Saturday, March 29, 2008


Ridership on Burlington Transit is up, particularly recently.

This won’t stop some members of Council from taking a knife to it.

“I won’t be swayed by a couple of good months,” Councillor John Taylor made clear at Community and Corporate Service Committee this past Wednesday.

Taylor thinks we may have to “look at a simplified system.”

Simplified? One can only imagine.

My mind flashed back some 15 years to an idea put forward by another councillor. That brainwave – and I’m not making this one up - was to take the buses back to the garage when they were empty. It would save money.
Presumably, potential riders waiting along abandoned routes could hail taxis or maybe just take the day off work.

I’m confident that the current cost containment exercise will come up with better ideas. But I worry.

Empty Buses?

Councillors and senior staff agonize over empty buses.

It is a fact that hard worker taxpayers, mostly men as I recall,
find time to phone city hall and complain about those empty buses observed, I am sure, while cruising around town as the sole occupant in their carbon spewing SUVs. No irony there, eh?

But the buses aren’t empty. Performance statistics show nearly 9,000 boardings every weekday.

Councillor Rick Goldring noted the number of people riding the buses is about the same as the number who frequent our libraries. No one is questioning the need for libraries. Transit ought to be the same.

Stay Tuned

The data we put forward at committee suggested Burlington is not putting the emphasis on transit that other communities have.

Councillors, not unreasonably, questioned this data and asked staff to look at the numbers.

Much of the discussion focused on the fact that our neighbouring town, Oakville, seemed to spend more dollars on transit and had better performance too.

There are challenges as Councillor Craven acknowledged but the future will see us “more dependent on transit.”

“We have to invest in our infrastructure.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Old Blogger, Old Bus and the Same Old Story - Part One

Off to City Hall this week to speak to the issue of public transit.

The City of Burlington has initiated a cost containment exercise. And while, like motherhood and apple pie, we all want costs contained, we also want to maintain a decent transit system.

Some would argue we don’t have a decent system in this community now. Some transit users get frustrated, give up on the buses and buy cars. I heard of four who had just this week.

Sadly, many in the community don’t support public transit. Sometimes these people get elected. But I digress.

The presentation Doug Brown and I prepared is available should you be interested. (e-mail me at

The essence of the presentation was that it is important for our environment and important to the quality of life in our town that we have good transit.

We’d like the cost containment exercise to keep that in mind.

New Street # 10 Bus

A surprising amount of the discussion at Committee focused on the 23 year old bus I rode to City Hall.

Does this seem old to you? Twenty years ago all municipal buses were pulled from service after 18 years. That has changed ("financial constraints") - and Burlington has been buying and repairing old buses.

Of the City’s 52 buses twenty (38%) are between 22 – 25 years old. Some Councillors seemed surprised at this revelation - surprising in itself as they approve the purchases and there are always lengthy discussions around the council table before purchases are made.

Be Ye Thankful

One Councillor noted that I should be "thankful” to be riding the 23 year old bus. He thought, I guess, that buses were better made then.

Yes, I am thankful because my health allows me to ride these old non-accessible buses. Many in our community can’t.

So here is the issue.

More people will use the system if it is accessible and provides quality service.

Does Council mow the parks with lawnmowers that are twenty three years old? Can you imagine how exercised our hockey players would get if 23 year old zambonis broke down and the ice couldn’t be cleared?.

We’ll have more on this meeting tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Trust the Process

“Trust the process.” Former Burlington mayor Walter Mulkewich brought this bit of advice to city Council last night.

This was in the context of trying to decide on a design option for the proposed Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Good advice. But when is process finished, or started for that matter?

That was at the crux of the debate and, in fact, is at the centre of many city hall debates.

It is clear that there has been lots of process on this file. Meetings, reports, polling and public consultation go back at least six – some might even say nine - years.

Today’s politicians largely support “process.” But they are elected to make decisions. At the end of the day they have to raise their hands and vote yes or no. Opportunities can be missed and costs will escalate if decisions continually get put back.

A big part of yesterday’s debate was whether the proposed location of a studio theatre (front or back) best met the needs of potential user groups and the community.

It seemed early in the evening that most of those who supported and will use the Centre were satisfied with the “front” location.

Mayor Jackson didn’t see it that way. His reasonable view was that more process was needed, specifically around the studio theatre location. Toward the end of a sometimes acrimonious debate he moved an amendment:

“That the Project Management Team and the Performing Arts Advisory Committee must agree on the location of the studio theatre location before the design phase can commence.”

The motion was defeated four votes to three.

So, Councillors did indeed get to raise their hands and made a decision (on a 5 – 2 vote) to move a preferred option to the design development phase.

More To Come

There will still be lots of process. Concerns about escalating costs were mitigated only slightly by MP Mike Wallace’s commitment of $1.5 million additional federal support.

Those who see no value in such an important community project will be back. Neigbours will eventually have lots to say.

Parking as always is an issue on municipal projects – cost, accessibility and impacts on community.

Typically, those councillors who spoke about access to the facility talked of convenient car drop opportunities. Nary a thought that many users of the Centre would/could use public transit.

Monday, March 17, 2008


To paraphrase Art Linkletter; politicians say the darndest things. Case in point the pearl above from former Toronto Mayor Alan Lamport.

Although Lamport was good, or is it bad, Mel Lastman,Mayor of Toronto, (1997 – 2003) and North York (1972 -1997) would run a close second. Looking back at some of his best known lines oddly provides a bit of commentary on some of the municipal issues we have faced over the last twenty five years.

Mel was way ahead of his time.

“It would save energy. There are more car accidents at night. Everybody else is out of their heads if they don’t go along with this.”

Explaining why North York would introduce Daylight Saving time in March 1984, instead of in April. - 1984

Now that you he has some time on his hands Mel might be interested in season’s tickets for the new Burlington Performing Arts Centre?

“I can’t sit and listen to music. Opera would drive me out of my mind. Musicals I don’t enjoy. Or ballet. I’d go crazy. My nerves wouldn’t permit it.” - February 1986

Remember when the stores were closed on Sunday?

“It doesn’t make any sense that a consumer can drink or go the racetrack on Sunday but cannot buy a Bible or clothes. The law is discriminatory. There’s no two ways about it.”

In support of Sunday shopping - May 1995

Does the Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty understand this tugboat thing?

“Local governments are like tugboats – they’re manoeuvrable and get things done.”- August 1997

How does garbage pick up every two weeks grab you, Mel?

“I know if I walked out at night and saw a raccoon with those big eyes staring at me, I’d run… people are petrified to put the garbage out now.”

On his belief that raccoons, skunks and rats are drawn by garbage in once-a-week-pickup in Toronto. November 97

A lot of people are just figuring out what Mel knew all along.

“Everything (premier) Mike Harris touches turns to crap.”

During an attack on the premier over downloading costs dumped on the city - June 8, 2001

And speaking of crap

“Sometimes too much knowledge is a dangerous thing, almost, in some areas, in my view.

Words of wisdom from Mel’s friend Mike Harris.

As Alan Lamport once said: All this progress is marvelous… now if only it would stop.”

“I have decided that this will be may last year in office because, ladies and gentlemen, Toronto’s future is secure.” - April 2003