As for Canada Day, regular service does not run on that day. Instead, there was free transit based on a Sunday schedule. During the Labour Day Weekend Ribfest, free shuttles ran all weekend. “One of the ward councilors who sits on our Burlington Transportation Advisory Committee, he actually chartered — at his own expense — a shuttle service from his ward down to the Ribfest event,” Shepherd explains.
“That was the first year this was operated and he had close to 40 passengers an hour.” She stresses, “He was very pleased, we were very pleased.”
Generating Future Ridership
A partnership with the Halton Board of Public Education has been so successful, BT won the 2006 National Transit Recognition Award from the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) under the Category of Corporate Innovation and the 2006 Halton District School Board Award of Distinction in recognition of the partnership.
Public transit messaging is reaching 7th, 8th and 9th graders through curriculum developed to fit in the geography classes. Teachers receive a package of curriculum that they teach in the class. “It’s a direct link to Burlington Transit and land-use patterns and planning routes,” Shepherd explains. “Then we offer a free charter to each teacher teaching the curriculum to enable students to participate in a field trip.”
There is a two-week Complete Teaching Package and a three-day Condensed Teaching Package for each grade level.
Teachers in the school district wrote the curriculum and Burlington Transit provided the resources it could. Paging through the 9th grade Canadian Geography Condensed Teaching Package, there is a wealth of information to get educators and students thinking about sustainability.
The packet starts with the learning objectives, or Key Learnings, Overall (OE) and Specific (SE) Expectations specific to 9th grade geography standards, and the skills the students will use.
Students learn about the Revitalization Plan for the city of Burlington then take a field trip on a BT bus to gather evidence that looks at quality of life issues and the level of sustainability in the community.Through analyzing data, predicting consequences and communicating their assessment, students determine solutions for improving Burlington’s quality of life.
As I read over the notes for the field trip, there are 28 points of interest where specific concepts are addressed, such as a parking lot for a city bus terminal being an example of public and private transportation designed to complement each other. Adaptive reuse and wastewater management are just a couple of the other topics covered during the in-depth field trip.
The packet is complete with a rubric, a commonly used scoring tool that lists criteria to measure the success of the lesson.
Shepherd points out some of the many benefits. “For us there’s a lot of advantages to the program in terms of introducing the younger students, which are our future customers, to public transit and to get them thinking about the environment and the cost of single-auto travel, not only in terms of congestion, but in air quality and quality of life.”
She adds, “We’re also excited to perhaps interest them in careers in the transportation business in the future.”
Staying Connected with the Staff
Looking for creative ways to connect and communicate with the staff has proven successful for BT. CUTA’s Transit Ambassador Program provides training and BT’s management provides encouragement.
Shepherd explains that her drivers attend different modules of CUTA’s customer service-based program. Drivers train on difficult situations, special needs and a variety of other topics.
On a quarterly basis the general manager and Shepherd go to the transit office and make themselves available to all of the staff to come in and bring ideas, comments, issues or complaints. “We do that one-on-one with our operators,” Shepherd says. “We take opportunities to connect with our operators.”
She continues with an example. “If a customer compliment comes in, the transit manager will write out a letter, take it out on their route, often at the GO station, and tell them, ‘congratulations, you’ve received a passenger compliment,’ rather than simply giving the operator the letter.”
She says with 52 buses, there are virtually 52 workstations so she admits it’s not easy. She stresses, “You have to look for opportunities.”