Aldershot citizen speaks in favour of free transit on Monday. for seniors - council vote no.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

January 21st, 2016


I am speaking as a private citizen in support of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee’s effort to reduce or eliminate Transit Fares for Burlington Senior Citizens.  A proposal has been made that City Council and Burlington Transit consider Reduced Transit Fares for Seniors.

In support of, and in addition to the well-made case presented by Mr. Lovell on behalf of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee, I would respectfully submit to Council and the Budget Committee that Seniors Transit is not just a senior’s issue but is one that affects the entire city, its residents and its reputation as a caring, conscientious community. An issue, which, if addressed effectively, will have beneficial impacts on Traffic Congestion, Road Safety, The Environment and will dovetail perfectly with many aspects of Burlington’s Strategic Plan Proposals currently under review.

As Burlington’s senior’s population approaches 30,000 and continues to grow, it is fair to say our impact on every facet of our city’s way of life is and will continue to be significant.

Jim Young

Jim Young

Seniors Impact on Burlington’s Traffic Congestion:
There is universal agreement that traffic congestion is becoming a more serious issue in Burlington every year. As council strives to encourage continued growth and increasing population to ensure the economic well-being of our city this congestion will only become more troublesome and the economic and the environmental impact more acute. City Council recognizes this and addresses the issue in its Proposed New Strategic Plan (A City That Moves).

Seniors using affordable transit for one in five of their journeys would reduce traffic congestion by approximately 3%. While that may not sound like much, traffic flow science suggests such a reduction has a major impact on traffic flow and reduced commute times particularly at peak volumes. The more attractive any incentive to switch seniors from cars to transit, the greater that improvement will be. More seniors on transit allows working people, business transport and goods to move more efficiently, improving productivity, and supporting the vibrant business environment our city strives to encourage in that Strategic Plan.

Road Safety:
Studies indicate that as we age our cognitive abilities and response times deteriorate resulting in higher levels of traffic accidents, injuries and claims for senior drivers. The safety of senior drivers and their impact on accident rates is an emotionally charged subject we are loath to address for fear offending spouses, parents or potential voters.
Reduced transit costs for seniors would alleviate that burden by providing a dignified and affordable alternative to driving; thereby reducing the risks with all the human and monetary costs involved for their families, the city, traffic authorities and emergency services.

Reducing traffic accidents by moving seniors from automobiles to transit would also go a long way to meeting the city’s Age Friendly City and a Safe Place to Live objectives of its Proposed New Strategic Plan.

Jim Young A

Jim Young

The Environment:
Thirty Thousand Burlington Seniors driving an average of 15,000 Kilometers per year, even allowing for some spousal car sharing, emit 105,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Every car taken off the road by affordable transit for seniors reduces this annual amount by 3.5 tons.

Again, the Proposed New Strategic Plan aims to make Burlington a Greener Place to Live: an admirable objective for our city that we can help achieve by switching seniors from automobiles to transit and reducing our carbon footprint.

Jim Young has lived in Burlington for more than 30 years where he raised his family and involved himself in his community. He still has a pleasantly strong brogue accent.  This opinion pice is a delegation he made during the budget deliberations at city hall.

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8 comments to Aldershot citizen speaks in favour of free transit on Monday for seniors – council votes no.

  • Monte

    Actually something that should be considered.
    Maybe a combination of Uber, or some home grown version, and existing busses for mainline direct routes only.
    Busses not servicing neighbourhoods.
    At least some interesting ideas are coming out?

  • Frank Rance

    Here’s an idea that might fly. Scrap Burlington Transit altogether. Hardly anyone uses the service anyway. Great big buses with no passengers wandering all over the City wasting fuel and polluting the air; this is not a great concept. The taxpayers could save millions of dollars, if we don’t have Burlington Transit. Instead, bring in Uber. The City can then subsidize seniors and students who use Uber, either partially, or completely. The benefits of Uber are many. Better service, more timely, cost effective; plus they only use the roadways when you need them. I think at the very least, it’s worth discussing.

  • John

    I appreciate your reasons for seniors, anyone, choosing transit, unfortunately the price of transit fares has no connection.

    Riding free one day a week while the car sits at home, would help congestion, safety and the environment, however the real cost of the car still exists. If we want to benefit from the reasons you state the price to use transit is not the issue.

    Eliminating the car completely also eliminates the cost, thousands a year to maintain, licence, insure, with ongoing fuel costs.
    With that savings the seniors transit fare of #59.25 per month looks incredibly inexpensive. The seniors fare has already been reduced from $97 per month for adults under 65.

    Even with this modest price and available help there may be some that need assistance, that is something the city could look at.

    Using transit is a choice, sometimes imposed due to health, age or circumstance, but it’s not expensive.

  • Steve

    Why would seniors what to stand in the, cold, heat, rain, waiting for a bus that’s probably difficult to board rather than drive in their car? Even for free?

  • Maggie

    This city is no more walkable than it was 10 years ago, at least not in Aldershot. It is about the same. If ridership is down it IS because the service is inadequate and expensive. It needs a total overhaul. Routes are confusing, don’t connect well, and are often not on time. Some areas are very underserviced, particularly in North Burlington where some buses only run every hour. While the Plains rd. bus is one of the better serviced routes, except for the fact it is rarely on time (One time it was 17 minutes late causing me to be late for my meeting in Hamilton), the Francis rd. bus is one of the poorer routes. It stops around 8:00 on weekdays. If I have a meeting or go out for dinner downtown I can get in on the bus but have no choice but to walk or take a cab home. It starts later in the mornings on Saturday and only runs every hour. It doesn’t run at all on Sundays. Anyone who works retail or in restaurants and takes the bus has to find an alternative way to work on Sunday and to get home at night during the week. I often take the Go bus out of town on Sundays and have to take a cab to the Go station.
    Fares are one of the highest in the area and we have terrible service. If my boyfriend and I want to go downtown it costs us $7 to take the bus and we have to walk several blocks to the bus stop. For $9-$10 dollars we can take a cab and be picked up at our house. I’m lucky I live close enough to downtown to do this. Many do not. I spoke with one gentleman recently, who lives in north east Burlington, who says he never comes downtown at night because he can’t get a bus home, he doesn’t want to drink and drive and cab fare to get home is way to expensive.
    Burlington has consistently underfunded transit. While I would love to have free transit as Monte suggests I would be even happier if we had convenient transit. Free transit is not helpful if there is not a bus to get where you are going and in a timely manner, not several times the time it takes to drive. This is another issue. Depending where you are going, a 20 minute drive can take as much as an hour and a half by bus, often involving more than one transfer. If you have a car which would you choose. Burlington talks about a being greener, it’s in the Strategic Plan. How can we do that if transit is so inconvenient it makes more sense to drive, at least for those who can. Not everyone can or wishes to drive or can afford a car.
    Once again there is the issue of employment. How many people have had to turn down employment because they don’t drive and can’t get a bus. I know I have and I once left a retail job because of inadequate bus service.
    Burlington we need to do much better.

  • BurlingtonLocal

    Monte: If you don’t charge a fare, the service isn’t free, it’s complimentary. I have no interest is subsidizing an even larger portion of the ticket price for Burlington’s transit customers. Ridership is down again in 2015 because our city is more walkable than it was 10 years ago, not because our bus system is inadequate or expensive.

    • JQ Public

      OK – complimentary then. I would have more of my taxes go to transit rather than new roads, so I guess we disagree on that. And I’ve never taken a bus in Burlington! I cycle, walk or drive everywhere. But as I age, I expect I will use transit and contribute less to climate change.

      I see no difference in taxes going to new roads and road maintenance than going to transit. For some strange reason (I guess we’re just car crazy), money spent on roads isn’t called a subsidy, but money spent on transit is. Maybe that’s because we don’t recoup anything from roads while we do charge for transit. For roads it’s everybody pays; for transit it’s user pays, along with some help from everybody.

      Yes, transit costs, in vehicles and drivers, more than it recovers in fees. But until it is treated as an essential service and given the respect it is due, we will stay mired in this subsidy argument and make no real progress. Some day I hope to be alive to see no fare transit! Paid by my taxes. Ridership will soar. And less traffic for the drivers. Lots of people will win.

  • Monte

    Why not try a BOLD experiment and not charge a fare at all for the use of transit?
    Straighten out some routes to make it faster and more efficient and see if people then use it. If citizens do not use a free service, then we are in more trouble than we think.

    If, however, ridership greatly increased then factor in the cost of less road use, maintenance, fewer roads etc. and then see if transit can really have payoffs?

    Bold, you say? Well we have debating the existing system for years and will continue to do so forever by only doing small incremental changes!

    By repeating the same things with only incremental changes why do we expect things will change ?