Regional Council Gives First of Three Approvals for Niagara-Wide Transit System |
The first step in integrating Niagara’s transit services into a single, region-wide system passed on November 25, with the regional council voting in favor of the merger. The only non-vote on the matter came from Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson. Pelham’s representatives, Mayor Marvin Junkin and Councilor Diana Huson, voted in favour.
The vote was the first step in the triple majority process required to implement the system. Town councils, including Pelham’s, will begin voting on the plan individually the week of December 6. A simple majority – seven of Niagara’s 12 municipalities – is then required to adopt the plan. Finally, these municipalities must represent at least 50% plus one of Niagara’s registered voters – the third element of the triple majority. Mathematically, this means that at least two of the region’s three major cities—St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland must vote to approve.
“Regional Council made a historic, progressive and courageous decision this afternoon that will set in motion this process that will hopefully strengthen public transit in Niagara for generations to come,” said Regional Chair Jim Bradley. . “Council’s vote is the culmination of thousands of hours of negotiation, consultation and debate across the region aimed at creating a single, improved transit service for all residents.
Junkin praised regional staff for considering the needs of a small community like Pelham during the lengthy study process, saying the current demand-responsive transit service “can only be described as very success”.
“Thank you for listening…to all the other small municipalities,” the mayor added. “Once we have the whole system in place and working [we can] allay municipal fears about lack of service or any other perceived injustice.
However, Huson questioned whether the region operating the on-demand system that currently serves Pelham would be more profitable than contracting it out to a private company.
“My understanding is that it would increase efficiency and service, but not necessarily cost less,” Huson said.
Transit governance study director Matt Robinson agrees.
“Operational efficiencies can be achieved internally, but I think that’s a safe assessment,” he said.
West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma said it was still good business for his less populated municipality.
“It allows us to participate in the vision of a regional plan without committing large sums of taxpayers’ money,” Bylsma said. “I think there’s enough flexibility here…I think it’s the best of both worlds.”