The push for inter-municipal transit is hitting a critical point on Wednesday, says St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik.
That’s when city council will be asked to endorse in principle the creation of a consolidated transit system in partnership with Niagara Falls and Welland.
“We need inter-municipal transit in Niagara. It’s one of those key infrastructure pieces that is missing,” Sendzik said during his monthly online chat #AskSendzik at The Standard. “It’s about putting the rider at the centre of our discussions. It’s about getting people to their college or Brock University and getting people to our centres of health care excellence. It’s about getting people to jobs.”
The public is invited to share their thoughts at a special council meeting at City Hall beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will be live streamed from the city’s website.
“It’s really bringing our region closer together by better coordinating our inter-municipal transit,” Sendzik said. “That’s where I think this is such a critical piece.”
An inter-municipal transit working group, which includes Sendzik as chair, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and Welland Mayor Frank Campion, Regional Chair Alan Caslin, city and regional CAOs and transit operators, has been working on the idea since January 2016.
They received a final report from consultant Dillon Consulting this past January and have endorsed it.
City staff reviewed the report and have made several recommendations to council to move the process along. Those recommendations, which include developing a memorandum of understanding between the three cities and the region, will be discussed at the meeting.
Sendzik said the group has heard from social agencies that inter-municipal transit is a priority for them. They’ve also heard support from the business community, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, Brock University and Niagara College.
“There’s probably the strongest alignment you’ve ever had on inter-municipal transit and this meeting next week will be an opportunity for council to make a decision on pushing us forward to the next step,” Sendzik said.
Welland and Niagara Falls city councils will also discuss the issue in meetings this month.
Sendzik said if the councils approve the consolidated system it will push them into the next phase of mobility in Niagara.
He said mobility offers opportunity for economic growth and social growth. And if Niagara is serious about getting GO Transit, he said it needs inter-municipal transit.
“From a public understanding, this is one of those catalytic moments that we get to make a decision and it’s about leadership and building the community of Niagara in a way that is inclusive of St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls.”
Part of the discussion will be the governance of one transit commission with the three cities as shareholders and the region as a funding partner.
Members of the three councils would sit on a committee looking at the governance structure and work on the costing of the project.
“It’s exciting. It’s big. This is a big part of what Niagara is becoming,” Sendzik said. “We’re hoping the public comes out and if the public can’t come out let your councillors know what your position is on inter-municipal transit.”
Sendzik discussed infilling, the budget and Sunset Beach during the online chat. The full chat with the mayor can be viewed below.