Niagara Transit Update –
Building transit to build our city
Good public transit is critical for any city to grow and prosper. We need transit to get people to school, work, health care and social services. Good public transit will help grow our economy, create jobs and lift people out of poverty. For all of these reasons, integrated public transit is part of Council’s Strategic Plan and has been a focus for this term of Council.
For the past four years I have been working with the Mayors of Niagara Falls and Welland, our city councils and Niagara Region on a plan to integrate Niagara’s transit services. We are working together to create a transit system that serves all of Niagara.
What we’ve done so far:
In 2017 the cities and the Region signed an MOU and agreed to work towards a consolidated transit system for all of Niagara. To start, the transit managers have been working together to coordinate scheduling, fares and connections – all focused on the user. We have been working with stakeholders, consulting with transit riders, and making small changes that will have big impacts including:
- consistent customer service standards
- integrated scheduling and trip planning
- a new transit app
- adding new routes and connections to serve post-secondary students and the new outlet mall.
- looking at innovative solutions and on-demand service options
- a brand new crosstown route
- that connects the east and west end of the city (including the hospital, Pathstone Mental Health, and the St. Catharines Museum)
- increasing St. Catharines Transit budget by 6.6% in 2018
Through the working group, Niagara Region has become a full partner. Regional Council voted to move the inter-municipal transit service from a pilot project to a permanent inter-municipal service. That was a huge milestone.
Increased funding for Transit
This plan for Niagara transit is being noticed by upper levels of government too. Earlier this year the federal and provincial government announced $149 million in funding for transit in Niagara. This funding will help us build a new transit system with new routes and buses. We know it’s a good plan because it is being noticed and the federal government is ready to invest.
While we are not as far down the road to transit consolidation as I had hoped, the improvements that have been made so far are making transit better for the rider – and that is what is most important. Niagara Region is now firmly at the table – there is no going back to experiment with inter-municipal transit. The service is here to stay and will continue to grow and expand across Niagara.
Next we will have discussions about governance – what is the best way to manage a Niagara-wide transit system that works. With daily GO train service coming soon, we need to get it done and build the connection with the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area. This will be one of the first priorities for the new Councils in 2019 and I am looking forward to it.