Transit: can we achieve increased ridership and better coverage?

Transit review workshop this fall

The city has hired a new Director of Transit, Sue Connor, and a consultant, Jarrett Walker, to review the current state of Burlington’s transit system, and make recommendations to council for improvement.

At a workshop this fall, members of council will be presented with some alternatives for transit. Feedback from council and the public throughout the process will shape staff’s final report, which will include costing details and an implementation plan. That is expected in December.

Burlington transit primary riders are adults (76%), followed by students (13%), seniors (10%) and children (0.9%). The main reason people use Burlington transit is to get to work (over 60%); the next highest reason is to get to high school (10%).

For more information about Burlington Transit and the study review, see the PowerPoint presentation from staff which was presented at a community-sponsored Transit Users Forum April 1.


BFAST Forum Presentation

My Take: Council needs to get serious about properly funding transit in order to address congestion and climate change, by getting more cars of the road, and creating a reliable, frequent service where people can choose transit versus private automobile. There are several avenues of funding, including increasing the gas tax split ratio from 80-20 roads/transit to a higher percentage for transit. There are also grants from the provincial and federal governments if we increase ridership.

In looking at options, we need to move  beyond the “either/or” of ridership versus coverage. We can have both with some creative thinking that will build a network that includes fixed routes on high frequency corridors, and dial-up connections in low frequency areas. In the past the city has offered a “dial-a-ride” program with Burlington Taxi, that would offer a cab pickup and drop off to the nearest high frequency route, for the cost of a bus ticket. We have also offered a “taxi-script” program, allowing people to use a taxi at the transit rate when Handi-Van service is booked. That program was scrapped by council; I voted to maintain it and bring it back. These options can be considered again for low frequency areas where we still want to offer transit coverage.

Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in the transit review and provide your feedback to council.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. The new schedule changes for September are beyond regressive and essentially make all of the recent investment in technology a complete waste as the changes will render transit a pathetic option any time of day. It will now be faster to walk most distances, and we will be running a high frequency express to Hamilton that dumps people off to a long wait in Burlington. Need to get to work, school or entertainment at night? Forget it. This takes transit back 20 years. The city should be embarrassed.

  2. I need to have a bus going along Lakeshore from 2160
    to walkers line.Please make it happen. I am a senior and expensive to keep taking taxies, 3x a week. Sometimes more often.

    • Marnie have you considered the handivan service Burlington has. Both my parents use it. My dad for his doctor appointments, my mom for errands and appointments

    • If you have COPD, mobility issues, arthritis etc.. Marina Den Otter just message me I can tell you if you qualify.

    • Do you have any medical issues. Do you find walking long distances hard. You can qualify. My mom qualified as she has a heart condition. Though mainly she can’t walk too much as she starts getting sore in her feet and legs.

  3. Worked to teach my daughter transit in the City of Burlington – mostly a wate of time – private message me and I can give you my experience – we are the only system in the GTA where transit usage is going down – population is going up and transit usage going down

  4. They. Are not too close if you have a hard time walking like people with Arthritis and knee problems a lot of seniors can’t walk too far

  5. I personally think the city should look at reducing the number of stops. Best practice has them a much smaller distance than what we have in Burlington.

    Some bus stops are 100metres from each other which is unnecessarily close

  6. Yes, let’s get cars off the road, but let’s not replace them with 45-seat capacity buses carrying 4-6 passengers. I rarely if ever see buses downtown with more!

  7. I’m curious what people thought of the “dial-a-ride” program. I recall hearing someone from Burlington Transit implying that it wasn’t well liked, but Marianne you seem to be suggesting it’s something we should look at bringing back. What was the experience of those who used this service?

    • Good questions and worth looking into. I can only speak as a personal user of the service: when I lived in Tyandaga (2km from the nearest bus stop) I used dial a ride to connect with the Brant St bus, or get home once dropped off at Brant and North Service (could call ahead, cab waiting, usually met in one of the parking lots of the surrounding plazas.)

  8. I have always said that until the powers that be take the bus to work for a full 2 weeks (no excuses) the routes and schedules won’t succeesd. They will find out that transfers don’t always meet and certain buses are always late making you miss your transfers or make you leave a half hour earlier than you need to in case the transfer is missed.. One would think transit would have figured this out by now They have been told many times. The drivers are great.

  9. So important Marianne to get feedback from children and teens as well who are currently using or trying to use it to get around the city for school, work and entertainment. Capturing this generation is so key to the future lf transit.

    • Completely agree Sue. One of the mistakes made several years ago which I fought was removing the “school specials” that would provide transit directly to schools. Student numbers dropped when the service was removed. (Including with my own kids)

    • Having lived through it for two years now with teens trying to get to work if we want it to be a viable option for them when feet and bike just won’t cut it, then changes are required because the alternatives are expensive and when parents are working a bus is a key mode of transport and an amazing way to increase independence. And I fully agree with you! The school children are a big priority and I have to be honest, I don’t see a lot of school aged children standing at bus stops alone.

  10. I’m a bit concerned that by trying to do it all, we will fail to do anything well. Frequency and coverage are diametrically opposite goals – increase 1, and you automatically decrease the other. It just is not possible to run frequent service in meandering routes that cover everyone in a neighbourhood. Dial-up connections will indeed require a lot of creativity in addition to long-term capital and operating investment to make it work for citizens as an alternative to the private automobile. Are we on for that kind of investment? The biggest problem is if the service becomes popular, there will be wait times, which makes the service much less useful to all. I recommend our transit investments emphasize building out the frequent transit network on the main arterials – 10 minute or more frequent service at rush hour. This will also provide incentive for development to occur in the right places, near to the frequent transit routes.

  11. You know what’s sad? Its this whole country! When a person turns 65 in Britain they are able to take public transit from one end of the country to the other, from top to bottom and you know what its FREE!!! We visited friends & they took the bus from Rainford to St Helens, the train from St Helens fro Liverpool, the subway to in Liverpool to the dockside & the Ferry cross the Mersey, ALL FREE. TheThe British Government feels their senior citizens have contributed enough to deserve this, not like this cheap Country, Province, Region & City. You can’t even provide a day of free transportation for us seniors, its pathetic but normal municipal regional, provincial & federal governments n action looking for the almighty $$$.

  12. The timing of the buses is bad. No one wants to wait 40 minutes between buses on some routes

  13. I’m with Sheri on this one. We already pay the fixed and variable costs to ship buses full of fresh air around the city during off peak hours. Why not fill them with citizens of all ages, social and economic demographics. Heck we might even get some of Burlington’s millionaires to leave their Cadillacs at home and reduce congestion and GHG emissions. Come on Council, get with the citizens on this one.

  14. If frequency and coverage are improved, ridership will improve too. People that don’t use transit aren’t going to just start using transit out of nowhere. There are people who actively avoid using Burlington Transit because they regard the service as being poor. Take a look at some of the intervals: 20 min, 30 min…. if you have to transfer from one to the other, those don’t intersect well at all. Give higher priority to the “employment corridor” … the 80/81 should be at 15 minute intervals on weekdays. People don’t want to be stranded at a GO station for 28 minutes if they miss a connection on their way to work. Improve the service, and ridership will come.

  15. You can increase ridership with seniors by giving them one day a week free, and $1.00 fare between 9-4 Monday to Friday. Why not also give those whom are on low income a discount over the students

  16. Today I noticed that the Downtown bus terminal has reduced its hours. It will be opening later and closing earlier. On Saturday’s the sign indicated that the bus terminal would be closed from 1-2pm. Closed on Sunday and Holidays.

    A friend indicated that the 300 bus that would normally go right up to Joseph Brant Hospital no longer does this.

    Are these decisions those of the new Director of Transit?

What's your take?