Transit Advisory committee needs to know what`s going on within transit before it can advise anyone.

By Pepper Parr


BURLINGTON, ON  March 22, 2012  A little dis-jointed would be stretching the way the meeting went.  Out of the loop for the most part would be another observation of the Burlington Transit Advisory Committee.  They were apparently unaware that the city`s budget committee had actively debated a fare increase but that the motion had not passed.  They just don’t know what is happening at the Council level to whom they are supposed to be advisers.

Lots of talent at the BTAC meeting; Eric Pilon, on the left, former Director of Transit for Oakville has worked with Burlington's Mike Spicer who is heading up the public participation part of the Master Transit Plan.

Mike Spicer, Transit Manager for Burlington Transit sits in on BTAC meetings and  commented that “Transit very much wanted a committee like BTAC in place to give us feedback”, however the committee’s role is not to provide feedback to the transit people but to advise city council on transit matter.  This Committee seems to have lost touch with its mandate and doesn’t appear to have any sense of “Mission`.  They don’t seem to know what they are supposed to do or even how to do their job.

The mandate is pretty clear and its set out on part of the city`s web site.

Provide input to Council and staff on initiatives and strategies affecting public transportation services ….

Review the city`s Accessibility Plan on an Annual basis …

Encourage and establish partnerships that assist with improving accessible transit service and decreasing gaps in service with agencies such as Halton Peel District Health Council … local taxi services

Consider matters related to Dedicated Gas Tax Funds.

These are just a few of the 10 points set out in the BTAC  Mandate.  Taxi rates are up for discussion at the Community Development Committee this week – (March 26th  if anyone at BTAC wants to attend)   How the city is going to manage the use of the Gas Tax Refunds from the federal government was part of the vigorous Budget Committee debate but the subject didn’t get a single word of mention at the BTAC meeting – that`s what you call being out of touch.

Sparsely attended Transit Advisory meeting - staff talent shows up - members appeared to have missed the bus.

The committee did go through a significant membership shuffle – three out of 12 members were returned to the committee last February.  The biggest problem seems to be getting a quorum and holding meetings regularly.  Prior to the March 20th meeting the committee had not met for five months – unacceptable by any standard and what had committee member Kevin Rahmer  voicing opinions that were a little tough for Chair  Joanne Vassell-Pittman to handle.  Other members of the committee – there were just five of them in attendance at the meeting – repeatedly had to ask  Rahmer to be more positive and not keep rehashing old issues.

There was apparently an occasion when Rahmer was to address the committee at some length but he failed to appear – which seems to be an ongoing problem for this committee.

BTAC has a new clerk who is more “den mother” than committee Clerk; that description is intended as a compliment.  Danielle Pitoscia  is one of the best Clerks the city has – I’d go so far as to say THE best Committee Clerk.  The BTAC crowd are going to need a lot of help if they are ever to get to the point where they are relevant and know how to operate as a committee and be able to provide city council with useful advice.  Right now it seems to be a place where people meet to talk about transit but seldom have a quorum and can`t do anything.

Scheduled to meet once a month, the Committee met last in September and didn’t have a quorum at that time.  The twelve member committee has six appointed members and six members from the stakeholder groups.  The committee is currently looking for new members – if you’ve a yen for transit matters and you have experience with a re-growing a committee that needs direction badly – this is a place for you.

At least one new Advisory committee member had not seen the Term of Reference for the committee, which is sort of like wanting to drive a car but not having a driver’s license.  It didn’t appear as if the committee was fully aware of the scope of their Terms of Reference and the opportunities they had to inform the policy side of transit in the city.

During the last round of serious concern over member participation all the committee members said they wanted to continue serving – then they don`t show up and meetings don’t take place.

Smart thing to do with this one is shut it down – they do have a representative on the Transit Master Plan Steering Committee but Peggy Russell didn’t attend the meeting and was unable to report.

The BTAC didn’t delegate to the Budget Committee on things transit.  Other than bicker at their meetings – it`s hard to see what they actually do.

Eric Pilon, a  former Director with Oakville Transit sits on the committee; Burlington Transit always send their  top people.  At times both the Transit Director, Donna Sheppard and Mike Spicer the Transit Manager take part in the meetings.  It is the Committee members who aren’t pulling their weight.  Joanne Vassell-Pittman, Chair, runs a decent meeting – she doesn’t have a vice chair, that`s vacant.  The student representative hasn’t been replaced either.

Kevin Rahmer, who certainly knows the transit file very well, doesn't make it easy for a chair to run a meeting.

Vassell-Pittman is a practiced chair, who is ready now to move on, and has advised her Board that she will not stand for re-election as chair but will finish her term.  During the Tuesday meeting she struggled to keep Rahmer under some control; he certainly knows the transit file, but has great difficulty staying focused and disciplining  himself.  He had to be reminded several times that his comments were disrespectful of the chair.

Peggy Russell, Maureen Van Ravens along with  Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven are on the committee – all missed the bus.

There is a public out there that wants a good, well operated efficient transit service and they have opinions.  Having an Advisory Committee that can collect and marshal those opinions and take them to Council would be effective community engagement.  BTAC’s not there yet.


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3 comments to Transit Advisory committee needs to know what`s going on within transit before it can advise anyone.

  • Channing Hall

    Pepper – please correct yourself – Danielle is not the best committee clerk,. There have been a number of complaints about her and she’s only part time. Do your research.

    We don’t agree with this comment. But people are entitled to their viewpoint.

  • Amy Collard


    I am not, and never have been, a member of the Transit Advisory Committee. I would appreciate your immediate correction of this article.

    Thank you.

    Amy Collard

  • Bob Wood

    Good analysis. It isn’t often that we see coverage of City advisory committees. Many of them do good work sometimes without the full support of the bureucracy.

    I initiated the formation of this one when I was a Councillor in 2006. At the time staff were not terribly enthused about having the committee particularly having driver input.

    Staff have a responsibility to bring relevant items to such committees. Sounds like that wasn’t happening here.