Burlington transit staff are proposing a Senior’s Transit Fare of “Two for a Toonie” rather than free transit one day a week. The proposal is in response to a staff direction I brought during the 2015 budget deliberations asking staff to evaluate and report back on a proposal for one day of free transit for seniors.
Public transit locations in the GTHA have implemented various seniors transit fare programs in the past few years and the various programs were reviewed for potential implementation in Burlington.
City staff prepared a business case for the city’s 2016 operating budget outlining two options, as follows:
Free Mondays – This would allow any citizen over the age of 65 to ride on a Burlington Transit Bus and Handi Van service all day on Mondays for free. Oakville Transit currently has this program in place. They have recently reviewed and evaluated this program and have reported decreased revenues from Seniors as well as reduced ticket sales and cash fares. Oakville Transit has reported increased ridership on Mondays, but that has not equated into additional ridership increases for the other days of the week. Staff do not recommend this to be implemented in Burlington and would recommend the Reduced Fare Option listed below.
Reduced Fare – In order to promote the use of Burlington Transit, a reduced fare during off-peak and weekend hours would provide opportunity to utilize the service in the off peak times of service. Currently, the Community Connection operates Monday to Friday between 10:00 am and 3:00 p.m. and has seen modest increases since its inception in May 2015. To help promote the use of Community Connection and other BT conventional routes, staff are recommending that the “TWO for a TOONIE” seniors program be created. This would allow two seniors to ride Burlington Transit conventional services between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm Monday to Friday as well as all day Saturday and Sundays. This program would start Saturday April 2nd 2016 and would end Sunday September 4th 2016. Mississauga Transit (Mi-Way) have recently implemented a pilot program that allows seniors to travel for $1 during designated times.
Staff also wish to promote the use of conventional services in the off peak period to assist Handi Van clients that can use conventional services with an opportunity to explore regular transit services to find new ways of travelling through Burlington. Staff believe that providing alternative transportation options and promoting Seniors travelling together will allow for a higher degree of success in the off peak times. Staff are suggesting that this program will encourage use and increase ridership during the off peak times. Currently 40% of seniors travel is conducted during off peak and weekends.
Introducing the “TWO for a TOONIE” Seniors program starting April 2nd and ending September 4th will encourage seniors to travel during less busy times which would offer them a more enjoyable time to travel and see transit as a viable travel option. The “TWO for a TOONIE” seniors program would cost $14,000 based on current off-peak and weekend ridership.
You can find the above staff business case on Page 45 of the Operating Budget Book:
Earlier this fall, the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee asked one of their members to independently research the Oakville free transit for seniors program. The findings were presented at the last BSAC meeting (I sit on BSAC as the council representative).
In 2012, Oakville council approved a pilot program for free transit on Mondays from July 2 to Sept. 24. The results of the pilot project showed:
- a 578% increase in seniors ridership on Mondays from 2,900 (in 2010) and 2,200 (in 2011) to 15,151 during the pilot
- seniors ridership increased 20% on the two Mondays immediately following the pilot than it was pre-pilot
- seniors ridership increased on all but two rush hour-only bus routes
- rather than a decline in ridership on Tuesdays as a result of free transit on Mondays, there was in fact an 8.6% increase during the pilot, indicating that seniors were using transit more often even on days when a fare was required
- while overall transit ridership in 2012 increased by less than 3% year to date, it increased by 25.9% among seniors. Even if the additional non-revenue generating rides which occurred on the Mondays of the pilot are removed, senior ridership was still up 14.9% over the same period in 2011. The two major factors influencing this outcome are the SPLIT program and the Free Transit on Mondays pilot.
- due to the free ride, revenue from senior ridership dropped by 13.1 per cent. However the total cost of the pilot was $11,306 — far less than the $20,000 initially anticipated – which translates to an annualized projected cost of $45,200.
- based on the success of the program, Oakville city council voted in December 2012 to make free transit for seniors on Mondays permanent.
Read the staff report, ridership analysis and public survey below:
BSAC will be studying these reports with a view to coming to a consensus at their January meeting, to provide feedback to council about a preferred transit seniors fare option. The Burlington Seniors Centre Board will also be studying the options in order to provide feedback to council.
Your Take: What’s your preferred option? Free Mondays? Two for Toonie? Both? Neither? Something else? Let me know.
My Take: Based on further analysis of the Oakville experience, I believe free Mondays is a viable option to achieve the goal of increasing seniors ridership not only on Mondays but throughout the week. Making it easier for seniors to get around reduces isolation and increases their ability to participate in the life of the community – valuable goals that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. I also believe the Two for Toonie program would be difficult to communicate and would cause confusion, in part due to restricted hours and questions around the fare for seniors who are travelling alone.