Will High Speed Transit be faster?
Here is a chart from the West HST study that demonstrate what the administration believes the improvement in commute times will be based upon the level of investment.
This chart suggests that a $1 billion investment in LRT will match the travel time of automobile and halve the travel time of buses.
Two issues, the first is that the estimated cost in 2003 is now probably $2 billion and secondly the benchmark times are not comparable. The problem is that the automobile is from your house to your work. Buses are from the local stop to your work as well not including some additional times. The study does not include a two or three minute walk to the stop, waiting time and the walk to your work. Understanding that these times are variable depending how far the bus stop is from your house and work, sometimes the walk may be shorter than the automobile if you must park your car some distance from work. These numbers are a
minor issue compared to the error in LRT times.
As stated before, the West HST study suggests only 3 stations (Meadowlark Mall, WEM and Lewis Estates) in the entire West End for the next 30 years. Glenora residents don't take LRT we were told. Therefore the LRT time of 26 minutes suggested in the report are from West Edmonton Mall to downtown. The missing time is the typical commuter does not live in West Edmonton Mall but comes from somewhere else.
The modified chart below adds in these additional times.
The walk time to a bus stop the waiting time (pink), the transit time to the LRT station (salmon, average 9 minutes), and the wait for the scheduled LRT train (red) are not included. Once downtown, it is more likely that the current LRT station is more distant from the bus commuters work and therefore a longer walk or even another transfer wait (light blue) and bus ride (dark blue) is required to get to the destination. After a huge investment, commute times will be longer than an automobile, up to double. This is true for the existing Northeast LRT route as a car can beat the door-to-door time of any LRT user during rush
hour to downtown. Although promising on paper, transit systems are hampered by low density neighbourhoods, circuitous routes in newly developed suburbs, stagnant ridership and an almost unbeatable opponent, the automobile. Not to despair, there are transit systems available that are more convenient than a private automobile at less cost than LRT.
The results may look weird, how can the transit times increase with LRT? But talk to people in the Northeast part of Edmonton who prefer to ride one bus to their destination rather than take a bus to get to the LRT, wait, ride the LRT, wait and transfer to their final bus to get to their destination. The one bus may take a similar time or even slightly longer than LRT but they don't have to worry about missing their transfer and being 10 minutes late. Much less stressful and a lot warmer than waiting for a bus transfer.