Riley partners with Aaron Hutchinson on one of 17 art installations at the AGB on the 16th

eventspink 100x100By Staff

September 6th, 2016



Less than ten days and the crowds will descend on Brock Park – just behind the Art Gallery of Burlington and take in the fourth edition of No Vacancy which this year is branded with the title – MoonGlade.

There will be 17 installations both inside and outside the Art Gallery.

Cirque-Student-Theatre-mannequins 2014

One of the 2014 No Vacancy installations.

Live music and Food Trucks parked along Nelson Street.

Jim Riley, a Video Artist and Sound Sculptor Aaron Hutchinson will be setting up their installation in the Rotary Room of the AGB. They are calling it “Inside his mind 2”

The genesis for “inside his mind2” was the artist’s reflections after a day of bicycling with his fourteen-year-old nephew. Ten years later Riley has revisited the concept of “transitioning” in this video installation. Riley blends documentary evidence and social commentary to depict the transformation for boy to young adult man, as seen in our contemporary culture.


Inside his mind

There is a two channel video projection using a left and right eye to show the past and present activity of the young man. Riley incorporates the blood moon in to this installation both within the space as well as video projections. The moon is often used to symbolize mystery such as transitions.

Aaron Hutchinson has collaborated with Riley to create the sound sculpture for “inside his mind2”.
Sound Sculpture is an intermedia and time based art form. It is an expansion of an art installation in the sense that it includes the sound element and therefore the time element.

Jim Riley

Jim Riley, video artist

Jim Riley is a Burlington, ON, based artist and independent curator who is deeply involved in the organizational side of the arts collective that has upgraded itself to an Arts Council. His art practice is a blend of documentary evidence, personal ideology, social commentary and artistic investigations. Riley’s present aesthetic investigations explore time and perceptual memory. His recent art practice has involved public art and gallery video installations. He has a BA from Brock University. Riley has exhibited his art in Canada and the US. Some of Riley’s video art is represented by V tape Distributions, Toronto.

Aaron Hutchison - Hamilton

Aaron Hutchinson

Aaron Hutchinson is a new media artist and musician from Hamilton (MA in Communication and New Media, McMaster University). He currently makes music in a variety of ensembles that have taken him around Canada, the United States and Germany. Aaron won the 2012 Hamilton Arts Award for emerging artist in New Media. He is a founding member of the Hamilton Audio Visual Node (HAVN) and the music director of HAVN records. (

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Is it just small-minded political parochialism and old-style partisan politics having Hamilton say NO to a $Billion for an LRT line?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 1, 2016



It could be the culmination of all that pollution from (former) Stelco and the other steel company taking its toll on the brain cells of some Hamilton City Councilors.

Or it might be the fact that this city is still almost ungovernable, perhaps even more so after over a decade of forced amalgamation. Or perhaps it is just small-minded political parochialism and old-style partisan politics getting in the way. But Hamilton is on the cusp of saying NO to a billion dollars.

The Province has offered to build a billion dollar light rapid transit system through the downtown core of this rust-belt city at no direct cost to Hamilton. But some Councilors are playing politics.

LRT outside city hall

A model of the proposed LRT was placed outside Hamilton city hall for a number of months.

Some Councilors who don’t have constituents in the downtown core are looking for a political payoff in order to vote yes to the billion dollar transit gift. That is one of the games in municipal politics, the parochial politician who won’t support anything that benefits other parts of the city unless he/she also gets something in return.

This is a Liberal provincial government making the one-time offer, and it certainly seems that those who support, or once sought election for, another political party are saying no thanks. Is it that they’d rather see Hamiltonians lose the only realistic hope for a rapid transit system in a long time, than see the Wynne government get the credit?

There is a lot of spin by the naysayers. What if the construction costs more than a billion? What if the McMaster University terminus moves and that demand dries up? How will emergency vehicles cross the elevated tracks? Won’t self-driving electric cars and buses make rapid transit obsolete?

Pier 8 Hamilton

There are plans to develop Pier 8 – putting housing where shipping sheds now stand in the north end of the city. GO train station is within walking distance.

Not that building a high speed transit line is without hiccups and annoyances. The line under construction in Kitchener has taken longer than expected and is very disruptive to local residents and businesses. Still the public there have not lost patience nor passion, knowing that the pain is worth the gain.

They understand how the subway in Toronto grew the downtown economy of that city, preventing its decline into the ’60/70’s rust belt which plagued other cities in the Great Lakes basin, including Hamilton. No economic studies have shown a downside for the investment from Hamilton’s perspective. And just about everyone expects that mass transit will provide a much needed kick-start to revitalizing a commercially depleted and desperate downtown Hamilton.

I lived in Vancouver when the Sky Train came into operation. Rapid transit has proven to be one of the best things that ever happened to that city, which would otherwise be choking on the exhaust fumes of its own success, more than it is. Unfortunately Hamilton’s dim-sighted politicians decided against a similar system when it was offered by the Davis government back in the day. Concerns over commuters peeking into residents’ backyards apparently put that project into the waste bin of history.


Is it just small-minded political parochialism and old-style partisan politics having Hamilton say NO to a $Billion for an LRT line?

I wrote about the last municipal election in this space back in 2014. One of the biggest challenges seen by the mayoralty contestants was getting independent minded Councilors to work as if they were in a team – to focus on what is good for the city rather than just their own ward or their own political ambitions.

Despite his best intentions, that doesn’t seem to be working for Mayor Eisenberger. If Hamilton’s politicians are so determined to only look after their own interests, why were they so enthusiastic about making the city one big community? Perhaps the answer lies in eliminating the ward system and electing the entire council at large.

LRT picture of trains

Development has always followed transit – will the planned LRT create a new Hamilton?

Of course that billion dollars offered by the Province is not really free. Provincial grants are made up of all our money, collected mainly through provincial income and sales taxes – and there is only ever one taxpayer. So the cost-benefit question is whether there will be at least a billion dollars of increased net economic activity. That seems to be the expectation, and nobody is arguing that this infrastructure investment will be a waste of taxpayer money.

So what is stopping the politicians from getting to yes? The vote is next scheduled for September and I’ll be watching to report on the decision. Are our municipal politicians prepared only to put their particular interests ahead of the general welfare of the city, or do they really believe in the new Hamilton?

Rivers looking to his left

Ray Rivers

Ray Rivers is an economist and author who writes weekly on federal and provincial issues, applying his 25 years of involvement with federal and provincial ministries. Rivers’ involvement in city matters led to his appointment as founding chair of Burlington’s Sustainable Development Committee. He was also a candidate in the 1995 provincial election.

Editor’s note:  Why would a Burlington paper publish an opinion piece about Hamilton?  Because Hamilton is going to be the economic engine that pulls Burlington along with it and knowing what that engine is doing and where it is going tells us where we will end up.  The parochialism that exists in Hamilton also exists in Burlington.

Background Links:

Rust Belt –  LRT –   10 Questions –  Vote Postponed 

Waterloo Experience –    HSR –    Gazette article Oct 2014

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Will employers see improved transit service for their workers - several pilot projects are being worked up.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

August 23, 2016


As we move into the fall and the workings of the city take on a more business-like manner much will be said about the Strategic Plan and how it is going to guide and direct the growth of the city.

Mary Lou Tanner

Burlington Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner

And make no mistake the operating word will be growth. City Director of Planning told council that her department was going to  build “Bold, Smart and  Beautiful.”

One of the four pillars that hold up the Strategic Plan is the City that Moves – which covers everything from more opportunities to walk to the places people want to shop and visit, changes in road lane configuration to accommodate bicycles (see the story on that issue – it has close to 50 readers aroused enough to make comments) and improvements on the public transit file.

Transit, which somehow fell out of favour with this council some time ago and was basically starved for financial resources

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city's bus schedule.

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city’s bus schedule.

Doug Brown who knows as much about transit as anyone in this city maintains that “since Burlington Tranit’s inception in 1975, Burlington has never had a first rate transit system. The transit system was good enough in 1982 to attract my family to Burlington. Among the systems good points at that time were: $0.70 fares that were also accepted by the Lakeshore GO bus within Burlington; 15 minute daytime service on the major routes; and a first class terminal on Elizabeth St.

“Since the late 80’s, the under-funding and micro-management of Burlington Transit by City Council, combined with City growth, has led to a long series of service cuts, fare increases, and a reduced ridership base comprised largely of those who do not have access to a car (youth, seniors, low-income, disability).

“I think ridership is probably the best indicator if how well the system is performing. In the mid-80’s the transit modal shore hit a peak of 7% Since that time, ridership has declined to the present 2%. The Ontario Municipal Board has imposed a requirement in our Official Plan that ridership reach 11% by 2030.”

While knowledgeable citizens argue the merits of the public transit system employers have to deal with the hard reality that they are having some difficulty attracting the labour they need due to poor transit service.
When the employers have a problem they go looking for solutions.

Enter the Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC). The minds over there are being applied to the transit problem – especially as they relate to some of the larger employers along the North and South Service roads where transit service is sort of skimpy.


Burlington Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Frank McKeown

The BEDC formed an Employer Advisory group and is working with three different employers (they weren’t identified) to come up with a pilot program.

Anita Cassidy, Manager, special Projects acknowledged that the BEC is working on several possible pilot programs that will get announced in the fall. “We are working on bringing a pilot forward with three different employers” said Frank McKeown, Executive Director of BEDC.

Burlington has the distinct disadvantage of having one of the highest public transit ticket prices in the Greater Toronto Hamilton market area. It is also one of the few city’s that doesn’t use all the gas tax money from the federal and provincial governments to improve the transit system.

It will be interesting to see what the BEDC comes up with in September – something had to be done and transit couldn’t seem to make anything happen on their own.

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Parts of Drury Lane to be closed for more than a month.

notices100x100By Staff

August 9th, 2016



The error in the map – blame the city – not the Gazette has been corrected.

Notice of Temporary Road Closure – Prospect Street at Drury Lane, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 to Friday, Oct. 21, 2016
Prospect Street from Joyce Street to Ashley Avenue and Drury Lane from Sharron Street to Fairview Street will be closed Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 to Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 to reconstruct and install new water mains and sanitary sewers.

Drury lane map Local access to homes and business will be maintained. Please refer to the map for vehicle and transit detours.

For more information, please contact Bob Jurk at 905-335-7600, ext. 7682 or

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New Street from Guelph Line east is now open - transit route changes to be effective August 14th.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 2nd, 2016


Progress we think – and as one of those people who lived at the intersection of New Street and Guelph Line – we are all mighty pleased that we no longer have to dodge construction equipment and work our way around pot holes that pull hub caps off the vehicle

Many of us think the Regional chair owes us at least one car wash – the dust was incredible.

Then interim director of transit - now the newly minted Director of Transit for the city of Burlington, Mike Spicer replaces Donna Sheppard who retired as Director last August.

Director of Transit for the city of Burlington, Mike Spicer serving as a Court Jester?

The city transit people has announced schedule adjustments that begin August 14 upon completion of New Street construction.
Schedule adjustments effective August 14, 2016.

Routes 10 and 20 will return to normal routing upon completion of the New Street construction project. Minor adjustments have also been made to select trips on routes: 1, 11, 80 and 101.

New Street construction

The intention is to replace water and sewage pipe lines all along New street and add bicycle lanes on a trial basis as well east of Guelph Line.

Use the new Trip Planner and Next Bus link to know when the bus will depart in real-time. Add to your favourites or call the automated phone system 905-639-0550 and enter in your Stop ID.

The last we heard was that the Trip Planner and Next Bu link were getting a technical touch up. We never heard back from the transit people.

We will now give that service a test and let you know how it is doing.

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Transit advocate puts his plan for free bus service during off peak hours back in front of council - they don't nibble.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

July 14th, 2016


Jim Young, a 34-year resident of Burlington is an active member of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee; he represent them on the Integrated Transportation Advisory. Young was delegating on an issue that he is passionate about – how seniors get around the city.

Jim Young

Jim Young – thinks the city should consider letting seniors use buses free during off peak hours.

Council was listening to people who had thoughts on the cycling lanes that city is considering putting in on various parts of New Street.

“I delegate today” said Young “as a private citizen to offer my private thoughts on the issue at hand.”

“You will understand that for many seniors cycling is not an immediate or pressing issue, (for some of us walkability is challenging enough) though for many seniors it is a hobby that we would love to practice in the healthiest and safest manner available to us. To that end I believe most citizens are generally supportive of the concept, that moving forward, the City must look to promoting cycling as a viable transportation alternative that must be encouraged and accommodated safely, in line with its strategic plan as a ”City that Moves”.

“I would however ask that any accommodation for safer cycling be considered in a way that does not impede or reduce improvements to transit services. Transit is the mode of transport which, by the nature of aging and economic necessity, is probably more the transport mode of the future for seniors in Burlington than cycling.

“So when council comes to weigh the alternatives for bicycle lanes on New Street and the relatively high costs of some of them I would ask you to consider these two thoughts:

Accommodating the sixty cyclists identified in the New Street study for approximately ¾ of the year will cost between $121,000.00 and $4,950,000.00 depending on the alternative chosen. The staff recommended alternative is estimated at $210,000.00.

If you have not already received it, council will very soon be asked to consider a position paper from one of your citizen’s advisory committees titled “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody”.

Will there be a reduction in the number of people who use the transit service when the new rates hit May 1st? Probably not - the people who use transit for the most part don't have a choice.

Transit advocate would like the city to let seniors use the service free during off peak hours.

“I have worked with many of you” said Young as he addressed members of council “and city management as well preparing the paper that will recommend free transit for seniors during off peak hours between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm, Monday to Friday. The cost for this will be between $48,500.00 and $72,750.00 per year.

Young added that “even Keith Spicer, Director of Transit, will, when his arm is twisted, agree it will probably cost less than $100,000.00. to provide this service.”

“I respectfully submit that as you consider allocating considerable sums of money to make 60 New Street cyclists happy for two thirds of the year that you consider what allocating a fraction of that money to free transit for seniors in off peak hours would do to making 35,000 Burlington seniors happy on every street all year round. (The $4.95 million option would provide free transit for the next 65 years.)”

It was at this point that Committee chairman Rick Craven, councilor for Ward 1, interrupted Young and asked that he no stray too far from the purpose of the meeting – which was cycling lanes.

Related news stories and comment:

Council couldn’t find a majority for free senior’s transit.

Citizen proposes free use of transit service for seniors during off peak hours.

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Burlington Transit’s online Trip Planner is temporarily unavailable

notices100x100By Staff

June 18th, 2016


Due to unexpected technical difficulties, – the online Trip Planner has been temporarily shut down while a solution is found.

The Gazette first reported problems with the computer application.

For access to real-time departure information, please call 905-639-0550 or visit Burlington Transit’s online schedules for scheduled departure times.

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Burlington partners with Hamilton for a second Bay Area economic summit; Premier Kathleen Wynne will speaking; feds will be in the room to hopefully get specific about infrastructure funding.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 17th, 2016


They are going to try it again – and maybe this time produce more in the way of results.

The Hamilton and Burlington Chambers of commerce are holding their second Bay Area Economic Summit, to promote strategic cooperation between the two cities to advance their respective regional economic development, prosperity and quality of life.
Burlington should be grateful for letting Hamilton allow us to hitch our little wagon to the freight train they have pulling their economy.

Aerial view - skyway bridge

No reason why this shouldn’t be a relationship made in heaven – does it need an office dedicated to nurturing the relationship?

While Hamilton city council seems to be waffling all over the planned LRT that gets loads of mention they do have a smoking economic agenda and is now the place to move to for all those Torontonians who were not able to convince their bank managers to go along with the size of the mortgage needed to buy a home in that city.

Hamilton is literally bristling with economic development.

Burlington outsourced its economic growth to an Economic Development corporation that said at its inception it needed time to gather meaningful data on which it could base their decisions.

Lots of data – but not very many decisions – they did put out an interesting graphic that WORDS.

BEDC art from web site

Art work used by the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. Did it manage to sell anything?

The Economic Summit is taking place at Royal Botanical Gardens, half of which is in Hamilton and some in Burlington, on Tuesday June 21, 7:30 am-5:00 pm, followed by a leadership reception.

Premier Wynne will be speaking – she might want to avoid explaining why Burlington now has two Cabinet Ministers because she convinced old war horse Ted McMeekin that he could live life better by doing less.

The Liberals now own the political landscape in Burlington – but Hamilton is the city experience healthy economic growth.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring, will play key roles in the proceedings – Eisenberg has the better jokes. There will be an update from the federal government on stimulus funding opportunities available to the Bay Area community – that will keep both Mayors paying close attention.

The media release spoke of building “on the momentum” of last year’s inaugural intercity summit; the recommendations were cited in a post-event discussion paper.

“This year, we’ll focus on significant opportunities of mutual interest ranging from regional transportation and growth management to big data, workforce development and environmental stewardship,” said Keanin Loomis, president and CEO, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “It’s all about responding to the needs of our stakeholders and building a bay area partnership required to strengthen teamwork, and attract talent and investment.”

The agenda, built around the tagline Leading Change in a Regional Age, will dive into three interrelated themes of interest to decision- and policy-makers on both sides of the bay and beyond:

The evolving role of the Bay Area in a growing regional and international economy
Strategies and tactics to position the Bay Area for long term success
Priority planning and actions to drive collaborative change

Mayor Rick Goldring with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Will she get re-elected before he faces the electorate and will he win when he does?

Mayor Rick Goldring with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Burlington’s Rib Fest. She visits the city frequently but doesn’t sprinkle any pixie dust.

In addition to morning and noon hour plenary sessions that provide a platform for key messages and announcements, the agenda will include 12 interactive breakouts on topics ranging from regional superclusters and transformations in healthcare to waterfront development and mixed use transit hubs, to name a few.

The summit will wrap up with the release of a communique crafted by event leaders that outlines a commitment to key actions moving forward.

The first summit set out some early steps for an organization that would continue the dialogue that began in 2015.

Feedback during and after BAES 2015 demonstrated great enthusiasm for the initiative and a desire to do it again in 2016. The boards, members and staff of the Hamilton and Burlington Chambers of Commerce are therefore committed to reconvene all stakeholders in June 2016 and to advance (in the interim and beyond) the shared agenda that has emerged from our efforts.

The most important commitments required at this time are from the Bay Area Subcommittee and the Cities of Burlington and Hamilton, including both Mayor’s Offices and Economic Development Departments. We are looking for involvement and investments at the same levels as 2015.

Rationale: The summit provides an existing high profile, multi-sector platform to advance informed thinking and action on the subject of Bay Area cooperation.

Achieve and Promote Early Successes: We will work with our partners to help advance signature Bay Area initiatives that are ripe for success, for example:

  • Help secure formal provincial recognition of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System as Ontario’s first “urban biosphere park”
  • Help support the exchange of local best practices related to planning and intensification — a topic of growing importance to Hamilton and Burlington
  • Help ensure the growth of “women in leadership” initiatives throughout the Bay Area

Rationale: Early successes in the advancement of the Bay Area will provide proof points and generate momentum moving forward.

Assign Dedicated Resources: If there is a desire to maintain the momentum and take advantage of the opportunities associated with further collaboration, we see the need to establish a part-time office dedicated to providing an interim organizational structure for intercity cooperation in the near and long term. Funding for the office would be provided by a consortium of stakeholders, including the City of Hamilton and City of Burlington.

Two immediate priorities for the office:

Form an intercity, multi-sector task force to investigate and report on proven partnership models that could be implemented locally to structure, fund, mobilize and sustain Bay Area cooperation over time. The task force would share its findings and recommendations at future summits.

Help local groups and organizations committed to Bay Area cooperation advance their shared initiatives — e.g., joint events, research, advocacy, planning, etc. A particular focus would be placed on helping achieve select “quick wins.”

Rationale: A dedicated office co-funded and supported by key Bay Area stakeholders would ensure that sufficient time and resources are applied to the important work of coordinating and driving the advancement of the Bay Area as a hub for economic development and quality of life.

This amounts to yet another office that will churn out reports and keep mid-level bureaucrats employed.

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System isn’t going to create jobs that add to the wealth of the community – money will be transfered from one pocket of the bureaucracy to another.

Burlington has significant residential development underway – part of the drive to meet intensification targets that had already been met.  The city is posting house price increases year over year in the 12% plus range – something that isn’t sustainable and makes the city too expensive a place for people who might find jobs in the city.

Ridge and Chris Murray - city managers

Can the guy on the left negotiate a better deal than the guy on the right ? James Ridge, city manager for Burlington wants to convince Chris Murray, city manager for Hamilton to sell some water lots.

What Burlington needs is a stronger employment base – that hasn’t been forthcoming despite a significant reset at the Economic Development Corporation.

There is one deal that could be closed at the summit – settling on a price for the water  lots at LaSalle Park – any bets on who is going to get the better of that deal?

getting new - yellowTo register or learn more, visit or contact Whitney Eames at or 905-522-1151 x 100.

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Transit announces a service that lets me get the information I need online - didn't work for me when I tried it.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

June 16th, 2016


Burlington Transit reports:   We have been having some issues with the software. It started last night and we have our vendor and IT people working on it. When we work out these issues it will work on all devices including phones,tablets and desk tops. 

I have asked staff to update our web site and advise our customers that we are unfortunately experiencing some technical issues and be patient as we work through them. 

Burlington Transit launches new mobile-friendly website with real-time data

Burlington Transit launched an improved, mobile-friendly website, which features real-time data for improved customer service.

It is all at

I wasn’t able to get the information I thought I was going to be able to get – like which busses I had to take to get from my building to a building somewhere else in the city.

Xcelsior BUS 009 FRONT VIEW

Transit is taking the available technology seriously. Making it really friendly right away would be nice.

The transit people said: “This is a significant customer service milestone. In 2011, only 9.9 percent of our web traffic at was through a mobile device or tablet,” said Mike Spicer, director of Burlington Transit. “In the past year, our statistics show that over 53 per cent of our web visitors are using a mobile device, and we expect that number to grow even higher in the years to come.”

Percentages are always a bit mis-leading – there were no raw numbers given. But let’s give them a good mark for trying.

They key features of the new, mobile friendly website include:

• Trip Planner: Plan your trip online by entering an address, intersection, stop ID or searching by popular locations.
• Schedule Finder: View a route or stop-specific schedule online or print one to take with you.
• Next Bus: Get real-time departure information for any bus stop location online or by calling 905-639-0550 with the stop ID number. Users can also see a live map showing the exact location of their bus.
• Stop Finder: Find the best stop location to suit your needs. View a list of amenities available at each stop so you can plan your trip with comfort.

The next steps of the Smart Transit System project include launching a Burlington Transit Twitter account, an online subscription service and online Handi-Van trip booking.

In the very near future we will meet with the good people at Burlington Transit and get them to take us through the new system – once we understand it – we will explain it to you.

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Local resident wants to prove that Burlington is a ‘sharing city’ - join him at the library on the 14th.

News 100 greenBy Staff

April 5, 2016


“From the time we are little, we are taught to share” declared Lawson Hunter. ”However, as we age, the desire to acquire ‘stuff’ grows as soon as we earn a little bit of money and join the consumer society. Advertising pushes us to buy the next best thing, a bigger, better, newer version, a complete set, to find happiness and fulfillment. That may be good for the economy but is it good for society?

Uber taxi

Uber taxi, while disruptive to the taxi industry, is one of the more popular sharing services.

“Capitalism may be built on competition,” says Lawson Hunter, “but history shows that we progress much further if we co-operate with one another.” Collaboration, the sharing of ideas and resources, takes us leaps and bounds beyond the private, proprietary approach. Community has always meant working together to achieve good for everyone, not just the individual. Inequality results when many hands do the work but only a few grow wealthy because of it. Sharing brings everyone up to the same level and everyone benefits.

Some call it the ‘sharing economy’; the gig economy; the gift economy; peer-to-peer accommodation; or collaborative consumption, but at its core it is very simple – if you’re not using something why not let someone else use it?

Though not officially counted in the GDP, the sharing economy could grow to $335 billion by 2025, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This is the foundation behind such revolutionary start-ups such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and dozens of other disruptive technologies that citizens and cities are embracing or challenging, depending on your point of view.

To that end, Hunter met with the Mayor to see if he could get something going at that level – the Mayor is going to think about it.

He has run the idea by a couple of council members – they didn’t day ‘not a hope’. Hunter, who is a letter carrier dabbles in some public relations consulting.

Library shelves with books

Libraries are perhaps the original sharing service.

The sharing economy has opened the door to more efficient uses of everyday items we own but do not use to their fullest capacity. For example, car ownership is ubiquitous and yet most cars sit parked for most of the day. Someone may purchase a drill only to use it a half a dozen times in total leaving it to lay in the toolbox for years. Books, clothing, household items may be used once or twice and then discarded. This is an incredible waste and unsustainable. Why not ‘share’ with someone else, reducing cost, optimizing resources, and extending the usefulness of thousands of articles?

Hunter points out that we already share quite a lot! We just don’t know about it or take it for granted. Libraries, food banks, used clothing stores, parks, public transit, recycled building materials, and even co-operative housing are examples of the sharing economy.

Volunteering to coach hockey, teaching someone to read, driving a patient to the hospital, carpooling, shoveling your neighbour’s sidewalk are just some of the ways we already ‘share’ our time and effort, goods and services. It’s important to measure, and celebrate, the many ways society shares its common resources. There is an international organization that wants every community to stand up and be counted in The Sharing Cities Network –

Getting it - blackHunter explains an event called a mapjam – a time when people get together and map out just where sharing is done in a city. “You would be surprised ay just how much sharing goes on” and points to a number of situations in Burlington where people on a street collectively own a heavy duty snow blower.
More than 500 MapJams have been hosted in 60 countries – two have taken place in Canada – Elora and Toronto.

bikes for rent

Many cities around the world have created bicycle sharing services.

Hunter wants Burlington to join that Network. To kick things off, he is hosting a ‘#Map Jam’ on Thursday, April 14, 7:30pm, Frank Rose Room, at the Burlington Central Library. Every organization that shares, opens its doors, facilitates exchanges, co-ordinates time-sharing or carpooling or food banks or little league sports, arts, and activities is invited to network, meet other sharing activists and exchange information. The general public is also invited to learn more about the sharing economy. “We may all be amazed at how we already are in the sharing economy,” says Hunter.

What Hunter is promoting is exactly what the Parks and Recreation department is trying to get going in the city.

Related news story – city prepared to fund projects

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The transit solution seems to be - spend more money - is it that simple?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 3, 2016


A year later, a crowd of about 65 – maybe 75 people gathered at the Central library on Satuday morning to review what, if any changes, there had been in the transit service.

Transit Overall gradesSome – but not enough – and the biggest concern – the funding of the transit service – isn’t going to change within the foreseeable future. The best transit users are going to get is platitudes – the budget for 2016 has been set and unless the federal government decides to send some coin to the municipalities with a transit string attached to it – the money is going to go into that “infrastructure deficit” council seems to rely upon to keep money from working its way into transit.

Bfast posterBfast, Burlington for Accessible Affordable Transit, prepared a report card on a number of metrics they selected. Here they are along with the grade each metric was given.

Transit Driver helpHelpfulness of Drivers: At the 2015 forum, participants broke into applause when the helpfulness of our BT drivers was mentioned. Everyone praised the friendliness and thoughtfulness of the bus drivers, who often help passengers in unusual circumstances. Even visitors to Burlington praise our drivers as evidence by this recent article in the Hamilton Spectator1.

Transit - ITS systemInstallation of ITS System: Although not an issue at the 2015 Transit Users Forum, over the past few months most buses have been automatically announcing audibly, and visually, stop announcements. This is a big help to all passengers, but is particularly needed by passengers with a visual or hearing impairment.

F – Lack of Convenience: Long headways (up to one hour), poor or no holiday evening or service, long distances to nearest bus stop, lack of service to many areas, – came up over and over again.

Transit - FaresFares: Recent fare increases have made Burlington fares among the highest in the GTA. Even higher than Toronto! This combined with the extensive route and schedule changes of November 2013 have resulted in a 15% loss of ridership.

Transit Rider informaiomSignage and Route and Schedule Information: The new bus stop signs now list the bus route numbers that serve each stop. We understand that BT is going to discontinue the Ride Guide and put in its place internet access to schedules and separate individual route maps. We think such a move will make it even harder for users without hand-held devices to access route and schedule information and urge Burlington Transit to have consultations with its users before any changes are made.

Transit - Handi vansHandi-Vans provide an essential service for people with disabilities unable to use the regular bus service. Unfortunately, as BT’s nine Handi-Vans cannot handle the current demand, users must book at least a week in advance. To deal with requests at short notice, such as necessary medical appointments, taxis should be used to supplement the Handi-Van fleet when required, as is the case in Oakville. (This provision would be better than the discontinued Taxi Scrip program, which many would like to see reinstated.) It should be added that several people questioned why blind people are excluded from using the Handi-Van service.

Transit - Tight schedulesUnrealistically Tight Schedules: Many riders pointed out that the bus schedules are too “tight”, making it very difficult for the drivers to stay on schedule. When a driver attempts to catch up after falling behind schedule, there may be a loss of safety – or drivers may be reluctant to help passengers enter and exit by lowering the bus and lowering the ramp.

Funding per capita

What does Burlington spend on transit compared to other municipalities.

All the shortcomings of Burlington transit system mentioned above result from a common cause: serious underfunding of transit by the City Council. It seems that the guiding principle when making decisions about transit is to save money, not to provide a good service.

There is more to it than that; the decision makers in this city just do not see a significant place for transit – this is a car city, everything about the way Burlington streets and neighbourhoods are laid out calls for the use of a car.

Tax numbersBfast has argued for some time that the city does not spend what it should be spending on transit.  While speaking to the Youth table at the Forum Mayor Goldring said that while Oakville spends more than Burlington their ridership numbers are not that much higher based on what they are spending.

Burlington is a city that has thousands of homes with garages – that are used as workshops or storage. The cars, as many as three for some families, sit on the drive way or on the street.

Much mention is made of walking – fine when you are out for a stroll – another thing when your arm are laden with those plastic shopping bags.

Cycling is the answer – try balancing all those plastic bags on the handle bars of a bike. It is only the exceptionally fit that will be on their bikes in the winter weather.

spokes guys GE NAMES

Robert Lovell, on the left, represented the Burlington Seniors’ Advisory committee at a city council meeting. James Young, on the right tried to explain to council that the object of their endeavors was not the cost but the services that were being delivered.

There is something unreal about the talk of ordinary people using bicycles. Sure students can and should be riding their bikes to school when they can. But for Dad to ride the bike to Hamilton or Oakville is unrealistic.

Moderately priced, well managed transit that designs routes and schedules that meet real needs has been proven to work in city’s that see transit as a public service and not a cost.

Swimming pools and hockey arenas are seen as services the public is prepared to pay for – so Burlington gets ice pads.

The city is not yet at the point where is can see transit as a public service – all they can see are busses that are close to empty at times.

Getting it - blueRoute design and frequency of service, which aren’t rocket science are the solutions the city needs to look for – not there yet.

Spicer + Ridge

Director of Transit Mike Spicer chats with City Manager James Ridge during the Bfast Forum on transit.

The report cards make that quite clear. What isn’t clear is how the city is going to tackle this problem. There was an additional positive at the Bfast Forum – the room full of people were very clear in not just what they wanted – but what they needed.

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Transit doesn't get a passing grade - but there are a couple of bright spots - just no money to pay for the needed improvements.

News 100 blueBy Staff

April 2, 2016


It was the second annual Transit Forum and was as well attended as the first last year.

Of significance was that the Director of Transit, Mike Spicer was on hand as was city manager James Ridge. Were they in real listening mode? Hard to tell – the voices setting out the needs and the problems were pretty clear.

Overall grades

Bfast, Burlington for Accessible Affordable Transit, chose not to issue an overall grade for the city’s transit service. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Bfast, the organization that put on the event, issued a report card – it wasn’t all bad – the parts that mattered however were still terrible.

Funding per capita

What is the problem with transit in Burlington – Bfast argues that it is funding – thy might be right.

The Gazette will report in more detail in the next few days. The Gazette is the only media in the room – Cogeco had a camera in the room and the Mayor got his couple of minutes. There was a photographer from Metroland in the room as well.

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Mayor interrupts delegation - says he was straying from the topic under discussion. So much for encouraging people to take part in the civic process.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

January 26th, 2016


It was his first serious delegation, one at which he had a concern he wanted to put before city council.

Vince Fiorito, a candidate in the last federal election and a committed environmentalist who spends some of his weekends clearing out rubbish from the city’s creeks, had announced to friends that he was planning on running for city council in his home ward in 2018.

His intention was to spend the next couple of years attending meetings and networking like crazy.

Vince Fitorio

Vince Fiorito was named the Watershed Steward for Sheldon creek. He now wants to become the member of city council for the ward he lives in – Sheldon Creek runs right through the middle of it.

Fiorito is the Steward of Sheldon Creek, a title given him by the Conservation Authority, something he takes very seriously.

His delegation to city council was to focus on what he felt was very poor citizen engagement and he launched into his presentation. Less than 18% of the people in this city know about the ways they can be engaged in the civic process he said.

The city treasurer said she was going to inform citizens about the budget but would not be engaging them, advised Fiorito.

He explained that while he as new to the ways of city hall he expected more public participation.

It was at that point that Mayor Goldring interrupted Fiorito and explained that while he could talk about civic engagement he had to confine his remarks to how civic engagement related to the budget that council was considering.

We recall the Mayor interrupting delegations in the past but never on such a fine point,

Fiorito thought he was going to be able to talk about his concerns over the poor level of citizen engagement – the Mayor advised him that he could talk about his citizen engagement but only as it pertained to the budget – which was limiting what Fiorito had planned – but he recovered and went on to make his point – which was that the public really wasn’t in the room when the budget was being discussed

Fiorito was taken aback at first. His first comment was “Gee whiz” as he fumbled a bit to figure out how he was going to get back on track.

He did pretty well – pointing out to council that Seattle had held 38 neighbourhood meetings and involved 30,000 citizens.

This was the kind of thing he wanted to see happen in Burlington.

He also pointed out that there were no evening sessions in the committee meetings that went through the budget in detail.

The Clerk informed Fiorito that there was a planned evening session but no one asked to be a delegate.

Most of the council members hold meetings in their wards to get local input. A couple of Ward 4 residents discuss a previous budget.

Most of the council members hold meetings in their wards to get local input. A couple of Ward 4 residents discuss a previous budget.

Councillor Dennison told Fiorito that he held a budget meeting for ward 4 residents and it attracted more people than the city meeting held at Tansley Woods. Dennison serves water and popcorn – that must be the attraction.

Councillor Meed Ward explained to Fiorito that many people send email to council members directly and questions are answered.

She and the Mayor asked for a link to the Seattle procedures.

There was to be a second delegation from Robert Lovell who had planned on talking about the need for the Free Monday transit for seniors – but he decided not to speak.
Was Lovell spooked by the way Fiorito was cut off by the Mayor?

Was it necessary for the Mayor to interrupt Fiorito? We have heard others go much further off track than Fiorito did without being interrupted.

What was most disappointing was while Fiorito had strayed – this was his first delegation and the Mayor could have cut him some slack.  Mayor Goldring did approach Fiorito after the meeting and apologized for having to interrupt and did invite him to meet with the Mayor and discuss his concerns.

What was disappointing as well was that the Mayor could have said that Burlington had some distance to go to pull in stronger citizen participation.

Those that might have watched the live broadcast will probably have concluded that delegating and getting shot down was not something they needed to experience.

Meed Ward as a delegation

Vince Fiorito, delegating for the first time at a city council meeting brought back visions of the days when Councillor Meed Ward used to delegate and press council on better transparency and more accountability.

Fiorito is cut from a different cloth. We saw traces of the original Marianne Meed Ward who delegated several dozen times pressing council to be more transparent and accountable before she was elected to office. And she began her climb to those august chambers several years before the 2010 election.

Fiorito seems to have decided to use the same approach. He will be worth watching. And don’t expect him to get tripped up again by the Mayor.


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Can the Mayor and the two Councillors who voted for the Free Monday transit for seniors find a fourth vote to make the basically no cost pilot take place?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 22, 2016


It’s called being between a rock and a hard place, The rules will ‘get ya’ every time.

Your city council and the staff at city hall will say, whenever they get the chance, that they are always transparent and always accountable and that they are there to serve the people of the city.

The words “citizen engagement” are sprinkled throughout the Strategic Plan that is working its way through the bureaucracy.

Look at this situation and see if you can find the transparency or the accountability or even a smidgen of citizen engagement.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data.

Burlington has a very good finance department; some of the most diligent people on the city payroll work in that department. They usually always have their fingers on whatever number a member of council might want. Whenever Treasurer Joan Ford doesn’t have a number at her finger tips or makes a small mistake she actually blushes with embarrassment and correct the error very quickly.

Our only beef is that the finance people are not particularly interested in engaging the citizens of the city – they are interested, and are very good at informing the public. These are two different approaches to civic government.

But that is not the current issue. The finance people set an aggressive agenda to get the 2016 budget completed. Debates on the budget take place within a Standing Committee.

Staff set out several days for the process of budget delegations and debate to take place.
Tuesday, January 19th: 10:30 to 6:30 – the meeting ended just after 4:30 pm
Wednesday January 20th: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Thursday January 21st: 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. This meeting did not take place; the Standing Committee was able to adjourn at 4:00 on the Wednesday when they set they recommended a tax increase of 3.16%

Delegations were held on the Tuesday during the day. For some reason they saw no reason to hold evening sessions- why not?

Why wasn’t there more in the way of public notices – the Gazette would have cheerfully run an advertisement for the city had they chosen to use our medium – which gives better value than any other media in the city – but I digress.

The delegations were strong, factual and well delivered and members of council certainly engaged those who were on hand to speak.

The Council debate took place the following day – the Gazette and the Spectator were the only media present.

It was a good debate – we saw some staff behave in a very disrespectful manner when a member of council put forward some data that was supplied by Oakville on their Free Monday for seniors program. A city Director came very close to saying he didn’t believe the numbers read out to him from the Oakville Director of transit. Our city manager, a former Canadian Armed Forces Captain, knows what insubordination is, quite why he didn’t intercede is a question he might want to answer.

When it came to a vote – those wanting the Free Monday transit for seniors lost on a 4 against – 3 for vote.

Councillor Craven is reported to have told an Aldershot resident that he liked the program – but he did not vote for it – that may have been because almost anything Councillor Meed Ward puts forward, Craven opposes. He didn’t speak at any length on the matter during the debate.

Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Paul Sharman voted no – he wanted more data.

Councillor Sharman always wants more data before he makes a decision – there does come a point when a decision has to be made based on experience and wisdom. There was the sense that the asking for additional data was punting the ball off the field.


Councillor John Taylor – he voted no – saw free transit as social welfare which most people didn’t need.

Councillor Taylor couldn’t help but see Free transit as some form of social welfare; his mind is still stuck in that old style thinking.

One wonders why Taylor does not label the $225,000 that is forgone in terms of parking fees for the free parking members of staff get every year. With that kind of money the city could make the transit service free to everyone.

Votes can be changed at city council; members can change their mind when they have new information.

But here is the rub. If council votes a second time on the budget matter of free transit for seniors on Monday’s and the vote is lost a second time – it cannot be brought back to council again for the balance of the term of office of this council – two and half years, unless the motion is brought by one of the people who originally voted against the motion – and that vote must pass with a 5-2 for vote just to get it on the table.

That is a high hill to have to climb and would make anyone who wanted to attempt to have the vote over turned at council think twice. Forcing the vote kills the opportunity for the balance of this term of office – which we suspect is exactly what some of the Councillors wanted.

A wiser mind would get into discussions with any member of Council they thought could be swayed – and if the votes were not there – then go to ground and wait for the right opportunity.

There is nothing to prevent council from asking the transit people to prepare the document that would set out what the metrics would be to measure a successful pilot program.

At one point Director of Transit said he could have the document done in a day – when pressed a bit he said he would need a couple of weeks.

Transit Director Mike Spicer, in the yellow shirt, shows Mayor Goldring what he wants in the way of new buses. The MAyor and council obliged and gave Spicer the go ahead to buy smaller buses.

Transit Director Mike Spicer, in the yellow shirt, shows Mayor Goldring what he wants in the way of new buses.

The pilot program wasn’t due to start until April – so Mike Spicer, the Director of Transit has all kind of time to prepare a report – he might use some of that time to meet with his peer in Oakville and learn just how they made their program work.

There is a sliver of hope for the program. Mayor Goldring suggested that the transit people might want to use the pilot project as a marketing initiative – their response to that was they already had a number of marketing programs.

And how well are they working ? is a question the Mayor might have reasonably asked.

Rick Goldring doesn’t yet fully understand what it is to be a Mayor – as the Chief Magistrate he has a “bully pulpit” which he hasn’t learned to use. He could have and should have asked the Director of Transit to re-think his response and then invite the City Manager and the Director in for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Flood Goldring with chain of office

Mayor Rick Goldring on one of the few occasions that he wore his chain of office during an interview.

During the debate James Ridge, City Manager, wouldn’t touch the question. He said – and he right – “this is a political decision.”

That chain of Office the Mayor wears isn’t just a piece of bling. It is a symbol of the office he holds and the authority given him.

There was an opportunity to do something bold, something visionary and, in the words of Jim Young, a chance to show Burlington as a caring, conscientious community.

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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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Council whittles the tax increase down a bit - Performing Arts Centre gets what it wanted - Seniors lost out on transit.

Newsflash 100By Pepper Parr

January 21st, 2016


What started out as a 3.85% increase in the tax rate for 2016 got whittled down to 3.15% at the end of a five hour budget meeting held at city hall on Wednesday.

The Performing Arts Centre got what they wanted, the seniors didn’t succeed in convincing the Councillors that free transit Monday’s was a good idea.

For the first time the public got some sense as to where the city manager ants to take the city of the future.

The disposition of the 2015 surplus was hotly debated – but for the most part those dollars are getting tucked into different reserve funds.

The way city hall is staffed is going to get a hard look and the city manager is going to issue mandate letters to his Directors.

The number of bylaw officers is going to change.

Plans for a program to collect data on the state of commerce in the down ton core got the chop- The Burlington Downtown Business Association (BDBA) was told they could pay for that task themselves.

And Councillor Jack Dennison actually went along with spending some money.

Councillor Sharman continued to hammer away for more data.

The Gazette will report in detail on each of these.

Council met as a Standing Committee – the decisions they made get approved at Council on Monday where they can be changed.

Burlington City Council Group

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Tireless advocate for transit disappointed with what has been budgeted for bus service - but he does see some hope.

burlbudget2016By Pepper Parr

January 20, 2106


Every chance Doug Brown gets to talk about transit – he shows up. Brown is part of Bfast (Burlington’s Friends and Supporters of Transit) an organization that advocates for improved transit.

Bfast Transit group logoBrown is one of those people who tirelessly make delegation after delegation – he speaks with authority because he does his homework and has a good grip on transit facts and figures.

More often than not, Brown will complete his delegation and Council doesn’t ask a single question. Brown turns away from the podium quietly and returns to his seat.

He must have been pleased to listen to the delegation that Robert Lovell and James Young made supporting the proposal in the budget review document that transit be free to senior citizens on Monday’s.

Brown however was surprised and disappointed to see that the budget for transit in 2016 was the same as it was in 2015 – which from Brown’s vantage point meant they were getting less because there was no allowance for inflation.

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city's bus schedule.

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city’s bus schedule.

It is worse than that according to Brown. The province gives municipalities a portion of the gas tax they collect. The funds the municipalities get is based on a formula that includes population and ridership.

Burlington has a population that grew a bit – but transit ridership was less in 2015 than it was in 2014 which meant we got less in the way of that gas tax funding.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see more funding for transit and the development of a long term transit plan.

Brown has been toiling away as an advocate for better transit but quietly says: “We have a long way to go” and point to Waterloo which has a council that understands the need for good, reliable, affordable transit.

Waterloo has a population of 97,475 – Burlington has a population that is at the 173,000 level. They can develop a progressive transit system – why can’t we?

Brown points to the city’s Official Plan and the Strategic Plan that calls for a modal split that has 11% of the transportation choices being transit. We are currently at 2%.

Free student passes are also something Brown would like to see.

If the amount of gas tax Burlington gets from the province is based on ridership – would it not make sense to boost ridership?

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Seniors push for free transit on Monday's - chances of this making it to the final budget look good. Oakville has had such a service since 2012.

burlbudget2016By Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2016


It was delegation time, the occasion when different community groups get their ten minutes to wrangle with council to advance their different causes.

This time it was transit for seniors, transit and the lack of a master plan and two positions the Performing Arts wanted to fill and have added to their ongoing budget.

The Performing arts matter will get covered in a separate story.

Two very effective speakers wanted to see the idea of free Monday transit for seniors make it into the 2016 budget.

Which seniors need the free transit was the question that occupied the minds of many of the council members.

Bus station 1

Imagine a bus service that is free to senior’s on Monday’s – it just might happen.

Every senior responded both Robert Lovell representing the Burlington Seniors’ Advisory committee and James Young, a word 1 resident who spoke to the plans for transit fares for seniors.

In Burlington delegations are usually a one way street – the delegations speaks but for the most part doesn’t often engage the members of council.
There are many occasions when a delegation doesn’t get asked questions.

When Councillor Craven is chairing the meeting – delegations are kept to very few words. Not that way when Councillor Lancaster is the chair.

Robert Lovell was asked questions and council got much more in the way of an answer than they expected when Lovell pushed right back.  Lovell wanted to see Burlington adopt the free Monday transit for seniors that Oakville uses and he kept chiding Burlington’s council members for not doing what Oakville has been doing since 2012.

The two delegations were both seniors – they were there to see that the senior’s in the city got what they felt was needed. Lovell talked of people who were not able to get out of their homes because they couldn’t afford the cost of transit.

“These people get isolated and there mental health deteriorates”, he said.

Mayor Goldring and Councillor Dennison wanted to know what percentage of the senior population lived on the $12,000 a year Lovell had referred to; he wasn’t able to say but he had a petition with more than 500 signatures.

The short delegation session Tuesday afternoon was all that was needed to handle the delegations that were made. It isn’t clear if no one asked to delegate in the evening or if the city decided it was not going to hold an evening session. So much for an engaged city.

Councillor Lancaster said in her opening remarks there was lot of consultation. There was just the one public meeting held at Tansley Woods last week.

In contrast the Strategic Plan has been put before five different public meetings as well as a very detailed on line questionnaire.

For some reason people in Burlington just accept how much their council decides to tax them.

Budget public parent on stairs at ice rink

Parents at a hockey game while three people next door were listening to a budget presentation. It’s just who we are.

In 2015 there was a public meeting that focused on the budget held at Mainway Recreation Centre; it was a winter night – less than three people showed up – next door at one of the skating rinks less than 20 yards away there were several hundred parents watching a hockey game.

Did they know there was a public meeting to review and comment on the budget? The city does advertise the events – and the Gazette certainly spread the word.


In 2014 – an election year people showed up for the budget review. In 2015 it snowed and there were just three people in the room plus two people who had run in the last election and were keeping tabs on the council they were not part of – this time.

There have been other public budget meetings that were very well attended – however the more active citizens complained that the budget decisions had already been made – all the city was doing was explaining what they had decided to do.

There are those who think the public should be at the table helping to decide what and where their tax dollars are to be spent.  And that was certainly what Robert Lovell and James Young were suggesting council do – take a much different look at transit. Make it free for seniors every day of the week suggested Young. “That’s what they do in Europe” he said. “You are looking at transit as a cost when you should be looking at transit as a service that is paid for with money the taxpayers give you”, he added.

Several members of council wanted to know how many really poor seniors there were in the city that needed financial support to be able to use the transit system. The figure was said to be 6%.

Mayor Goldring pointed out that 17% of the population is made up of seniors – he seemed to be worried that they all might want to get on a bus on the Monday’s when service would be free – which is exactly the point Lovell and Young were making.

There comes a time pointed our Lovell when you lose your license – what do you do then? The frequency of the bus service really limits how much you are going to be able to get around. If the service were free and frequent you would have people out of their homes spending money, going places and being active in the community, said Lovell

The Mayor, who said he was a senior, one of the younger set – but he does hold a membership at the Seniors’ Centre, told the delegation that he was once carded and asked to prove he was a senior.

The Mayor’s concern was with how many seniors the city will have in 25 years and how a city would manage to deliver the services they will need. The challenge is to develop plans today that will provide the services needed.

One thing became very clear Tuesday afternoon at city hall – if Robert Lovell is representative of the baby boomers who are entering retirement city councils of the future had better be ready for some very local people who expect much more in the way of services And they are not going to be quiet or docile.

Joan Gallagher Bell spoke of a new vision for an age friendly city – for her the minimum was the free transit on Monday.

And that was what Councillor Meed Ward had put forward an adjustment to the budget to make the free service available this year.

Cost – no one was sure but $40,000 seemed to be the number.  James Young pointed out that it wasn’t a real expense – it was just revenue the city wasn’t going to get.


Councillor Meed Ward just might deliver a real benefit to the senior citizens with this budget.

There is a side bar to this event. More than a year ago – on a December 18th of 2014 when city council was deciding who was going to sit on which committee,  Meed Ward represented the city on the hospital board and she very much wanted to retain that committee responsibility.

Her colleagues didn’t see it that way and gave that task to Councillor Sharman and gave the job of representing council on the Seniors Advisory Committee to Meed Ward.

Meed Ward has delivered big time for the seniors – she will be rewarded when she decides to run for a different role on city council in 2018.

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City spent $4.75 million less than they planned in 2015 - no - they aren't going to give any of it back to you.

burlbudget2016By Pepper Parr

JANUARY 19th, 2015


The report to council set out how the treasurer thought the surplus from the 2015 budget should be used. A cool $4,750,000 that was not spent in 2015 will not get returned to the taxpayers – it will get tucked into various reserve funds and saved for those rainy days.

Unaudited retained earnings

The surplus came from money budgeted but not spent on city services and significant improvements on revenue the city was able to pull in. We overspent on corporate expenditures. The numbers are in millions.

Where were the savings experienced?
The city treasurer reports that expenses were closely monitored in 2015 to find ways to reduce operating costs; she reports the 2015 retained savings as follows:

• Human Resource Savings
City human resource costs (excluding winter control) are projected to have a favourable variance of $1,555,230. (The treasurer uses the term favourable and unfavourable balances which most of us know as a surplus and deficit.)

The city experienced a large number of vacancies throughout the year, some of them for senior positions. The favourable variance is primarily attributed to the period of time from when the position became vacant to being filled after the competition was complete.

• Earnings on Investments
Investment income is projected to exceed expectations by $1,327,017. This positive variance is attributed to $2,287,375 of realized capital gains, of which $960,358 will be used to meet the budget of $5.1 million. The proposed budget for Earnings on Investments for 2016 has been increased by $100,000 to $5.2 million.

• Supplementary Taxes
Supplementary tax revenues exceeded budget by $1,885,369. This is due to one property with three high rise buildings assessed as multi-residential for 3 years of taxes (2013-2015) totaling just over $2.0M in city revenues in 2015.

Bus station John Street lined up 1 side

The city saved on the cost of fuel – but the projected bus ticket sales target was not reached. Transit is going to be an ongoing cost that the city does not seem to be really prepared for – where is the problem?

• Transit Fare Revenues
Transit fare revenue is projected to have an unfavourable variance of $719,870 as a result of the 2015 budget not being in line with actual receipts. The proposed 2016 budget has been decreased by approximately $592K to $5.1 million to better reflect the actual trend.

• Diesel Fuel Costs
Diesel fuel costs are projected to have a favourable variance of $643,572. The majority of the variance is found in Transit.This variance is mainly attributed to lower than anticipated fuel prices.The proposed budget has been decreased by approximately $110K for 2016 to $2.9 million.

The remaining difference in the retained savings is comprised of favourable and unfavourable variances spread across numerous programs within the city. The 2015 Operating Budget Performance Report will provide more details on these program variances.

Consistent with past practice and recognizing the one-time nature of the retained savings, this report recommends a transfer to provide flexibility for addressing future one-time expenditures.

The retained savings is not to be used to directly reduce the proposed 2016 tax increase. As this is a one-time funding source, it is important that there is no reliance on retained savings built into the budget process on an ongoing basis.

2015 Recommended Retained Savings Disposition
• $738,361 Provision to Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund
It is recommended that $738,361 be set aside to finance one-time expenditures included in the 2016 Proposed Operating Budget. This allows unique one-time needs to be addressed without affecting the tax rate and without being built into future budget years. These one-time expenditures will be addressed through the review of the 2016 Proposed Operating Budget.

• $750,000 Provision to Capital Purposes Reserve Fund
In order to meet future funding challenges and for the city to support its vision for implementing priority capital projects, staff recommend that $750,000 be allocated to the Capital Purposes reserve fund. This will provide funding for unforeseen requirements for approved projects, funding related to potential future federal/provincial programs and the accelerated road renewal program approved by Council. The 2015 balance for the Capital Purposes Reserve Fund is $9.5 million.

• $750,000 Provision to Strategic Land Acquisition Reserve Fund
The $750,000 provision will assist in replenishing the reserve fund for future strategic land needs. The 2015 uncommitted balance in the Strategic Land Acquisition Reserve Fund is $908K.

• $750,000 Provision to Information Technology Renewal Reserve Fund This provision will provide funding for life-cycle renewal of Information Technology infrastructure.

• $500,000 Provision to Insurance Reserve
In order to maintain a sufficient balance to cover both premium and deductible expenses, it is recommended that funding be allocated to this reserve. The 2015 balance is $663K.

• $500,000 Provision to Benefits Reserve Fund
It is recommended that $500,000 be transferred to the Benefits Reserve Fund to help replenish the balance which is currently $1.2 million.
• $500,000 Provision to Policy Initiatives Reserve Fund
In order to support resource requirements to finalize the Official Plan and other related studies.The balance is currently $100K.

• $250,000 Provision to Severe Weather Reserve Fund
This will help stabilize future budgets when major storms dramatically impact the operating budget.
The balance in the Severe Weather Reserve Fund is currently $2.8 million. It is recommended that the City target a one-year budget for the Winter Maintenance (which is approx. $4.6 million). .

• $11,639 Provision to Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund
The remaining amount of $11,639 to the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund.

Prior to the calculation of the preliminary 2015 year-end retained savings, staff estimated any minor accounts payable, year-end accruals, and any year-end transfers for net zero activities that needed to be made as part of the year- end close process. The following are the estimated year end transfers for net zero activities.

TransfersTransfers 2transfer 3

DAAP Reserve Funds

In 2005, the Engineering Fee Stabilization Reserve Fund, the Building Permit Stabilization Reserve Fund and the Planning Fee Stabilization Reserve Fund were created to ease budget pressures should development revenues slow down due to economic and/or market conditions.

The table below shows the projected year-end transfers included in the the calculation of the 2015 preliminary year-end retained savings.

• Engineering Fee Stabilization Reserve Fund
The decrease in Subdivision Administration Fees has resulted in a draw of
$91,829 from the reserve fund. Residential development in Burlington has changed from large-scale Greenfield subdivision applications, to small-scale, infill and intensification sites requiring OPA, zoning, site plan and condominium approvals. The proposed 2016 Budget for Subdivision Administration revenues has been flatlined to $100,000 and will be gradually reduced to zero over time using the $275,000 in the Reserve Fund.

• Building Permit Stabilization Reserve Fund
The Building Permit revenues for 2015 are $3,479,851. These revenues are offset by expenditures (both direct and indirect as per the Bill 124 model), with the resulting draw from the reserve fund of $244,544.

The proposed 2016 Budget for building permit revenues have been increased by
$98,770 to be in line with the 3 year average 2012-2014.

• Planning Fee Stabilization Reserve Fund
Planning Fee revenues have a favourable variance of $566,144 mainly due to increases in official plan and rezoning revenues. A provision of $566,144 has been made to the Planning Fee Stabilization Reserve Fund.

The proposed 2016 Budget for planning revenues has been increased by $45,000 to $1,695,000 to be in line with the 3 year average 2012-2014.

Budgeting is part science and part dealing with the unknown.  Set out below is what the city experienced between 2011 and 2015.

Retained savings 2011-2015

Top portion of the report shows where the surpluses came from – bottom shows what city council decided to do with the surplus.

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Advocacy group maintains the city budget shortchanges transit users - less is being spent on transit this year than last.

burlbudget2016By Staff

January 13th, 2016


City Council will meet next week for two days to thrash out the 2016 budget which, at this point, looks like it will increase 3.85% over what they asked for last year.
The Bank of Canada set inflation at 2% and for the most part the country has been able to keep spending within the inflation range.

For some reason Burlington’s city council feels it has to spend more in 2016 than it did in 2015 (3.85% is the most recent budget increase projection) which has the people at Bfast (Burlington for Accessible, Sustainable Transit) upset because they don’t see any increase in the amount being sent on transit.

“Despite commitments in the City’s Strategic Plan, transit users in Burlington are again being shortchanged by the municipality‘s 2016 budget,” says a spokesperson for Burlington For Accessible, Sustainable Transit (BFAST).

Council is set to approve a budget for the system that provides no funding increase for 2016.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast says the city is short changing transit users.

“When inflation is considered, the 2016 transit budget is actually less than the budget in 2015,” commented BFAST spokesperson Doug Brown.

“Funding and service cuts, schedule changes and fare increases over the past four years have resulted in a 17% decline in ridership for Burlington’s chronically underfunded transit system. This is despite the requirement of the Ontario Municipal Board that the city increase transit ridership to 11% of all city trips by 2030.

“In contrast,” he ads ” Oakville has seen large increases in transit use as a result of higher funding and better service levels.”

“Burlington’s politicians like to point to the survey by MoneySense magazine that rates our community as the most livable mid-size city in Canada,” Brown said. “But that same magazine notes Burlington is well down the list when it comes to walkability and transit.”

Brown said adequate transit service is an investment, not an expense.

Bus station John Street lined up 1 side

Bus drivers got a pay increase, some new buses arrived – but transit advocates say the city is still not spending enough on transit.

“How much does it end up costing us when people without cars can’t get to their jobs? What’s the real cost of students not being able to take advantage of educational opportunities because Burlington Transit can’t get them to school on time? How much does it cost every taxpayer to own a second or even third car because they can’t rely on the transit system?”

Council is set to vote on the 2016 budget on Jan. 25..

BFAST is a citizen’s group formed in 2012 to advocate for better transit in Burlington.

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