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Mac’s collaboration with the HSR The project comes in the wake of public frustration with transit in Hamilton

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On March 26, the Hamilton Street Railway unveiled a research collaboration project with McMaster University aimed at consulting users about their experiences with the HSR in an effort to re-envision transit in Hamilton. However, it will be up to city council to determine whether or not the project will result in the implementation of tangible changes to the service.

The interest in the project was sparked in May 2017, when Moataz Mohamed, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at McMaster, and Mark Ferguson, a senior research associate at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics, approached the city with a proposal for a research collaboration initiative.

“We had a few exploratory meetings to discuss what they do, the current state of the 10-year local transit strategy, how the HSR is preparing for remainder of the 10-year strategy, and what [McMaster] and MITL could offer the HSR,” said Dennis Guy, the HSR manager of customer experience and innovation.

The collaboration between McMaster University and the HSR will entail a two-year effort to consult the public about its expectations of the transit service.

The collaboration between McMaster University and the HSR comes against the backdrop of growing criticism against the HSR, particularly in light of the thousands of hours in cancelled bus service that plagued users in the fall.

“It’s a two-fold project. The first [phase] is mainly for focusing on assessing users’ experience, perception, desires and expectations from the HSR,” said Mohamed. “We will be using this data to re-configure the service in a way that enables the HSR to provide enjoyable service to the public.”

According to Ferguson, the university will be using the principles that informed its electric mobility research project, which consisted of a five-year effort funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to assess the costs and benefits of electric mobility usage in Canada.

“We have done a lot of consumer-oriented work there which looks into how open people are to power trains,” said Ferguson. “Conceptually, there are similarities between that type of research question and the one we are considering here, where we are assessing people’s openness to the use of public transit in Hamilton.”

However, it should be noted that McMaster’s role in the collaboration project will be confined to research.

“As a post-secondary institution, we are limited to provide research-based evidence to the decision-makers. This is our scope,” said Mohamed.

After the research is conducted, recommendations will be made to city council.

“We’ll outline proposed changes to not only improve the network, but also to adapt to LRT construction and implementation, so that we can minimize the disruption to [and] for customers,” said Guy.

The collaboration between McMaster University and the HSR comes against the backdrop of growing criticism against the HSR, particularly in light of the thousands of hours in cancelled bus service that plagued users in the fall.

Frustration with the service culminated in an emergency meeting held at City Hall in Nov. 2016, which was organized by Environment Hamilton and provided a platform for users to voice their concerns about transit in Hamilton.

Many complaints stemmed from the underlying problem of a lack of HSR funding from city council. Although it remains uncertain whether or not the recommendations will lead to changes to the HSR system, Mohamed and Ferguson are optimistic that their research efforts will be fruitful.

“At the highest level of the city, plenty of people are interested advancing the quality of the HSR,” said Mohamed.

The research will begin in June with a survey asking users what they most want from their public transit service.

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Author: Cassidy Bereskin

Cassidy is a second year Political Science student. She loves bubble tea, coffee, Hamilton (the musical AND our city) and reading through Twitter threads.