CITY GRAPPLES WITH THE IDEA OF MOBILITY HUBS AND HOW TO ALLEVIATE DEPENDENCE ON THE CAR.
For any suburban area, transit can often be a hot topic of conversation. Municipalities are working to connect their smaller cities with nearby urban centres.
BUILDING UP, NOT OUT
Such is the case for the City of Burlington; who, as part of the newly minted Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, is seeing a familiar problem. Mayor Rick Goldring has often spoken out on Burlington’s reliance on cars. In a community newsletter from spring 2015, he wrote, “One of my priorities is engaging with residents on the topic of intensification.” This idea of ‘building up, not out’ is part of the City’s plan for the coming years.
In his 2017 State of the City Address, Goldring said that, “We will be hard at work on a transit strategy in 2017 and making key decisions around where we focus our resources.” The City’s four mobility hubs are at the centre of that.
Burlington GO and the Downtown Terminal are Provincially designated hubs, while Appleby and Aldershot GO were designated by the City. A mobility hub is a place that brings together multiple forms of transit with residential, commercial and recreational areas.
Mobility underpins almost everything we do as individuals and as communities.
-Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO of the Burlington Community Foundation
Having grown up wrestling with the frustrations of Burlington Transit, I’m very interested to see where they plan to go with this work. The City will look to integrate new development into the surrounding area according their plans.
Rosa Bustamante, Manager of Policy Planning (Mobility Hubs) expanded on the integration in an e-mail; “Better integration with surrounding neighbourhoods means providing multiple access points through new & improved walking and cycling connections as well as street network improvements.”
What Bustamante is saying does make sense but maybe not for Burlington. Data from the 2014 vital signs reports, conducted by the BCF, shows heavy reliance on the car; ninety percent of all trips are made via car. The data for transit shows a reliance on GO service primarily, with only 2% of trips taken on the local system.
This data isn’t surprising. Past articles highlighting the Burlington Transit system have produced a widely negative response. Residents are unhappy with wait times as well as the regular dropping of routes from the system map.
A COSTLY COMMUTE
Taking a step up the ladder, let’s take a look at the GO transit system. Just a little over half of Burlingtonians work in the city or region. For those who commute outwards, east is the busiest direction. Fares have gone up sequentially over the last five years. In 2012, it was announced that GO Transit would be cancelling their monthly passes in favour of the PRESTO card system.
Now with a PRESTO card, they promote a savings of $1.22 per trip (Burlington to Union). Even at $9.28 per trip, the monthly cost still clocks in at $345.35, according to the fare calculator. That’s with working or attending school five days a week.
That said, living in the suburbs still favours the use of a car. So you’re now tacking that number onto car payments as well as insurance.
I put the question of affordability to Bustamante. What will you do to encourage more people to use transit when the car is often the more affordable option?
The Integrated Transit Mobility Plan will look at the City’s existing transit network and explore the balance between ridership and coverage with the objective of encouraging higher local transit ridership levels and better access to higher order transit (i.e. the GO Train). One objective of the Mobility Hubs Study is to ensure that these areas will provide options for people to use different transportation modes and better connections to various modes of transportation which could impact the affordability of getting around the City and beyond.
ACCESSIBILITY IS KEY
Accessibility is an important issue. Having the option of taking a bus versus cycling is nice on a warm spring day. Yet there seems to be a lack of realization regarding how spread out Burlington is. The Downtown Terminal is central to employment, recreation and residential areas. It’s serving its purpose as a mobility hub already. Aldershot is seeing a large number of developments near its GO Station, but a lack of bus usage. Only three routes service the station. Two of those are the 1 Plains Road route which heads into Hamilton.
Appleby and Burlington GO are not ideal to walk from or to unless you live in the area. Burlington GO, the city’s main hub is halfway between the major malls. It’s about a 25 minute walk at best. So therefore, you’re relying on transit further which means another wait for a transfer.
Mobility hubs will be play a big part of the city’s 25-year strategic plan. Intensification requires planning and if the past is any indication, a little head butting with long-time residents. Phase one of the process is already underway. The city is currently reviewing data from a number of studies and conducting a series of public meetings. From there they will determine, based on a number of factors, how to proceed with each hub.
BCF CEO and President Colleen Mulholland said, “As Burlington continues to grow as a city that supports … thoughtfully planned and environmentally-friendly Mobility Hubs inclusive of transit, employment, housing, and social and recreational activities.” (FIX THIS – nonsensical)
More to come on the plans for these Mobility Hubs.