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General Issues Committee reviews preliminary 2021 transit budget

Hamilton, ON - The Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s General Issues Committee heard today.

HSR’s 2021 budget included an overview of the impacts of the pandemic, an update on the 10-year Transit Strategy and a look at the major trends in facing HSR in 2021.

COVID-19 impacts resulted in several service adjustments and operational changes to prioritize the health and safety of staff and customers. These changes have included:

  • Reducing levels of service to prevent cancellations due to staffing impacts
  • Moving the yellow line 6ft behind the operator, treating the entire fleet with Microbe Shield treatment and enhancing nightly cleaning of buses
  • Reducing capacity by blocking of seats and promoting physical distancing, using larger buses where possible
  • Initially moving to rear door boarding, pausing fare collection, installing bungee cords to prevent entry into operator area
  • Requiring the use of face coverings
  • Installing bio-shields for the operator compartment and returning to front door boarding and fare collection

The implementation of Year 5 of the 10-Year Transit Strategy was paused in 2020 due to COVID-19 and challenges related to sourcing new vehicles, the ability to hire and train new staff, and other pandemic uncertainties. For 2021 the following enhancements are scheduled to be implemented September 2021:

  • Service enhancements on Route 44 Rymal and Route 20 A-Line 
  • Routing changes and improved connectivity on the Stoney Creek mountain
  • 13 additional buses
  • 35 new staff
  • Approximately 46,000 additional service hours A fare increase of $0.05 as of September 2021

Director of Transit, Debbie Dalle Vedove, also provided Committee with information related to the major trends and issues HSR is facing in 2021 and beyond. Highlights of the trends and issues include:

  • HSR’s role in helping to address the climate emergency – HSR has one of the greenest fleets in Canada. Currently 51 per cent of HSR buses run on compressed natural gas.
  • Long term impacts resulting from COVID-19, recovery planning and the Safe Restart Agreement Funding that will support transit agencies with revenue resulting from the pandemic
  • The construction and completion of a second maintenance and storage facility. HSR is over capacity at the Mountain Transit Centre on Upper James and requires additional space to accommodate and maintain its fleet.

Committee received information about the (Re)Envison the HSR campaign: including the introduction of the Guiding Principles, an updated project timeline, key findings and engagement efforts to date.

Staff introduced Committee to the new “on demand” transit pilot project planned for Waterdown. This Pilot provides HSR the opportunity to connect the Guiding Principles as tools for planning and conducting service, as they continue to build on the priorities developed for their strategic direction; which remains to make Transit a first choice in Hamilton. The pilot project will target key areas of Waterdown that are within the transit boundary but are not being reached through conventional transit offerings. “On demand” service would lead to an improved customer experience through more direct trips, quicker journeys and shorter wait times, access to more key destinations, a reduced carbon footprint through optimizing trips and more. The pilot is planned to begin in September 2021. 

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