Use it or lose it

0x0_637853That was the message last week by town councillor Mike Boughton regarding the state of Milton Transit.

“Use it or lose it.”

Nothing really of note came out of this meeting from town councillors on how we can make the transit system better or find ways of saving money, or encouraging people to use the buses more.  Does the lack of attendance show that people don’t care about our transit system?  Hands up to those people who knew there was a meeting at town council discussing Milton Transit?  I thought so.

I recently heard someone joke about the contest Milton Transit had a couple of years back when the new buses were unveiled.  People were encouraged to take a picture of the bus if they saw one driving around town.  The contest should have been if you can see a bus driving around town WITH people in it.

Maybe town council should have thought about it more before they decided to invest over $3 million in buying new buses for the town.  Maybe they should have realized ridership was lower than they expected before they sent the cheque for several brand new, state of the art buses, to drive around town on a daily basis…empty.

Every year the report on Milton Transit came out and it showed what they called an “increase in ridership” for Milton Transit.  This report didn’t take into consideration the “free days” throughout the year.  If the buses are free, more people use them. 

The main problem with our transit system is convenience.  For instance, it’s not convenient for someone in the south eastern part of town to take the bus to go to downtown Milton.  If someone from Hawthorne Village wants to go downtown Milton to have a meal at the Ivy Arms or Pasqualino Cafe they would have to take at least two buses there and two buses back.  Or if someone who lives at Bronte Street and Ontario wanted to go to Montana’s or shop at Walmart at James Snow Parkway and Steeles, they would again have to take two buses there and two buses back.

Convenient?  Check the maps and see where you would be able to go if you were to take the bus.  I live at Thompson and Yates Drive and I wouldn’t even be able to go to one of my favourite places to get a coffee, Cafe Deda at Trudeau and Derry Road by bus.  If I wanted to go downtown Milton to Main Street Yarns to buy something for my mother, I wouldn’t be able to without taking two buses.  That means that during the day it would take me close to 45-50 minutes to go downtown Milton where I could take my car and be there in less than 10 minutes.

Has town council actually gone to the Milton Chamber of Commerce or the Milton DBIA to ask them what they think would help get people to take the bus?  I’m sure that the DBIA would love to see more people walking the streets of downtown Milton. 

The main reason why people take public transit is for work related travel.  So if you work and live in Milton there’s an option right?  Not likely.  Lets say you work at the new business park at the top of Hwy 25 and 401 and you live south of Main Street…you have to take two buses there and two buses back.  I don’t think there has been any study in town to find out how many people work and live in Milton but the numbers would definitely be interesting.  My guess, and that’s all it is, would be roughly 15% of people work and live in Milton.  As its been described before, Milton has become a bedroom community with a majority of people working outside of town.

There’s a trend forming here and it didn’t take too long for me to figure it out.

The focal point of the Milton Transit system is the GO Station and people who need to take the GO Train out of town SHOULD be encouraged to use the transit system.  Its perfectly set up for them.  Where is the advertising from Milton Transit to those riders?  Why don’t we see any programs available for these individuals like reduced rates, free days, etc to help promote the ease of taking the transit to the GO Station instead of trudging up Thompson Road first thing in the morning to complain about the number of lights and how slow it is.

If I had to take the GO Train out of town, Id be taking the bus believe me.  Problem is that aspect of the convenience of Milton Transit isn’t being talked about.  They just went ahead and spent millions on new buses and thought people will come in droves.  That kind of thinking reminds me of the movie FIELD OF DREAMS… “If you build it they will come.”

Not the case in the real world.  So instead of making comments like “use it or lose it”, we need to see some leadership and out of the box thinking.  Maybe the routes need to be changed in order to accommodate people who would like to shop and eat downtown to take the bus instead of a car.

Just imagine if they could go back in time and do some market research to find out if the system that was in place was acceptable to the potential transit rider.  Imagine if they surveyed people who drive from all parts of Milton to the GO Transit station and informed them of the routes in place, and offered an incentive for them to use.

There is a current promotion right now for free rides to the Milton Library for people under the age of 14.

Read and Ride Program for Summer 2009

Milton Transit and the Milton Public Library are teaming up for the Read and Ride Program. If you are 14 years of age or younger, you can ride the bus for free to the library to enjoy special summer reading programs, books, magazines and more, courtesy of Milton Transit. (Ride all over town for free, too!)

Visit the library as of mid-June to obtain a transit sticker for your library card. Ride Milton Transit all over town for free by presenting your stickered library card on the bus. Stickers are valid from July 6 to August 28; parent/guardian fare still applies. For information on summer reading programs at the library, visit Milton Public Library or call 905-875-2665.

Great idea but…people are still going to be required to take a bus, then transfer to another bus in order to get to the library no matter what part of town they are coming from outside of Route 2 on the map.  If someone from north of Main Street along Route 1 or Route 4 or Route 5 wants to take advantage of this program, transfering buses WILL be required.  Also, the fare is free for the child under 14 but not the parent or guardian taking the child to the library.

Will this promotion work?  Will having this available to students under 14 years old intice a parent or guardian to take their kids to the Milton Library on Milton Transit?  What do you think?

Our town has grown rapidly in the last several years and will continue to do so in the near future.  A new campus of WLU is being built shortly and there will be lots of students with or without cars who will need the convenience of a transit system to get about town.  Hundreds of homes are being built on the west side of town which means more congestion on the streets for people travelling around town.

Given these future changes, I think its time for our local government to take a long and hard look at the transit system that’s in place, admit that its been a colossal failure and the millions spent on the new buses was a mistake, and try to find a way to fix it before any more money is wasted.

This goes back to something I talked about during the last municipal campaign…door knocking.  Everyone, including myself, knocked on doors during the campaign.  What I talked about was continuing that in between election campaigns.  How do you know what the people are thinking if you don’t ask them.  You can continue to hold meetings that a majority of people wont attend and then say “see…no one cares.” or you can get out there and talk to people directly.  You can ask them face to face what they think and what advice they might have.

Democracy is a two way street.  People expect that their elected representatives wont forget about them the 3 or so years in between votes.  Problem is, no one is seen going door to door to get peoples opinions.  Maybe they’re afraid of what they hear?

Comments

  1. Mark June 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    That summer reading program wont work at all. As a parent who lives in Hawthorne Village this does not intice me to use the transit system, especially to go to the library.

    What Id like to see is a bus system that travels through downtown Milton like it did during the Street Festival. Thats when you saw the buses filled with people.

    If there was a way to take the bus to go to the farmers market Id be there every week. Instead I grab the car and go as its much faster.

    They definately didnt think ahead when making the decisions to buy more buses for this town. The way its set up is unworkable period.

    Unless Im going to the GO train, I wont be able to use it. And in turn, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being wasted.

    This should definately be an election issue next year.

    And as for hearing from our councillors since being elected? Thats a laugh. Ive sent Brian and Rick dozens of emails that have gone unanswered. They grabbed onto the power plant issue and ran with it, got elected and we havent seen them since.

  2. Who does he think he is? June 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Use it or lose it?

    How about do your JOB or lose it?

    Sadly, I think his job is safe considering where he lives and who he is.

    Thats pretty damn arrogant if you ask me.

    I dont think that response is indicative of the entire council but it does raise concerns. Lets say youre a business owner and youve just opened up your store. After awhile no one is using your product or service. What do you say? “Use it or lose it” or do you work at fixing whats not working. The transit system is clearly not working in Milton and needs to be revamped. – Mike

  3. Annon June 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Great analogy Mike. It fits perfectly. Town Council and those running Milton Transit are responsible for this failure of an operation, and then blame US for not using it.

    I just wish more people around that council table looked at things from a business point of view. Might have solved a few problems.

  4. mikecluett June 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Facebook comments…

    Heather at 12:22pm June 15
    My kids would use it if the hours were better and they had a better student rate.

  5. mikecluett June 15, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Facebook comments…

    Mark at 1:36pm June 15
    Wow, brilliant. Maybe that guy should open up a business with lousy service levels and say “Come in and shop here or I’ll close down”. Typical politician..

  6. mikecluett June 15, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Facebook comments…

    Sean at 4:37pm June 15
    Locally, the idiots (City Hall) spent $200,000 on a logo- 5 dots, 3 blue, 2 red- to give the impression of speed for the buses. Paint a god-damned Ferrari on the side if you want, its still a freaken bus! F-sakes. Maybe THEY should have dots on them (wait, some do! 😉 It is Brampton afterall)

  7. Paul M June 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Where does council get the gall to tell us to use it or lose it? It was these fools that started it up in the first place! I don’t recall people ever demanding a transit system in Milton.

    If anything WE the people of Milton should be telling council FIX IT or lose your damn jobs!

    That comment was made by one councillor, and not a true representation of everyone around the table. I think many of them are sratching their heads wondering what has to be done to get it to work. – Mike

  8. Paul M June 15, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    And by FIX IT, I mean shut it down and don’t start up any other hair brained fool ideas.

  9. Paul M June 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Council blaming Miltonians for not riding transit is like GM blaming their customers for not buying hybrids.

  10. Zeeshan Hamid June 16, 2009 at 9:42 am

    You have to take two buses to get to anywhere in Milton? I can’t take a bus even if I wanted to! The gods at the Milton Transit didn’t think people West of Bronte were worth servicing.

    IMO they should at least have buses during rush hours taking people straight to the Go station. I know many of my neibhours who commute to the GO station from the escarpment. That Go area can be a hub for Milton like the square-one area is for Mississauga.

    Zeeshan Hamid
    http://www.zhamid.ca/blog

    It seems the transit committee thinks everyone in town wants to go to the GO transit station and nowhere else. What about councils committment to supporting downtown Milton businesses? Thats where the focus should be. – Mike

  11. Why dont people vote June 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

    This boggles my mind as I try to think of the reasons why people dont vote, but yet they want the people already in to change. Ive lived here now for almost 10 years and nothing seems to change.

    People complain endlessly over the smallest of details and when the time comes to do something about it, they stay home and claim “I didnt have enough time to go vote.”

    Council raises taxes and people write letters to the paper and talk about how things have to change. Then an election comes around and they stay home. To top it off people then complain that nothings changed.

    Last election had some very good candidates running for the job, including you Mike… (my wife and I voted for you) and some did win like Colin Best. Ive sent emails and called some councillors and outside of Colin Best and yourself (and youre not even my councillor), no one ever gets back to me. I talk with my friends and they all say the same thing, but when you look at the voting totals though, no one came out to make that change.

    You cant shake a stick around town without hitting someone who has an opinion.

    I just wish those who are complaining all the time about how things dont change yet dont do anything about it would either clam up or do something about it.

    I hope youre not moving out of Milton Mike because we need you to run again next year.

    /end rant 🙂

    Nope…Im staying in Milton. You’d have to drag me away kicking and screaming 😉 – Mike

  12. mymilton June 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Well, the age-old debate rages on, eh? Except it’s a bit different now, from when we had only one or 2 old school buses ( I don’t think they were even painted white when MT first began) bouncing the rare riders around town.

    Is Milton even a ‘transit-friendly’ town? Can a bus system work, on a schedule that would encourage people to use it? I kinda doubt it.

    Yeah Mike, don’t you move out of town; I’ll volunteer for you when you run next election!

    Chris Newell
    http://MiltonBlog.ca

  13. Ticked Off Voter June 24, 2009 at 2:38 am

    I agree with Chris. Mike, I know its early but you NEED to run again. I remember you from the last election.

    You were the only person who came to by door to find out what I was concerned about. I still have your magnet on my fridge and cant wait to vote for you again.

    The mistake a lot of people made last time was to assume others would vote. We need to make sure you win next year.

    Anyone else agree?

  14. greenjenny July 7, 2009 at 3:28 am

    One option that might be considered is to have two distinct route schedules – one for GO commuters during rush hours, and another centred more on downtown during days and weekends.

    And yes, it’s insane that voter turnout and interest is lowest for municipal elections when those are the ones that have the most direct effect on our day-to-day lives. Especially since we don’t have to put up with the complication of political parties and can just focus on the positions of the individual candidates.

    What I found interesting is that a lot of HV residents used the transit during the street festival. I spoke with one member of council about this and his immediate response was “its because its free.” Not so, the route was different and there wasn’t any need for a transfer. Simple, one bus to desired location…downtown Milton. Problem much easier to solve. Again that councillor said “people want the bus to come right by their house”…again, not the case. Seemed almost programed in his response without really hearing what I was saying. – Mike

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