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

One thought on “Thoughts on City’s new Transit Survey

  1. Marie

    Here’s the problem: After waiting and waiting for a bus that didn’t arrive in 2017, I won’t be counting on Burlington Transit in 2018. If I have to be somewhere, I can’t take a chance that the city will suddenly make sure my bus arrives. I need to be able to RELY on my mode of transportation.

    For every person who has been disappointed by a bus that didn’t arrive, or by a route that was suddenly changed, there is a person who will not trust that system again until he or she KNOWS it will take him or her where he or she needs to go.

    How can Burlington Transit win my trust back? By being so good, so reliable, so far-reaching that people talk about it! I’m afraid that is going to take some $$ and time — two things that our city council doesn’t seem to want to invest.

    I wish I could be more positive, but after hearing that federal funds granted for transit were used for other uses, I was so disgusted with our council that I can’t imagine ever trusting them again.


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