Niagara Achieves Historic Milestone With Green Light for Single Regional Transit Service

Transition to single transit commission shifts into gear with triple majority of support received

A Brief Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by a News Release from Niagara’s Regional Government

Posted February 23rd, 2022 on Niagara At Large

By Doug Draper –

In September, 2011, Niagara Region launched a handful of Regional buses but, unfortunately, it did not go much further than that until now. There for the ribbon cutting at the time were then-Regional public works commissioner Ken Brothers, the Region’s then chair Gary Burroughs, then Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey, then,Grimsby regional councillor Debbie Zimmerman and St. Catharines regional councillor Tim Rigby. File photo by Doug Draper

For those of us who are begging for some good news, here is a busload of it from Niagara’s regional government.

At least it should be greeted as good news by those of us who long to see Niagara and its 12 municipalities move away from a region where cars and SUVs and their like rule, and were people are able to travel in and around our region, conveniently and affordability, on a public transit bus.

The good news is this.

Finally, after some two decades of far-sighted, progressive-minded individuals and groups pressing our municipal representatives for one, enough office holders across Niagara have finally said “YES’ to transitioning from the cumbersome patchwork of transit systems we have to one seamless system to serve the whole region.

The go-ahead for one consolidated transit system for Niagara – officially announced in a news release from the Regional Government this February 23rd and scheduled to begin serving all 12 local municipalities across Niagara in January 2023 – is a major step forward in building more economically and environmentally sustainable communities for a future were we need steps like this to address a whole host of challenges from combating climate change and saving what is left of our foodlands, wetlands, woodlands and other green places, to curbing the staggering costs of building and maintaining roads and other urban infrastructure.

It is also good news for growing numbers of people, young and old, who can no longer afford to own and operate, or for reasons that have to do with age or health, can’t drive a car.

If our municipal planners work together with our elected leaders to do it right, building a single regional transit system that is affordable and accessible for all makes for a far more promising future.

I will have far more to say about this on Niagara At Large in the weeks and months ahead.

For now, here is the News Release from Niagara’s Regional Government –

Niagara Region has now completed all 12 local area municipal council presentations and secured the required triple-majority support to move forward to create a consolidated transit Commission.

The transition to a single, consolidated public transit system will now begin with the goal of beginning operations in January 2023.

To guide this process, Niagara Region has established the Transit Commission Steering Committee to lead the transition through a series of working groups made up of current municipal transit providers and Regional staff.

The committee will bring a number of updates to Regional Council in the coming months, including:

  • The legal establishment of the Commission as a new agency of the Region
  • Formalization of agreements with key partner organizations, including the local municipalities
  • The appointment of elected representatives to the Commission Board
  • The conclusion of the Linking Niagara Transit Committee, the group that has guided the integration process to date, as responsibility for transition transfers to the new board
  • Once the board is in place, the following key milestones will take place starting this summer and continuing until the end of 2022:
  • The hiring of a general manager
  • Appointment of members to the public Advisory Committee
  • The initial branding strategy and name for the new Commission
  • The transfer of transit assets, staff and infrastructure to the new Commission

As the transition occurs through 2022, the existing transit systems will continue to be operated by the local area municipalities and Region. Through 2023, existing routes and services are expected to continue to operate at current service levels as the Commission assumes operational responsibility.

This will be in advance of the introduction of new operating hours and fares, new digital payment technology, and better connections for riders across Niagara as outlined in the Niagara Service Standards Strategy.

A triple majority was required for the consolidation of transit as regional service with the recommended model of a single commission. A triple majority is a majority of Regional Council voting in favour, and a majority of local councils representing a majority of eligible electors in Niagara voting in favour.

Quotes

Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley

“The historical vote to move forward with a single, consolidated transit provider for the entire region will have a profoundly positive impact on all of Niagara for decades to come. This move not only illustrates how well Niagara’s communities can work together in strong partnership, but also how we continue to put our passengers, environment and economy at the forefront of our policy decisions. The creation of this commission will be part of the lasting legacy of this term, and I look forward to seeing this new commission operational early next year.” ~ Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley

“As Chair of the Linking Niagara Transit Committee, it is gratifying to see this journey complete with the creation of a new transit commission in Niagara. This proposed system will provide significant customer experience improvements including increased consistency in service hours and transit access across all 12 communities. I would like to extend my thanks to the members of the committee for their ideas to help shape the proposed model, and the staff for their tremendous work.” ~ Mat Siscoe, Chair, Linking Niagara Transit Committee and Regional Councillor

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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