Hamilton

'Historic' move for Niagara, as regional council votes in support of single transit system

Niagara Regional Council has voted in favour of combining all existing services into one single, integrated transit commission serving the entire region.

The proposal would integrate transit systems in Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Welland, and Niagara Falls

Regional chair Jim Bradley described Thursday's decision as 'progressive and courageous.' (Jim Ross/The Canadian Press)

Niagara Regional Council has voted in favour of combining all existing services into one single, integrated transit commission serving the entire region.

In a news release after the vote Thursday, the council said the Moving Transit Forward proposal would lead to an improvement and modernization of public transit in Niagara Region and called the decision a "historic move."

The proposal "would bring together independently operating local transit systems in Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Welland, and Niagara Falls, as well as Niagara Region Transit and NRT OnDemand, in order to offer consistent operating hours and fares, new digital payment technology, and better connections for riders across Niagara," it said. 

Next, starting the week of Dec. 6, Niagara's 12 local municipalities will also vote on the proposal. To move forward, a majority of those councils must vote in favour of the plan.

"Regional council made an historic, progressive and courageous decision … which will set into motion that process that will hopefully strengthen public transit across Niagara for generations to come," regional chair Jim Bradley said. 

'A transformative decision' 

Mary Lou Tanner, principal planner at NPG Planning Solutions in Niagara, said she is extremely happy to see this "high positive vote" from the regional council.

"It is such a transformative decision for the region. It's going to provide access across the region in ways that don't currently exist," Tanner told CBC Hamilton.

"It builds on work that has been going on for almost seven years, maybe longer, around bringing GO transit to Niagara. It's the next logical step, but in many ways it's a great step forward for Niagara."

Tanner — who worked for seven years as the region's chief planner — said every community's voice was heard and the Niagara Regional Council took the time to do a significant amount of analysis.

She said the council also consulted citizens and listened to the community about perspectives on transit, what people wanted to see and what people were experiencing without transit. 

Benefits for business

Tanner said an integrated single transit system will broaden access for people, among other things. 

"It will provide opportunities for people to make choices around transit versus owning or travelling by car. It will facilitate integration of active transportation. You may not want to cycle across all of Niagara, but if you could take transit part of the way and cycle part of the way, that's going to facilitate that activity," Tanner said. 

"We also know that from an economic perspective, when people go whether it's to get groceries or to another store or do their shopping by transit, the businesses do better because they have access to more customers."

Niagara's proposal for consolidated transit is based on over 10 years of research, experience, consultation and feedback, the council said. 

Earlier this fall, a public online survey collected feedback from more than 2,200 residents across Niagara. That survey showed strong support for the proposal, with more than 79 per cent of respondents approving of the governance structure, financial model and service standards strategy that make up the proposal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond Brown is a web writer and editor with CBC News. Drop him a line anytime at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.

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