His Worship Regional Chair Gary Burroughs
Members of Regional Council
RE: Moving Forward with an Integrated Regional Transit System
To: Regional Chair and Members of Regional Council,
On behalf of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) we would like to applaud Regional Council for taking an important step towards modernizing Niagaraʼs inter-municipal public transit system with the implementation of the Niagara Region Transit (NRT) pilot project in 2011. This pilot project demonstrated Councilʼs commitment to pursuing an integrated transit network that will provide residents and businesses with a modern system that is a reflection of the growing integration of Niagaraʼs economy and communities.
The GNCC is the largest business organization in Niagara with over 1,450 businesses, which represent more than 35,000 employees. In July, the GNCC presented to the Councilʼs Business Planning Committee of the Whole on the importance of a strong, regionally-integrated public transit system and the value associated with including the business community in the transit consultation process and system governance model moving forward.
The Chamber has carried out extensive research on this issue, with a specific focus on the ways that integrated regional transit systems can improve productivity, increase regional competitiveness and act as an economic catalyst. This inextricable link between strong transit and increased economic competitiveness can be seen both around the world, and closer to home in regions like Durham, York and Kitchener-Waterloo.
A review of the surveys of the NRT pilot project have indicated that the service has been successful in connecting employees with employers, consumers with businesses, and students with academic institutions – all vitally important drivers of a strong local economy. As the Region works actively to be champions in the implementation of an improved economic development system that focuses on critical investments, getting the condition right will require optimized, modern systems to match global and regional competitiveness benchmarks.
With the NRT pilot ending in less than one year, the time to act on the regional transit issue is now. The Chamber applauds Regional Council for approving a motion to facilitate a Transit Commission/Joint Municipal Services Board at last weekʼs Council Business Planning Committee of the Whole. Though this represents an important first step, we believe that business community involvement must be formally addressed and fully-incorporated in the development of a Transit Commission/Joint Municipal Services Board. The expertise that the business community brings in a wide array of areas, such as capital financing, alternative service delivery, contract management, compensation and human resources can only strengthen the development of a modern operating system.
The GNCC also strongly supports Councilʼs intention to move forward with an Expression of Interest for the provision of inter-municipal transit. Embracing alternative service delivery options has proven valuable in other jurisdictions, particularly with regards to transit service provision.
The GNCC urges Council to move forward with a regional, integrated public transit model that promotes economic growth, reflects the importance of closing productivity gaps and leverages the benefits associated with engaging a mix of public and private sector players.
Specifically, the Chamber recommends:
- That Regional Council move forward with a fully-integrated single transit system, managed by a transit commission/joint municipal services board.
- That Regional Council formally include the business community as representatives on a transit commission/joint municipal services board.
- That a specific timeline be determined for the continuation of inter-municipal transit services moving forward, including when residents will be able to see a fully-integrated transit system implemented in the Niagara region, and when businesses will see the issuing of an Expression of Interest for provision of inter-municipal transit services.
The Chamber believes that in order for the Region to take the next steps towards the operation of a cost-effective, efficient, modern and user-friendly inter-municipal transit system, the implementation of these three recommendations must be a priority.
We would like to thank you for your consideration on this issue – one that is critical to the future success of Niagaraʼs economy. If you require any further information please direct your staff to contact the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce at (905) 684-2361.
CEO, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce