Niagara Region has the political will it needs to officially get into the bus business.
The Region not only received the triple majority it needed to officially take over transit service, support for the initiative was unanimous, said Regional chairman Alan Caslin.
While Niagara has operated inter-municipal buses for the past few years through a pilot project, he said a triple majority of support from regional council and lower-tier councils representing a majority of electors was required before the Region could become a true partner in providing transit services.
“Now, we’ve gone out to every single council and we’ve gotten unanimous support for inter-municipal transit,” Caslin said, adding the announcement was made during Thursday’s regional council meeting.
The unanimous support, he added, is a “strong message from all the municipalities in Niagara that transit’s important, and that’s what they want to see happen.”
“Bringing those services together into one commission is definitely going to make a difference in the transparency of ridership in being able to move from one bus to another, and hopefully that will translate onto the GO Train and whatever other transit that we can include.”
“The spirit’s there,” said Dave Sherlock, manager of St. Catharines Transit – the largest of the municipal bus services.
“The triple majority vote clears the way for the region to get into public transit business, and we as a commission have been supporting that throughout this process.”
He said it opens a door that has been in closed for years, “and restricted the ability to make a decision on expanding transit throughout Niagara.”
While the transition is underway, Sherlock said the managers of the three city bus systems – Welland and Niagara Falls have their own services – as well as regional staff are continuing to meet on a regular basis to try and find means to continue improving seamlessness between the various bus services.”
Caslin said the next step is to put in place a governance structure for the new regional transit system, as well as groups to “work through the final details with all three different transit systems and the Region at the table as to what that’s going to look like and how transit is going to be governed and operated in the coming years.”
Once the transition is complete, Caslin said people will be able to “move around anywhere in Niagara without having to have a car and you can do it with a one fare process.”