Hamilton City Council approved the 10 Year Local Transit Strategy in March 2015. Building upon previous plans that considered how to prepare for moving people quickly and efficiently across Hamilton, the 10 Year Local Transit Strategy focuses on refining the customer experience, addressing system deficiencies, revising service standards, adding capacity, and adding rapid transit (the BLAST network) in Hamilton. Completing the implementation of the Strategy will ultimately mean a 50 per cent increase in transit service across the city, and will involve a total of $300 million capital investment in public transit.
Years One and Two
Years One and Two of the 10 Year Local Transit Strategy were implemented in 2015 and 2016. They focused on adding capacity and addressing system deficiencies. Years One and Two included a $6 million operating investment, and resulted in an additional 66,000 service hours, 33 more bus operators, and 25 additional buses.
Hamilton City Council approved Year Three of the Strategy in March 2018, which focuses on service standards and growing the transit network in several areas across the city. As part of Year Three, Council approved an operating increase of $3.4 million per year, which will result in five new expansion buses, 26 more staff (20 bus operators), and 34,000 additional service hours.
Years Four to 10
Years Four to 10 of the Strategy are scheduled to be approved by Council and implemented between 2019 and 2024. They will include more than $150 million in total capital and operating investments and will focus on continuing to grow the transit network, and encouraging more commuters to use public transportation instead of their personal vehicles for travel around the city.
It’s clear that Hamilton City Council is committed to improving transit in Hamilton. Over the past eight years, Council has supported more than $219 million in capital and operating investments that have translated to almost 150,000 new service hours, 110 additional staff and 46 more buses, and almost 250,000 trips on DARTS. One of the most noteworthy investments during this period was through Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) – combined investments from the federal, provincial and municipal governments totaling $72 million in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the goal of improving the reliability, efficiency, safety and accessibility of public transit.
These investments are helping to support sustainable public transit in Hamilton. The end goal is for HSR to be the first choice of customers in Hamilton.
Transit network review
As recommended under the 10 Year Local Transit Strategy, HSR will be reviewing the design of the transit network to ensure it is serving the needs of our customers. Some of the day-to-day challenges that HSR faces are linked to the design of the network, and it appears that with the amount of growth and development that Hamilton has experienced – and is continuing to experience – we may no longer have a transit system that is designed to take customers where they want to go, when they want to go there.
In 2018, we’ll be engaging with our customers, potential customers and other key stakeholders to help us define the long-term improvements and adjustments that need to be made to the transit network, and to hear more about what customers want and need from their transit system.
Operational update: March 2018
Service disruptions update
In October 2017, HSR experienced an unprecedented spike in service cancellations. While many factors contributed to the service disruptions, one of the primary reasons for the spike was absenteeism, and our long-term practice of using overtime to deal with not having enough bus operators available each day. Over the past decade or so, absenteeism continued to increase and began to result in service cancellations, finally reaching a tipping point in the fall of 2017.
In late October 2017, customers experienced significant disruptions – with 780 hours of service being cancelled during the week of October 22. Since then, HSR management have been implementing short and medium term solutions and have since made substantial progress to minimize service disruptions.
That said, we don’t want to leave anyone behind, so we’re continuing to monitor cancellations closely each day. Our goal is to never cancel service, so our customers can rely on us to get to work, school and other important appointments on time.
Summary of our progress and improvements
Since our last update, we have focused on implementing elements of our plan to restore service and rebuild trust and confidence. We remain committed to eliminating service cancellations, and progress is showing a promising decline in service disruptions.
Here’s some of the things we’ve been working on lately that are helping to eliminate service disruptions:
We have welcomed 28 new operators since November, resulting in a net increase of 13 operators since December 31, 2017. Six more operators are scheduled to ‘hit the road’ on March 15. We added two instructors to our team to help expedite operator training. We have scheduled training classes in March, April, May and June with 12-15 participants in each class.
We changed the way we put work assignments together in order to free up operators in our “spare” pool. Transit agencies keep a spare pool to deal with issues as they arise each day. The changes we made allowed us to increase our spare pool by several operators.
We’re monitoring data and trends around absenteeism very closely so that we are able to ensure we always have enough operators available to put out our scheduled service each day.
Other customer-focused improvements
Here’s a quick summary of some of the other improvements our customers can expect over the coming months:
We have received six new buses so far in 2018 that will be used to increase the level of service we provide. All of the new buses are each equipped with 13-duplex onboard USB charging stations. As well, as HSR continues to build one of the most environmentally friendly transit fleets in North America, all of these new buses will run on natural gas.
Real-time bus info and Wi-fi
Our trip planner has been updated to be responsive and more intuitive, where customers sign up for customized alerts about specific routes or buses. This is planned to go live in March. We are also designing a mobile app that is scheduled to be released in spring 2018, which will have the same customization as the web responsive trip planner, including an SMS option for next bus information. We are in the planning stages of testing Wi-Fi on a portion of our fleet. More to come on this later in 2018!
We’ve installed security cameras on our entire fleet to improve the security of our customers, bus operators and equipment.
Shelter upgrades and repairs
Upgrades and repairs to 350 of our 679 transit shelters so our customers can wait for the bus in a safe and secure location.
We have installed automated passenger counters on our entire fleet. These counters will help us gather reliable data to ensure we are providing service that meets the needs of riders, and potential riders.
Follow us on Twitter @hsr for service advisories, news and customer service. Check out our route-specific hashtags for updates on a certain bus or route: #HSR35, #HSR44, #HSR27 and more!
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