Category Archives: BFAST News

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.

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

Council votes substantial increase in transit budget

On election night, Burlington’s new mayor, Marianne Meed Ward, promised to “fix transit.” She and her Council team have made a great start in the city’s 2019 budget.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Burlington’s City Council approved the biggest jump in transit funding in many years at its Mar. 25 meeting, including a 19% increase in Burlington Transit’s operating budget and a 10-year commitment to capital funding that will add buses to the fleet and improve transit facilities like bus shelters.

“We are very pleased with the significant increases in the transit budget – both capital and operating,” commented BFAST Chair Doug Brown. “This is a very good start toward building a good transit system. Although the operating budget is only for 2019, the fleet expansions included in the 10-year capital budget reveal an intention to significantly increase service hours (and operating budget) in the coming years.”

Budget increases include:

  • An increase in transit operating budget from $12,110,000  in 2018 to  $14,940,000 in 2019 — an increase of almost 19%.
  • Hiring 6 additional transit drivers for $529,000 and transferring $500,000 in Gas Tax funds from the capital to the operating budget.
  • Expansion of the conventional transit vehicle fleet by two to three vehicles per year (26 in total), an investment of $16,482,000 over next 10 years
  • Expansion of the handivan fleet by one vehicle per year over the next 10 years, an investment of $1,870,000.
  • Replacement of 47 conventional transit vehicles, an investment of $27,444,000 over 10 years.
  • Replacement of 16 handivan vehicles, an investment of $3,000,000 over 10 years.
  • Investment of $2,810,000 over next 10 years in ongoing repair & maintenance .
  • A large investment in transit shelters: $512,000 in 2019 and $1,990,000 in 2020-2028. The city will also invest $110,000 per year from 2019-2028 in shelter enhancements such as display cases, schedule-information signs, landing pads and bus stop signs.
  • A $400,000 investment in a bus bay on Fairview St. at the Burlington GO station. The bus bay will mitigate the cut in the number of bus platforms at the station made by Metrolinx as part of the station renovation.
  • Upgrade of shelters where needed to meet the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), with a $55,000 budget place-holder.
  • Renewal and repair of BT Operations Centre and Downtown Terminal to total $3,154,000 over next 10 years.
  • Presto fare system enhancements worth $1,400,000, pending senior government funding.
  • A 2019 investment of $50,000 in the SMS/Next Transit Bus Information system.

“For the past 25 years, Burlington had been badly under-funding transit with per-capita transit funding of only half of the GTA average,” said Brown. “These budget initiatives over the coming 10 years will help get Burlington Transit service levels close to the GTA average.”

BFAST presented a brief to congratulate the new Council on its forward thinking approach to transit at a meeting Feb. 7.

“Council has taken an important step, with this year’s proposed budget, in not only reversing years of neglect, but in improving the system to the benefit of transit and automobile users alike,” the brief said.

“As transit users, we in BFAST eagerly look forward to more frequent and reliable service. If successful, Burlington’s improved transit system will be of value to automobile users as well, in reducing congestion and stress on our roadways.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor signals revival of Transit Advisory Committee

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward at last year’s Transit Users’ Forum.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has signalled that she will propose the re-establishment of a Transit Advisory Committee, chaired by new Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

It will be a rebirth for the Committee, which was axed by the old City Council and supposedly rolled into the Integrated Transportation Advisory Committee (ITAC). But nothing useful on trabnsit ever came out of ITAC. BFAST made the re-establishment of the Transit Committee one of its key proposals in the civic election.

As reported in The Burlington Gazette, the Transit Advisory Committee will be part of a shakeup of the City’s advisory committees that the new Council must approve.

The Mayor is recommending that the transit committee will cooperate with the Cycling Advisory Committee and the Integrated Transportation Advisory Committee.

“We have over 1 million rides annually on our transit system but no dedicated citizen’s advisory voice to council on transit,” said Meed Ward’s report. “Establishing a committee honours the importance of transit in the community expressed during the election campaign and before, and honours the direct request for a stand-alone transit advisory committee from Burlington For Accessible Sustainable Transit and others.”

Free off-peak transit for seniors: a win-win-win idea for the new Council’s first 100 days

Transit advocate Jim Young (left) thinks free off-peak transit for seniors is a winning issue for Burlington’s new City Council.

Editor’s note: the following was published in The Burlington Gazette on Nov. 30. You can see the original article and comments at http://www.burlingtongazette.ca/another-one-of-those-win-win-win-ideas-that-jim-young-believes-can-actually-be-achieved-in-the-first-100-days-of-the-new-city-council/

By Jim Young

In a previous op ed for The Gazette on the “First Hundred Days” I asked for patience and realistic expectations from a new council. Most of the issues that gave rise to the electoral shake up at Burlington City Council are simply too big and complex to expect them to be resolved in the first hundred days.

The “adopted” Official Plan, changes to the Downtown Mobility Hub and the missing transit and parking plans all require significant work by staff and review and reconsideration by council. They may also require Regional approval and compliance with provincial legislation. So while work on these gets underway in the first hundred days, don’t expect quick results on these portfolios. Given the last fiasco on the OP, we should be demanding that council and staff take appropriate time to seek our input and get the OP right this time.

However one immediately winning issue that can be achieved as a simple 2019 budget amendment, is free transit for seniors during off peak hours (10.00 to 2.30 Monday to Friday), an idea whose time has surely come.

This was originally proposed by Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee (BSAC) in 2016 for the 2017 budget and defeated by 6 votes to 1. The idea is detailed in BSAC position paper “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody” and has since been adopted by Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST) who support the idea and for other disadvantaged groups and as part of a more comprehensive long term transit plan.

Council support

In the BFAST 2018 election all-candidate transit survey, all six Councillors elect and Mayor-elect indicated support for the idea, some wholeheartedly, some with qualification, suggesting it might be expanded to other disadvantaged groups.

The buses already run empty during those off-peak hours so the only cost is an amount of lost revenue and that is not overwhelming. Based on figures supplied by Burlington Transit in 2016 I calculated it might cost between $48,500 per year and $72,750 depending on the rate of uptake. The previous Director of Transit agreed the cost for a one year trial would be less than $100,000. In an email to me his biggest concern was that any trial would prove so popular, it would be difficult to repeal. It is less than one half of one percent of the city transit budget.

It is possible that provincial funding for transit, a complex formula based on ridership (not revenue) might increase enough to offset any loss of revenue.

Perhaps Transit Director Sue Connor, who has won the respect of city staff and transit advocates equally, can provide updated figures for the cost, the potential provincial funding increases and whether there might be an overall gain for Burlington Transit.

Alternative for Seniors

As well as filling our mostly empty, off-peak buses the “Improving Transit Paper” details the impact of reducing traffic congestion, improving road safety, reducing CO2 emissions, providing a dignified alternative for drivers who lose their drivers license to age related issues. It also outlines some economic benefits for the city and local businesses and the health benefits to seniors who suffer from social isolation.

BFAST events that bring citizens up to date on transit events are always well attended. Might they be heard by the new city council as well?

So come on Mme. Mayor and brand new Councillors. What are you waiting for? This will help fill the buses, reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety, provide economic benefit for local retailers and help improve the health and well being of our seniors; all of which i’m sure were on your platforms.

This is a win – win – win for Council, for Burlington Transit and for seniors. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate that our new council listens to our citizens and delivers on its election platforms and positions.

(Jim Young is a member of BFAST’s Steering Committee and the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee.)

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.