Guelph holds transit town hall to tackle missing routes to other cities

A town hall on transit issues is being held in Guelph Saturday afternoon. It will include speakers on the city's bus system as well as a look at how Guelph is connected to nearby cities and towns.

Advocate Sean Marshall to discuss differences in regional transit between 1980s and today

A transit town hall in Guelph will look at both the bus system within the city as well as connectivity to other towns and cities. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Problems with transit, and potential ways to address them, will be discussed at a town hall meeting in Guelph Saturday afternoon.

The event is being hosted by the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph. The half-day event begins at noon and will include speakers who are focused both on local transit issues and broader regional connectivity.

The speakers include city staff, including Jennifer Juste who is the manager of transportation planning, and Andrea Mikkila, who is the supervisor of transit planning and scheduling.

Also speaking is transit advocate and writer Sean Marshall. His talk will be more about transit to and from Guelph from neighbouring communities including Hamilton, Toronto, Kitchener and Waterloo.

He says people who commute to Toronto have an easier time now getting to and from work than they did even five years ago, but for people trying to get anywhere else, there are major challenges.

'A very lonely wait'

"If you're commuting from Guelph to Kitchener-Waterloo … it's really difficult," he said, adding it wasn't always the case.

In the 1980s, he says there was a network of privately run buses that ran throughout southern Ontario.

"You could get a daily bus to Fergus, Elora, all the way up to Owen Sound, there used to be numerous buses to Hamilton," he said. "Now, if you want to get from Hamilton to Guelph, you have to go through Square One [in Mississauga] if you don't have a car."

So a trip that would take about 45 minutes by car takes two hours on a bus "with a very lonely wait at the carpool lot."

He says the increase of GO trains and buses means that those private companies are losing money on their main routes, and they've closed less profitable ones. 

Marshall says he hopes people who attend the summit will take the information they hear and turn it into action, either by contacting their local MPP, city councillor or other advocates. 

"I want to just build awareness of the issue, what used to be and what should be and how to push for it," he said.

The summit and town hall was inspired by similar events in Burlington and Toronto, says Steve Petric, chair of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph.

"Transit is definitely a hot topic," he said. 

City staff will be talking about the transportation master plan, which Petric says includes transit, bikes, walking and vehicles, while Guelph Transit will give an update on its service review.

He says it's hoped people who attend will become engaged and understand "there's a lot more to transit than just riding the bus."

The transit town hall is free, but people do need to register on the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph website.


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