Before I write about the long road toward inter-municipal transit in Niagara, I have a question for you…
How excited would you get when friends who own a house and have been living together for five-and-a-half years announce engagement and complete wedding three-months-hence? Are you delighted for the couple, but wonder “what took you so long?” and “what’s going to change in your relationship?”
Last Thursday when Regional Council took another small step toward inter-municipal transit, many asked “What took so long?” and “What’s going to change?”
That’s why the first Niagara Regional Transit buses started rolling-along in September 2011 and began making connections between municipalities. The next steps discussion took some effort, and since it was growing and working, the Region extended the pilot for another year.
Then, in May 2015, Regional Council “endorsed in principal creating an inter-municipal transit system in Niagara,” extended the pilot to December 2016, and requested that the three Cities work together to provide options on how best to provide Inter-Municipal Transit. After Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, and Welland approved similar motions, the group began meeting in earnest in January 2016. They hired Dillon Consulting to develop a high-level plan and receive public input and the Region again extended the pilot. Since January 2017, Dillon presented their report – “Niagara Transit Service Delivery & Governance Strategy” – and each of the three City Councils approved it unanimously.
Last week, Regional Council approved the report’s recommendations: endorse (again) the principal of a consolidated transit system; direct staff to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the three major transit providers by the end of 2017; form a Transit Working Group with representation from all 12 Niagara Cities and Towns. Finally, since the Region funded the pilot for five-and-a-half years beyond its “sphere of jurisdiction” in the Ontario Municipal Act, the report recommended a “triple-majority” process to sanction the funding.
So, what will happen in June if the majority of local Councils approve allowing the Region to operate conventional transit? To use an analogy, the transit marriage will become legitimate.
Although a small step, it’s an important one to keep Niagara’s inter-municipal transit path moving forward.