Advocacy group maintains the city budget shortchanges transit users - less is being spent on transit this year than last.

burlbudget2016By Staff

January 13th, 2016


City Council will meet next week for two days to thrash out the 2016 budget which, at this point, looks like it will increase 3.85% over what they asked for last year.
The Bank of Canada set inflation at 2% and for the most part the country has been able to keep spending within the inflation range.

For some reason Burlington’s city council feels it has to spend more in 2016 than it did in 2015 (3.85% is the most recent budget increase projection) which has the people at Bfast (Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit) upset because they don’t see any increase in the amount being sent on transit.

“Despite commitments in the City’s Strategic Plan, transit users in Burlington are again being shortchanged by the municipality‘s 2016 budget,” says a spokesperson for Burlington For Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST).

Council is set to approve a budget for the system that provides no funding increase for 2016.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast says the city is short changing transit users.

“When inflation is considered, the 2016 transit budget is actually less than the budget in 2015,” commented BFAST spokesperson Doug Brown.

“Funding and service cuts, schedule changes and fare increases over the past four years have resulted in a 17% decline in ridership for Burlington’s chronically underfunded transit system. This is despite the requirement of the Ontario Municipal Board that the city increase transit ridership to 11% of all city trips by 2030.

“In contrast,” he ads ” Oakville has seen large increases in transit use as a result of higher funding and better service levels.”

“Burlington’s politicians like to point to the survey by MoneySense magazine that rates our community as the most livable mid-size city in Canada,” Brown said. “But that same magazine notes Burlington is well down the list when it comes to walkability and transit.”

Brown said adequate transit service is an investment, not an expense.

Bus station John Street lined up 1 side

Bus drivers got a pay increase, some new buses arrived – but transit advocates say the city is still not spending enough on transit.

“How much does it end up costing us when people without cars can’t get to their jobs? What’s the real cost of students not being able to take advantage of educational opportunities because Burlington Transit can’t get them to school on time? How much does it cost every taxpayer to own a second or even third car because they can’t rely on the transit system?”

Council is set to vote on the 2016 budget on Jan. 25..

BFAST is a citizen’s group formed in 2012 to advocate for better transit in Burlington.

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5 comments to Advocacy group maintains the city budget shortchanges transit users – less is being spent on transit this year than last.

  • Tom Muir

    I agree with Doug that the city spends a lot of money on the car and servicing it – in fact the city is completely designed around it still – just look at the budget and see, but none of this is said to be subsidy.

    I am on the city development charges advisory committee and remember a presentation from staff justifying a reduction in the growth need for roads that was partly based on providing more transit and alternative modes of getting around.

    This resulted in a reduction in the DCs from what they would have been based on the past practices, but it is not called a subsidy.

    We also need to know that transit pays about half the costs via the fare box. I don’t know of anything else that does this.

    We know in no uncertain financial terms that DCs do not cover all the costs of growth. And residents get nothing, no service at all, from this consideration, and this is a subsidy for sure. What about this?

    Any critics got some evidence to the contrary?

    And if all the talk talk talk that comes out of the city staff and council in grand official plans and strategic plans, about modal split and need to go to transportation modes alternative to the car, for intensification development to be transit friendly, is ever to have any real legs and credibility, then the transit provision part is absolutely needed, – not just the intensification development.

    And if the city population that is really interested and committed to making a difference, and wants to use transit for many reasons, then the city must make some investment in providing this service.

    Instead, the city is going backwards and makes all the talk and grand plans a big lie.

    • Tom Muir

      To repeat myself, I saw the Federal Finance Minister on TV tonight advocating spending the federal infrastructure money on public transit.

      What a novel and great idea.


    Transit users will be very surprised to see themselves described as the “privileged few” The passenger surveys carried out by MMDillon(1) in 2011 showed that the majority of riders are lower income with no access to a motor vehicle. Very clearly, these riders cannot afford a car or taxi and indeed have difficulty paying the $3.50 cash fare for transit(Burlington has the second highest fares in the GTA).

    Its strange to see the word subsidy always used for the City’s net transit costs, but we never see the large public expenditures on parking and roads described as a subsidy. Yet transit users do not need parking spaces nor wider roads, nor do they create the congestion and pollution that motorists do.

    Also, here are the actual numbers on spending and ridership. 2014 ridership was just over 2 million and the 2015 net operating budget was just over $10 million(2). The City’s per household spending on transit is about one half of the GTA average, resulting in poor service levels and falling ridership.

    (1)Burlington Transit Master Plan 2012-2021 -October 2011 Report to Steering Committee.
    (2) City of Burlington Operating Budget 2016

  • David Burns

    My understanding is that the Burlington Council subsidizes the Burlington Transit system to the tune of $20 Million a tear yet the system only carries approximately 20 million passengers. For the sake of people who do not have any access to transit I see no reason not to reduce the money for the previlege few

    • Gary Scobie

      OK, let me do some math. 20 million riders are being subsidized by $20 million. That would be $1 per trip/rider by my calculation. I see this as a reasonable contribution by taxpayers. And 20 million riders per year would be about 55,000 per day on average. I hadn’t realized that many people were using transit on an average per day. I have two comments on this:

      1. 55,000 is a great start. Let’s get it to 100,000.

      2. I don’t exactly see these riders as “privileged few”. They are more likely earners of lower incomes who cannot afford cars, or elder and disabled residents who can’t drive cars. This may be their only means of transport around Burlington except for costly cabs. I think we should be helping them even more.