Objective 1: To identify factors that influence the practicality of station locations with respect to passenger usability and railway efficiency.
Determine the factors that influence the practicality of station locations, literature will be reviewed to see what has historically been included in decision making. The dilemma when constructing new transport hubs, whether it be rail lines or stations, is the conflicting goals. Public transport has to deliver service efficiently and effectively so as to increase ridership, but also minimize costs associated with operation, including environmental, and social costs (Polat, 2012).
According to El-Geneidy et al. (2013), transit riders are willing to walk to stations within 800 meters of them. Since riders do not need multiple stations within that 800 meter zone, a cost-distance calculation will be used to assign a higher score to areas farther away from existing stations. Since RER is a form of commuter transit, census tracts within 1,500m of GO rail line tracks will be considered of high importance for socioeconomic criteria, reflecting the urban RER spacing of stations in other cities, such as London, UK and Paris, France.
Population density is expected to be higher in areas of existing transit access, as these areas are more desirable for development (Olszewski and Wibowo, 2005). Higher populations also mean higher traffic congestion and a shift to public transit (Loon et al., 2011). Low density areas tend to have lower transit use, which results in a lower cost efficiency of that infrastructure (Brès, 2014). The GTHA also contains plenty of industrial areas with no housing so it would be less effective to put transit stations in those areas. Population densisty is calculated as persons per square kilometre in this study.
Age [Adult, Mature, Youth, Senior, Children]
Age is a factor that can be of utmost importance (adult), or the least relevant (children). Since the highest number of transit riders are commuting to work, 79% of riders are between the ages of 25-54 (Clark, 2017). Of the remaining 21%, 14% are under the age of 25 and are mostly students (Clark, 2017). The variables used will include Adult (ages 25-54) as highest priority, followed by Mature (55-64), Youth (15-24), Senior (65+), and Children (0-14) as the lowest. The age demographics will be calculated as a percentage of the census tract population.
A 2009 study by Sungyop Kim analyzed immigrants and their methods of commuting to work. It concluded that "Long term immigrants spend more time commuting on public transit than do non-immigrants. Immigrants also have higher propensities towards the use of carpool, public transit, walk/bike, and other modes for work trips" (Kim, 2009). Newcomers to Canada are much more likely to use and even require public transportation, particularly immigrants of colour. Areas with greater numbers of immigrants have a high weight for suitability of a new station, as do areas with high visible minority populations. Immigration status and visible minority status are calculated as percentages of the census tract population.
Literature suggests that areas of low income have poorer transit access, and that increases in transit access can raise housing value (Dubé et al, 2013; Olszewski and Wibowo, 2005). Currently, 42% of rail commuters make an average income of greater than $100 000/year, which implies that there is an imbalance in where current stations are located (Metrolinx, 2015b). It is important to bring access to lower income areas to increase their value and bring affordable transportation to those who need it. However, it is important to recognize that current transit infrastructure in the GTHA results in gentrification, as transit costs in Ontario can be a limitation for residents with lower disposable incomes (Chiasson, 2017). In this study, income is measured as the median household income after taxes.
65% of rail commuters have a college or university level of education (Metrolinx, 2015b). This connects to employment as a majority of commuters are full time employees likely with college or university degrees. In this study, education is measured as the percentage of the cencus tract population that has completed a post-secondary education.