A couple of weeks ago, I released this video talking about transit in Niagara. I want to go into a little more detail about my goals for our transit system in Niagara.
At Underdogs Boxing Club, we run a program called Shape Your Life, it’s free for the participants to attend, and we provide funds for transit, should they need it. Still, I’ve had several women register from outside of St. Catharines and then not be able to attend either because they cannot get to the boxing club via transit or because the ride would be too long and cumbersome and create other issues for them being away from home or their children for such an extended period of time on a Sunday afternoon or Monday evening. Frankly, even a few women in St. Catharines have had difficulty getting to the club, because of a system that doesn’t run as often (or at all) on Sundays or in the evenings.
This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that people can’t get to employment opportunities cities other than the ones they live in; it’s unacceptable that people can’t get to visit family as often as they’d like; it’s unacceptable that people can’t get to medical appointments and other services that aren’t within walking distance of their homes; it’s unacceptable that our lack of efficient, reliable transit contributes to people being isolated in their small part of Niagara.
Having worked on the transit file since 2000, the challenge has always been that the call for more and better transit has been met with the “but ridership numbers are low” or “the buses are driving around empty.” There is little understanding about the reason for this.
When people know they can catch a bus relatively close to their residence and that bus will take them to their workplace, their school, their medical appointment, their family member or friend’s house, or wherever in a reasonable amount of time with little headache in transferring and waiting for a second bus, they will take transit.
Schedules that run every half hour or hour are unacceptable.
Routes that don’t run in the evenings; or that don’t run on holidays or Sundays are unacceptable.
Nine (mostly) disconnected transit systems throughout the Niagara region is unacceptable.
Ridership will continue to be low until people know they can rely on transit to get them where they need to go in an efficient manner. It’s trite, but if you build it, they will come.
Admittedly, there has been more cooperation/collaboration on the transit file since the announcement that regular, daily GO will be coming to Niagara; however, it’s still not enough, and I am concerned that the only routes that will really be improved are those that are closely connected to where GO stations are.
We need to do better. We need an integrated transit system for all of Niagara that runs on a regular and frequent schedule every day, into the evenings, on Sundays and holidays, and that our citizens can rely on to get them where they need to go in an efficient manner.
There is no public transit system I can think of that is profitable for its community. However, there is an argument to be made that efficient, reliable transit is a contributor to economic development, because when people can find work without having to leave their home communities, or they can get to shopping destinations that are outside of a reasonable walking distance, they spend more money. When visitors come to Niagara and can get around the region on an interconnected, efficient, reliable transit system, we all win.
As someone who has relied heavily on transit in the past; wants her children to be able to rely on transit when they need to; and who would really like to use her vehicle less, transit is something I’ve long been interested in improving throughout Niagara.
It’s time for more efficient, reliable transit throughout Niagara.
It’s time to Reset the Region.