Niagara’s Youth Urging Region’s Political Leaders To Build A Decent Public Transit System That Might Help Keep Them Here – Contributing To Our Region’s Future

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.)niagara_regional_transit

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.)

4 responses to “Niagara’s Youth Urging Region’s Political Leaders To Build A Decent Public Transit System That Might Help Keep Them Here – Contributing To Our Region’s Future

  1. I am glad to hear a significantly large group is pushing for public transit serving the community. My concern is that the “powers that be” will concentrate on the northern part of the region rather than the whole region. The Town of Fort Erie encompasses a large area that has a “string” public transit system between Crystal Beach and Jarvis St. If you do not live along this single route area you must look to alternative travel. It is nice that there is a Region bus connecting Fort Erie to Niagara Falls but access to this bus is limited. Since the Region bus must pass Stevensville, why can it not arrange for a stop in this community rather than force the people in this community having to add time and money (no public transit) to access this bus?
    If you wanted to travel between Fort Erie and Port Colborne, using public transit, it is almost a full day journey one way. No wonder people in South Niagara have to rely on private transit rather than use public transit.

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  2. The fact that students would offer their voices is encouraging – but the stats about attracting and retaining youth and the aged in Niagara were tracked in 2009 in the first Niagara Community Observatory policy briefs — http://www.brocku.ca/niagara-community-observatory/policy-briefs. Both reports reveal common themes and a persistent effect, and sadly it’s not the placebo effect. Our lack of unified transportation is a complete turn off – to the future, to smart young people who want to risk and share and thrive here, and to civilized seniors who can afford but would rather not live in their nifty cars to enjoy the Niagara scene or commute to TO for a treat. Yes, let the politics begin, but let’s hope that progressive minds prevail.

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  3. Thanks Doug for this important post. Transit is the wave of the future. One of the most hopeful signs for the planet is that younger people are becoming drivers in far fewer numbers than my generation. I urgently pray that it is because they have some sense of the writing that is on the wall to borrow from the book of Daniel.

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  4. This is important. It doesn’t just impact on youth. I have a business and I have employed people. I also cannot drive. If I had an opportunity ringing me from Toronto or elsewhere, I will be gone too in short order. I know of several others my age who are considering and some of whom are planning a move from this region, the lack of transit planning to be at least a part of the reason. If our politicians want a ghost region where nothing thrives and the population continues to shrink like it is now, then carry on with the parochial and pro-GM attitude that is driving many current and potential residents away from this area. I go to Toronto many times to meet many of my friends that have once lived in Niagara but have left for this reason.

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