Sunday, August 30, 2015

Starting Public Transit in Pelham

In early 2015, Town Council and Senior Staff engaged in a strategic planning session to help identify goals and priorities for moving Pelham forward. One of our key priorities from our overarching goals was to “Offer public transportation to Pelham residents.” Why? It’s consistently something that folks of all ages have requested over the years.

Later in January, the Town applied for funding for the Ministry of Transportation’s “Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program,” which helps municipalities implement or improve public transportation. In March, the MTO approved the maximum -- $100,000 – to help cover the majority of the costs to implement transit system in Pelham.

Staff consulted with Pelham Cares; local Senior Housing Facilities and Associations; Pelham Senior Advisory Council; Mayors Youth Advisory Council; existing shuttle services; and Niagara Region and area transportation specialists. The Town also undertook a community consultation and received more than 200 responses with suggestions for routing, timing, pick-up / drop-off locations. Finally, the Town considered the times that we currently provide transit – for Summerfest, for the Thursday night events (Suppermarket, Bandshell, Farmer’s Market), and for Canada Day.

In August, the Town issued a request for proposal for a provider for Conventional Transit Service (offered 5 hours a day), a Trans-Cab Service (up to 5 hours a day, Monday to Saturday  and pre qualified by appointment), and Shuttle Service for special events and Festivals from September 2015 to March 2017 (19 months).

Staff reviewed the proposals, met with the potential providers, and recommend awarding the contract to Sharp Bus Line Ltd. at a special Council meeting on August 31. (Please click here for a link to the meeting's agenda and the staff report.)

This pilot’s expense budget is just under $175,000 – $118K for conventional transit, $22K for the Trans-Cab service, and $35K for advertising, signs, etc. The Provincial $100,000 grant and all revenues (fares and advertising) will significantly reduce this expense.

This service will not only link Fonthill and Fenwick, provide linkages for shopping and appointments, but will also link to other Regional transit – making it easier for Brock and Niagara College students / employees.

If approved, the new services could begin on September 8! Routes will be based on the public consultation and may be adjusted over the first few weeks of the service if necessary.

Please check out local media, the Town’s webpage and social media for more information about the implementation details.

Thanks so much to the Provincial Government and all who filled in the surveys and provided feedback and ideas. With their help, Council and I look forward to the Town offering this new service!
September 3, 2015 Update:
Council did approve the agreement and the service will start on Tuesday, September 8.
For more details, including the temporary route, please see:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kame, Hydro, and Public Transit at AMO Conference

This week, Councillors Accursi, Durley, King, Papp and Rybiak and I will attend the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Niagara Falls. The annual three-day conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities and organizers expect more than 1,600 delegates!

While at AMO, your Pelham reps will also directly advance your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with various Ministries.

First, we plan to meet with Kathryn McGarry, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Transportation, regarding our Community Transportation Pilot Project. We realized that the Town already provided transit options for special events (like Summerfest, Canada Day, and Thursday night events) and Pelham Cares provided accessible transit for seniors. By getting feedback from the community and joining these services together, might we be able to structure a type of transit service? We will be thanking Ms. McGarry for the $100,000 Provincial grant which will help the Town work with the private sector to link these services and to connect with other transit systems. (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to the MTO.)

Next, we will meet with Eleanor McMahon, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Natural Resources, about increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. For the last seven years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. Last year we thanked Ms. McMahan for finalizing those protections in late 2013. This year we intend to ask MRN to add much more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan. (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to MNR.)

Then, along with representatives from Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc. (NPEI), we will meet with Bob Delaney, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, to discuss Pelham’s electricity assets. While the former Village of Fonthill hydro assets are managed by NPEI, Hydro One owns and manages the remainder (and majority) of Pelham’s electricity infrastructure. We are calling for the Government to allow meaningful and substantive discussions for NPEI to purchase Pelham’s electricity assets at fair market value. By the way, the average Hydro One customer – using 800kWh per month – pays $290 per year (17%) more than an NPEI customer! (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to Min of Energy.)

Finally, I will be joining other Niagara Mayors and the Regional Chair to meet with the Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, to promote an extension of GO transit commuter rail service into Niagara.

Please be assured that Council and I will continue to take all opportunities to promote Pelham’s interests to the Provincial Government.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Help Encourage Future Quality of Life Investments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that "Since there are currently no Federal or Provincial grants available [for a potential new community centre], the Town will continue to lobby for a policy change and for funding." Now, I am asking for your help with this effort.

National Election:
As the National election started, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) ramped up their lobbying effort calling on all parties to focus on initiatives to “strengthen Canada’s hometowns.”

At the website, FCM outlines a campaign to ask people to endorse their “roadmap” for strong cities and strong communities. They advocate for long-term, predictable and sustainable investment in local roads, bridges, and water / waste water infrastructure. They also suggest increased funding for public transit, for social / affordable housing, for local policing, and for emergency preparedness.

While “strong communities” need these elements, FCM seems to stop short of what a “hometown” or a community means.

So, while Pelham Council has worked hard to ensure that the Town improved its traditional infrastructure — like roads, bridges, and pipes – we have also worked to improve the quality of life for all. We understand that community is about a sense of place, about our joint heritage and shared histories, and about community activities and events.

FCM should also recognize that strong hometowns are about people – people coming together, interacting, celebrating, playing and remembering.

So, during this National election, please ask your local candidates to ensure that the Canadian Government will also help fund improvements to our quality of life – like new recreational and cultural facilities.

Provincial Consultation:
Last Thursday, I participated in a Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure consultation about how the Province should invest $15 billion over 10 years for “moving Ontario forward” outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

I commend the Ontario Government for working in partnership with Regions and communities to design programs and identify projects that will drive economic growth and address critical local infrastructure needs. They suggested potential investments in roads, bridges, public transit, high-speed internet access, and natural gas access.

During the session, I also advocated for funding for community and recreational facilities. I reminded the Parliamentary Assistant and the Ministry staff that the Province helped fund community facilities during the first round of stimulus grants and I encouraged them to add this criterion for future funds.

Please help by also offering this feedback at the Provincial consultation website at before September 18, 2015.

With your help, we can assist both the National and Provincial governments to develop policies and programs to help fund future quality of life investments – like a potential multi-faceted community centre.