Niagara Specialized Transit Maintains Current Levels Of Service – New Booking Procedures Now In Place

A News Release from Niagara, Ontario’s Regional Government
Posted September 6th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

A Foreword to this News Release from the Niagara Region from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –

Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch is raising red flags about the funding Niagara Specialized Transit needs to serve patients across the region.

The following news release was fired out this September 5th by Niagara’s embattled Niagara regional government, a day after Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch put out a news release of his own, warning that a growing demand from residents/patients across the region for Niagara Specialized Transit (NST) service now has patients experiencing trouble booking the service and a roughly $400,000 shortfall in the funding the Region’s council has approved, to date, to meet growing patients’ needs.
“This is a crisis and Niagara Regional Council needs to put patients first,” Burch stated in his release.
The Region’s release carries the headline; “Niagara Specialized Transit Maintains Current Levels Of Service.”

What Burch was speaking to in his release is a growing demand that now has the NST service working with a budget that is not big enough to meet it.
So here we have a forecasted shortfall, as noted in a report (identified as PW40-2018) of some $413,000 for meeting the growing need for this service, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It doesn’t take an expert to know that with an aging population in a Niagara that is already known to have disproportionately larger percentage of senior residents than many other regions in the province, demand for a service like this is going to continue to grow significantly.
So it stands to reason that maintaining the current levels of funding is not good enough to meet this growing need.
And let’s be clear about where the buck stops here – and it is not with the hard-working staff on the ground who have done a great job of running the Niagara Specialized Transit system over the years. So much so, that they have won more than a little nation-wide recognition for an outstanding operating record.
The buck for any failure to meet the need now rests with the body that is responsible for funding the service – the Region’s council.
And where is this Caslin-led council’s priorities when it comes to spending money?
There seems to be good chunk of change around to extend and sweeten the terms of CAO Carmen D’Angelo’s job contract and for buying out the contract (to the tune of more than $900,000) of a former Niagara regional police chief.
And who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent showing other senior staff out the door under this Caslin council’s watch?
Then we have a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, with a board dominated by regional councillors, spending significant amounts of money pursuing what turned out to be a failed lawsuit against a private citizen (Ed Smith), and continuing to pursue a lawsuit against Jocelyn Baker, a former NPCA employee whose work in watershed restoration and protection was praised by other government agencies on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border.
And let’s not forget all of the hours this same Caslin-led council spent at meeting, with high-priced staff standing by, while certain members of the council were going after the Town of Pelham over its finances.
There were also the hours upon hours the council  seemed caught in the headlights over what to do about code of conduct complaints filed against one member of the council or another.
In more recent months, there have been  the costs associated with the hiring lawyers and consultants to address questions we have still not gotten to the bottom of over the hiring of the Region’s CAO and whatever changes have since been made to his employment contract.
This is all money that could have been spent on specialized transit, on affordable housing and on a host of other services for Niagara residents.

If that has you feeling angry, the good news is this – We have municipal elections coming this October 22nd.

And if enough Niagara residents have been paying attention to what has been going on, we will hopefully have a new regional council by the end of the year, with a mix of newcomers determined do things right, alongside the all too few members of current council who will no longer be outnumbered in their efforts to do the same.

This image was carried on social media a few months ago by St. Catharines regional council candidate Peter Gill. Share it with all of your internet friends in Niagara.

For the sake yourself, your friends and neighbours, and the community you live in, make sure you get all of the information you need to make your vote count in the coming October 22nd municipal elections.
Niagara At Large plans to continue playing a part in providing the information residents across Niagara need before casting their vote. Stay tuned.

Now here is the Region’s news release –

Niagara, Ontario Niagara Specialized Transit has made changes to its booking procedures. These changes are the result of the incredible demand the service has experienced in 2018.

This demand has far exceeded any previous specialized transit service usage for this service. These changes will not affect the current amount of service available.

The number of available daily trips on Niagara Specialized Transit has now been set at a maximum number consistent with our current daily averages. There will be no decrease in levels of service.

While it is positive that there has been considerable usage of Niagara Specialized Transit, this high demand has used the majority of the 2018 budget before the end of the year. In order to maintain service throughout 2018, additional funds will be added to the Niagara Specialized Transit budget. In order to maintain current service levels, much like conventional transit, Niagara Specialized Transit will now have a fixed amount of space available on a daily basis.

Niagara Specialized Transit service has not been cancelled, but any advance bookings beyond two weeks have. Starting in September 2018 trips with Niagara Specialized Transit are now booked on a first come, first serve basis.

With a set number of trips available per day, this procedure was put in place to maintain fairness for all Niagara Specialized Transit riders. Trip requests can be made up to two weeks in advance, but passengers are required to give a minimum of 48 hours’ notice to book a trip. Recurring trips outside of a two week period can no longer be accommodated.

Niagara Specialized Transit is a part of the public transit system and does not prioritize one trip purpose over any other. Each request is given equal consideration and is awarded on a first come, first serve basis. This practice complies with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Passengers looking for other travel options are encouraged to consider Niagara Region Transit (NRT). NRT buses have multiple accessibility features to accommodate a range of needs. These include low floor/kneeling vehicles, wheelchair ramps, both priority and courtesy seating for seniors and riders with accessibility needs, as well as a stop announcement system. A paid Niagara Region Transit fare also permits free transfers onto Niagara Falls Transit, Welland Transit and St. Catharines Transit.

In the fall of 2018 Niagara Region will also be initiating a comprehensive study of accessible transit services in Niagara. Much like the recently completed study into conventional transit services, the accessible transit study will look at existing services available across the region and make recommendations on the future of this service in Niagara. More details on the accessible transit study will be available on the Region’s website when the study begins.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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