March 2015 Progress Report

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Committee and Council Meetings

Agendas, minutes and videos on standing committee and council meetings in March, as well as agendas and reports for upcoming meetings, are available online.

Upcoming Meetings

Development & Infrastructure Committee: Monday, March 30 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Community & Corporate Services Committee: Tuesday, March 31 at 1 p.m. and reconvening at 6:30 p.m. if required

Committee of the Whole: Thursday, April 2 at 1 p.m.

Burlington City Council: Monday, April 20 at 6:30 pm.

2015 Budget Approved Budget 2015 banner[1]

Last month, city council approved the 2015 operating budget, which saw a 3.64 per cent increase in the city’s portion of property taxes.

When combined with Halton Region and the boards of education, the overall property tax increase is 2.06 per cent or $18.08 for each $100,000 of residential urban assessment. Continue reading

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.

 

 

State of the City Address 2015

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[Check Against Delivery]

How do we define Burlington?

What words can we use to describe the place where we live, the place where we work, and the place where we raise our children?

As Canadians, we often define ourselves by what we are not.

In our case, we are not Toronto. We are not Hamilton. We are not Oakville.

What and who is Burlington? Continue reading

February 2015 Progress Report

Committee and Council Meetings

Agendas, minutes and videos on standing committee and council meetings in January, as well as agendas and reports for February’s meetings, are available online.

Upcoming Meetings

Development & Infrastructure Committee: Monday, February 9 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Community & Corporate Services Committee: Tuesday, February 10 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Audit Committee: Wednesday, February 11 at 3:30 p.m.

City Council: Monday, February 23 at 6:30 pm. Continue reading

Finding the right balance in the Roseland Character Area Study

An aerial view of Roseland.

An aerial view of Roseland.

The Roseland Character Area Study is nearing its completion, with the fourth public consultation meeting held last night.

The city’s planning staff has outlined a list of proposed changes to the city’s Official Plan and zoning bylaw for the neighbourhood of Roseland, which consists of approximately 115 acres and 300 dwellings.

The five proposed changes listed in a brief prepared by city staff on the Character Area Study for Roseland and Indian Point include:

  • Develop Official Plan policies to protect and manage development in Character Areas.
  • Prepare amendments to the Zoning By-law for Roseland and Indian Point to reflect the existing housing stock.
  • Maintain the Site Plan Control By-law for Character Areas.
  • Develop an Urban Design Brief to evaluate Site Plan, Minor Variance and Consent applications in Character Areas.
  • Co-ordinate opportunities to plant trees on public rights-of-way as part of the Urban Forestry Management Plan.

Further details of proposed amendments within each of these five changes encompassing such aspects as setbacks, building height and lot coverage are outlined in the brief.

I know Roseland well. I grew up in the neighbourhood, so I have firsthand knowledge of its unique status and character as one of our oldest communities within Burlington. I know the people living in this neighbourhood want to preserve its uniqueness and charm.

My desired outcome of the Character Area Study is to provide the city’s planning staff with additional considerations when assessing the merits of applications for development from homeowners and developers in Roseland.

Last night, I heard from residents that the proposed directions do not go far enough compared to what was suggested in the consultant’s report. I heard the request for staff to reconsider legacy zoning. I heard the concerns about clearing vegetation and houses from lots before making applications to sever. I heard the request for a private tree bylaw – even if it starts out as a pilot project in the Roseland neighbourhood.

I have long believed a private tree bylaw would help control tree removal.

Unfortunately, there was not enough support from city council in 2013 for moving forward with a bylaw. Only I and a another member of council supported a staff direction in 2013 asking for options for a private tree bylaw. I look forward to a renewed discussion on this topic in the coming weeks.

Our planning staff also heard you last night and will be considering your suggestions.

As I stated last night, I believe our building and planning staff have been diligent throughout the process to find the best solution. It is not easy to create a balance between the need for growth and the community’s desire to stay the same. It may not be possible to arrive at a balance that satisfies everyone in the community – difficult choices will have to be made.

Staff will consider community feedback as they prepare the final report, which is expected to go to the Development and Infrastructure Committee in late March or early April.

At that time, it is ultimately up to city council to approve, modify or refuse the study recommendations.

In regards to the Indian Point study, our staff is continuing to communicate with the community about its preferred options. I have heard there is a strong will from the majority of residents in that neighbourhood to maintain the current Official Plan and zoning bylaw.

Written comments on the Character Area Study can be emailed to planner Rosa Bustamante at rosa.bustamante@burlington.ca by Monday, February 9. I welcome to you also share your thoughts and feedback with me at mayor@burlington.ca.

More details can be found on the city’s Character Area Study webpage.