The politicians romance transit users - now to get them to put some real money into the service. Prospects don't look all that good at the city council level.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 3, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was the third annual Burlington for fast meeting – the audience was much the same, the issues were the same, there were fewer politicians on hand – The Mayor the MPP and one ward Councillor.

Staff from Planning, Director Mary Lou Tanner and Transportation Director Vito Tolone were on hand.

What was very different was – the transit people were in the room and they made a very positive presentation.

Vito Tolone

Director of Transportation Vito Tolone on the left with Transit supervisor Bob Mennell on the right. Mennell did a great job of telling transit users how good things were going to be in the future. Time will tell on that one. Mennell would make a very convincing member of Council.

A former transit driver and now a supervisor Bob Mennell gave a presentation that was sprinkled with shout outs to many of his former customers. He kept referring to those occasions when he “looked the other way” when someone didn’t have the full fare.

Acting Director of Transit Jeff Black did a fine job of bringing people up to date on the changes that have been made.

Aiding Doug Brown, who has carried this project on his shoulders for the past couple of years was Collin Gribbons who moved to Burlington from the Pape and Danforth part of Toronto where he could “catch a bus or a subway to anywhere. “Can’t do that in Burlington – the system just doesn’t work,” was the way he put it.

Mayor Goldring positioned himself as a transit supporter who proudly announced that he had taken the bus to the event and added that while waiting for the bus to arrive someone had pulled up and offered him a lift. The Mayor declined and then went on to tell the audience how much money the federal government was pumping into transportation. Tonnes of dollars going into the GO system.

Which was fine according to Doug Brown who added that the dollars the Mayor was talking about were for capital projects – new buses and major upgrades to the GO system.

What Burlington needs is an operational contribution to transit and that is something city council can do. They haven’t done it yet.”

Funding COB lagsFunding numbers by cityThe gas tax rebate the city gets was at one point split 30% for transit and the rest for roads maintenance is now at 20%.

The audience learned that the population of Burlington was now 183,000 souls – Regionally there are 548,000 of us – that is projected to grow to 1 million by 20141

The draft Official Plan just released talks of 15 minute service for transit.

There are even plans to upgrade the downtown bus terminal that was going to be torn down less than five years ago.

The gas tax the province pays out now total $2.1 million for the province – that’s scheduled to rise to $4.2 million.

Handi-van

More Handi-vans are to be part of the improvement in the fleet.

There are going to be more Handi-vans

There was just no end to the things that transit was going to get.

Mohamed had come to the mountain,

There were significant cuts to the transit budgets in 2012 and schedule changes that did serious damage to ridership.

Bfast polls the audience each year and produces a report card.

Here it is – not much to be proud about.

Transit report card

The first report card – funding, the critical element has budged.

Transit report card 2017

Some improvement. The data comes from the people who use the service.

Jeff Black said the transit people needed to hear this – true enough. Bfast has been telling them often enough – they just weren’t listening.
During an interactive voting process that allowed opinions to be put on a screen instantly we learned that just 26% of the audience took transit to the meeting – the other 74% used some other mode of transportation.

Ridership decline

The reason for the decline has been poor service, lousy funding and a change to the schedules that drove passengers away from the service.

The city own 53 buses and 10 Handi-vans that carried 1.9 million riders in 2016.

It was all mind-boggling. Almost too much to really believe.

At the meeting was coming to an end Joey Edwardh, president of Community Development Halton was given the microphone. She linked arms with the Mayor, a symbolic way to pull him into her comments about just how much more needed to be done for transit.

Transit - unhappy customer

Do you get the impression the two on the right are actually listening?

The Mayor didn’t say much – while he may have become a transit convert – he is part of a council that has yet to understand the direction the civic administration is taking.

Four of the seven Councillors just don’t have much of an appetite for transit: Craven, Dennison, Taylor and Lancaster probably have not taken a Burlington Transit bus this Council term. One wonders if they own Presto passes.

Jim Young

Jim Young

The Mayor talked about all the funding that had come in from both the federal and provincial governments – didn’t say a word about municipal funding

120 people attended the Bfast forum, a record attendance.

Jim Young, that irrepressible promoter for better transit service said: “I think we are winning, but I’ve felt that way before” and added that ”present City Staff and management are very good at absorbing and paying lip service to engagement while quietly ignoring external inputs.”

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