Another one of those win - win - win ideas that Jim Young believes can actually be achieved in the first 100 days of the new city council.

100 daysThe Gazette invited readers to tell the city council that will be sworn in next Monday what they felt were the more important issues that could be acted upon in the first 100 days of four year term.  So far there have been some very good ideas; there are also some ideas that suggest the writer was not all that well informed.

Jim Young, an Aldershot resident involved in the early stages of the Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) initiative has also been a member of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee that has been advocating for a better transit deal for seniors.

By Jim Young
November 30th, 2018

In a previous Op Ed for The Gazette on the “First Hundred Days” I asked for patience and realistic expectations from a new council. Most of the issues that gave rise to the electoral shake up at Burlington City Council are simply too big and complex to expect them to be resolved in the first hundred days.

The “Adopted” Official Plan, Changes to The Downtown Mobility Hub and the missing Transit and Parking Plans all require significant work by staff and review and reconsideration by council. They may also require Regional approval and compliance with Provincial Legislation. So while work on these gets underway in the first hundred days, don’t expect quick results on these portfolios. Given the last fiasco on the OP, we should be demanding that council and staff take appropriate time to seek our input and get the OP right this time.

However one immediately winning issue that can be achieved as a simple 2019 Budget Amendment, is “Free Transit for Seniors during Off Peak Hours” (10.00 to 2.30 Monday to Friday). An idea whose time has surely come.

This was originally proposed by Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee in 2016 for the 2017 budget and defeated by 6 votes to 1. The idea is detailed in BSAC Position Paper “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody” and has since been adopted by Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BfAST) who support the idea and for other disadvantaged groups and as part of a more comprehensive Long Term Transit Plan.

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young with Director of Transit Sue Connor.

In the BfAST 2018 election All Candidate Transit Survey, all six Councillors elect and Mayor elect indicated support for the idea. Some wholeheartedly, some with qualification, suggesting it might be expanded to other disadvantaged groups.

The buses already run empty during those off-peak hours so the only cost is an amount of lost revenue and that is not overwhelming. Based on figures supplied by Burlington Transit in 2016 I calculated it might cost between $48,500 per year and $72,750 depending on the rate of uptake. The previous Director of Transit agreed the cost for a one year trial would be less than $100,000. In an email to me his biggest concern was that any trial would prove so popular, it would be difficult to repeal. It is less than one half of one percent of the city transit budget.

It is possible that provincial funding for transit, a complex formula based on ridership (not revenue) might increase enough to offset any loss of revenue.

Perhaps Transit Director, Sue Connor, who has won the respect of city staff and transit advocates equally, can provide updated figures for the cost, the potential Provincial funding increases and whether there might be an overall gain for Burlington Transit.

As well as filling our mostly empty, off-peak buses the “Improving Transit Paper” details the impact of: Reducing Traffic Congestion, Improving Road Safety, Reducing C02 Emissions, Providing a Dignified Alternative for drivers who lose their Drivers License to age related issues. It also outlines some economic benefits for the city and local businesses and the health benefits to seniors who suffer from social isolation.

Bfast 2018 forum

Bfast events that bring citizens up to date on transit events are always well attended. Might they be heard by the new city council as well?

So come on Mme. Mayor and Brand New Councillors. What are you waiting for? This will help Fill the Buses, Reduce Traffic Congestion, Improve Road Safety, Provide Economic Benefit for Local Retailers and help improve the Health and Well being of our Seniors; all of which I’m sure were on your platforms.

This is a win – win – win for Council, for Burlington Transit and for Seniors. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate that our new council listens to our citizens and delivers on its election platforms and positions.

Related news story:

Seniors Advisory committee request for a pilot project doesn’t get past a Standing Committee

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8 comments to Another one of those win – win – win ideas that Jim Young believes can actually be achieved in the first 100 days of the new city council.

  • Penny

    The hop on hop off as a pilot project has to start somewhere. There is a large demographic of seniors who live in the downtown. This could be available for students as well. If successful there then it can be implemented in other areas of the city.

    Free transit for seniors or anyone else will do nothing for those living in Alton Village where there is no transit system.

    A better transit system is needed. The residents deserve more than “a band-aid” solution.

    • Collin

      I didn’t understand why the old council had a problem with free off-peak transit for seniors and it’s odd to hear your objections as well Penny. Burlington has a large proportion of seniors all across the city, not only downtown. Your “hop on hop off” may be a good idea but it doesn’t mean free off-peak transit for seniors is a bad one.

      The point of this series of articles is to propose “issues that could be acted upon in the first 100 days” of the new Council’s term. Free off-peak transit for seniors is something that could easily be done at low cost, and with today’s fleet and staff complement at Burlington Transit. The service you propose would require more buses, more drivers and a rethink of the transit budget — not something that can be done within 100 days.

      Let’s get behind free off-peak transit for seniors. It enjoys widespread support among the new City Council and the electorate. It can be done now. It will build ridership across the system. And it’s been well thought out and costed over the past couple of years by the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee.

  • Collin

    Well said Jim. Not only will free transit for seniors fill the buses, it will bring revenue through the provincial gas tax to Burlington Transit. Burlington currently receives about 27 cents per ride from the tax, based on a formula that factors population and transit ridership. A win-win-win indeed!

  • Pam Casey

    i would like to see the bus fare for seniors available 24/7. and the bus that runs to the Senior Centre – 300 – available 9-5. The seniors centre is full all the time and let’s get the 75 plus crowd off the road and into buses.

  • Penny

    Providing free transit for seniors on off-peak hours is not the real problem why seniors do not use public transit. The problem is that the current transit system does not meet the needs of the residents. The 300 bus routes, in my opinion, are not working. These buses whose hub is at the Music Centre across from the Senior Centre start too late and end too early – 10am-2:30pm. They have also been poorly marketed. Most people don’t even know they exist or their routes.

    Why not a “hop on, hop off” bus route that starts at Lakeshore/Brant and goes all the way up Brant Street to Brant Hills Community Centre. This would allow seniors to get on one bus with one bus ticket and make multiple stops – No Frills Plaza, the lab on Ghent, Walmart, Costco etc.

    Presently one can use a transfer for 90 minutes. Toronto has a pilot project allowing 2 hours to use a transfer…Certainly this is something Burlington can do.

    If the new council decided to provide the free service for seniors on off-peak hours it will not address the real problem. Let’s not give them a reason not to take a really hard look at what has to be done for residents to have a system that really meets their needs.

    • Jim Young

      Free Seniors Transit will not solve all the transit woes in Burlington but it will get more seniors out of cars and on to buses. Yes the 300 service could be much better but running a hop on hop off up Brant St only serves Downtown, Branf Hils and Tyandaga. What about Aldershot, Alton, Lakeside, Wards 1, 3,4,, 5 and 6? Again the 300 service only serves members of The Seniors Centre. That’s about 2500 out of some 35,000 Burlington Seniors. ( I too am a Seniors Centre member)
      Yes Burlington Transit needs to be better, needs more investment. Hopefully that is being planned…But there have been Transit Plans in the works for as long as I can remember and we are still waiting.
      There are also the congestion, road safety, isolation and emissions issues that will be improved.
      Free Off Peak Transit is doable immediately and, as I said in the Article, it was approved by all councillors (elect) in The BfAST All Candidate Survey and all the other benefits were in their platforms too.
      It is not the answer to everything, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

  • Susan L.

    I just read, “Printed Burlington Transit Ride Guide is no longer being produced.”

    So unless a senior has a computer or a smart phone, they won’t know what the bus schedule is.

    I would like to add that Burlington Transit’s phone number is 905-639-0550. I don’t know what the office hours are though.