Category Archives: Uncategorized

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 transit.forum@bfastransit.org.)

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
BFAST
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

References
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

2018 Budget Reaction

BFAST is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of yesterday’s budget committee meeting; this is a very good first step – but much more is needed beginning with the development of a long-term transportation plan where all aspects of transportation – transit, motor vehicles, cycling, walking are looked at together and long-term resources are put in place to build a very good transit system – saving costs on roads, parking, pollution.

Transportation should be developed and evaluated against, economic, social, and environmental criteria.

The following motions moved by Councillor Meed Ward were approved (source)

  • Additional $372,424 to add five transit operators. This will improve service by providing “layover” time between routes, to allow buses to meet schedules if there are unexpected delays (for example, traffic congestion). Layover times are currently below industry norms.
  • Additional $20,600 to provide transit Holiday Service on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, the only days where no transit service is currently offered. Committee heard from our Director of Transit that Burlington is the only municipality in the GTA that doesn’t operate 365 days per year.

Click here to view our 2018 Budget submission

Summary of Metrolinx Town Hall on December 12th 2017

The following writeup of the Metrolinx Town Hall was submitted by BFAST Chair Doug Brown

I went to the Metrolinx “Town Hall” on December 12. The Town Hall was held so that the public could ask questions of Metrolinx management and get answers. BFAST supporter Nicholas Civiero had submitted a question on missing funding for local transit in advance online. His question was basically similar to the comments I had sent to Metrolinx on November 7 following the Hamilton Roundtable on the Draft Metrolinx 2041 Regional Transit Plan.

The meeting was held in the Metrolinx boardroom at their offices in the northeast corner of Union Station. It was very well attended – ~150 people there as well as many watching online. Unfortunately. the meeting was only 90 minutes long (6:00-7:30) which meant that most questions that people wanted to ask, either in person or online were not presented.

Link to CityTV coverage of the Town Hall

Although a number of supporters had voted for the question submitted by Nick to get it in the top ten, the meeting closed before we even got through the top 10 advance online question. I quickly got in the line for the microphone and was able to ask a question about where the 15% of Big Move funds committed for local transit had gone – roughly $300 million/year for GTHA municipalities. Chief Metrolinx Planner, Leslie Woo gave a very confused and unclear response. I hope to find the recording of the Town Hall to see if I can make any sense from what she said. I also raised the question of parking expenditures and said that Metrolinx’s first/last mile approach seemed simply have people drive to and from the GO stations.

Another serious question was raised about the Metrolinx requirement that their capital projects be Public Private, Partnerships. Metrolinx CEO. Phil Verster maintained that 3P’s were necessary to reduce financial risks, but when pressed to explain, simply got angry at the questioner.

In addition to the short time allotted for questions, Metrolinx staff were overly zealous in quickly clearing the room after the event, preventing many people from questioning staff.

Update: Video of Town Hall is now available

Comments on Metrolinx’s Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan

More transit – less parking!

In the “Big Move”  25% of funding was to go to the GTHA municipalities. Of this 25%, 15% was to support local transit improvements. This should have resulted in an annual infusion of $300 million annually to GTHA local transit systems. This would have resulted in large improvements to local transit.

However, this commitment has quietly disappeared from The Big Move and from the 2041 draft RTP.

Instead, we have more parking planned at GO stations!  It looks like the first mile/last mile will be by car for most GO users.

Even the lower parking scenario, GO will be creating ~ 30,000 additional spaces. At $40,000/space (Clarkson parking facility cost $40 million to create 1000 spaces) this will cost will be over $1.2 Billion!

It would be far more cost effective to invest this money in local transit.

Also, the large parking lots and parking garages surrounding suburban stations will create large barren parking zones. This will make it more difficult to develop pedestrian-friendly mobility hubs around each station.

Also, Metrolinx should be charging for parking at GO Stations. A recent study in Hamilton clearly showed that paid parking will greatly increase the transit modal share1 . Metrolinx needs to review the extensive research on parking strategies carried out by Shoup et al2.

 

  1. Pinder, Matt: By the Numbers: Impacts of Paid Parking at Work on Commuter Modal Share, Published July 08, 2015 in “Raise the Hammer”

 https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2647/by_the_numbers:_impacts_of_paid_parking_at_work_on_commuter_mod

  1. Shoup, Donald: The High Cost of Free Parking: Updated Edition Paperback– Apr 1 2011

Submitted by Doug Brown, M.Sc., P.Eng, Chair, Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit
November 14, 2017