Thinking behind the five year plan is sound - is it affordable?

background 100By Pepper Parr

July 28th, 2019


This is a seven part series on transit and how Burlington plans to get to the point where the public will take public transit to get to where they want to go in the city because it is cheaper, faster, more convenient and seen as the smart thing to do.

Part 4.

Customer Experience
Burlington Transit already offers real-time trip information and an acceptable level of comfort, accessibility and shelter. However, more in-depth real-time operational information and proactive communication would give passengers certainty and a sense of reliability. Improved accessibility and increasing the provision of shelters help to remove barriers to transit use, making it an option for more members of the community. Finally, enhanced digital connectivity builds on one of transit’s competitive advantages – the ability to dedicate attention to digital devices to get work done and stay connected while travelling.

Customer experience enhancements can encourage new customers to transit and, importantly, keep existing customers on the system.

Strategy 3A: Improve Communications

Beyond real-time trip information, communications regarding planned and unplanned disruptions is the next most important information that passengers need to improve their comfort in using the service.

Burlington Transit currently publishes their planned disruptions on their website, but there is little integration of this information with trip planning services. An analysis of Burlington Transit’s staffing levels and discussions with key staff members have indicated that there are less on-road operations supervisors than necessary to provide full coverage of all services.

While operational recovery from disruptions is paramount, affected passengers need to be made aware of the problem, its outlook and their alternatives as soon as possible. To ensure that customers are aware of the actual operating environment on the routes and services they need to take, a service standard should be set to publish unplanned disruptions on the Burlington Transit website and provide the information to the open data (Google Transit) API within 15 minutes of them occurring. This will require additional operations staff to address disruptions and better communication with Customer Service.

These initiatives align with Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #2 (Be Forward-Thinking in how services are planned and delivered), particularly Objective 2.1 (Technology) as they work to harness existing and new technologies to deliver a better customer experience.

• Establish a new service standard to ensure that all disruptions and unplanned events are
published on Burlington Transit’s website, to the open data (Google Transit) disruptions API and social feeds within 15 minutes of them occurring.
• Hire operations administrative dispatch clerks to support on-road operations supervisors and enhance communications with Customer Service.
• Investigate partnerships with third-party trip planning apps to provide riding assistance to new customers.

Strategy 3B: Improve Comfort and Accessibility at the Stop

This is all transit riders are going to have for shelter in the cold weather once the terminal building is taken down.

Many of the shelters were in very poor condition – that has begun to change. Piping in music would be nice.

To continue to progress towards a more accessible system, Burlington Transit is finalizing a 2019 Accessibility Plan, which forms part of the City of Burlington’s Multi-Year Accessibility Plan 2019-2024. The Accessibility Plan outlines actions to remove barriers and improve accessibility. Many items in this business plan echo initiatives in the accessibility plan, including improved frequency, improved communications and improved links with neighbouring municipalities. The plan also includes a bus stop upgrade program and the additional of real-time information screens at the Burlington GO Station and the Downtown Terminal. In addition, Burlington Transit has recently formalized new bus stop design standards (see Strategy 3C), which define dimensions, access, orientation and other requirements for accessible transit stops and shelters.

• Continue to implement key actions in the 2019-2020 Accessibility Plan.
• Develop updates to the Accessibility Plan for each year subsequent year during the business plan period.
• Expand the bus stop upgrade program to include accessible shelters (see Strategy 3C).

Strategy 3C: Shelters

A customer’s perception of the transit experience starts before they board a vehicle. One of the first interactions with the system on the day of travel is waiting for the service at a stop. Shelters provide customers with a place to take refuge during inclement weather (rain, snow and strong winds) or shade during hot summer days. They also provide a source of information about the service and a sense of permanency of a transit system, particularly on routes that provide direct, frequent and rapid service.

Bus shelter NEW

Larger, brighter and cleaner transit shelters. Report suggests Transit work with Parks and Recreation on placement – that would be breaking down a silo.

As Burlington Transit continues to expand its service and build on the grid-network, the expansion of shelters should be considered as a key part of improving the customer experience prior to boarding the bus. This could involve a number of key actions:

1. Improve Existing Shelters
2. Develop Shelter Placement Criteria
3. Work with the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department to Increase Natural Shelters at Stops

Shelter improvements work towards Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #1 (Be Customer-Focused in every aspect of how service is delivered), particularly Objective 1.6 (Accessibility) as can improve the customer experience and accessibility at the qualifying stops.

• Continue to conduct bus shelter condition assessments for all existing stops with shelters.
• Create a shelter policy, dictating how stops qualify for shelters and how to prioritize the roll-out of new shelters.
• Work with Burlington Parks and Recreation Department to increase natural shelters at stops.

Strategy 3D: Digital Connectivity

One of the benefits to taking transit is that riders are free to engage in activities that are not possible when driving. Staying connected is increasingly important and it is common to see transit passengers using smartphones and tablets during their journeys. To improve the experience of customers using electronic devices during their travels, Burlington Transit could consider providing charging facilities and wifi. This allows customers to use their time more productively while on longer transit routes, access social media and music streaming services and use their mobile devices to access trip planning tools and be informed in real-time of disruptions in the system.


WiFi on buses can be done quite easily. Do it soon.

In the shorter term, implementing USB power outlets on buses and wifi at facilities are relatively simple and effective ways to encourage passenger connectivity when using transit. The implementation of these amenities should be on a pilot basis and focused on routes and facilities with higher ridership, to maximize their usefulness and the amount of feedback received.

Connectivity improvements align with Burlington Transit’s Strategic Direction #2 (Be Forward-Thinking in how services are planned and delivered), particularly Objective 2.1 (Technology) as they work to harness existing and new technologies to deliver a better customer experience.

• Include USB charging points on all new bus deliveries. Charging ports should be located strategically throughout buses, which could be assigned to a single longer-distance route or used throughout the network. Customer feedback and uptake by route and time of day should be collected to optimize the number and location of charging points on future deliveries.
• Implement a wifi pilot at major stations and transfer points (excluding GO Transit stations).

It has been a long long time since the words “customer experience” were uttered in Burlington when talking about transit.

The background report on what could and should be included in the five year plan is sound.  Now to get a city council that will take the plunge – do it early in the term and let the public get used to what is coming their way.


Part 1: Transits five year plan has what some might call an over abundance-of wishful thinking

Part 2: Strategies and recommendations to create the needed structure and delivery model.

Part 3: Making all the parts fit.


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4 comments to Thinking behind the five year plan is sound – is it affordable?

  • Elan

    I apologize, McKenna and Ford are doing the right thing. Job well done.

  • Elan

    BTW, Isn’t there some kind of provincial get together later this summer in Ottawa where Burlington council has to face the Provincial cabinet members to sing for their supper on local issues? Why the heck isn’t Mckenna leading this, and advocating for Burlington at this event as a provincial minister? Saying this, what actually does she do FOR Burlington? I assume Council would not want her to attend or speak for them at this event, since her take is Ford;’s and as she is NOT a member of cabinet, with any chance of helping us. Plus, there is a severe lack of integrity in her public statements. Her latest attempt in the Burlington Post was not to tell us what she will do for Burlington, but defending “common sense revolution” positions from her leader, with misdirection….

    One example: McKenna in the BPost: (paraphrase) “money is set aside to ensure no teacher will lose their job”…..that is a spin-news lie. I know many teachers not being offered their jobs back in the fall. Less teachers…..higher class sizes…less learning, especially for those who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ learner box.

    Not sure why she has an office downtown…who visits? and why? City Councillors have all the power to affect Burlington resident lives….not McKenna (who has no power or leverage).

    • Elan

      But, Mckenna gets $116,500 per year to travel to downtown TO (mileage paid), sit in the backbench and toe the party Whip to support the Ford slash and burn agenda, come back and cut ribbons at local events, standing behind powerful mayors such as MMW & Council in Burlington, and federal MPs, who actually have some power to help, then to hunker down with her Tory-appointed publicist to craft ridiculous spin articles locally, spouting Fordisms and explaining (or hiding) why (that) she and the province are getting out of funding local government services and putting the burden on the homeowners property tax base.

  • Elan

    Methinks addition of non-carbon emission buses might be a consideration to prevent ocean-boiling over the next 10 to 20 years. However, to your point….how do we pay for that without commitments from provincial sales tax (McKenna’s coffers)? Oh, yeah, Mckenna is too busy firing Teachers and cramming more kids into smaller classrooms for fun and clear cutting property regulations in favour of developers, big business and lobbyists to worry about local Transit needs over the next decade.