Philip Mcleod

The McLeod Report - London, Ontario

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Unprotected sex on the LRT

REPORT #1,140: The hybrid rapid transit model favoured by the mayor and civic administration could end up adding millions to the subsidy taxpayers must pay to maintain public transportation in London. The idea may be catchy, but it encompasses a nasty surprise.

Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 - LondonOntario

A gentleman of my acquaintance, too connected to publicly claim authorship of his usually witty putdowns of civic affairs, has provided a risqué but succinct analysis of the current campaign by the mayor and civic administration to convince us our rapid transit option should include light rail.

“They know sex sells, but they are selling you unprotected sex.”

A less eloquent but clearer warning is offered in a report presented last week to the London Transit Commission, the board that governs your public transportation company. 

The report discusses how London Transit will have to adjust its schedule to meet the requirements of a system with a light rail component. Because riders have an expectation urban trains run at very frequent intervals, everything that connects to it would also have to step up. 

“This will negatively impact the overall efficiency of the service,” the report says. “The ridership return per revenue service hour and ridership revenue will be less, resulting in the need for higher operating subsidy support.”

The reality is that even by 2035, the 20-year timespan current planning forecasts, London will barely have the minimum population needed to support light rail transit. But to attract any customers, the LRT will have to run on a schedule as if it did. The expectation is trains would run every 7.5 minutes during busy periods and every 10 minutes other times, regardless whether there are passengers aboard or not.

If the line isn’t paying for itself – and it won’t be if trains are almost empty much of the time – either London taxpayers will have to pony up the difference or transit customers will. And the cost could run into millions every year for at least 10 years, probably more. 

By preparing this report London Transit, in its quiet way, is firing the first shot in what could be a protracted battle with City Hall over how to best improve our public transportation system.

The preferred approach, London Transit has long argued, is to crawl first, then walk, then run. So it suggested express buses on the two main commuter routes and those were established several years ago. Next it recommends the introduction of bus rapid transit – also known as BRT – a very effective and less costly way of getting customers downtown in a hurry. 

Twenty years from now, when the population reaches the minimum required, London Transit says would be a good time to consider super streetcars on rail – the so-called LRT solution.

That, says London Transit, would be a transportation solution to a transportation problem, which is that the system at present is over capacity and needs a significant reorganization.

City Hall, though, had a different idea. The planners there opted to a city-building solution to a transportation problem, believing if the light rail line was laid down new development along the right of way would blossom with the rising sun.

Maybe, but it hasn’t happened all that quickly elsewhere in cities much, much larger than London. 

And there’s a good reason for that, as was expressed in an article Steve LaFleur, now of the Fraser Institute, wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press in 2014. At the time Winnipeg was also considering LRT, but ultimately opted for BRT.

Mr. LaFleur looked at Calgary, which does have LRT lines, and this is what he found.

“Calgary shows us major related problems with LRT. The city boasts rail increases proximate real estate prices. Given that people typically are only willing to walk 200 metres to take transit and that low-income people are most likely to use transit, this is a problem. By concentrating all of the city's transit capital investment into one corridor, it would increase the value of land precisely where low-income people need to live. 

“Building a city-wide BRT system for a much lower cost will spread out the real estate impact, revitalizing neighbourhoods throughout the city. Moreover, BRT can be built quickly and modularly, whereas a city-wide LRT system would take decades at a staggering cost, despite there being nowhere near enough population or density to justify it.”

Remember he was writing about Winnipeg, population 663,000, not London, population 381,000. 

Meantime, in London the push toward LRT continues, despite the lack of a real business plan and without the active participation of London Transit. Indeed, when the civic administration presented their hybrid proposal to council last November, London Transit officials weren’t even invited to participate. Instead they sat, unacknowledged, in seats at the top level of the public gallery.

That snub was deliberate, some people believe, a signal that a subtle campaign is underway to bring operation of London Transit into City Hall, as has happened in Hamilton. Ironically, the Steel City move has worked so poorly the Chamber of Commerce in that city is urging the establishment of an independent commission to run transit, as is the case here in London. 

The McLeod Report on Radio

Weekdays, 9 – 10 a.m., on CJBK Radio, 1290. Friday a special edition from the CTV Green Room at Covent Garden Market. Subject: How does this city talk to itself when Big Media dies. Guest panel: Laurie Lashbrook, Carmi Levi, Rachel Berdan. 



# RE: Unprotected sex on the LRTGuest 2016-02-01 05:32
Well said! City staff and Council are going after mega bucks from other levels of government. Their plan is not a business case put a snow job to get money
being offered by other levels and so far Londoners have fallen for it. Note there has been no real discussion and debate has been left to the 11th hour. This is because in negotiating (in-camera)they have to be seen as being together so "the fairy tale" by all appearances and as shown in multi year budget is in the works. Transparency, fiscal accountability and reality check is no where to be seen!
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# RE: Unprotected sex on the LRTJeff 2016-02-04 10:17
If you're going to level accusations like that, can you at least offer a theory as to why "city staff and Council are going after mega bucks from other levels of government"?

What nefarious plot or deviously corrupt scam could it be?

Please do enlighten us on why you believe the co-conspirators are actually doing it? to whose benefit? Will they pocket the money? spend it on another civic project? Make it rain at the Beef Baron? Just what are those "mega bucks" for.

There is no transparency in your accusations, your "Guest" post is not accountable, and there was no reality check, either, yet you complain about their supposed absence in others.

If there was "no real discussion" then how was the "debate...left to the 11th hour"? Was that debate not real? If not, did you imagine it? Or was there a "real discussion" after all?

I would ask what "This is because in negotiating (in-camera)they have to be seen as being together so 'the fairy tale' by all appearances and as shown in multi year budget is in the works" means, but I get a headache every time I read it to try to decipher it enough to ask more than that.
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# RE: Unprotected sex on the LRTJeff 2016-02-01 07:20
I can't help thinking the supporters of LRT, especially those on Council, see it as A Grand Project on which their names will be forever preserved on a large bronze plaque. It's the same self-aggrandise ment that was behind the push for a new city hall a few years ago. Instead of pushing for The Grandest Project their imaginations can behold, they should be in favour of what's best for Londoners. That's BRT, not LRT.

The amount of construction and disruption, not to mention expropriation and compensation to affected businesses required for tunnels and other construction needed by LRT is far higher than what's needed for BRT and, once built, the routes are fixed forever. BRT can have its routes changed at any time, whether due to a broken water main (something that happens often in this city's neglected infrastructure) or to accommodate changing needs.
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# Tunnels? Within or near the flood plain area?Leila Paul 2016-02-02 21:56
Even if the tunnels are not within the areas known to be within the floodplain, merely digging and drilling nearby creates vibrations and possibly regional instability. I'm no geological expert or engineer, but it seems a matter of common sense.

Sinkholes have occurred in numerous areas where unknown factors existed to create sinkholes. In this case, city hall is fully aware of the possibility of such occurrences.

Anyone whose property may be affected by the instability potentially created by tunnel construction and/or similar activities, may consider consultation now with a class action lawyer to be prepared for action if such problems occur. Possibly, that would, in fact, be a legal basis on which to quash such a plan.
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# RoddyRoderic Brawn 2016-02-01 09:25
People need to know that in order globally to stop the warming of our planet we have to get out of our cars, or we have to travel together. Part of the reason it takes so long to get apart this city which has been designed with private individual automobiles in mind is that there are too many cars on the road. If there were better public transit more of us could get out of our cars and travel together. All of this must sound oxymoronical to most people. I walk anywhere under a kilometer that I must go. It is just too costly ecologically to do anything else. It must become too costly economically for everyone for us to have a fighting chance of saving this planet.
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# Sure Rod, but BRT will do it toCynic 2016-02-01 10:21
Ridership is up at LTC with buses. No proof LRT will increase ridership more than BRT
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# Impurity on busesProtestant 2016-02-01 12:32
Have you got Butch writing headlines for you or something?
Unprotected sex has nothing to do with the subject of this article. There could be a story there though...transi t customer sues ltc after slipping on used condoms, ltc bans condoms.
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# The end result of a fatally incurable spending diseaseLeila Paul 2016-02-01 22:10
Quoting Protestant:
Have you got Butch writing headlines for you or something?
Unprotected sex has nothing to do with the subject of this article. There could be a story there though...transit customer sues ltc after slipping on used condoms, ltc bans condoms.

Do you really not understand the apt imagery of analogies or metaphors?
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# RE: Impurity on busesJeff 2016-02-04 10:30
Quoting Protestant:
Have you got Butch writing headlines for you or something?
Unprotected sex has nothing to do with the subject of this article. There could be a story there though...transit customer sues ltc after slipping on used condoms, ltc bans condoms.

The first paragraph clearly states that it's a "risqué but succinct analysis of the current campaign by the mayor and civic administration to convince us our rapid transit option should include light rail." The rest of the article expands upon that.

The headline uses the phrase "unprotected sex" because it's in the quotation described above. "Nothing to do with the subject of this article"? On the contrary, it is the very heart of the article and likely the reason it was written.

If you take things so literally and are so unimaginative that you cannot recognise the purpose and meaning of the "risqué but succinct analysis", then how do you make the astounding leap from his "unprotected sex" to your "used condoms" littering the floors of LTC buses? Wouldn't they be unused, if they were there at all?
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# RE: Unprotected sex on the LRTGord Drimmie 2016-02-01 13:49
No surprise here. Ridership won't come close to paying even the operating costs, let alone the interest and capital repayment. And the step up in support services will, as you say, exacerbate the cost issue. Starry-eyed politicians are a dime a dozen and they have infiltrated all layers of Government leaving a huge and unsupportable debt load in their cheery wake.
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# transit is a serviceobserver 2016-02-01 14:25
No transit system in North America makes money, even TTC. The issue is level os subsidy in exchange for a reduction in congestion. Phil's big question is why isn't Council listening to the experienced transit operator?
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# More NonsenseJ. David Scott 2016-02-01 18:11
LRT. More pie-in-the-sky stupidity from a council that is rapidly (pardon the pun) becoming known for nothing more than stupidity.
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# Reading the Writing on the Wall requires ability to readLeila Paul 2016-02-01 22:04
And as teachers for the last two or three decades have turned out many who are barely literate, it's no surprise the mayor (as a teacher) demonstrates the teachers cannot read. That explains the then greater analytical requirement to add and subtract and then make deductions and realistic conclusions.

My compliments to your insightful friend who illustrates the point the end result of unprotected sex. I'd go further and say this is impulsive feel-good gluttony that crosses all lines of logic.

The only comfort is that we're not alone. We're being led at all levels of government and industry with the utmost negligence and spending gluttony. With interest rates so low, we're likely to see greater printing of fake money to justify the banking software that creates fictitious numbers on computer monitors.

One crooked left hand knows and enables the corrupt right hand.
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# LTC report should be required readingSandy Levin 2016-02-02 14:04
The report Phil refers to is most informative. Here is just one section that should have been highlighted in bold:
With respect to service frequency, it is a common misnomer to assume “rapid transit” means an overall faster transit trip. While the transit trip along the rapid transit corridor may be faster, given fewer stops and transit priority measures to enhance the speed at which the vehicles can travel, other transit trips, which will continue to be the majority given the existing road networks and layout of the City of London (urban form), may in fact take longer given the possibility of an added transfer to the rapid transit service. If the frequencies along the supporting transit routes are not enhanced, the transfer times for a rider transferring to/from a transit route could be such that the trip is no longer considered a viable option for the rider.
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# RE: Unprotected sex on the LRTJeff 2016-02-04 10:03
London's sinkholes are caused by the force of the water released when a watermain (usually) or a sewer (less often) bursts. The water carves out a cavity and the ground above it (almost always a road rather than anything else) collapses to some degree.

That's quite different from the sinkholes caused by the natural erosion of limestone by groundwater, creating caves that grow until they can't support the weight above them.

That is the kind of sinkhole that gets much media attention because they're often big enough to swallow one or more homes and happen with little or no warning. They're common in Florida and that kind doesn't happen here.

I mentioned broken water mains as an example of a problem that could disrupt a BRT route but play utter havoc with an LRT route. The size of the cavity formed is usually not large and even if it is like the one at Dundas and Wellington a few years ago, that's nowhere near the size of the Florida variety.

My concern was for the detour caused by a water main repair, with or without a sinkhole. BRT can be rerouted for a day or two. LRT cannot be rerouted at all.
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# We have a high water table and we're surrounded by waterLeila Paul 2016-02-08 22:45
If indeed we're going through a climatic cyclical phase where this cycle will bring protracted warmer temps - and we're also experiencing population growth which may exceed our ability to manage - we're going to see higher water levels all around us and likely below us. We're also going to see increased use of the city's already stressed sewer and water lines. We simply cannot - or should not - risk greater disruptions of ground stability.

Last time I looked at a map, the strip of land from Toronto west to Michigan is nearly a peninsula. How many feet above sea level is that land mass? If global water levels are rising he risks of creating unknown consequences by digging tunnels is the definition of utter negligence when it is NOT necessary. Reinforcements could be built into and around the tunnels - but that is guaranteed to have the excavating and construction companies come to city council crying of cost overruns. And then what? As it is, ridership will not pay for even ground level BRT use.

Somebody at city hall or on council must understand the nature of unpredictable variables.
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# What happens to Canada's economy if the next POTUS is RepublicanLeila Paul 2016-02-10 02:31
Some have taken umbrage at using the analogy of unprotected sex re the LRT.

I'll use the imagery of national economic AIDS - not merely fiscal HIV which we already have - if the next Prez is Trump.

While Trump has been circumspect about Canada as an immigration threat, we need to keep in mind the possibility that a Republican prez like Trump will be economic agony for Canada. Despite our moral superiority over what so many Canadians think are uncouth Americans - without them to protect this continent and without access to their huge market in the past - we'd have remained an underdeveloped backwater.

Any responsible leader will be cautious with spending and borrowing as even Canadian banks are suffering the long term effects of the U.S. banking fiasco and (for want of a better term) the Lehman's Disease.

To mix imagery - I'll repeat the one I used a few years ago. It's time to batten down the hatches and bring down the mainsail and wait and hope the currents do not carry us into turmoil - even if the wind don't blow. At least wait before committing to spend until after the U.S. election.
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# We're still not out of the woods yetLeila Paul 2016-02-21 19:04
Marco Rubio is getting all the funds intended for Jeb Bush, but Trump seems to know how to read and he may withdraw and throw his support behind Rubio too. His stated purpose would be to defeat Clinton requires unity while it would allow him to save face.

But if Trump backs Rubio there'll still be a price to pay and Rubio will heed his major, most outspoken supporters.

Relevant? Yes. Don't spend the fed's and prov's borrowed money we have not yet received until we know the repercussions for Canada. Even if we don't have LRT or BRT - we've got Uber and some Londoners are still bipeds or cyclists.

Spend tax money to shore up the durability of the sewer and storm pipes. We may not see them but we know they're coming to a sinkhole or flooded basement near you.

p.s. Rubio is better looking than Justin and has an infinitely more legitimate bio.
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