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Mississauga's 2011 budget: transit highlights



Mississauga City Council approved its 2011 budget — and increased its share of property taxes by 5.8 per cent — during its meeting on Wednesday, March 9.

Residents face an overall increase of 2.8 per cent on their 2011 property tax bill, when the Region of Peel blends in its 2.5 per cent increase. Regional services receive the largest share of the overall bill.

The hike, which includes a one per cent levy or extra charge to pay for improving or repairing infrastructure such as bridges, culverts, sidewalks and roadways, means taxes on the average home assessed at $409,500 go up by $113.81 this year.

Councillors approved the increase to make up for the City receiving less revenue than usual in 2010. Since fewer builders started work on new projects last year, the City received less money from development fees and building permits, for the first time in many years.

In 2011, MiWay will:

  • increase fares;
  • buy eight new buses to increase service along local routes and 35 more buses to replace older buses in the fleet.
  • provide 29,500 more hours of transit service along local routes, increasing the frequency of service Mondays to Fridays, especially during rush hours.
  • continue to work with GO Transit on building the Mississauga Busway — a bus rapid transit project, with total cost of $259 million. The first part of the project, transit-only lanes along Rathburn Road West, opens later this year.
  • introduce the PRESTO fare card in all buses (on Monday, April 18);
  • set up the iBus system to automate bus stop announcements, track whether buses are keeping on schedule and produce bus-arrival information;
  • start to design the Hurontario - Main Street corridor light rail transit system. (The Cities of Brampton and Mississauga expect to finish the design and the environmental assessment process by 2013);
  • start to design a third bus storage and maintenance facility.
Long-term plan

MiWay’s long-term goal is to increase the number of riders using its services from 40 trips a year for each Mississauga resident to 50 trips a year. That represents 37 million rides a year, from the current base of 29 million a year. The goal for 2014 is to reach 46 rides per capita, which is equivalent to a three-percent base growth.

Although the farebox remains the prime source of revenue for Mississauga’s transit system, this plan and its service goals rely heavily on the federal, provincial and municipal governments continuing to invest in public transit services.

In 2007, MiWay planned for an annual growth rate of seven percent. That meant adding 80,000 hours of service every year until 2012. During this and previous budget processes, City Council reduced this target to only 2.3 percent each year, which MiWay will deliver over a longer time frame.

Under the new plan, the City is adding 30,000 new annual service hours for on-street transit service for the first three years and 47,500 hours in 2014. Over the four years, MiWay hopes to increase ridership, reduce congestion and overcrowding on many MiWay buses by improving the frequency of service in major corridors Mondays to Fridays during rush hours. This requires eight new regular buses every year and 15 express buses for the upcoming bus rapid transit service.

The severe economic downturn of 2009 and a fare increase that year, had significant impact on transit ridership, which dropped by six percent from 2008. This decrease, combined with the effect of many riders switching to lower-cost fares — for example from cash to tickets and from tickets to passes — resulted in a revenue shortfall of about $8.4 million in the 2010 financial plan. The City used reserve funding to fully offset this shortfall in 2010. The 2011-14 business plan addresses this structural gap in the revenue budget in phases over the next four years, using part of the provincial gas tax reserve fund to make-up the annual difference. If transit revenues rebound more than staff predict, they will adjust the plan.

More government funding

If the federal and provincial governments provide more operating funds, MiWay hopes to further increase service hours. It would add Monday-to-Friday midday and evening service and more weekend service to the express network, improve core local routes at all times of the week, except rush hours.

Highlights include:

  • improving the frequency of service along the express network from the current 20 minutes during rush hours to reduce travel times and improve connections, which would attract more passengers;
  • finishing the express network by adding new routes and integrating express service on the Hurontario Corridor with Brampton Transit between both city centres;
  • extending express network service hours from just rush hours to include midday and early evenings Mondays to Fridays, and, eventually, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
  • improving off-peak and weekend service to recapture ridership that the system lost during the 2008-09 recession and economic restructuring; and
  • “re-allocating” early-morning service along routes with low ridership to periods of higher demand to match the changing employment patterns in the city.
Other plans
  • developing a targeted customer outreach program to promote the economic and environmental benefits of transit;
  • increasing by 10 per cent the number of riders that travel to and from GO stations on MiWay buses.
  • setting up more transit-priority measures on routes connecting with the busway to improve trip times and service reliability;
  • improving passenger and drive safety by installing cameras and other security systems on the entire fleet in 2011;
  • making all transit routes and terminals accessible, except for the TTC’s Islington Subway Station by 2012;
  • working with Brampton Transit and Oakville Transit to set up a universal pass (or “u-pass” program for Sheridan College students by the 2012 / 2013 school year.

Read:

  • Toronto’s 2011 budget: transit highlights, here.
  • Brampton’s 2011 budget: transit highlights, here.
  • Oakville’s 2011 budget: transit highlights, here.