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BFAST mourns Walter Mulkewich

Walter Mulkewich, seen here at the 2018 Burlington Transit Users Forum, championed many efforts that have made Burlington a better place to live.

BFAST joins Burlingtonians from all walks of life in mourning the passing of Walter Mulkewich, Burlington’s former mayor, a founding member of BFAST and a member of our Steering Committee.

Walter worked throughout his long career to promote action on a wide range of issues, from nuclear disarmament to the environment to better transit.

He was elected to City Council in 1979 and served as Aldershot’s councillor until 1991, when he was elected Mayor. Walter was a progressive force on Council and successfully fought for several social and co-op housing projects. He retired from municipal politics in 1997 to focus on his health.

He remained active in BFAST and other community initiatives until very recently.

“Walter was a wonderful friend and long time ally of progressive causes,” commented BFAST Steering Committee Chair Doug Brown. “He made important contributions to BFAST and helped to make Burlington a better city. His passing leaves a big hole in the social fabric of our community. To his family, friends and colleagues, we express our sincere condolences and our thanks for his beliefs, his commitment and his unceasing efforts to help create a better world.”

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward paid tribute to Walter. “As a new mayor, I looked up to Walter and appreciated our vigorous debates,” she wrote in her Twitter feed. “He was a fierce advocate for justice, a tireless community booster for his Aldershot neighbourhood & entire city. He will be missed. Our thoughts go out to his family & the many residents of our community who he inspired during his time with us.”

Aldershot seniors promote campaign to thank BT staff

A group of Aldershot seniors is organizing a week-long “Thank You” from June 22-29 to employees of Burlington Transit for keeping the system running through the COVID-19 crisis.

The event is being organized by the Partnering Aldershot Seniors Committee. Christina Tellier, an Aldershot senior and bus rider, came up with the idea.

The purpose of the week is to “show appreciation to all Burlington Transit Employees and that their efforts have not gone un-noticed, especially the Bus Drivers,” said a statement from the Committee. “Even though ridership was very low, making the trips exceedingly lonely and with having to incorporate all the additional COVID restrictions, they kept the buses running for people who had to get to work, to medical appointments or for grocery shopping etc., many times with the Drivers being the only one on the bus.”

Throughout the week, Burlingtonians are requested to blitz social media “to encourage others to join in the campaign to Thank Burlington Transit.” Transit supporters are encouraged to include a leaflet produced by the Committee in their posts, a copy of which is appended at the end of this article. On Jun. 25, social media posters are encouraged to publish a copy of a thank-you poster, which is currently being prepared.

The Committee lists a number of ways the public can show their appreciation:

  • ‘Thank you Bus Drivers’ signs on lawns along bus routes or in windows (businesses too).
  • Encourage children & families to make signs and holler & wave as busses go by on routes.
  • Encourage families to go to bus stops and show appreciation however they wish.
  • Bus riders to show personal appreciation any way they can.
  • When walking past a bus……. Holler & clap and let driver know it is for him.
  • When driving past a bus, honk with a thumbs up sign
  • Neighbours cheering, clapping etc. at different bus stops along & across from each other (social distancing)
  • Take pictures of actions done and share on social media
  • Retirement Home Residents on bus routes, social distancing, could wave and show appreciation as busses pass or put signs in windows.
  • ‘Thank You Bus Drivers’ on business, churches & City outdoor signs
  • Coffee Shops and Restaurants with a bus stop close could take out coffee to give to drivers or food at breakfast, lunch and supper times.
  • Share PR info & flyers everywhere, as many times & to as many people as you can

Supporters can download and print the following leaflet to add to their social media posts:

BFAST joins national effort to help transit systems recover

Above: logos of some of the transit riders’ organizations that have joined the national coalition.

BFAST has joined a national coalition of more than 50 organizations that are pushing federal and provincial governments to help local transit systems recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The coalition, which you can visit at, says local transit will need between $5 and $6 billion in emergency funding. It includes groups representing transit riders in cities across Canada, environmental organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada.

Bus-based transit systems have been unable to collect fares during the spread of COVID-19, since passengers could no longer enter through front doors in an effort to protect drivers. The lack of fare revenue has been coupled with extra expenses, such as personal protective equipment and plexiglass enclosures to protect operators.

“Transit is an essential service, especially to the most economically and physically disadvantaged people in our communities,” said BFAST Steering Committee Chair Doug Brown. “We congratulate Burlington’s city council on its continuing support of our transit system through this extraordinary time. But cities have limited means to finance efforts like this, and we need both federal and provincial governments to step up and help their communities.”

Transit supporters can sign a petition to support emergency funding at

Users give Burlington Transit a passing grade

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward: 2019 city budget made some “incredible strides” for transit.

Transit users in Burlington are happy with the improvements made over the past year and eager for more changes scheduled for the year to come. That’s the main takeaway from Burlington’s Fifth Annual Transit Users’ Forum, held May 4 at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre.

Another capacity crowd of more than 100 packed the meeting room as bus riders heard Mayor Marianne Meed Ward promise more improvements over the coming years. In addition to the mayor, five of six city councilors attended the meeting, showing support for a bigger role for transit as the city grows.

Another capacity crowd attended the 2019 Transit Users’ Forum.

This year’s transit report card, an annual feature where riders vote on various aspects of the system, reflected the new optimism, with a much improved overall grade.

“You are the reason why transit is better in this city,” Meed Ward told the attendees.

“Incredible strides”

“We have made some incredible strides forward on transit” in the 2019 city budget, she said. She thanked Council members for their support for free transit for low-income riders and for supporting an 18-month pilot project that will see seniors travel free in off-peak hours. “We’re going to make it permanent,” she stage whispered.

Ward 4 City Councillor Shawna Stolte led a panel that answered questions from transit users.

“We want people to be able to choose transit because it’s the best way to get around our city. We are not there yet,” she said.

“But the bottom line is that none of these changes would have happened without your advocacy. And along the way we’ve had some bumps. So I’d say, ‘Just hang in there. Keep advocating. Keep talking about transit.’ You did. You never stopped. And because of that, we’re here today with such great news. And there’s going to be more. We’re not done. This Council is just getting started in making sure that transit is the transportation option of choice.”

She thanked BFAST for activism on behalf of transit. “You have been in the trenches advocating for a long time, when it wasn’t a very popular message,” she said.

Not there yet

BFAST Chair Doug Brown praised Council but said there’s still a way to go.

BFAST Chair Doug Brown praised Council’s new commitment to transit but reiterated Meed Ward’s sentiment that “we’re not there yet.” He pointed out that Burlington would still be below the GTA average municipal per-capita contribution to transit after this year’s budget increases.

He said BFAST rejects the recommendations of a transit consultant hired by the old Council that the city must choose between coverage of all areas and more frequent service on main routes. “Burlington needs both,” he said.

He also asked that the city meet its own long-established transit-service standards for frequency and availability.

Burlington Transit Director Sue Connor participated in the Q&A panel.

Brown once again urged that the city examine transportation as a whole, rather than isolate elements like roads, parking and transit. He pointed to studies by Waterloo Region and the Canadian Urban Transit Association that showed transit can save cities money on road work and bring huge returns on investment for the local economy.

Burlington Transit Director Sue Connor outlined improvements that will begin in September, including more frequent, improved service.

Keep in touch

She asked users to keep in contact through the transit system’s customer service line and make suggestions for improvement. “We do take that feedback and we do look at it. We make service changes about six times per year so there are opportunities to change something that’s not working right.”

Transit driver Swav Ozog also participated in the Q&A panel.

More than half of the meeting was given to the users themselves as they made comments and asked questions to a panel made up of Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte, Connor, BFAST Steering Committee member Glenna Cranston and Burlington bus driver Slawomir (Swav) Ozog.

Stolte said that after she was elected, she was researching other transit systems and came across an American article featuring the significant improvements made to transit in Brampton, where Connor was director at the time.

Councillors Rory Nisan (Ward 3), Lisa Kearns (Ward 2) and Paul Sharman (Ward 5) point the way.

“We are so lucky to have Sue [Connor],” she said. “And what I am personally committed to, and I know the rest of Council is, is to working hard with Sue and to making sure that our Burlington Transit system is also one that eventually gets written about in articles across North America as a premier, leadership public transit system that’s working well for everybody.”

Questions and comments came thick and fast on everything from electric buses to getting younger people to ride transit to service problems. Stolte noted that Connor took pages of closely written notes from the session. Connor herself promised that she would take the comments to a meeting of transit staff in the coming weeks.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

The meeting also heard greetings from Burlington MPP Jane McKenna, who said the provincial government looked to forums like this to point the way for action on transit. Halton District School Board Chair Andréa Grebenc and provincial NDP candidate Andrew Drummond also attended.

Attendees also paid tribute to Mike MacDonald, a transit activist and BFAST member who passed away recently.

This year’s forum was endorsed and supported by 14 community organizations.

BFAST thanks the sponsors and supporters who once again made the Forum possible. And a special thanks to the staff of the Burlington Seniors’ Centre and Coffee Culture on Brant Street.

Service improvements to be discussed at 2019 Transit Users’ Forum

Burlington Transit passengers will have a chance to discuss proposed service improvements scheduled for September at this year’s Transit Users’ Forum on Saturday, May 4 at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre. It will be the fifth annual such gathering sponsored by more than a dozen community organizations in Burlington.

The forum starts at 10:00 a.m.. Doors open at 9:30, and a continental breakfast will be served.

There’s no need to preregister for the Forum. However, if you want to do so, please send us an email message through this link. (If the link does not work, please email

Click on the graphic to download a poster for the event.

Transit riders will also have a chance to discuss service issues with drivers, who will participate in a panel discussion, and to vote on an annual transit report card.

“Where past forums were dominated by pleas for greater funding, this year’s meeting will focus on sustaining and improving the service. A significant increase in the transit budget, approved by the new City Council, has opened the door to a better transit service in Burlington,” said Doug Brown, chair of Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST), the lead organizer of the event.

“We were extremely pleased with the budget increases that transit achieved in this year’s city budget,” said Brown. “City Council’s decision means that Burlington is on the way to providing support for transit that at least meets the average of comparable communities. We are very optimistic about the future of transit in Burlington.”

“Transit is an essential building block for an inclusive and environmentally-friendly city,” Brown said. “Everyone benefits from an improved transit system, including drivers.”

This year’s meeting will be co-sponsored by Burlington Transit, which will also provide logistical support for the event.

“We welcome BT’s participation. This year, we will be working together more closely than ever before,” said Brown. “It’s a tribute to our new Transit Director Sue Connor and her staff, with whom we have developed an excellent working relationship. They have been an immense help in bringing the concerns of transit riders forward.”

Connor and Mayor Marianne Meed Ward will also speak to the gathering, which averages attendance of more than 100 people each year.

Sponsors of last year’s event included the following community organizations:

Burlington Age-Friendly Council
Burlington Green
Burlington Seniors’ Advisory Committee
Burlington Seniors Community Inc.
Canadian Federation of University Women Burlington
Community Development Halton
Engaged Citizens of Burlington
Halton Environmental Network
North BurLINKton
Poverty Free Halton
Voices for Change Halton

Election heralds new era for transit in Burlington

Marianne Meed Ward and Doug Brown

Marianne Meed Ward, Burlington’s new mayor, celebrates her election victory with BFAST’s Doug Brown on election night.


“We’re going to fix transit.” With those words, newly-elected Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward accepted the congratulations of BFAST Chair Doug Brown following her convincing electoral win in municipal elections Oct. 22.

“It’s the start of a new era in transit for our city,” commented Brown after results showed that five pro-transit councillors were elected along with the mayor. Only Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman was re-elected from the council in which Meed Ward was on the short end of too many 6-1 votes.

The new councillors include Kevin Galbraith in Ward 1, Lisa Kearns in Ward 2, Rory Nisan in Ward 3, Shawna Stolte in Ward 4 and Angelo Bentivegna in Ward 6. Incumbent Paul Sharman was re-elected in Ward 5. Every one of the councillors except Sharman answered BFAST’s candidate survey very positively.

How the winners answered

Council members' transit answers

Council winners all responded very favourably to the questions in BFAST’s transit survey of candidates — except Ward 5’s Paul Sharman. (Angelo Bentavegna later commented that he did agree with Question 3 but made a mistake on the form.)

Now the serious work begins on fixing transit in Burlington. BFAST will be seeking to arrange meetings with the new councillors before they’re sworn in in December to answer any questions they might have on the transit file and to promote the pro-transit agenda. BFAST’s first priority is to update the transit service standards last updated by city council — and then ignored — in 2013.

“We want to work with the new mayor and councillors to give Burlington the transit system it deserves,” said Brown. “It can’t happen overnight but, working with the new team at City Hall and the excellent new staff at Burlington Transit, we’re confident we’ll see steady and significant improvements over the next few years.”

One of the challenges ahead will be working with the new provincial government to ensure it continues to help fund municipal transit, as well as the GO system. A BFAST delegation held a meeting with MPP Jane McKenna prior to the election to discuss the issues. “We’re happy to have established a cordial relationship with our new MPP and look forward to working with her in the years ahead,” said Brown.

We mourn: Mike McDonald, BFAST member

Mike McDonald

Mike McDonald helps a transit user to maker her point at this year’s Burlington Transit Users’ Forum. (Photo: Sandy WIlliams)

Mike McDonald, a member of the BFAST Steering Committee and a key figure in organizing this year’s Transit Users’ Forum, died July 20 following an illness.

Mike was always willing to pitch in to help with whatever work was required. He organized facility arrangements for this year’s Forum and managed the audio that allowed the question-and-answer session to be such a success.

A former driver, Mike helped to bring an operator’s perspective to discussions on transit with city officials in his role as a member of BFAST’s steering committee.

“Mike was a tremendous asset to BFAST and to the Burlington community,” commented BFAST Chair Doug Brown. “We extend our deepest sympathy to his many family members and friends.”

A visitation will be held at Smith’s Funeral Home , 1167 Guelph Line, on Saturday, July 28, followed by a memorial service and reception.

New Transit Director to speak at Transit Users’ Forum

Burlington’s new transit director will outline her plan of action for repairing and improving the system when she speaks at the Fourth Annual Transit Users’ Forum Apr. 21.

Following her report, she’ll be part of a panel that will answer questions from the audience and discuss the issues that transit users raise.

The Forum will be held at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre, 2285 New St., Saturday Apr. 21, from 10:00am to 12:30pm. Registration starts at 9:30am and a continental breakfast will be provided.

Sue Connor was appointed to the job less than a year ago, but has already taken decisive action to make the system safer and more reliable. She helped to secure more than $1 million in new funding from City Council to hire more drivers, supervisors and mechanics to make Burlington Transit legally compliant and more reliable.

While the extra stopgap funding is welcome, Burlington Transit needs a greater commitment from City Council and a strong, sustained funding base, said Doug Brown, chair of Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST), one of more than a dozen community organizations that support and sponsor the annual transit forum.

“We’ve made progress over the past year and Sue Connor’s appointment is a sign of that,” Brown said. “But we need to do more in order to bring Burlington’s transit funding in line with the rest of the GTHA.”

Connor, Chair of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, is well known for her success in transforming Brampton’s transit system, which has posted ridership gains in the double digits over the past few years. Burlington’s ridership showed double-digit declines over the same period due to the underfunding of transit services by Council.

“We’re pleased and honoured that Sue Connor will speak to the riders of Burlington Transit,” Brown said. “Bus riders will find that she’s open, honest, frank and demonstrates a real concern with solving riders’ problems.”

This year’s Transit Users’ Forum will also feature the third transit users’ report card. Last year, more than 100 users rated the system and this year’s Forum participants will also determine Burlington Transit’s marks.

Community organizations participating in the Forum include:
• BFAST (Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit)
• Burlington Age-Friendly Council
• Halton Environmental Network
• Burlington Seniors’ Advisory Committee
• Engaged Citizens of Burlington
• Voices for Change Halton
• Community Development Halton
• Burlington Seniors Community Inc.
• Canadian Association of University Women, Burlington
• Burlington Green
• Poverty Free Halton
• North BurLINKton

For the first time, Burlington Transit has also signed on as a sponsor of the Forum.

Thoughts on City’s new Transit Survey

The City of Burlington has launched a new survey on transit which they say is aimed at transit riders and people who currently do not take the bus. The survey is available until March 26th 2018.

The survey is a nice idea – but is a very minor item and so much more is needed.

We believe that the City Manager and new Transit Director are committed to improving transit. However, this will require a political commitment for increased long-term transit funding. Will this be possible given that our council that has consistently cut transit and and the City now spends less than one half of the GTA per capita average on transit?

The analysis that James Ridge, Sue Connor and Colm Lynn presented to Council on September 7, 2017 made a very compelling case for immediate money to bring the transit system up to labour standards and provide better safety and reliability. For the first time in recent years, this council listened and approved the emergency funding.

During his September 7 presentation to council, the City Manager made clear that the emergency funding would still leave Burlington with “a crappy system” i.e. with low service levels and long wait times – but at least it would run on time and within provincial labour standards.

So what is really needed now is a comprehensive transportation study that will look at all aspects of transportation, roads, cars, transit, walking, cycling, parking, and development. This study should develop alternative options and evaluate the alternatives against economic, social and environmental criteria. Unfortunately, this is not happening as plans for transit, roads, parking, and cycling continue to be developed separately.

The City must begin to look at the cost of transit with regard to all the benefits that a robust transit system would provide – i.e. large savings in road and parking expenditures; improved air quality; improved road safety; improved social accessibility and equity; and savings in private automobile costs. The economic benefits of transit have been documented in a number of Canadian studies. A national study of the economic benefits of transit1 concluded that municipalities could make no better investment than in transit with “a rate of return of at least 12% if not more.” A recent study in Hamilton2 showed significant economic benefits from transit investments, while in Waterloo Region, their transportation plan3 determined that a transit-oriented scenario would provide more economic, social, and environmental benefits than the car-oriented scenario.

So the financial case for better transit has been clearly demonstrated. The question is not whether we afford better transit, but whether we can afford not to invest more in transit.

So will “Canada’s Best Mid-Sized City” continue to have a “crappy” transit system or will we build a good transit system to provide accessibility for all our citizens, and make the City truly a liveable, walkable, community.

Doug Brown
Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit

1. The Economic Impact of Transit Investment: A National Survey:Metropolitan Knowledge International , McCormick Rankin Corporation, and Dr. Jeff Casello, University of Waterloo for the Canadian Urban Transit Association, 2010

2. Economic Impact of the Community Climate Change Action Plan City of Hamilton Dr. Atif Kubursi, Econometric Research Ltd, 2016

3. Region of Waterloo Transportation Master Plan. Moving Forward 2031. Final Report Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Jan 12, 2011