Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Today, as promised, I’m back to public transit as it ought to be at the top of our minds as we make our decisions on October 25th.

I was optimistic in the early months of the current 4-year term Burlington Council.
Back then Burlington Council had just created a Transit Advisory Committee that was going to provide input to Council and staff on initiatives and strategies affecting public transportation services.

At the time I noted that the “creation of this committee is one indication that municipal public transit and the environment is being taken more seriously these days.”

I was wrong.

Just a little over a year later along with fellow transit advocate Doug Brown I was back at City Hall. Ridership on Burlington Transit was up according to a staff report.

But this wasn’t stopping some members of Council from taking a knife to it.

“I won’t be swayed by a couple of good months,” noted one veteran Councillor who thought the City had to “look at a simplified system.”

Simplified? One can only imagine.

Empty Buses?

This idealized simplified system comes out of a simplified thinking that typically comes from people who have little direct exposure to transit and little appreciation of how important it is. Unfortunately, some of these simplified thinkers get elected.

It isn’t just here. If you follow local news in other communities you’ll see similar simplified thinking. Local politics is often captive of what I’ve labelled as RATS. Have you noticed those people who get hot and bothered about public transit vehicles; those who Rail Against Public Transit? They’re RATS. Get it?

Toronto Star’s Urban Affairs Reporter Carole Vyhnak reported a couple of years ago on Sandra Cassidy, an Ajax Ontario resident, who was railing against Durham Transit Route 222.

Like RATS everywhere Cassidy knows that:

*Buses are “mostly empty.”

*Buses roaring down her street are a “safety hazard.”

*Since “everyone in the area has at least two cars” we don’t really need public buses.

Ms. Cassidy was not successful in getting Route 222 pulled and I’m happy to report that the route has recently expanded.

More recently Mark Towhey, a policy advisor for Toronto mayoral Candidate Rob Ford, called for a stop to funding the TTC. He’d sell off its assets.

On his blog Towhey demonstrated a keen understanding of the issue:

“Well, life’s tough. Instead of being the only three people on a 60-passenger bus, perhaps these people will have to introduce themselves, get to know their neighbours and share a taxi.”

That same kind of thinking exists in Burlington where a Ward 5 Candidate did some fancy arithmetic and came up with the “fact” that the buses are empty 98.5% of the time. An incumbent used a similar figure earlier this year. They are just wrong, but like the little boy who yelled ‘fire’ in the theatre they get lots of attention.

I’ll be back with some more before Monday’s election.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How I'm going to Vote Part 2

Many of you will be on the edge of your ergonomically perfect computer chairs wondering how my Internet voting project went.

It didn't. I got no response on the registration (see my previous post) and Internet voting is now closed. To be fair I may have pushed a wrong button or perhaps I was approved and inadvertently deleted the approval e-mail. Or maybe my PIN number was sent off to some poor disenfranchised Floridian Gore supporter still trying to make the 2000 Presidential election right.

Before I get back to transit I wanted to talk about something that isn't being talked about by candidates in the municipal election. That's poverty.

Twenty eight thousand (28,000) people in Halton live below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO). The LICO is one way, probably the best way, to measure poverty.

Community Development Halton and Poverty Free Halton just put together a video about what it is like to live in poverty in Halton. You can see Being Poor in Halton by going to the CD Halton website.

A questionnaire was sent out to candidates and you can see their
answers too at www.cdhalton.ca

One more thing in the interest of full disclosure a young Burlington filmmaker named Graham Wood made the video. I've known Graham 25 years.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


I’ve decided to try Internet Voting just to see how it works.

To do this I needed to register (to internet vote) and it needs to be done from September 27th – October 11th

It took me about three minutes to get registered. The key thing I needed was my Voter Information Notice that includes a 13-digit EID number that I had to enter along with a number of simple questions.

I now have to wait until the Clerk approves me. And I’m a little worried. Perhaps the Clerk is screening this blog before giving approval. We were told at an information session that it would take 24 hours or more for the approval and I’ve been waiting for 3 ½ days. And while I’m eager to vote I can’t actually do it until October 5th. The voting period then lasts until October 13th. I didn’t understand this at first (Shouldn’t it go right up to election day? ) but the idea is that if someone tried to vote by Internet and for some reason was not able to make it work they would still have a chance on election day (October 25th).

So while I wait for the opening of the internet voting I’ve got some time to contemplate who I’ll vote for.

A lot of what is going into my decision has to do with this City’s traditionally poor support for public transit.

Good transit is a must for a good city. There are the environmental reasons for using transit as an option to gas spewing single occupant vehicles, of course. Then there is the equity issue. It just seems to me a given that all citizens should be able to get around the town where they live and use its services and amenities. For those who choose not to have a car, can’t afford one, or maybe have health issues meaning they can’t drive good public transit is a must.

In Burlington support for public transit has been crummy relative to other similar communities.

A survey of eight peer transit properties done in 2008 showed Burlington
way behind. We were last in number of revenue passengers; last in passengers per capita; and at the bottom in the revenue per cost ratio.

But our fares were the highest. The number of revenue hours of service per capita was 8th of 9 and the amount the local taxpayer was spending on a per capita basis was the second lowest of the nine cities studies.

My point: Council is not giving the support to the service they should.

I’ve attended numerous meetings on public transit matters over the years and can tell you that Burlington council just doesn’t get it.

My next posts will elaborate.