Niagara Falls city council voted unanimously to get on board with inter-municipal transit, following similar votes in St. Catharines and Welland in recent weeks.
The vote Tuesday evening endorsed in principle the creation of a consolidated system — a partnership between Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Region.
The issue will now go before the Region.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, a member of Niagara’s inter-municipal transit working group that includes the mayors and chief administrative officers of the three cities, said there is no reason it should “take hours” to get from community to community, adding it’s encouraging to see transit providers in the three urban centres coming together.
Mishka Balsom, chief executive officer, and Hugo Chesshire, policy and government relations manager, of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce addressed council and brought support from the business community.
Balsom said the business community supports a more robust transportation network because they believe it will make Niagara a more attractive region.
“Moving people around more efficiently (creates) a larger labour pool,” she said.
Several other groups support inter-municipal transit, including Brock University and Niagara College students, who believe it will help them more easily get around.
Council’s vote requested Niagara Region support a consolidated transit model and become formally involved in providing public transit through a triple majority process.
That process involves all 12 municipalities in Niagara voting on the issue and the majority of councils representing the majority of the population would have to support it.
Council directed its staff to develop a memorandum of understanding between the four parties to come up with a governance framework and specify how key issues are to be addressed with next steps and timelines.
Council also supported the formation of a transit working group with representatives from all 12 municipalities and the Region. The current inter-municipal working group would transition to a transit steering committee until a new governance framework is established in the pending memorandum of understanding.
The committee would also come up with the costs of the plan and potentially different models.
Coun. Wayne Thomson said inter-municipal transit is a “no brainer.”
“This is so important for this municipality,” he said.
Coun. Joyce Morocco said Niagara Falls needs to “jump on this bandwagon,” as it will go a long way to getting residents to school, employment and appointments across the region.
Coun. Kim Craitor said he had the opportunity to attend the St. Catharines council meeting where politicians in the Garden City unanimously endorsed inter-municipal transit in principle.
Craitor said he has spoken to some colleagues in Welland and other Niagara communities who are also excited about the issue.
“It’s nice to see all three major municipalities working together on this,” he said, adding it could be a “catalyst” for pulling regional communities together as one unified voice in the future.