The #Guelph 2016 #GuelphBudget & My Thoughts on @GuelphTransit Proposals

On Friday last week the staff proposed 2016 tax supported operating budget was released for council (and public) consideration. We do not vote on it until Dec 9th.

In this proposal there are many suggested reductions and revenue increases. There are also no expansions included. This is how the 1.58% base budget was arrived at by staff.

As I’ve said in an earlier post to you, the budget is now in councils hands to decide what to accept. As a “build-a-budget” model I or any councillor can add to the base budget expansions, disagree with reductions and add them back in or lower proposed fee increases. 

Then again, I or any councillor could agree with the proposed base budget as presented by staff and that would be it.

In every budget there is usually an item that makes its way to the top of the media and citizens radar and this year is no different. This item is transit.

Staff have proposed a rate increase and reduction of service times on Sunday’s, the summer and holidays. The proposal goes like this, as written by the Guelph Mercury article HERE:

The operating budget proposes raising transit fares by $5 for a monthly pass, $1 for an adult cash fare and 40 cents for single adult tickets. The adult affordable bus pass would also increase by $2.50″….”Guelph Transit is also proposing reducing the frequency of buses from 30 minutes to one-hour service on Sundays, holidays and through the summer.

I also asked transit staff for a chart showing the history of fare increases because I’ve already had emails from individuals saying there’s been fare increases for the last five years. This chart clarifies this for you indicating there’s been no increase since 2012:

So I’ll go on the record right now, so you all know where I am on this issue. I believe we need a fare increase. I’m not yet sure to what amount but I will be voting for a fare increase. I also will be voting for service going from 30 minutes at some times to hourly. 

Stats from our professional staff indicate:

  • Average Sunday ridership is 8,091 
  • On holidays it is 3,862, compared with weekday ridership of 22,291 and Saturday ridership of 12,945.
  • Since the introduction of the Council-approved transit route system in 2013, ridership growth and revenues have been lower than anticipated, resulting in revenue projections not being realized. 
  • Guelph Transit has assessed ridership volumes and determined that a reduction in Sunday, holiday and summer service frequency would have the least impact on transit riders.

Please remember, transit is already subsidized by almost 50% by the overall taxpayers across the city. 

Like anything proposed within our budgets I want you to know I take each and every item seriously. I take staff’s opinion seriously and of course I take yours as well! 

This is why on Nov 30th we have a night dedicated to you only – to voice your support or concerns with any proposal found within the budget. If you want to tell us how you feel you can email us as well. By emailing you can send us all emails or sign up to speak. More info HERE.

Will I change my mind on this transit proposal before Dec 9th? Perhaps. I’ve done it before. If new information is presented, if delegates, staff or fellow councillors speak to an issue that brings a new perspective to light – then I can certainly change my mind. 

However, this one singular issue must be weighed against the needs and affordability of the whole city. Whether you’re a transit user or not.

Tough decisions are going to have to be made. 

I have a 50% chance of pushing the YES or NO button while voting. Yet it is 100% certain that 50% of you will not like which button I push. 

Take care,


9 responses to “The #Guelph 2016 #GuelphBudget & My Thoughts on @GuelphTransit Proposals”

  1. Melody Avatar

    Tough decisions do have to be made but not at the expense of the most vulnerable within our community or at the expense of the environment.

    People who take the bus to work on a daily basis still need to get to work during the summer, and many don’t have the luxury of a Monday to Friday day job. Many people don’t have the option to choose the alternative of walking or biking to work either, especially those with special needs or the elderly, who are also on a fixed income.

    As our city grows, so too will traffic and our emissions if these sorts of decisions continue to be made. As condos continue to be built around the downtown area it seems less and less believable that a substantial increase in traffic won’t occur, especially without access to affordable grocery stores or reliable transit.

    How can Guelph compete with booming cities like Kitchener-Waterloo if these are the sort of policies and initiatives we get behind?

  2. Chuck Castillo Avatar
    Chuck Castillo

    I have lived in a city with hourly bus service ending at 6pm at a time when I couldn’t afford a car – this was in Fremont, CA on the East Bay. I can tell you that being poor in such an environment gave me such a feeling of helplessness and worthlessness. Getting groceries was a challenge. Shopping for a phone was a challenge. Sending a package home was a challenge. The lack of decent transportation presented barriers to seemingly everything I had to do in life. One day I missed the last bus and had to walk for an hour and a half home. It was like the city was telling me I didn’t matter. That is not the message we want to send to our disadvantaged. These are not the challenges we want to present people with as they try to live their lives.
    I understand we need to manage services and that public transportation is subsidized. But the government subsidizes a lot of things, and a lot of them aren’t providing anywhere near the same level of importance as a public service as the bus system.

    Some questions: How much of that transit subsidy is the city paying (as opposed to the province, federals)? How much are things like the cities sports facilities subsidized (e.g. hockey arenas, baseball, soccer, etc)? Even with the new enterprise model of downtown parking under review, how much would that recover (I think it would be around 40% subsidized by the city)? What about on-street parking, and parking lots? How much taxable land do those use up, and how much does it cost to plow and maintain those spaces? We are spending millions on things like widening Speedvale, and maybe the Bailey Bridge. So doesn’t that mean we value improving car traffic on one or two streets over maintaining a transit network? And more fundamentally, that we value people that can afford personal transit over people that can’t?

    1. Cam Guthrie Avatar
      Cam Guthrie

      Thanks for your comments, please send all of these questions to so a propped response to you can be done.

  3. Kim (@klawrenc) Avatar

    Jason makes a valid point. The data on ridership provided by Guelph Transit is indeed flawed because equal comparators aren’t being used. Buses on Sundays and holidays operate for 9 hours less than on weekdays. There’s also no peak service which means less trips. And ridership is higher on some holidays than others (Hourly service on Thanksgiving and Christmas might be acceptable, but not necessarily on Civic Holiday or Canada Day eg.)

    I’ve taken a crack at guesstimating riders per hour and it looks something like this:

    Saturdays – 664 riders / hour
    Sundays – 852 riders / hour
    Holidays – 407 riders / hour
    Weekdays – 1143 riders / hour
    Summer weekdays – ??? / hour (I don’t see a number for this in your post)

    Given Sunday ridership, how is hourly service reasonable? And with the omission of summer ridership, how is it possible to determine that dropping peak service is reasonable?

    While personally I would prefer not to see any service reductions I respect that you’re doing your best to give citizens of Guelph a small tax increase. I hope, however, that you’ll consider asking Transit to provide more meaningful data for you and the rest of Council to analyse before you vote to accept the service reductions they’ve proposed.

  4. Fred Avatar

    33 % increase!!! Way to go Guelph.That’ll get them out of their cars. We’re a green city

  5. Stacey Avatar

    I am not a transit user. I have a drivers’ licence, I can afford a car, and I for one am happy to continue investing in better ways to get to, from, and around our community using public transit.

    I am surprised to see support for reducing service and increasing fares while other cities are investing MORE in public transit. Those communities understand that public transit is an essential of a thriving economy, its good for local businesses, and improves the quality of life for people of all ages and incomes.

    Before you and your council colleagues vote on the matter, I think it’s important to consider how a reduction in transit service affects local businesses, and the people who work in those businesses. Potential investors and companies looking to set up shop here also want to know that people can rely on public transit to get to work.

    Finally, I think this move would hurt those people and families in our community who are most in need of our support.

    Some say government is supposed to “do together the things we can’t do alone.” In that spirit, I’m happy to help pay for someone I’ve never met to catch a bus to work every day; to make a living and a life for themselves and their family.

  6. Beth Avatar

    How can anyone afford to take transit anymore?? Most of us live from paycheck to paycheck. You want to make us pay more money for less services?? Hour runs in the summer?? People still need to get to work, this city is not just university students we still need to get places over the summer to pay bills. Sure knock the holiday hrs back but why over the summer and in Sunday’s??? I also think that there should be no buses on Christmas. They should be at home with there families.

  7. Kim Fairfull Avatar
    Kim Fairfull

    How can you expect to increase ridership if your service is decreased?

  8. Jason Avatar

    Let’s talk simple math Cam. Per hour Sunday performs better than Saturday service. With a service running time from 5:45 until 12:45 a.m., Saturday averages only 664 riders per hour vs the shorter Sunday service window of 9:15 a.m. until 6:45 p.m. where 852 riders per hour ride the bus. You get better value on Sunday than Saturday!! Also, the average for holiday service is flawed because each and every holiday has a different number of riders. Canads Day the buses where packed in some cases whereas Christmas Day they were very very empty. So Iam very disappointed that these facts are left out by staff when saying little impact to riders. Any service reduction will have huge ramifications including less revenue and ridership but also especially for businesses large and small. And here I thought you were a pro business mayor! Guess I was wrong…

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