Transit in Burlington: Reflections upon completing the transit challenge

B-nSQq4W8AEN9zN[1]Last month, Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST) issued a challenge to members of Burlington city council. The transit advocacy group asked us to take the bus for any five days over the course of a month, with a deadline of March 28.

This past weekend, I completed my challenge and wanted to share my perspective.

First and foremost, my experience taking the bus was positive.

The buses, overall, were on time and clean. Our drivers, who have a reputation for being among the friendliest in the GTA, met expectations. Riders were friendly and there were between 3-10 people on each bus I travelled on during the various days and times.

The walk to the bus stop from my house was about five minutes. As the challenge was in February and March, it gave me the opportunity to take the bus in the coldest part of this winter.

The downtown stop was a close walk to City Hall. Both the stop near my home and downtown had bus shelters, which helped during the colder days.

I took the bus on weekday mornings, weekday evenings, as well as on Saturday and Sunday, to get a good idea of the different levels of service and run times. I did not let transit staff know what dates and times I would be riding the bus so as to get a real experience, with the exception of the media day we held the first week where we invited reporters and photographers to ride the bus with myself.

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I spoke with a number of transit users on the bus who were also happy with the service. They said the buses are generally on time, with great drivers.

Another positive outcome of this challenge was the community interaction and engagement about our transit system.

Through my rides on the bus, media coverage and my social media accounts, I interacted with hundreds of residents about transit.

People approached me everywhere from the coffee shop to the grocery store to talk to me about my experience through the transit challenge.

There were mostly positive comments, as well as constructive criticism. It was good to hear a variety of opinions.

I understand there are residents calling for improvements to our transit system. As with many municipalities, riders are looking for reliable, affordable and convenient service.

I hear your concerns and we are working on solutions. However, change cannot happen overnight, and we need to do our homework.

We need to ensure we have the necessary data on ridership and routes before we make any major changes.

A big development is expected this fall with the implementation of a transit intelligent transportation system.

This system will give riders electronic access to real time bus information.

Handi-Van riders will experience some significant improvements with real time bus arrival texts, improved booking technology and trip planning tools.

Importantly, it will provide Burlington Transit with electronic reporting on such aspects as on-time performance, boardings and ridership. This gives us hard data when determining transit improvements.

Public engagement is also ongoing for the Transportation Master Plan.

This municipal strategy co-ordinates transportation networks and services with anticipated community growth. A final report will be ready for December 2015.

We are doing our homework and I am committed to improving our service.

A welcome impact of an efficient transit system is reduced traffic congestion, but I recognize this will also require a shift among our residents to try alternative modes of transportation.

I continue to struggle with the reality of getting people to park their cars and get onto the bus.CAYSjCnUgAEKiAP[1]

I believe the cost of our transit service is too high to make this a meaningful alternative to people that own cars.

The vast majority of people who drive cars to a Burlington destination can park for free except in downtown Burlington. However, in downtown you can park for free on Saturdays and Sundays.

It costs approximately $132 per month to park per month in the downtown and since December is free, you only have to pay that for 11 months, whereas an adult transit pass is currently $95 per month.

The difference in cost is not big enough to get drivers to switch to taking the bus.

It is also an expensive mode of transportation for some of our lower income residents.

I recently took a vacation to Texas, where I used public transit in San Antonio and Austin.

It cost $1.25 per ride or $2.50 for an all day pass.

In the United States, the federal government provides transit operating funding, which we do not have in Canada. Therefore, our fares cannot be as low, but one idea that came from my trip is that Burlington Transit should offer an all day pass.

Among other ideas for improving transit that I heard from riders during my trips on the bus was the need to have schedules on the bus stops, as this helps promote transit.

I also heard we need a good transit app that people can download to their smart phone – that will come this fall with the transit intelligent system.

People have asked if I will continue to ride the bus now that I completed the challenge.

I believe I will when my schedule warrants. I’m often in meetings across the city on a daily basis, with little time between for travel, but on days I’m only at city hall, I will hop on and let Burlington Transit do the driving.

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I will be sharing my experience and ideas with transit staff. I encourage you to connect with me about this challenge and any other ideas you would like me to share with our transit department by emailing mayor@burlington.ca.

 

 

City of Burlington looking for volunteers for boards and committees

On Wednesday evening, the City of Burlington will be hosting a Volunteer Open House to recruit volunteers for the city’s committees and boards. Current volunteers are also invited to attend as a networking and learning opportunity. The City’s committees and boards are important to Council and the entire city; the decisions and input the committees make affect our decisions at Council.

Getting involved with our committees and boards is a great way to be engaged in City decisions and to shape your own community, now and for generations to come. Your ideas, passion, and engagement are vital to helping us continue to build a city  that works to provide the best in vibrant neighborhoods, prosperity and excellence in governance.

According to the most recent Stats Canada report, in 2010, more than 13.3 million people in Canada—about 47 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older—did volunteer work in 2010. They devoted more than two billion hours to their volunteer activities. What amazing commitment.

Volunteering is contagious. When you care enough to do something about the situation before you, you inspire others with your example. Nowhere has this been more evident in our community this year than in the level of commitment and energy shown by our residents who helped each other after the flood and subsequent clean up in August.

There are many committees and boards to become involved with where you can contribute your time and talents and I encourage you to come out on Wednesday evening and find an area that you are passionate about and speak with one of our current volunteers or staff members to learn more.

The event details are as follows:

Wednesday, November 19, 2104
Burlington Public Library – Central Branch
2331 New St., Burlington
6:30 to 8 p.m.

The program will also include a panel discussion on the value of volunteering followed by networking and a display showcase.

The city’s volunteer groups and advisory committees participating in the Open House include:

  • Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Burlington’s Best Awards Committee (formerly the Burlington Civic Recognition Committee)
  • Committee of Adjustment
  • Burlington Cycling Advisory Committee
  • Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee
  • Burlington Mundialization Committee
  • Burlington Public Library Board
  • Burlington Sustainable Development Advisory Committee
  • Heritage Burlington Advisory Committee
  • Burlington Seniors’ Advisory Committee
  • Festivals and Events – Canada Day and Christmas Parade Committee
  • Museums of Burlington Board and Doors Open Volunteer Organizing Committee
  • ChAT – Community Engagement Charter Action Team
  • Burlington Downtown Parking Advisory Committee

I would like to thank all the volunteer members of our committees and boards – past, present and future. You invest every day in making Burlington a better place to live, work and play.

 

Province of Ontario approves ODRAP Application for City of Burlington

I am so pleased to share that earlier this week the Province approved the application by the City of Burlington for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, with a commitment of up to $3 million dollars, matching 2 to 1 the monies raised locally.

On hand for the announcement Monday at City Hall, were Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon and Halton MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris, along with Chair Gary Carr, Colleen Mulholland from the Burlington Community Foundation and Ron Foxcroft, Chair of the Burlington Community Foundation Disaster Relief Committee.

flood-relief-bannerOn behalf of Council, I offer my thanks to everyone who committed their time and energy into supporting Burlington’s residents, working tirelessly to advocate for our community and fundraise for those whose lives have been dramatically impacted by the floods.

There were many media outlets present at the announcement. Please click on the links below for additional coverage of this story.

The local fundraising campaign ends on November 14th through the Burlington Community Foundation. The applications for losses and damages will continue to be accepted by the Burlington Community Foundation until December 15th. Anyone who wishes to file for funding relief is encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

Finally, I would like to thank the community for their resilience, patience and their support of one another; from neighbourhood fundraisers, to businesses who held special events, to our service organizations and corporations for their donations, and to the individuals who have contributed in many ways. Burlington is a city with a big heart.

Announcement Media Coverage

Burlington Municipal Election – Please Get out and Vote!

Elections 2014 MastheadOn Monday, Ontario residents will go to the polls to elect their local municipal government representation. In Burlington, the polls open at 10 am and will be open until 8 pm Monday night. A list of polls is available online.

I encourage everyone to vote. It is both a democratic right and responsibility.

Municipal and Regional government is the level of government that most intimately connects and interacts with residents of a community. It is responsible for so many of the services and amenities that are essential to our daily lives: transit, waste management, community planning and building, emergency services and community policing.

Local government is about shaping the community and improving the community not only for today’s residents, but for future residents and generations to come.

The list of registered candidates is available through the City of Burlington’s Election webpages; many of the candidates have listed individual links to their own websites. If you have not had a chance to meet the candidates in person, this is a great way to find out more information.

The Burlington Post has also been covering the municipal election through their print and online platforms and much is available online.

For more information about the election, please visit the City’s election website.

New Street Bike Lanes Study

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss with you the rationale for the initiation of the New Street Bike Lanes’ Study that was recently supported by Council.

Why should we consider designated bike lanes on New Street?

Since the City of Burlington declared itself as a Sustainable Development Community in 1990, we have invested in creating vibrant neighborhoods. To be truly vibrant, neighbourhoods should be designed to encourage active lifestyles, including walking and cycling. These areas are often favoured places to live because of lower pollution levels, less traffic congestion, more parks and public spaces, improved opportunities for social interaction, and an abundance of healthy lifestyle choices. Continue reading