Between February 21 and 28, the City Councils of Welland, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls voted unanimously to proceed with plans for an integrated transit system in Niagara. The business community had identified this as a top priority – attendees at the 2015 Niagara Economic Summit rated integrated municipal transit with a single farebox as the highest priority for business, and almost half of respondents to our 2017 budget surveys felt that transit was under-funded.
A lack of integrated transit is also one of the reasons behind Niagara’s poverty problem, which costs us $1.38 billion every year not just in taxes, but in economic losses and donations to the charities and non-profits attempting to deal with it. Integrated transit will do much to develop workforces and workforce mobility, create jobs, and relieve poverty. Welland Councillor David McLeod put it well when he remarked that this was not an investment in transit, but an investment in people.
The GNCC made a huge lobbying effort in support of this plan, speaking to numerous councillors, appearing on local radio, engaging GNCC councils such as our Government Affairs and Women in Niagara (WIN) councils in advocacy, and bringing out delegations to councils from business, student bodies, and community leaders. After such an outpouring of support, councillors all voted unanimously to take the next steps on this plan. As Councillor Wayne Thomson of Niagara Falls put it, it was a no-brainer.
The next step is approval by Regional Council, which will hopefully be a foregone conclusion now that the other three stakeholders have all voted strongly in favour. If approved, this means that Niagara would progress to seeking triple majority approval (a majority Regional Council vote, plus support from a majority of Niagara’s municipalities representing a majority of Niagara’s population) for the Region to become an official transit provider so that this can proceed, and that there would be a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a plan between all four for a single transit commission, with the consolidated model proposed by Dillon Consulting serving as the starting-point.
The working group, consisting of representatives from the three municipalities and Niagara Region (which will include a couple of delegates from Niagara’s smaller municipalities), will propose a model for implementation which will then have to be approved again by councils. This will be the last hurdle before implementation. If you support an integrated Niagara regional transit system, we encourage you to contact your municipal and regional councillors and express your support. You can find their contact information here.