This column appeared in the Burlington Post, May 23, 2012 and is available online at http://www.insidehalton.com/opinion/columns/article/1360028–transit-input-welcomed
May 23, 2012
Our public transit system has come under considerable debate in recent years.
Burlington has not made any meaningful improvements in some time. The city has been working on a revised Transit Master Plan.
The results were unsatisfactory to the participants, users, management and council.
City staff has proposed an interim plan that will see some modification of routes. The proposal is to reduce service in several areas of the city where usage is low and to increase route coverage where there is demand for more service.
In theory, this will inconvenience some users and improve service for others.
Council is struggling to understand what level of service the community wants and needs. There is clearly a growing demand. Ridership was up seven per cent in 2011 and another 12.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.
We have a core in our community that needs public transit to have mobility; not everyone can afford a car and not everyone wants to drive a car. Public transit also impacts our economy and prosperity. Our local employers bring this issue to me regularly.
Transit is often measured based on a cost-recovery rate. For a suburban environment Burlington has a relatively good cost-recovery rate. In some ways this means we are spending less to provide service. Oakville for instance has considerably increased service and total ridership and spends in total about 50 per cent more than we do in Burlington.
In moving forward, we are going to try to integrate our public transit plan much more closely with our Official Plan. Land use and intensity are keys to an effective public transit system and while this is certainly a challenge today I certainly hope that as the city continues to change, public transit will be more viable.
In Burlington, we have made a decision to protect our rural boundaries. We have made a decision to respect the natural environment and to balance competing demands. As a result our city will grow within. We will see more compact communities, more traffic and we will all live a little closer together. Public transit, perhaps not today but sometime in the future, will be an even more important part of the infrastructure and service that our community needs.
I would very much like to hear from you about how you view public transit in Burlington. Please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), call or visit my website (http://cms.burlington.ca/Page117.aspx) and leave a comment.