficult talk that Ottawa, Hamilton and other smaller Canadian centres are having? Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
[poll id=”42″]

With current commute times and public transit volume in mind, I’m not convinced that a light rail transit system is a necessity for Kingston. That said, according to the 2009 transportation model update, in 2019 we can expect a 23% increase in public transit ridership, and in 2029 at least a 35% increase over current rates. Add to that the expectation that by 2019 many major roadways will have exceeded their capacity during rush hour, and we’ll be crawling to and from work in no time. While some might argue that more buses are the answer, there comes a point a time when even articulated models can’t keep up with commuter demand. Looking ahead to how Kingstonians will deal with increased traffic volume, the rising cost of fuel, and promoting future growth, should we proactively consider an LRT as a part of our strategic vision?

Thanks to camknows for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

6 thoughts on “Best of 2011: Light Rail Transit

  • A light rail system is far too costly to justify in a city as small as Kingston. For now we should just expand our bus system and increase the number of routes with 15 minute bus service. Until Kingston reaches a population comparable to Kitchener many many decades in the future, light rail is a pipe dream.

  • Andrew, There may be ways to bring the cost down as a number of smaller European cities have successfully done. There is an existing right-of-way for part of route one (Route 1 is proposed from Old CN Railway Station to St. Lawrence College) and then half of some streets could be designated for streetcars and local traffic only. We need to be innovative in design, financing and of course in the engineering working in collaboration with nearby Bombardier R & D.

  • The expansion of our existing transit system to include 15 minute bus service would be a great idea, and something that would surely increase ridership, reduce traffic congestion, and minimize costs. To be sure, as Andrew states, it would be very difficult for Kingston to afford the construction of a light rail transit system. Even the K-Rock Centre and the Invista Centre alone are going to leave Kingston's taxpayers with hefty burdens to pay in the future. Expanded public transit, however, is absolutely necessary for any city truly wishing to be "sustainable."

  • Having lived in Europe and having seen smaller communities with LRT, a number of things/factors need to be in place in order for this to happen. First, gas prices have to be extraordinariily high. Second, there needs to be a very high car and highway tax that encourages people to NOT buy or use a car. Third, there needs to be traffic restrictions in the centre of town or a complete ban on traffic in the downtown area. Fourth, there needs to be a very accessible LRT system in the city that links the train station, bus station, University, College and all parts of the city in a unified way. A single east-west line with 30 minute service simply would cost far more than adding extra buses and the ridership wouldn't increase significantly. At least, that's how I see it.

  • I would like to see Kingston transit put in light rail.

  • Would also love to see Kingston build/operate a light rail. There is potential down the road, but for now, increased frequency with an expanded bus fleet could do the trick for the time being. It's not like Kingston is absorbing 100,000 people/year like the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area is.

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