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.