Category Archives: BFAST News

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.

BFAST releases transit survey results, endorses Meed Ward for mayor

Burlington for accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST) says the results of its candidates’ survey on transit policy could mean a change for the better. The group surveyed all Burlington mayoral and council candidates and endorsed Marianne Meed Ward for mayor.

“Marianne has been in the trenches, fighting for decent transit service in the face of a wall of opposition,” said Doug Brown, BFAST chair. “While the other candidates are not necessarily hostile to transit, Marianne’s record speaks for itself.”

BFAST welcomed the priority that both mayoral city council candidates are giving to transit in their survey answers and platforms.

“We were pleased at the fresh perspectives many of the candidates brought to the issue,” said Brown. “We sincerely thank everyone for their participation and congratulate them for participating in the electoral process as candidates.”

Thirty-three of the 37 candidates favoured establishing transit service before new developments were built. Twenty-nine favoured a pilot project offering free transit for seniors during off-peak hours, a proposal the present council defeated 6-1 in 2017. The year previous, council had voted 4-3 against a pilot project to give seniors free rides on Mondays.

The survey results, and BFAST’s recommendations, are public at
http://bfastransit.org/election-2018.

The survey was conducted by email in late August and early September. All 37 of the mayoral and council candidates submitted responses. In some cases, the responses came with extensive comments, which BFAST published in full. Email addresses for the candidates were obtained from the city’s election website.

BFAST, established in 2013, is a citizens’ group that promotes public transit in Burlington. It is the lead organizer in the annual Transit Users’ Forum, delegates to city council and staff, provides information to transit researchers and works with other community groups to improve Burlington’s transit system.

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.

Steady improvement key to Burlington Transit’s future, director says

Burlington Transit Director Sue Connor makes a point during her presdentation as BFAST Chair Doug Brown looks on.

Burlington Transit’s report card improved slightly over the past year and about 100 transit users and community activists left the fourth annual Transit Users’ Forum at the Seniors’ Centre Apr. 21 with a renewed sense of optimism for the future of the city’s bus system.

Burlington Transit Director Sue Connor told the meeting she is committed to seeing steady improvement in service and is hoping for support from City Council.

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon outlined millions of dollars in extra provincial funding for the system. Participants also got the chance to question Connor and a panel of community transit advocates at the forum, sponsored by BFAST (Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit) and 13 other community organizations.

BFAST Chair Doug Brown said new federal and provincial funding for transit doesn’t let City Hall off the hook in paying its fair share for transit.

Longtime BFAST volunteer Gareth Williams, a candidate for Ward 3 in the municipal election, moderated the panel discussion.

New fall schedules will make use of new equipment and personnel to ease the strain on the system, Connor reported. She said she was frustrated that improvements could not be made faster but many technical issues had to be fixed. “You have to fix your foundation before you build you house.”

Drawing on her experience as Director of Brampton’s system, Connor said Burlington Transit would investigate establishing a grid system of routes that she said would get passengers to their destination more quickly.

15-minute service

“It won’t be long before we have 15-minute service to the three GO stations in Burlington,” she said. “We have to be prepared for that.”

“Although there’s still a lot to do, I have to recognize that City Council made a big investment in transit in 2017 and 2018. And I think that was a remarkable step and hopefully we can keep that momentum going,” she said.

Connor praised BFAST for organizing the forum. “Their insight into transit in Burlington has certainly helped me, in my early days, to see what some of the issues are,” she said.

BFAST Chair Doug Brown urged Burlington’s city council to do its part by raising per-capita funding above its current rank of lowest in the GTA.

“Transit investment saves cities money. Brown said. “It does not result in additional spending, it results in long term savings. You need less road capacity, you need less maintenance, you need less parking, you’ve got all the health benefits of lower emissions and the list goes on an on.”

Strategic investments

Burlington MPP and President of the Treasury Board Eleanor McMahon said the government was reversing a previous pattern of downloading responsibilities and costs to municipalities.

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon reviewed new federal-provincial funding for transit.

“It’s important that we continue to make strategic investments in transit infrastructure in Burlington,” she said.

“Burlington will receive an extraordinary $45 million in public transit funding” as a result of a federal-provincial agreement detailed in an announcement a week ago, she said.

Recent school closings will also affect demand for transit, warned a trustee for the Halton District School Board. Connor reported that Burlington Transit was now meeting regularly with school-board transportation officers on issues like these.

Jim Thurston, chair of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee, asks a question during the panel discussion.

The bus bays on the north side of the Burlington GO station will finally move back to the south in 2019, Connor reported. But designers of the station renovation left room for only six bays on the south side. “I have not been able to get an answer from Metrolinx” on the reason for the shortfall, she said. Burlington Transit is studying construction of a bus bay on Fairview St., a short walk to the station, but final plans would not be ready until 2019.

The downtown terminal will have improved hours, from 8am to 6pm on weekdays and 9 to 6 on Saturdays “and we will not be closed a half hour for lunch,” Connor said. The new hours will be effective in May.

Presto cards more available

Ward 2 Councillor and mayoral candidate Marianne Meed Ward brought greetings from City Council.

Transit users applauded the news that a deal is being finalized to make Presto fare cards available at seven Shoppers’ Drug mart locations across the city. And they welcomed the announcement that the downtown terminal will be open longer and will not be closed during lunch hour.

The marks on this year’s transit report card, decided by the roughly 100 people in attendance, improved slightly from last year. While the system’s drivers once again got an A and fares got a B-minus, passenger info got C-minus and convenience and schedules got an E. The BFAST Steering Committee awarded a D to City Council on the budget issue, saying last year’s infusion helped but more commitment is needed.

Those were among the highlights of the half-day meeting, which saw a number of provincial and municipal candidates in attendance. Ward 2 Councillor and mayoral candidate Marianne Meed Ward welcomed participants in the absence of Mayor Rick Goldring, who was out of town for the event. Former MP and current mayoral hopeful Mike Wallace also attended.

Burlington Transit donated door prizes and had drivers and staff on hand to answer questions.

Volunteers Heather Thompson (left) and Glenna Cranston registered more than 100 attendees.

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.

Announcing Burlington’s 4th Annual Transit Users’ Forum

Supporters of better public transit for Burlington are invited to the Fourth Annual Transit Users’ Forum:

Saturday, April 21, 2018
10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
(Doors open at 9:30 AM; continental breakfast will be served)
Burlington Seniors’ Centre
2285 New St (bus routes 10 and 4)

Visit again for further details about our agenda and speakers. Once again, we expect a large turnout, so please register early!

Download our poster

Please download our print or online posters and distribute to your friends and neighbours.

Download the poster for printing

Our high-resolution print poster can be photocopied and distributed. Prints well in b&w or colour.

Download the online poster

Our online poster features an active registration link. Ideal for distribution via email or social media.

BFAST urges supporters to speak up for transit Wednesday Oct. 18

Stand up for transit

BFAST is urging our supporters and anyone interested in the future of transit in Burlington to join the City’s “telephone town hall” this Wednesday (Oct. 18) from 7:30-8:30pm.

“Increased funding for transit” is listed by the City as one of three areas that will be emphasized during the program.

You can participate in the call-in by dialing 1-800-537-6616 at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18.

“We need everyone to show their support for bringing Burlington’s transit spending in line with other municipalities in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area,” says BFAST Chair Doug Brown. “Chronic underfunding by the City has led to a disastrous drop in ridership and a transit service that is literally falling apart. We need a way forward to a decent transit system that will benefit everyone in our city. And now we have the chance to make that a reality.”

Mayor Rick Goldring and senior City staff will be available for questions during the telephone town hall. For further information, please see the City’s website at burlington.ca/budget.

Brown to discuss transit crisis on Cogeco TV

BFAST Chair Doug Brown will discuss the crisis in Burlington Transit on Cogeco TV’s #theissue Tuesday Oct. 3 at 8:30 pm on YourTV, channel 700.

On Sept. 7, at the Committee of the Whole meeting, City Manager James Ridge gave a stern lecture to council on the near collapse of the transit system. Burlington Transit’s new financial manager documented a myriad of deficiencies: no capital budget for new or replacement buses, full-time drivers working over 70 hours per week and part-time drivers over 60 hours a week in clear violation of provincial labour standards, extremely high driver turnover, most mechanics working alone and unsupervised and more.

Brown will discuss the latest developments with co-hosts Mark Carr and Cory Judson.

Safety, reliability issues plague Burlington Transit due to City cutbacks

It can be no surprise that years of underfunding and anti-transit actions by Burlington City Council have undermined the system to the point where it may be unsafe as well as unreliable, says the chair of Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST).

Doug Brown was reacting to an explosive report to Council’s Committee of the Whole Sept. 7 by City Manager James Ridge and Burlington Transit staff that showed:

  • A significant number of BT’s drivers are working over the legal maximum number of hours permitted under provincial legislation and the City has never received permits that would allow this;
  • Drivers who are supposed to be casual employees are working an average of more than 40 hours per week, with minimal benefits and wages beneath the level of Halton’s living wage;
  • Staff turnover is in the order of 30% per year;
  • BT’s maintenance operation has been gutted to the extent that two-thirds of the time, mechanics are working on buses alone, without supervision or assistance;
  • Reliability has plummeted as a result of lack of replacement equipment and ongoing preventive maintenance;
  • BT’s new Director and staff have used their own cars to rescue passengers stranded by breakdowns as reliability has plummeted;
  • Burlington is currently providing no capital funding for replacement of the transit fleet. Any such money is coming from provincial and federal governments.

Many more problems with the city’s transit system, all of them related to inadequate funding, were examined in the report, which is available here  (click item 4.1, “Integrated Transit Mobility Plan”).

“ ‘Disgraceful’ is not a strong enough word to describe the extent to which Council has overseen the decay of Burlington’s transit system,” said Brown. “We need an independent inquiry as to why this has been allowed to happen.”

“Not only has the transit system been starved of funds with the result that ridership has plummeted, but it has deteriorated to the extent that the safety of its passengers and other users of our roads has been called into question,” Brown said.

“Council must be accountable for this lamentable state of affairs and must get serious about Burlington’s transit service.”

Ridge told the presentation that the deterioration of the transit system occurred when the City’s mantra was “doing more with less.”

“With every exercise [in doing more with less] there’s a line you cross where you just provide crappy service that people don’t want,” Ridge said. “And I think we passed that line some time ago.”

Ridge said the only reason Burlington Transit stays afloat is the “phenomenal” dedication of its staff to provide the best customer service they can.

Brown will make a presentation to Council tonight outlining why, despite the hiring of a transit consultant to plan route maps, the City needs a proper study of its overall transportation needs to give transit its proper place.

He praised City Manager James Ridge, Burlington Transit Director Sue Connor, Business Administration Manager Colm Lynn and former Acting Director Jeff Black for their presentation and for the new spirit of openness and cooperation at Burlington Transit.

BFAST welcomes appointment of new Director for Burlington Transit

Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST) welcomes today’s announcement that Sue Connor, general manager of Brampton Transit, has been appointed as Director of Burlington Transit. She has impressive credentials and has been involved in some interesting initiatives to improve service and increase ridership in Brampton. Congratulations to both her and the city.

Under Connor’s direction, Brampton Transit introduced Züm, a rapid-transit route that features plush seats, heated shelters and laptop plugins. Last year, it became one of eight Ontario communities to participate in a trial of zero-emission, electric buses. And ridership in Brampton has risen the most of any community in the GTA over the past few years.

Her new approaches will be welcome in Burlington. But her biggest challenge will be to get anything done with a city council that has been extremely hostile to transit. Brampton Transit’s $1.00 senior fares, for example, would hit a brick wall at Burlington’c city council, which recently refused to experiment with free off-peak fares for over-65s. And she’ll have a tough row to hoe in trying to restore the provincial money that council took from transit to “shave and pave” residential streets (a move premised on highly suspect long-term savings).

“There are really big challenges ahead for transit in Burlington,” said BFAST Chair Doug Brown. “I hope the City gives her and Burlington Transit the additional resources needed to improve and grow. (Burlington spends less than one half per capita than the average of GTA municipalities on transit).”

While Brampton’s transit ridership has increased some 15% over the past three years, Burlington’s has plummeted by about the same amount. Ms. Connor will have the challenge of her career to restore Burlington’s transit system.

BFAST also wishes to thank Jeff Black, who brought a breath of fresh air as Burlington Transit’s Acting Director over the past few months. Jeff was open to new ideas and to meeting with transit users. We appreciated his attendance at this year’s Transit Users’ Forum and his commitment to Burlington Transit during his short tenure. We wish him well in future.

We at BFAST will look forward to working with Ms. Connor for better transit in Burlington.