“The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce strongly supports a consolidated transit system for all of Niagara, and urges all those involved to commit to the project without delay.” – Mishka Balsom, President/CEO, GNCC
An Open Letter from Mishka Balsom, President/CEO, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce
Posted June 17th, 2016 in Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – On behalf of Niagara’s business community, the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce wishes to express its support for the consolidation of the various public transit commissions and authorities in Niagara.
The 2015 Niagara Economic Summit identified a single inter-municipal public transit system with a single farebox as the highest policy priority for business in Niagara, and it is a demand we hear daily from the business community.
That being the case, the GNCC is pleased to see this issue gaining momentum. Significant political support from the Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland Mayors is a good first step. An equally important step was the hiring of a consultant to deliver a menu of models and the monetary investment in the project that represents.
Funding for inter-municipal transit, however, is the crucial question. While local municipalities are facing budgetary restrictions and farebox recovery is stretched to affordable limits, our higher-tier governments have committed substantial funds for investment in transit infrastructure.
In addition to the Government of Ontario’s Moving Ontario Forward fund, the Government of Canada’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities has announced that almost $1.5 billion will be available in Ontario for the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. This fund will support system optimization and efficiency if either can be completed within the Phase 1 timeline.
To take advantage of these funds, the current timeline (consultant report in Q3 of 2016 and implementation in Q3 of 2017), would have to be moved up significantly, with a plan ready for submission to the Ministry in the summer of this year. With allocation based on ridership, a consolidated system in place before the application would almost certainly result in greater funds for system expansion.
Beside this, we also urge the implementation of a single farebox for the Niagara transit system, as well as integration with other systems such as Presto (usable on Metrolinx’ GO network and on the TTC), which will be even more important once all-day, year-round GO train service arrives in Niagara.
A consolidated public transit system would offer benefits such as decreased travel times, better labour force flexibility and mobility, and better youth retention and attraction owing to increased coordination between municipalities and a single farebox system offering greater efficiency and affordability to riders.
For example, the administration and student unions of both Brock University and Niagara College have identified the current transit system as a major problem for attraction of both prospective students and administrators. This is a considerable issue when 40% of all Niagara Regional Transit (NRT) riders are students at one of these post-secondary institutions.
Employers also need a single system.
In Niagara, 77% of the labour force uses a car to get to work, and only 2% use public transit. To employers, especially those in the tourism, retail and call centre industries who have large percentages of employees that rely on public transit, this is a considerable burden that impacts their ability to compete in national and global markets when routes and schedules prevent effective staffing.
For example, 57% of Niagara Falls workers live outside the city. Providing a better solution for these employees and employers is critical to maintaining competitiveness and opportunity.
t is for these reasons that the GNCC strongly supports a consolidated transit system for all of Niagara, and urges all those involved to commit to the project without delay. We understand that some of these initiatives are already under way, and the GNCC offers its full support for them. We strongly encourage you to review the 2016 Federal funding opportunities and reconsider the existing timelines.
This is important not just to the business community, but to students, marginalized populations, and residents of every stripe. Action on this project cannot be taken quickly enough.
About the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce – The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) is more than 1,500 members, more than 45,000 employees, we are the 3rd largest chamber in Ontario and the largest business organization in Niagara. And we stand for things.
For more information on the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce click on – http://www.greaterniagarachamber.com/ .
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