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Link the Watershed proposes integrating area transit systems

It would mean more accessible and convenient travel between urban areas
Bus driver
Stock photo

Getting around the area's cities could become a lot more convenient and a lot less expensive.

A group called Link the Watershed is proposing linking communities by creating an integrated network of rural and urban transit systems.

This would include Brantford Transit, Grand River Transit, Guelph Transit, Brant Transit, Wellington RideWell, Ride Norfolk, PC Connect, and GOST.

"This is an initiative that has been a collaboration between UNIFOR, the union representing Grand River Transit; as well as the ATU, which is the union that represents Guelph Transit; and the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph. What we're proposing is that all our local transit providers--so we have 3 urban transit systems in the Grand River Watershed and 3 rural transit systems--that they all collaborate, work together to establish more efficient and better connections for customers," Warren Schnurr, member of Link the Watershed and a transit worker told the Mike Farwell Show on CityNews 570 on Monday.

The group wants to see urban transit systems provide new intercity bus routes between all the urban areas--Brantford to Cambridge, Cambridge to Guelph, Kitchener to Guelph, and Guelph to Kitchener.

Riders would pay existing standard fare rates to get from one urban area to the next, and then pay transit fare for the local transit system.

Noticeably shorter trip times would also be expected.

Schnurr said, "Instead of the 5 hour GO bus trip from Brantford to Cambridge through Mississauga, we would be looking at about a 45 min bus ride from end to end."

He added the aim is a 60 minute window for most links.

The group is proposing the plan operate as a pilot project funded by provincial and federal governments to establish that there is the ridership to make the project permanent.

Schnurr said, "We believe that the four core routes for this proposal would be in the range of $7.5 million annually and that would be split across the three urban transit systems. In terms of capital costs, there might have to be some additional buses purchased, bus stops installed, maybe some transfer facility upgrades, but this is very much in line with what a standard bus route costs."

He added that the province has announced funding for projects like this and that if the provincial government agrees to provide funding, costs could be kept off of municipal budgets for at least a few years.

"Eventually, they would have to incorporate these costs into the existing budget but we're hoping if the demand is high enough, that this would be willing costs that the municipalities would want to absorb," Schnurr said.

Schnurr explained that for years, the public has been demanding these local connections that they don't have, and that Greyhound pulling out of the Canadian market has only made intercity travel worse.

"City councils have in the past, namely Guelph, were proposing a connection because we feel our citizens need that. We often see people writing in the media that we need these connections because there's nothing today," Schnurr added.

He noted that nothing like this has been pursued before and that the project would create more jobs too.  

"Transit workers are often the first to hear about where the service is failing our customers. So, to stand up as workers and say we've heard the public, we've heard what they want, and to put this proposal out there because we sympathize with these missing links and these exorbitant costs that people are incurring to get from one city to the next--that's a large chunk of where we're coming from as well."

Schnurr added that he and the group's president have met with GRT planning staff, who provided positive comments about the proposal.

He said that the proposal is now being reviewed and he's hopeful that it will lead to action.

He believes the ATU is trying to doing the same in Guelph.

"There is certainly awareness growing amongst the different government entities about this proposal, so we're really hoping they'll get on board with it," said Schnurr.

Details of Link the Watershed's proposal can be found here.

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