By Doug Draper
(A Note from NAL publisher Doug Drraper. This will be the first in a series of stories and commentaries on the sad state of transit in Niagara we will post prior to this fall’s municipal elections. In the meantime, we will urge you not to vote for any candidate locally or regionally who does not support a single, reginoal transit system for Niagara.)
A delegation of student representatives from Niagara College and Brock University stood before members of Niagara Region’s Transportation Strategy Steering Committee this September 16th with one resounding message – at long last, the region needs a “single, seamless transit system.”
That message, delivered Niagara college Student Administrative Council representative Shane Malcolm and Brock University Student Union reps Christopher Yendt, Drew Ursacki and Kyle Rose, has been echoed in Niagara Region’s council chambers before, but has so far not gone very far in convincing staff for regional and municipal governments, and our municipal politicians in moving all that much forward from a decades-old, what has been called by some elected leaders, “hodge-podge” of transit services that is leaving Niagara far behind other regions across this province in providing convenient, accessible and affordable transit services to its residents.
What these Niagara College and Brock University leaders, who were thanked by committee members at the end of their presentation, said is that young people are not going to find a place in this region, as students and future employees and contributors to Niagara’s economy, if this region continues with a patchwork of transit systems that makes it difficult and time-consuming too get back and forth from home to school, and any jobs that may be available in the region for them.
“The ever-growing financial burden on students to access post-secondary educations in order to remain competitive in the world, the answer to accessibility to post secondary education can no longer be met with the old adage – ‘to get around in Niagara you need to get a car.’”
And to get around Niagara now, or at least do it in time enough to get back and forth to school or to a job, or to go out and socialize with some friends, the transit system here is so far behind the times that you pretty well need a car, the students told the committee. Problem is that many young people today can’t afford a car and are looking for places to live and work where.
What is unfortunately happening, the students said, is that too many young people are not staying in Niagara because there is no true regional transit system to get them around. They are taking their “youth skills” – whatever professional and leadership skills they learned at Brock and Niagara College – to other regions of the country that have better public transit systems.
Indeed, there are some young people who have decided not to even pick Brock and Niagara College as their post-secondary school choices because of the lack of one single, accessible and seamless transit system in this region. There are others who have given up on Niagara as a place they can stake their roots following their graduation, and have taken their skills and know-how to other regions of Ontario and the country where they have better access to public access.
Unfortunately, there are still too many local and regional politicians in Niagara who would rather support the status quo around little transit empires in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland, and other local municipalities, rather than do what so many other regions of the province have already done, and build a single (call it amalgamated if you want) seamless, accessible and affordable transit system for the 21st century.
“By not addressing the issue in a non-fragmented and non-parochial way, we are missing out on the chance to retain youth talent of approximately 10,000 students that graduate our schools each year and are crippling the business community and mobility –to workers.,” said the Niagara College and Brock student representatives near the end of their presentation.
Sadly, it seems that most of the regional and local municipal council politicians could give a shit. They are more interested in protecting the status quo from the last centiury – the fragmented, dysfunctional transit system we have here now over building a single and amalgamated transit system that works for our younger generations here in Niagara in the 21at century.
Niagara At Large urges you to ask every candidate running for municipal office this fall to ask where they stand on building a true, one transit system that serves everyone across this great region. If the anwser from the candidate says ‘no’ or equivocates, say n to that candidate and move on.
We will have much more to say about this important issue during this election.
(NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. Niagara At Large encourages you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.)