Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2011/ Rapid Transit Hypocrite

Rapid Transit Hypocrite

A little while ago I was making plans for a round-trip between Kitchener-Waterloo to Mississauga using one of the two options:

I like the train. The seating is comfortable, the trip is smooth enough that I can read without getting nauseous, and the scenery is pleasant farmland.

The bus is okay but in general I like it less (with the caveat that I have not ever taken a GO bus before, only Greyhound buses). The seats are not that bad on inter-city buses, but they drive on the highway where the scenery is much less pleasant.

The train schedule is pretty horrible; there would be only two trains back -- one at 6pm and one later in the evening. GO Transit runs much more frequently.

The evidence suggests that GO Transit would be the right choice: it is much cheaper, gets me straight to my destination, and runs more frequently. But I am a train bigot! Here I am arguing that our region should spend 1.2 billion dollars on a light-rapid transit system, and I want to forgo the train when I have the opportunity to take one.

Is the comparison fair? Mostly, with the one difference being service frequency. The rapid transit system is supposed to feature frequent trains -- 9 minute service? 5 minute? It depends on who you believe.

On the other hand, pretty much every other aspect of the comparison is totally fair. Light-rail is so expensive that I should expect to pay more for an LRT (light-rail transit) system -- both in taxes and at the ticket aisle. Because the region is not willing to pay for an entire LRT system, riding to Cambridge would involve a long layover from LRT to a BRT (bus-rapid transit) route. Building a complete BRT would be cheaper, so the system would stretch all the way up and down the "spine" of Waterloo-Kitchener-Cambridge.

The only way that I could justify taking the bus over the train is that if enough people ride GO Transit via bus then the government will implement train service from Kitchener-Waterloo. That sounds great, but I can pretty much guarantee that taking such a train would again mean a long layover -- the GO bus can stop at my destination, but there are no train tracks nearby.

In the end I did not have to decide; the trip was postponed until later this year. But going through the exercise was upsetting. Even though I like trains and have been arguing for them vigorously during this rapid transit process, it appears that -- just like the rest of Waterloo Region -- I am not willing to pay the financial and convenience cost involved.