Travel demand management - tools used by Burlington Transit to encourage and influence demand.

background 100By Pepper Parr

August 5th, 2019


This is a seven part series on transit and how Burlington plans to get to the point where the public will take public transit to get to where they want to go in the city because it is cheaper, faster, more convenient and seen as the smart thing to do.

Part 5. Travel Demand Management

Travel demand management are the tools that transit agencies can employ to encourage and influence demand, through affordability, incentivisation and holistic land use planning.

The tools can be used to move demand or encourage growth during non-peak times, such as the midday, evenings and weekends. This frees up peak capacity and increases resource utilization during those less busy periods. In this way, growth can be accommodated at a lower cost and overall efficiency improved.

Strategy 4A: Free Midday Travel for Seniors

In March 2019 the City of Burlington Council directed Burlington Transit to implement a pilot program of offering seniors free travel between 9:00am and 2:30pm on weekdays. This pilot has became effective in June 2019 and runs until 31 December 2020.

It should be noted that free transit also applies to seniors who use specialized transit. The AODA requires fare parity between conventional and specialized services, which will see an increase in demand on the specialized transit system. Unlike conventional transit, specialized transit peaks during the midday period and has less capacity to accommodate an increase in demand (due to the small vehicle size and on-demand door-to-door service delivery model).

Transit - seniors with Gould

Seniors taking part in a Bfast conference – elected officials hover over the table listening carefully.

Therefore, the introduction of this policy is expected to see an increase in specialized transit service hours and vehicle requirements, including an increased operating and capital cost. The extent of this increase is currently unknown, but should be monitored over the course of the pilot, with a plan in place to increase operations during the midday period to maintain an acceptable trip accommodation rate.

This fare change aligns with Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #1 (Be Customer-Focused in every aspect of how service is delivered), particularly Objective 1.8 (Affordability), in promoting access to transit for all residents of Burlington.

• Monitor the impacts of the free midday travel for senior’s pilot project on ridership, technology, customer service, revenue and operating costs for the course of the pilot before implementing further changes or mitigation measures.
• Budget to increase specialized transit service levels during the pilot project to maintain an acceptable trip accommodation rate.

Strategy 4B: Affordability

In conjunction with the City’s decision on senior’s fares, Council also agreed to change the Subsidized Passes for Low-Income Transit (SPLIT) subsidized pass program from a 50 percent fare reduction to a free monthly pass, effective May 1, 2019.

The existing SPLIT pass has been in place for almost nine years and has provided a 50 percent fare subsidy to residents of Burlington that are low income. The program is administered and initially funded by Halton Region Social Services. The change in the program to a free pass will see the City of Burlington cover the remaining 50 percent difference in the pass. Since the number of pass holders are relatively small, this change is not expected to have a significant impact on Burlington Transit’s operations or revenue. However, Burlington Transit should report to Council how this has affected their budget and seek additional funding to cover lost revenue.

This fare change aligns with Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #1 (Be Customer-Focused in every aspect of how service is delivered), particularly Objective 1.8 (Affordability), in ensuring access to transit for all residents of Burlington.

• Monitor the usage of the new SPLIT pass and report the amount of lost revenue to Council.

Strategy 4C: Free Transit for Children

As of March 9, 2019, kids 12 and under were permitted to ride for free on GO Transit. The program has an estimated cost of $8 million dollars of lost revenue. This does not take into account an increase in ridership and revenue from adults that use the service more often as it is more affordable to travel as a family unit. Much of this additional ridership occurs during the off-peak periods such as weekend family travel or school trips during the day.

Currently in Burlington, children under 5 ride for free whereas children between 6 and 12 pay $3.50 cash or $1.90 with Presto. Currently, children 6 to 12 represents 0.05 percent of total ridership on Burlington Transit. Using Presto data, it is estimated that 16,723 children under 12 are current Burlington Transit customers, with an estimated revenue of $30,938.

Burlington GO south side

Tight integration between the Transit schedules and the GO schedules are critical.

Having a similar fare structure is important to improve the eligibility of the system of passengers travelling with children using both GO Transit and Burlington Transit, as the same fare rules would apply between the two systems. This will become increasingly important with the introduction of RER, when the GO Rail network is further integrated with Burlington Transit routes and services (see Strategy 3D). In the short-term passengers travelling with children connecting between the two systems still receive a reduced fare through the co-fare agreement between Metrolinx and Burlington Transit (70 cents), allowing Burlington Transit to maintain an important revenue source. The challenge will be to integrate the service with Presto and to identify which passengers boarding a Burlington Transit bus as a GO Rail station are eligible for the co-fare payment between Burlington Transit and GO Transit.

This fare change aligns with Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #1 (Be Customer-Focused in every aspect of how service is delivered), particularly Objective 1.8 (Affordability), in ensuring access to transit for all residents of Burlington.

• Continue to maintain same child fare policy in the short-term to maintain revenue stream from the co-fare agreement.
• Monitor ridership and revenue changes that have occurred on other GTHA systems that have implemented a similar child fare policy (e.g. Durham Region Transit).
• Implement the child fare policy in the medium-term, with the introduction of RER and subject to Strategy 1D, or prior, depending on the results of the review of the impact from other GTHA systems noted above.

Strategy 4D: Discount Student Pass

Secondary school students offer a significant opportunity to encourage transit familiarity, increase ridership and establish travel patterns that may continue into post-secondary student and adult life. To maximize this opportunity, Burlington Transit, Council and the school boards within the City of Burlington are in the process of investigating a secondary student strategy. This strategy should include transit familiarization outreach for grade 7, 8 and/or 9 students and a discount secondary student pass. If the ‘free child fare’ program is extended to age 12, this student pass program should begin at age 13 (grade 7 students) for ease of administration and to ensure a continuous fare program during middle school years.

Current routes April 2019

The current transit route map.

Ridership growth that occurs with these types of programs may also result in service improvements required to accommodate an increase in demand, particularly around school bell times. The ridership growth plan does account for increases in service frequency over the five year business plan (Strategy 1B), which should provide enough capacity to meet increased peak demands. If demand does exceed the planned increase in service, some strategies to off-set potential operating and capital cost increases include:

a. Only allow free or discounted travel on weekends, holidays or after 4:00pm on weekdays (so that students do not use the service to go to/from school);

b. Partner with school boards to receive partial funding for lost revenue;

c. Work with the school board to ensure there is no reduction in yellow-school bus services without a corresponding increase in funding to support the student pass program; and/or

d. Develop a formal booking process for formal school group excursions to ensure Burlington Transit is aware of these trips and that it occurs during periods or on routes where there is sufficient capacity to accommodate the trip.

This program will help to achieve Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #3 (Be Business-Minded and aligned with municipal directions), particularly Objective 3.8 (Demand Management), by promoting long term behaviour change with younger transit users.

• Implement a grade 9 transit outreach program in the short term to ensure transit literacy. If the free child fare program is extended to age 12, consideration should be made to extend this to grade 7 or 8.
• Further investigate a discounted or free middle and secondary student program, involving financial contributions from local school boards to cover a portion of predicted lost revenue. If the ‘free child pass’ program is extended to age 12, this program should be started for grade 7 students (13 years of age and older).
• Monitor program for a year-long period and extend to other grades for subsequent years.
• Partner with school boards to receive partial funding for lost revenue.

Proposed routes Sept 2019

Proposed routes Sept 2019

Part 1: Transits five year plan has what some might call an over abundance-of wishful thinking

Part 2: Strategies and recommendations to create the needed structure and delivery model.

Part 3: Making all the parts fit.

Part 4: Can the public afford the new ideas?

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