Improved transit service will require a political commitment for increased funding.

opinionandcommentBy Doug Brown

March 7th, 2018



The transit survey is not a bad idea – but is a very minor item when so much more is needed.

I believe that the City Manager and new Transit Director are committed to improving transit. However, this will require a political commitment for increased long-term transit funding. Will this be possible given that our council that has consistently cut transit and the City now spends less than one half of the GTA per capita average on transit?


Doug Brown, a relentless advocate for better transit funding is never happier than when he sees a bus – two buses produces a smile.

The analysis that James Ridge, Sue Connor and Colm Lynn presented to Council on September 7, 2017 made a very compelling case for immediate money to bring the transit system up to labour standards and provide better safety and reliability. For the first time in recent years, this council listened and approved the emergency funding.

During his September 7 presentation to council, the City Manager made clear that the emergency funding would still leave Burlington with “a crappy system” i.e. with low service levels and long wait times – but at least it would run on time and within provincial labour standards.

So what is really needed now is a comprehensive transportation study that will look at all aspects of transportation, roads, cars, transit, walking, cycling, parking, and development. This study should develop alternative options and evaluate the alternatives against economic, social and environmental criteria. Unfortunately, this is not happening as plans for transit, roads, parking, and cycling continue to be developed separately.

The City must begin to look at the cost of transit with regard to all the benefits that a robust transit system would provide – i.e. large savings in road and parking expenditures; improved air quality; improved road safety; improved social accessibility and equity; and savings in private automobile costs.

The economic benefits of transit have been documented in a number of Canadian studies. A national study of the economic benefits of transit concluded that municipalities could make no better investment than in transit with “a rate of return of at least 12% if not more.” A recent study in Hamilton showed significant economic benefits from transit investments, while in Waterloo Region, their transportation plan determined that a transit-oriented scenario would provide more economic, social, and environmental benefits than the car-oriented scenario.

The financial case for better transit has been clearly demonstrated. The question is not whether we can afford better transit, but whether we can afford not to invest more in transit.

Will “Canada’s Best Mid-Sized City” continue to have a “crappy” transit system or will we build a good transit system to provide accessibility for all our citizens, and make the City truly a liveable, walkable, community.

Doug Brown has been a transit advocate for decades and is a founding member of Bfast: Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit

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