Province and Feds Help Fund Transit

People ask why do we have full size buses and not small ones or even ones like those used in Okotoks?  (See link below to earlier article). Well I don’t have an answer but if spending Council money is the problem, then the Federal and Provincial Governments are helping big time to buy replacements for existing fleets.  Today, MPP David Piccini announced the support being provided to Cobourg and Port Hope via the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.  Cobourg’s 2020 budget included $160K (contingent on a grant) to replace a Wheels bus, $230K in 2021 for one regular bus and $460K in 2022 to replace two more regular buses – total $850K.  The grants for Cobourg are $496,182 from the Federal Government and $413,443 from the Province with the Town putting in $330,829 for a total of $1.24M – for two conventional 30-foot transit buses, and one 8-metre low floor specialized vehicle. [Clarified from initial info].

Transit announcement
Transit announcement

In making the announcement, MPP Piccini said:

“The investments we are announcing today include projects that will improve capacity, quality and accessibility of the transit systems in these communities. Overall, our investment will help enhance the transit system’s efficiency and provide for a better customer experience.”

The 2 [corrected] new 30 foot buses will be “fully accessible” so are presumably an upgrade on those originally costed.   They also will be in the fleet earlier than planned in the 2020 budget.

Port Hope also gets grants totaling $194K to allow transit expansion into rural areas plus other upgrades.

No word yet on the “integration” of bus services between Port Hope and Cobourg that Mayor Henderson has mentioned several times.  Maybe this funding will allow that.


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21 September 2020 4:56 pm

This is old money from an old announcement. It’s the same dough they announced August 2019.
They do get to have the photo-op and praise twice though.

21 September 2020 11:48 am

I have just watched the video, from the last blog, entitled ‘Okotos’ and I think that is a great idea!! I do agree, that for some that do not have a cell phone, like myself, that maybe a better way of paying, should be developed.

How about a ‘tap & go’ card? This would be similar to the ‘presto’ card system, used for Go Trains. The card could be purchased from our City Hall and also loaded there? I think that Port Hope should be on board with this, along with a ‘blended’ Police Dept. and Fire Dept…but I digress!

Maybe this card has to be ‘tapped’ when the rider also leaves the bus, as for those travelling from Cobourg to Port Hope or maybe there could be a ‘loop’ for transfering from a Cobourg bus to a Port Hope bus? This would be similar to the ‘city limits’ transfer, one had to do when travelling north out of Toronto, heading to North York….back in the day?

I do think, there are better ways to make use of our transit buses? Let’s face it. Our little town is growing up and with more of us getting ‘longer in the tooth’, there should be an easier way to get around?

I guess the ‘transit system’ is in my blood as I currently drive a school bus and my maternal grandfather was a ‘conductor’ for the T.T.C. right after coming home from Europe and WW1.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ken
21 September 2020 12:27 pm

Ken, develop something “similar to the ‘presto’ card system“? I assume that you are joking!

Why not just let riders use their credit/debit card? That would mean no special card, no trip to Victoria Hall to “load” your special card, no consultants to design a custom system, no custom card readers, no custom software, no custom cards to purchase and carry and the same card could be used to buy groceries and liquor and…

Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 September 2020 11:47 am

Hi Ken,

As long as the buses have a ‘credit/debit’ card reader, then I have to agree with you.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Ken
22 September 2020 12:33 pm

Small portable card tap/swipe are available from companies like Square. Cost for a reader is about $70… no info on service/processing costs, but I expect that they are competitive with other services like Moneris

21 September 2020 9:35 am

Ask the riders.
Find out what is required.
Accessible for disabilities Reliable not breaking down buses. Schedule and routes. The bus running with enough seating for all riders.
Bus size has been oversized far too long. It costs more got buy ,run, maintain , and upkeep larger buses. If extra needed for festivals bring on school buses that in summer and weekends sit idle.
Ask the bus drivers and the handicap bus drivers they need to be heard as they are the front line and can give best insight.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Dee
21 September 2020 11:17 am

Thanks Donna, Well done!
What a common sense idea and it didn’t take mega bucks in consultants fees to come up with it.
Imagine, talking to the end users and the people who work on the job supplying the service. Who would have thought.
But staff will never buy in. No expensive consultants and subject matter experts. Can’t possibly be worth anything.

Last edited 2 years ago by SW Buyer
Peter de Auer
19 September 2020 8:49 am

does use of large vs small buses depend on a simple set of variables which need to be analyzed: capital and operating costs. On the operating side fuel and labour. The latter depends on whether trips are for individual riders, or more than one can be accommodated. If the latter, bigger buses are probably better.

19 September 2020 7:18 am

Why does the article that we have full size buses? We most certainly do not. A full sized bus would be those used in larger communities, they are 1/3 (10 ft) longer than what we have in Cobourg.

Paul Pagnuelo
18 September 2020 7:08 pm

Our whole approach to public transit needs to to be rethought. 40 ft. diesel spewing, mostly empty speeding buses covering part of Town is not the solution.

It doesn’t sell votes and I guess we are poor learners when It comes to history. Who made this decision? Some bureaucrat in a back room? Council should ride the buses for a full day and then return the cheques to Ottawa and QP in exchange for a solution that works.

Yet another example of why people have lost faith in the political process when they see our tax dollars wasted so foolishly.

Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
19 September 2020 7:12 am

“Mostly empty”, not when I see them they’re not. The only thing being spewed with that comment is rhetoric with no proof.

Speaking of spin, you say “40 ft”, when the writeup clearly says 30 ft.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ahewsonator
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewsonator
19 September 2020 9:01 am

Ahewsonator, I agree with Paul. I have NEVER seen a Cobourg bus that was close to full. When and where do you see full buses?

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 September 2020 9:28 am

This summer being an exception because of Covid-19 ,there are usually one (or two) full size buses also that run from the beach to Northumberland Mall.
Purpose to help minimize the parking nightmare around the beach /surrounding areas that occurs every summer.
I have never seen a passenger on them.
What is the cost of providing that unneeded service?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 September 2020 4:06 pm

Why do buses have to be full? If you want full buses go to Toronto where the buses are sardine cans. Public transit as in Cobourg is meant to be a taxpayer funded convenience for those who have no other means of transport. It’s what makes living in Cobourg special. You don’t have to own a car. Alternative use transit is just another name for Uber. Careful once you lose public transit you will never get it back.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Conor
19 September 2020 6:21 pm

Why do buses have to be full?

Did you consider the possibility that almost empty buses are extremely expensive per passenger, have a huge carbon footprint, are noisy and…?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 September 2020 6:49 pm

And your car isn’t?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Conor
19 September 2020 7:07 pm

We were discussing the impact of essentially empty buses and not my car. That said, my car is far less noisy than a bus, uses very little fuel compared to a bus and never transports fewer than one traveler; Cobourg buses frequently transport nobody other than the driver.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Ahewsonator
19 September 2020 11:49 am

There seems to be some inconsistency in the reports on the busses.

The article above indicates “…3 new 30 foot buses will be “fully accessible”…”
A report from Today’s Northumberland (TN) indicates “…three new buses (two conventional 30-foot transit buses and one 8-metre (26ft), low floor specialized vehicle) to replace aging vehicles in the fleet will improve the town’s transit system by making all buses fully accessible…”

The TN report suggests that the 2 conventional” busses are “fully accessible” If that is the case, why buy one low floor version? Why not 3 “conventional buses that are “fully accessible” or 3 “low floor” busses.

Ridership questions come up every time this topic is “discussed”….the busses have none or a few riders…. to “…not when I see them they’re not. The only thing being spewed with that comment is rhetoric with no proof…”

This last statement addresses one of the main problems with discussions on this topic: the lack of ridership and cost data.
What are the minimum, maximum and average daily & weekly ridership metrics from 2019 & 2018?
What are the average daily & weekly/monthly operating costs?
What are the total ownership costs?

I assume this data is available and was used to make the grant applications. Make the data public so that we, the taxpayers (at all levels), can assess the wisdom of this proposed purchase.

The province and Feds don’t really care which bus is purchased, as long as it is made in Canada (I fully endorse this part) and they get most of the credit (PR).
Cobourg should pick the equipment that best suites its needs and ability to pay.

John Draper
Reply to  Fact Checker
19 September 2020 12:01 pm

Thanks for pointing this out. The post has now been clarified.

18 September 2020 5:51 pm

Smaller buses are not necessarily the answer. Driving two 20-seat buses about that are ¼ full is actually more expensive than driving one 40-seat bus that is only ¼ full. Either way, you are transporting 10 riders, but the costs per ride are very different. .

To take an extreme example: twice as many buses, each with ½ the capacity, would double the number of drivers (a major expense) licence fees, scheduled maintenance costs (2 buses go in for their checkup instead of 1) the number of tires needing replacement, fuel costs (more or less) etc. etc. And the bigger buses are still needed at times when they run at capacity, such as “rush hours”.

Other issues such a frequency of service and cost of buying the buses in the first place make the discussion just that much more complicated.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Fact Checker
Reply to  JimT
18 September 2020 5:57 pm

Interesting analysis.
Do you have cost of operation documentation to support your analysis?
Can you share this documentation and your analysis?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
18 September 2020 6:26 pm

I’m puzzled. I’ve never seen a Cobourg bus with more than a few riders. When is “rush hour” when the buses are run at capacity?

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 September 2020 6:58 pm

I agree with Ken, I have never seen rush hour bus use in Cobourg, usually they are nearly empty or empty. Smaller buses as I’ve seen in Port Hope seem more cost efficient, however those buses are empty as well, leading me to believe few people use public transit.

Peter de Auer
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
19 September 2020 9:06 am

A few thoughts on the big picture about the need for transit.

One of the issues is schedules and routing. The reason for few riders is that the design does not start with where people want to go from where and when. Just as an example, people without cars using transit to go shopping would want the end point to be the supermarkets. No need for city wide routes. Do the ” seniors ” centers experience high volumes at certain identifiable times? if most downtown stores open at the same time, schedule busses accordingly.

Reply to  Peter de Auer
19 September 2020 12:34 pm

I have a different perspective. For those dependent on public transport for shopping, the “end point” is where they live.

Getting to the store is difficult enough; getting home from the closest bus stop loaded with bags of groceries and such is a much greater concern, especially when the weather is windy and cold and the streets clogged with snow and ice.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Reply to  JimT
19 September 2020 12:53 pm

Alternative transit solutions such as those available or under consideration in Innisfil and Belleville may be the answer to the problems you outline. Proper consideration of alternative solutions prior to blindly following the old (way we’ve always done it) methods should be the norm rather than the exception

Also see John Draper’s post on the
Okotoks (Calgary suburb) Alberta solution:

and John’s prior post in August 2019:

Last edited 2 years ago by Bryan
Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  Peter de Auer
20 September 2020 8:43 am

Could not agree more. That’s smart thinking which should be the basic and logical start point.

Did the Transportation Advisory Committee have any input to the funding application and what review and analysis, if any, did it conduct into travel patterns. timing, places and ridership demographics?

It would be insightful to the discussion to know the process and who was involved.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Pagnuelo
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
20 September 2020 9:49 am

It seems unbelievable that Cobourg could be planning to spend $1.5M on new buses plus the ongoing costs for their operation without knowing details of current and anticipated future usage: How many people use the bus? When do they use it? What are the endpoints of their trips? Are some areas under-serviced? Are some areas over-serviced? What should change to better meet user needs?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
20 September 2020 12:01 pm

I support public transit in Cobourg and the use of Town owned buses and other support services like Wheels. Certainly, a system that needs to continually adapt in response to ridership needs and feedback as well as a growing town. The pandemic protocols have changed the service for a while. And I do not believe the Innisfil experiment, although very popular, has led to saving money for that municipality. Also, I checked Cobourg Civicweb for the meeting schedule for Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. They are meeting next week (Sept 24) and appear not to have had a meeting since February.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  MiriamM
20 September 2020 4:32 pm

And I do not believe the Innisfil experiment, although very popular, has led to saving money for that municipality.

Miriam, has the Innisfil experiment resulted in happier residents for the same or lower cost? If it is more expensive, do the residents think that it is worth the additional cost? Providing a service that doesn’t meet resident’s needs is not a reasonable choice regardless of cost.

Merry Mary
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
20 September 2020 9:21 am

“Rush Hour” varies, depending on the time of the month- the time of one’s highest income- in that shoppers are in the majority throughout the day and seating on the buses, more so for Route One, is at capacity. Covid-19 does alter the previous sentence because seating is also highly limited in order to abide by the physical distancing requirement, and often I have had to walk instead.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 September 2020 7:49 pm

5:00 p.m. quitting time when workers and shoppers are headed home at the same time. I’ve been through it more than once.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
18 September 2020 8:39 pm

Wow JimT! More than once in how many years?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
18 September 2020 8:42 pm

JimT, consider another conclusion. Get rid of the buses! If we have to provide an almost free charity transit service then do as Innisfil and give out taxi chits. There is absolutely no justification for large buses in a small town such as Cobourg.
Buses seem to be another example of a failure of Ben’s “institutional memory” — we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
19 September 2020 12:09 pm

Complicated decision it may be, and I don’t have any data regarding the + ver – of small ver large buses, however, in going small we start the process (and psychology) of getting decision makers to think small (footprint, costs, bus maneuverability, etc) and that for me is a positive step.