Council Debates Transit Hybrid Fixed Route

There’s no move to change to the previous fixed route system but at the recent Council meeting, Councillor Adam Bureau pushed strongly to have a hybrid transit system – at least until enough buses could be deployed. Adam said that currently there are 2 buses when there should be 5 (see below for more detail) and that as an interim measure, one bus should operate on a fixed route with two continuing with on-demand service. Other councillors were not convinced and pointed to a number of problems. Funding for the extra bus would come out of reserves intended to pay for new buses but Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty said that this would go against Council’s goal of setting aside money for Capital expenditures.

Normally a “Notice of Motion” like the one Adam proposed would mean a discussion at a later meeting but Adam wanted an immediate decision so asked for a “suspension for the rules of order”. This required a two thirds majority vote and since Councillor Barber was absent, this meant a vote of 4 in favour. The vote was taken and passed so a decision could be made in the current meeting.

The debate was long but it’s possible to list the concerns with the proposal:

  1. Currently, 2 small town owned buses provide fully accessible on-demand service and there is one school bus used as well – but although nominally also accessible, it’s not good in that respect so is not used for “wheels” applications. New small buses are not expected to be delivered until mid 2024.
  2. One of the major problems at the moment is getting enough drivers. Driver shortages also explains the unhappiness with the current system. Only yesterday (May 25) the Town announced that because of a driver shortage, Transit service would end at 7:45 pm instead of the usual 9:00 pm.
  3. Although Adam pointed to a large number of complaints, Mayor Lucas Cleveland said that the complaint level has reduced significantly. So how many people are actually affected? Adam responded that many have given up and now take taxis.
  4. The previous fixed route system had 2 routes and did not cover some Areas (e.g. New Amherst). One bus on a fixed route system would have to focus on “hot-spots” like the Mall, Downtown and retirement centres. It may not run everyday and could not do all that people would expect.
  5. Buying a new bus would take some time – Staff are currently working on writing an RFP document – it would specify small buses and would suit the on-demand system but would not be issued until after the budget sessions expected in 3 months. Delivery would be mid 2024.
  6. Although usage is 20% higher, actual rider numbers were not available.
  7. The cost of adopting the proposed system would be $70K (in this year?) and the money would come from Transit reserves – intended for capital purchases. As noted above, Nicole was not happy with this idea.

Decision

Mayor Cleveland said that the basic problem was transportation and wanted a different approach.

He moved that Council refer the decisions on a hybrid system until 2024 budget deliberations but meanwhile that staff should expedite preparation of a by-law on “Vehicles for Hire, ridesharing and Taxi Licensing” to make more transportation available in Cobourg. Also that the Town should “engage with Northumberland County on discussions on the expansion of Commuter Connect with the Town of Cobourg and County Wide” [That’s the plan to setup a bus service connecting Northumberland communities – could it have more than one stop in Cobourg?].

His motion passed.

Then in a recorded vote, Council voted 4-2 against Adam’s hybrid plan. Only Miriam supported Adam’s idea.

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marya
8 months ago

The On Demand Transit System is first-rate. When not in demand, the buses are stationary rather than circulating the Town every hour even when empty as was the complaint from many on this blog for the Fixed Route System. There is access to off-route places and connection to the system by home ☎️.

Carol
8 months ago

Well we finally made the news in Peterborough. The other morning people were on CHEX displaying their 160.00 tickets and they were trying to explain our complicated parking. Way to go.

Cobourg taxpayer
8 months ago

As a taxpayer I ask that there be value for the considerable amount of taxes paid. It appears that there are not enough riders using public transportation in Cobourg to make it economically viable. Other options should be explored.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
9 months ago

Ben, since you quoted me in your blog I feel compelled to respond.

Several have noted that about 300 residents use the bus regularly. Considering the total annual cost of our transit system that means that each user costs the taxpayers about $6,000 per year! That is more than the annual lease costs for a late model Subaru + insurance + enough gas for short trips around town.

Why don’t we just give every current transit user a free car and eliminate the noisy bus? Same cost to the taxpayers, more convenient for the riders and no worries about hiring enough drivers.

Heather
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Wow the level of disconnect and privilege is off the charts here. Have you ever taken Cobourg transit? I take it myself all the time and I can say almost every time I’m on it there is a person in a wheelchair or there is a blind persons who are regularly on it as well that get groceries and teens too young to drive.

Last edited 9 months ago by Heather
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Heather
9 months ago

Heather, to rephrase your comments:

Some people use the bus and I think that it is reasonable for the rider to pay $2 and for the taxpayers to pay $60 for each of their trips. Anyone who questions this absurdity is “disconnected and privileged”. I don’t want to discuss more cost effective alternatives such Uber or taxi or giving each frequent user a free late model car.

Why?

Heather
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Ken, please explain how someone in a wheelchair is supposed to use a Uber (which isn’t even available in our town). Same with taxi, also we have a total of 2 taxi drivers according to the one I recently asked the question of. How are teens or those with medical issues preventing them from driving to run their essential errands? The GO transit runs at. $144 per ride cost right now, Cobourgs expenditures at $60 per ride is comparatively a deal.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Heather
9 months ago

What is your source for GO costing $144 per ride? GO rides are far further than Cobourg transit but that cost is absurd if correct.

beach lover
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

That’s a very narrow way to look at costs.You’re ignoring the hidden costs of a car-dependent community. Public transit is proven to provide important benefits compared to a car-dependent transportation system. Better air quality, less land consumption for parking lots, less traffic congestion and support for local businesses by allowing people to access a range of neighbourhoods. That’s not even factoring in the social benefits. The benefits to public transit are proven and shouldn’t be news to anyone. Do we really want more cars, parking lots and traffic jams in Cobourg? Many more people (including visitors) would take public transit in Cobourg if it was reliable and available when needed, thus reducing the cost per use/user you cite.

JimT
Reply to  beach lover
8 months ago

Re: “Many more people (including visitors) would take public transit in Cobourg if it was reliable and available when needed…

I have stopped using the bus almost entirely, in favour of more expensive but more reliable cabs.

I would ride the bus if it was “reliable and available when needed” but my bitter experience has shown me that, time and time again, it is neither.

Dave
Reply to  JimT
8 months ago

Yes way for Council to point out that ridership is reduced and that a transit system is not needed. Since On Demand and elimination of fixed route it has gone to the dogs. Also before with fixed route there was apparently no problem with getting drivers either.

Gerald
Reply to  JimT
8 months ago

Cabs are reliable, here in Cobourg. Who? Seriously, I rarely see them in town. Last I heard there was no company 24 hrs here. Is that not the case?

Bill Thompson
Reply to  beach lover
8 months ago

Does that include the free (I believe) bus service (mostly empty) during summer season for “tourists” from Northumberland Mall to Victoria Park & return?

Conor
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 months ago

Don’t complain about costs already. I know you hate public transit but residents need it and deserve it. On demand transit will never work. Just pay your taxes and don’t complain..

Bryan
Reply to  Conor
8 months ago

Conor,

40% of Cobourg’s peer communities do not have transit.Transit is a nice to have, not a need.There are only about 200 individuals who use Cobourg transit, down from about 300 pre-covidIt is absurd that the gross cost of a transit ride is more than a cab ride.On demand is a failure. Go back to scheduled routesThe issue is not transit or no transit. Transit is here to stay.The issue is the excessive cost. Better, more cost efficient ways of providing the service need to be found.Viable, cost efficient alternatives exist. Look at Trenton.Complain until the Town fixes the problem. Don’t be a sheeple.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bryan
marya
9 months ago

We just returned from being in a small village of 600 people (to research ancestors) in Arnex-sur-Orbe, Switzerland where trains stop every thirty minutes to travel anywhere else in that Country and beyond. 🤔

JimT
Reply to  marya
9 months ago

Area of Switzerland: 41,285 km²

Area of Nova Scotia: 55,284 km²

Switzerland can afford such a luxury with such compact geography.

Not fair to compare those parameters to Ontario or all of Canada.

Rob
Reply to  JimT
8 months ago

European and Asian countries have certainly figured out rail transit…its far superior to anything in Canada irrespective of the geographical area. The fact that we have more “area”, means the need is likely greater not lesser albeit more complex.

Isn’t a sustainable public transportation program part of Cobourg’s Climate Crisis solution…combustion engine taxis and ridesharing don’t seem to align with the nature of the “crisis.” Although either does idling while in line at one of Cobourg’s newly approved drive thru, fast food restaurants. How many gas stations have been built in the last 4 years? I digress.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

Rob,
With regards to rail transit, size matters.
European and Asian countries have relatively small land areas and dense urban populations which favour rail transit.
Not so for counties with large land mass. Consider USA, Russia, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Algeria, Congo, South Africa, Iran and Saudi Arabia

JimT
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Yes, exactly the point. If we had more trains and more track running to more places, combined with our relatively sparse population, we would have far too many trains for the need and they would end up running mostly empty – the very issue that plagues our local bus service.

Consider:

Population of Switzerland: 8,703,000.

Population of Nova Scotia: 971,395 

Result: empty trains running about at great expense.

Bryan
Reply to  JimT
8 months ago

JimT,
Also consider:
GTA pop 7M+, land area 7,125 KM². Density 982 people/KM² Good for rail transit

Ontario Pop 15M+ Land area 1M+ KM² Density 15 people/KM²

Northumberland pop 90K+ Land area 1,905 KM² Density 47 people/KM²

Rail transit in the GTA is viable due to the density.
Not so in Northumberland County

About half of Ontario’s population live in 7% of the land area

Last edited 8 months ago by Bryan
JimT
9 months ago

Having more and smaller buses increases the number of drivers needed.

We could end up with perfectly useable new buses sitting in storage for want of drivers.

Dave
9 months ago

Somehow I am not surprised to see the mayor defer this. Mayor Cleveland had mentioned previously he would prefer UBER and taxis feeling everyone should be in the pink and able to afford the extra cost and the current lack of taxis is not a concern. I wondered about all the prior complaints on the current “On Demand” system which has been stated leaves one wondering if their bus is ever coming.

Those supported by government benefits so they may have children – day care, the greatly increased baby bonus cheque, breakfast programs plus programs for those on social service assistantance. People I know are enjoying their 55″ t.v. while they raise their two children with the wife staying home enjoying her current cheques of $1200 a month. The wife is considering a 3rd child and has never held a job while hubby works. Too bad as the oldest is delayed from entering school as still in pull ups and sleeping in the parent’s bed every night. What kind of citizens will these make raised basically on the tax payers’ dime. I’ld rather see the money go to a bus service rather than diverting tax dollars away from services for everyone as transfers of funding for this purpose have been reduced.

Last edited 9 months ago by Dave
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

Dave, have you considered the cost of each ride on the bus service?

The ridership numbers are available on page 111 of the 2023 Operating Budget Estimates.

2022 55,000 2021 65,990
2020 57,847  2019 112,226 
2018 109,565 2017 113,772 
2016 112,862  2015 111,155

The all in costs of transit (yes, some comes from the province rather than property taxes but it is still our tax money and the provincial money could be used more productively) is about $1.8M each year. That amount includes drivers, selling bus passes, maintenance of buses, maintenance of bus shelters, replacement of old buses, etc.

It is a simple calculation:
$1,800,000 divided by 55,000 is abut $33 and even pre-COVID was over $16 per ride. By buying monthly passes the rider pays $2 for the return trip. Note that is a ONE WAY RIDE so a trip to the grocery by bus costs the taxpayers over $60!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Yes I have Ken. Multiply the subsidies given to people that normally would not be having more than 1 child and are considering in mid twenties having 3. Consider the worker shortage of the number of people who would normally be working but are assisted on benefits such as I have described. Additionally the number of people on disability who are not reviewed when their health circumstances change. I know of several and many of them do full time paid baby sitting and other jobs currently but are deemed to be unable to work despite their full time occupations and changed medical status cleared of prior health problems but not re-evaluated.

The work ethic has taken a tremendous beating and more people expect to be supported fully. Worker shortage?? I know of so many people that previously would have been expected to work but our Federal government has enabled them not to. By the by – Olivia Chow the front runner in Toronto is running on a platform of restoration of TTC to the suburbs of the City of Toronto. We don’t have a worker shortage which would contribute to taxes but a benefit over pay – from cradle to grave.

cornbread
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

Time to end the subsidized “Limousine” service in Cobourg. We can’t afford it. Like Dave indicates, there are a lot of “Freeloaders” on the Govt. system today. Get Uber more firmly established in Cobourg…Pay your own way!

Greg Hancock
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

It is not fair to blame people who use buses for the perceived cost of running transit. If more citizens used the buses the cost per passenger would be less.
Few people use Cobourg buses because the buses are few in number, do not run to a regular schedule, nor to regular routes. There are often occasions when I might use a bus if they were easy to find. I use public transit in other cities in Canada and round the world because it is easy to do so.
People who use buses are not “freeloaders”.

Kevin
Reply to  Greg Hancock
9 months ago

Greg, I don’t think Ken is blaming bus riders for the cost of operating the bus service. In my opinion, Ken is pointing out the actual cost per ride to Cobourg tax payers. This cost is significantly higher than the cost of a Taxi (I know somebody who was paying $20 for a taxi ride across town). If the town issued taxi vouchers to the current bus riders it would reduce costs to the town. However, deciding who qualifies for a voucher be difficult. Somebody who uses the bus to get to/from work daily would need more vouchers than a person who uses the bus only a couple of times per week.

cornbread
Reply to  Kevin
9 months ago

Some would sell the Vouchers for drug money or for smokes or booze.

Bryan
Reply to  Kevin
9 months ago

Kevin,
I agree that cabs are a good Town subsidized alternative. Vouchers are cost inefficient and subject to abuse. Care must be taken to establish usage limits so that the abuses that Innisfil experienced with Uber are avoided.
I suggest the following:

  1. $3.00 cash fare per ride paid to the taxi company by the rider
  2. Kids (max 3) under age 6, ride free with an adult
  3. Pass would be discounted about 20% 20 rides: $50.00, 42 rides $100
  4. A “transit” ride must be at least 1Km, otherwise it is a “cab” ride and a cab fare is to be paid by the rider. Cab fares are not subsidized.
  5. Cab may take up to 3 adult passengers per trip
  6. All “transit rides” must be within Cobourg town limits
  7. Cab company bills Town on the 15th & 30th of each month for the trip subsidy
  8. Town pays cab companies 10 days later by direct deposit. 2% penalty per day for late payment.

Based on the 2023 budget, about 75,000 rides are expected, producing fare revenue of $165K. The average revenue per ride is about $2.20. The average per ride subsidy is about $14.50. The 2023 cap budget indicates that there are no transit capital expenses in 2023

If the cash fare was increased to $3.00 and the “pass” discount was reduced to about 20% (per KPMG recommendation), total revenue and average revenue per ride should increase. Cab costs and management overhead is likely less than for the current busses, therefore costs should decrease. My expectation is that the total transit subsidy would decrease.

I don’t have access to detailed transit data to do a more in-depth and analysis.

The big “if” in this is could the cab companies provide enough cabs and drivers.

The number of individuals using Cobourg transit is estimated at about 200

Hope this helps

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
9 months ago

I never got an answer from Ken Bryan. As Ken believes services should be for the majority how much would it be to maintain, pave, plow, repair the Pebble Beach Road by the yard which only services a very few, often very well off citizens of Cobourg? Perhaps a tax to those residents on theses costs should be considered under Ken’s theory?

Bryan
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

Dave,
Your taking the argument to the absurd. As such, it doesn’t merit a response or discussion.

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
9 months ago

Just using Ken’s theory that a service should be used by the majority of citizens or it should be funded by the citizens Bryan. Same principle. And in that case that enclave could very well afford it and the bus service for that matter.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

Snow plowing for all of Cobourg costs less than the bus!

Last edited 9 months ago by Ken Strauss
Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

But we don’t get very sizeable subsidies for the snow plowing – the last two alone $501K and 1.5 million totally covered the cost of the bus service and bus replacement cost. As on demand was contracted to a private company I was surprised they were not providing the buses.

Liz
Reply to  Dave
8 months ago

Pebble Beach residents have never had bus service! We pay taxes .just like everyone else. We are not all WELL OFF as you suggest!

Dave
Reply to  Liz
8 months ago

Pardon Liz? Wasn’t referring to bus service.

ben
Reply to  Liz
8 months ago

well perhaps if you had investigated the on-demand service you would have had a bus!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Greg Hancock
9 months ago

No blame; Greg, but spending $60 per trip is insane!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Ken you are very good with numbers. Can you provide a breakdown of the cost of providing various government service delivery. Electricity? Gas? Water? Perhaps we should cut those off as the costs must be extremely high? I am sure the bill doens’t cover the cost. Or how about discontinuing road maintenance on less travelled roads? There is a road leading down to the lake at Burnham & King – dead ends. Comparitively low traffic – why should we pay for it would be the logic applied by your reasoning – a road for few.

Makes about as much sense as telling people without cars that public service is cut off. Formerly when there were fixed bus routes I recall much higher usage. Many used it daily. This was prior to COVID and the on demand service.

Last edited 9 months ago by Dave
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

I hate to disagree but gas and electricity are provided at a profit. Water and sewer are at cost by law. Try again to justify your ridiculous suggestion.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ken Strauss
Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Can you provide the figures for the gas and electricity? How about the road less travelled running deadend down to the lake at King and Burham? Why even have one under your argument Ken? It benefits few in this town. So why maintain it? Perhaps they could all chip in and pay for the mainteance themselves. If we are to reduce costs perhaps this is one they should look at.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

Dave, visit https://www.oeb.ca/ for complete details on the costs and profits from delivering electricity and natural gas.

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Ken & Dave,

  1. Natural gas distribution is provided by several private sector for profit companies including Enbridge. Rates are regulated by the OEB
  2. Electricity distribution is provided by a variety of companies, both private sector and government/municipally owned. All are for profit companies. Rates are regulated by the OEB
  3. Water supply and distribution (excluding private wells) is a municipal responsibility requiring quality and financial reporting to the province. In Cobourg, Waterworks is the “entity” responsible for water supply and distribution. Waterworks is a business unit (department) of the Town. Management and operation of the water system is contracted (outsourced) to LUSI (a for profit company). Waterworks operates on a self-sufficient basis (provincially mandated). Waterworks is a not-for-profit “entity” It earns profits which are retained by Waterworks and used to fund debt re-payment and capital repairs/additions, instead of being distributed to the “owner” (Town).
  4. Waste water (sewer) collection and treatment is handled by the Public Works department. It is also operated for the most part, as a self sufficient (not-for-profit) business unit of the Town. Similar to Waterworks, the WW department retains the profits to fund debt re-payment and capital repairs/additions
  5. The Storm Water department is also a Public Works department (Town business unit) that in theory is supposed to operate on a self-sufficient basis (not-for-profit) similar to Waterworks. SW charges a user fee based on property area and classification. This is new and SW has not rendered any billing yet.

Hope this helps.

cornbread
Reply to  Greg Hancock
9 months ago

This is the foolish method of doubling the ridership by doubling the cost.
Diminished returns!

Heather
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

I think we are burying the lede here, isn’t the largest line item on the budget the Cobourg Police at $6,654,243? Transit is a tiny drop in the bucket,

And how happy are we with how things are going especially downtown? Is what they doing with the huge amount of funds really working? Can’t massive savings be found by merging forces with Port Hope?

Kathleen
Reply to  Heather
9 months ago

This!!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Heather
9 months ago

Transit is a “tiny” $1.8M drop in the bucket. That is, $180 from every Cobourg family and of benefit to less than 2% of our residents.

In regard to downtown, I’m extremely unhappy with the situation. What do you think should be done?

Kathleen
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Merging Police forces or going with OPP would save tons of tax dollars. The Police Chief already admitted that the Government ties their hands so what possible difference would it make??? (Except to their personal pocket books).
I was personally gob-smacked when the Cobourg Police wrote a letter to Council saying that they strongly object to merging. Of course they do. But who is the boss of who? I think it is the Taxpayer that should say whether we merge or not. I suggest we make it a referendum question.
My 2 cents.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Kathleen
9 months ago

Kathleen, I favour any change that results in reduced costs for the same services. Lobby our Concillors!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

I note also Ken Cobourg was provided with a grant of $1.5 million in 2020 by Mr. Piccini’s office as well as a recent grant of $501,000 to replace 3 aging buses. Do you factor these costs in? I see no mention of them in your calcs. Prior to that there have been further gtants provided to Cobourg for Transit.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

I believe that I said “cost to taxpayers” and all taxes are paid by us.

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

But spread throughout the entire of Ontario just like the TTC so you are also paying for Toronto, Oshawa, Peterborough yet you would want to see Cobourg not have a bus service when you pay for all the others including GO and the new Metro transit plan. Cobourg’s portion is minimal, a flea in comparison. Anyway Ken I guess we have exhausted the subject. You don’t feel a transit plan is necessary for all the people without cars in a growing centre and I believe it is an urban necessity. End of story.

Old Sailor
9 months ago

Too bad Mr. Bureau is such a big spender with our money. DM Beatty should offer him night classes in financial management. Perhaps Mr. Bureau should make the expenditures he wants out of his jeans, not ours, and then see if Council, at a later date, feels it prudent to reimburse him.

Dubious
Reply to  Old Sailor
9 months ago

Old Sailor, Cobourg’s high property taxes are not a problem if you don’t own a property here. Spend, spend, spend!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dubious
9 months ago

Which of our Councillors own a house in Cobourg and are therefore affected by squandered property taxes? I believe that Barber, Beatty, Darling and Mutton all own a house here.

What about Burchat and Bureau?

Last edited 9 months ago by Ken Strauss
ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

why don’t you ask them and BTW it’s none of your business!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
9 months ago

Perhaps but not having to pay Cobourg property would explain their lack of concern regarding spending.

Gerry
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 months ago

Do they not have to own any property in Cobourg. This sounds foolish to me, like voting in members of parliament who don’t live in the country. A bit of a jump, I know, but still wondering.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Gerry
9 months ago

Gerald, renters pay property tax as a portion of their rent. They are eligible to vote and to seek elected office. There is no longer a requirement to own property in order to vote or to serve in an elected position.

As an aside, few of our senior town employees live in Cobourg and pay Cobourg taxes.

Kevin
Reply to  Dubious
9 months ago

Renters pay rent (if they stop they get evicted, eventually) which the landlord pays expenses with, including property taxes. Landlords can increase rents beyond guide line amounts for increases in property taxes. So you do not have to own property to care about more spending and higher property taxes. I think Bureau owned rental property in Cobourg and lived outside of town at one time. Not sure now.

Dave
Reply to  Kevin
9 months ago

Canada 411 lists an A. Bureau living in Cobourg in current listings.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
9 months ago

I believe that 3 Swayne Street is a rental building.

Eastender
9 months ago

Para 5 states …..Staff are currently working on writing an RFP document…,
gee, I hope it is for a small ELECTRIC bus.