City Council is expected to endorse a request to the federal government for transit financial support

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 25th, 2020


When revenue from the transit fare box drops by $475,000 a month something has to be done.

Burlington Transit wasn’t the travel mode of choice for the majority of people in Burlington. It was however building the ridership with some impressive gains. Transit experienced a 14.2% increase in ridership from September 2019 to February 2020, due to the introduction of new service, schedules and a grid network.

Burlington Transit getting new buses - to deliver less service.

The hope for Burlington Transit was that this might have been one of the last diesel powered buses in the fleet. There isn’t a clear path for transit yet as the country works through the COVID19 virus.

That growth came to a sudden and financially painful halt in March when the COVID19 Pandemic was declared.

Burlington is not alone with this problem. The unprecedented drop in public transit ridership provoked by the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting public transit agencies right across Canada putting in jeopardy their financial viability and future ability to operate.

Collectively the transit operators across the province are working with the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) Canada’s largest public transport lobby, the membership of which includes most Canadian transit agencies, has called for urgent emergency funding to address the immediate liquidity issues of transit operators while providing financial stability while ridership rebuilds; and

CUTA estimates as many as 40 per cent of systems may require bridge funding over the coming months requiring some $1.2 billion to help them keep the buses and trains running.

CUTA is seeking $400 million a month to keep services running as fare box and other revenue drop by up to 100 per cent.

CUTA points out that it will likely take some time for transit operators to rebuild ridership to February 2020 levels during a gradually return to more normal economic activity and that without a quick infusion of funds by the Government of Canada it is impossible to assure that the gains made over the past decade in growing the modal share of all rides taken via collective transit will not be lost;

City Council expects to endorse CUTA’s request to the Government of Canada at its Council meeting this evening.

Sue Connor at mike

Director of Burlington Transit Sue Connor

When Burlington appointed Sue Connors to be the Director of Transit she quickly changed the culture at Transit and assembled a team that worked hard to bring about changes – they were succeeding.  Now Connors, the kind of person who wants to get things done, finds herself sitting with a fleet that needs upgrading for a client base she isn’t sure is going to be there when the drivers are back behind the wheel.

Connors was working on plans to create an electric fleet that was in line with city council’s direction.  It was going to be expensive, however Council had taken the view that Climate Change mattered and keeping bus exhaust out of the environment had to be done.

Council was excited – the transit staff were delighted – they were finally being led by someone who cared deeply about public transit.

What now ?  The focus  is to secure funds just to keep the buses on the roads.

It will be interesting to hear what Council has to say this evening.



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