Benefits of free transit the topic of a Bfast Forum

By Staff

September 25th, 2023



Last Saturday Bfast held a Transit Users’ Forum with presentations on the state of transit in Burlington and the opportunity for riders and others to ask questions or voice concerns to officials from Burlington Transit.

Burlington Transit Director Catherine Baldelli addressing the Bfast participants.

With about 60 people in-person attending the event at the Burlington Central Public Library, and some watching via Zoom, the forum included a re-cap of Burlington Transit operations and plans by Transit Director, Catherine Baldelli; an address from Councillor Rory Nisan, Deputy Mayor for the Environment; and a keynote presentation by acclaimed economist from McMaster University, Dr. Atif Kubursi.

Doug Brown – there isn’t a bus on the face of this earth that Doug Brown wants to see carrying people.

“Burlington’s Transit Users’ Forum is unique in Canada,” said Doug Brown, chair of Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST), the lead organizer of the forum. “There is no event like it anywhere else. It speaks to Burlington Transit’s commitment to engage with its riders that our transit agency supports and participates in this exercise, which is organized by citizen volunteers.”

Baldelli reminded the audience that Burlington Transit is in the midst of a 5-year strategic plan that points the way to the electrification of the fleet. But first, the system needed to be upgraded to accommodate the needs of the public. Reliability, connectivity, frequency and switching to more of a grid-like route system have all been addressed. Numerous outreach and public sessions have been instituted to keep the public informed.

“Pre-pandemic, things were looking great for the transit system, then Covid hit,” Baldelli said. “This year we are on target to match earlier ridership levels.”

McMaster University, economist Dr. Atif Kubursi spoke to transit users during a weekend Bfast meeting.

Professor Kubursi’s analysis focused on ‘The Total Benefits of Free Transit’. Benefits touch on economics, equality, addressing climate change, and social equity. Of particular note Kubursi zeroed in on free transit, something that Burlington has offered to seniors and at specific times to youth under 19.

Kubursi stated, “Free transit can be a powerful tool for promoting social equity. It eliminates transportation costs, making it more accessible to low-income individuals and families. This means that everyone, regardless of their economic status, has equal access to essential services, job opportunities, and educational institutions, ultimately reducing disparities in society.”

Free transit also invites riders to explore more of their city and the money saved on fares will, in most cases, be spent on local goods and amenities. The challenge is how to pay for free transit. “Cities must find alternative funding sources to cover the costs previously generated from ticket sales and fares.” Kubusi noted. “The success of free transit relies on changing the behaviour of commuters accustomed to using personal vehicles. Ultimately, free transit has the power to create more sustainable, equitable, and vibrant urban environments for residents and future generations.”

The forum concluded with a question and answer session featuring Baldelli, Nisan, Kubursi and Glenna Cranston, a member of BFAST.

Transit advocates attended the live event; some took part virtually.

Questions from the audience included concerns about frequency, connections, why do some buses get delayed or taken out of service suddenly and how can riders learn of the interruption, and the policy on dogs on buses (service and support dogs are allowed).

BFAST wishes to thank those organizations that supported the forum and the group looks forward to next year’s forum while it advocates for an even better transit system in Burlington.


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5 comments to Benefits of free transit the topic of a Bfast Forum

  • Dee

    So, Mr Waggett, you have no concern for the effects your vehicle is having on the environment. You have no concern for the elderly and infirm residents of this city. You only have concerns for the fact that your property taxes are paying for free transit for seniors. Do you stop to think that what they paid in property taxes over the years is now paying for the upkeep of the roads you are driving driving on. Your attitude beggars belief! Keep thinking that way and in just few years there will be so many cars on the roads of Burlington that your 8 minute drive may be faster on the bus after all.

  • Dee

    You can tell the people who are fortunate to have access to a vehicle. Talk about entitled! Some people in this city cannot afford a vehicle, cannot drive or afford to taxi everywhere. Most cities are upgrading their transit systems, going electric or installing light rail transit. But because YOU don’t need it, nobody else should have it. This is exactly what a portion of your property taxes are for. Get over yourself and have a thought for others.

  • Grahame

    What is Bfast anyway?

    Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit

  • Grahame

    Did anyone ask why we need large buses cruising around with few if any passengers.

  • Philip Waggett

    Why do you keep calling the transit “free”? It’s paid out of my ever escalating property taxes. And will I use transit? Likely never. It make work for students and people who live along the transit line but it won’t work for me. I’m a senior who lives in South Burlington and my two key criteria for using any form of transportation are time-efficiency and convenience. Do you really believe I’m going to spend 45 minutes travelling to the Burlington Centre by bus when I can get there in 8 minutes by car? And other destinations in this city are even worse to get to by transit.