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Transit will eventually have a Master Plan – consulting work has to be done first. Does better service follow?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON August 10, 2011 Taken the bus in Burlington recently? Not that many people do take the bus. Students use public transit because they have to; seniors sometimes have to because they don’t drive and people on limited incomes just can’t afford a car – so it’s public transit for them.

New bus cuts through a ribbon at the opening of the new Transit Operations Centre.  Lot of city hall talent on hand to cut a ribbon.  How much did it cost to have them all there to get their picture taken?  Did they take the bus or did they drive individual cars?

New bus cuts through a ribbon at the opening of the new Transit Operations Centre. Lot of city hall talent on hand to cut a ribbon. How much did it cost to have them all there to get their picture taken? Did they take the bus or did they drive individual cars?

Burlington is a car city – most houses have two cars in the garage or driveway. If you want to get around Burlington quickly – you drive. The city gives its employees the choice of a transit pass or free parking. Guess which most choose ?

The city spends a lot of money on its transit system and many feel the busses we have on the road aren’t effectively used. Council member Paul Sharman got himself electe4d on a transit issue and he is the most forceful member when it comes to talking about transit at Council and committee meetings.

Burlington decided a number of months ago that a detailed study of what we have in the way of transit service and brought in a consulting form to finds out who uses the transit service and what the public feels they should have in the way of transit services.

Mayor Rick Goldring is a big advocate for greater use of public transit but he drives a car provided by the city and says that he uses his bicycle but I’ve never seen even a picture of him on his bicycle. If asked when they last used public transit very few, if any, members of Council would tell you they use the public transit system.

The city wants to develop a Transit Master Plan. The consulting that will precede the development of a Plan is being called The Road ahead. When the proposals for the consulting contract came in Council members later said they knew almost instantly which firm they were going to go with. The details and ideas in the proposal from Dillon Consulting were so far superior to all the others that it was a pretty simple exercise to choose who to go with.

The John Street terminal can get really busy at rush hours – yes there are actually rush hours at this location.  Advertising pulls in some revenue for the city.

The John Street terminal can get really busy at rush hours – yes there are actually rush hours at this location. Advertising pulls in some revenue for the city.

There will be significant public input – and that means the public gets to make comments. Think about what we need in the way of transit; what would it take to get you to use transit ? Do you know what the bus routes are in your community? Does public transit even matter to you?

Burlington as a city is now much more attuned to public engagement – city hall staff (not all of them yet) are learning to listen and to go out to the community for comment and ideas. The public needs to get better at responding to these opportunities to participate in the decision making process.

The purpose of the Transit Master Plan is to attempt to get a sense as to what the public will want in the way of public transit – and with gas well above $1.25 a litre transit has to get at least a look. The purpose of the plan is to conduct a comprehensive review of Burlington’s conventional transit services and to develop a Transit Master Plan covering the period 2012 – 2021.

The main objectives of study is to provide recommendations that will significantly increase the use of transit, improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of transit service in Burlington, develop technology and marketing plans and review options for the downtown terminal.

The Route Ahead will include an implementation plan that will lead Burlington Transit to the next level of ridership growth.  A key component of this study will involve consultation with transit customers, community groups/organizations, and the public at large to determine their views of the Burlington Transit system and obtain input on strategic directions.

The first of the several methods of getting involved in this study and providing input will be the Let’s Talk Transit” Drop in Centre that will hold two sessions on August 24th. One at the Burlington Seniors Centre from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Deputations will begin at 2:30 pm. The second session will take place at City Hall in the evening from 6:00 to 9:00 pm Room 247

Dillon Consulting will be hold a series of Focus Groups in September and October with residents and stakeholders that have an interest in transit services.  These two sessions will be facilitated discussions focused on the overall vision for Burlington Transit, key markets for increasing ridership and strategic directions for moving forward.  Participants are not required to be transit users; only to have an interest in the future of Burlington Transit.

If you would like to participate, send an e-mail under the subject of “Focus Group” to TheRouteAhead@burlington.ca and provide a brief description of your interest in this study.  Participation is voluntary and numbers will be limited.

In mid September, there will be an Onboard Transit User Survey. Passengers will be able to complete a survey that will probe key information on demographics, trip making characteristics and attitudes concerning transit.

A Public Information Session will be held in the late fall to present consultation results, study findings and potential directions and obtain feedback from the public prior to finalizing study recommendations.

The Study is expected to take approximately six months to complete. The presentation of the study recommendations to council is scheduled to occur in mid December 2011.

Comments from the public are both welcomed and encouraged. I would add they are expected.

 

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