Updated March 18th 2013
On February 28, 2013, Budget and Corporate Services Committee recommended an 8% increase in transit fares, effective May 1, 2013. If adopted by Council, adult cash fares would move from the current $3.00 to $3.25. Such an increase would give Burlington Transit users the burden of paying among the highest fares in Ontario while receiving the lowest service levels.
This fare increase was not supported by a staff report or analysis, nor was there any public notice that Committee was considering such an increase. The 2013 budget submission from Burlington Transit included no fare increase in the short-term, but did include the development of a process for adjusting fares. Bfast would support the development of such a process to fairly make periodic fare adjustments taking into consideration such factors as: affordability, inflation, impact on ridership levels; compatibility with fares in other Ontario municipalities; and comparability to other fee increases for municipal services.
In addition to the lack of consultation and planning, Bfast is concerned that the proposed 8% fare increase would hurt many people on low-income. As Figure 1 shows, the majority of riders on Burlington Transit have lower than average income
The 8.4% fare increase is an arbitrary figure, unrelated to any of these factors.
For example, Figure 2 shows a comparison between Burlington Transit fares under the arbitrary increases incurred since 1991 and the fares that would have resulted if the fares were increased to match the Consumer Price Index. Similar comparisons could be made to increases in the minimum and average wage, or against fees charged for other Burlington municipal services.
With regard to other municipal fees, it is hard to understand why transit fares are proposed to go up 8.4%, while other city fees will be increasing 2% or not at all.
Burlington currently has higher fares than most other Ontario municipalities (Figure 3). The difference is particularly large with our neighbour Hamilton, where adult cash fares are $2.55 – some $0.45 less than our current fare and a whopping $0.70 less than the proposed BT fare.
The proposed fare increase has been justified by the mistaken belief that the approved 2013 transit budget contains significant additional transit expenditures. This is not the case. Transit is still under-capitalized, and will continue to suffer from the $500,000 decrease in transit’s share of the Gas Tax money made by City Council one year ago. A few weeks ago, Council rejected Bfast’s request to restore transit’s share of the Gas Tax funding. Therefore, the reality is that net transit spending by the City has not increased.
Transit spending per capita in Burlington, continues to be only one half of the average spending by GTA municipalities
Residents in northeast Burlington, are still coping with the service cuts of mid-2012 which have resulted in one hour headways between buses on the #11, #12, and #15 on weekday schedules.
Bfast will be requesting Council defer the proposed fare increases at the March 18 Council meeting and that a process be developed, with public consultation, for future fare adjustments.