Link The Watershed Transit Initiative – Update & Petition

To all Local 4304 members,

For those members who were in attendance back at the August General Membership Meeting, you will recall that the membership voted at that time to endorse a transit initiative that was presented at the meeting called ‘Link The Watershed.’  I would like to give the membership an update on the work on that initiative so far and where the initiative is still heading.

For the members who do not know, the Link The Watershed Transit Initiative started as a project of our Union in Politics Committee and has grown into a collaboration between our union, Unifor Local 4304; ATU Local 1189, which represents the workers at Guelph Transit; and the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph (TAAG), an active public transit advocacy group based in Guelph.  In a nutshell, the initiative is proposing that the 8 public transit systems that currently service the municipalities of the Grand River Watershed (Grand River Transit, Guelph Transit, Brantford Transit, Wellington Ride Well, Guelph Owen Sound Transportation (GOST), PC Connect, Brant Transit, and Ride Norfolk) co-operate to form new cross-border transit connections, and close the gaps in the local transit network.

The core of the proposal is to establish a network of 4 new transit routes between the urban areas of Waterloo-Kitchener-Cambridge, Guelph, and Brantford with other minor service changes to the rural transit services.  Those proposed routes are as follows:

  1. A Brantford Transit route from the Downtown Brantford Bus Terminal, past the Brantford Train Station, through the Brantford Commons shopping centre (a Brantford Transit transfer point) and via Highway 24 to the Ainslie Terminal in Downtown Cambridge;
  2. A Grand River Transit route from Fairway Station via Fairway Road to the Region of Waterloo International Airport, then via Kossuth Road, Highway 124 and the Hanlon Parkway to Stone Road Mall, then on to the University of Guelph via Stone Road;
  3. A Grand River Transit route from Cambridge Centre Station via Hespeler Road, Pinebush Road, and Franklin Boulevard to the Hespeler Village, then via Guelph Avenue, Highway 124 and Wellington Street to the Guelph Central Station in Downtown Guelph; and,
  4. A Guelph Transit route from the Woodlawn SmartCentres at Highway 6 and Woodlawn Road via Woodlawn/Highway 7/Victoria Street to Central Station in Downtown Kitchener, then looping through Downtown Kitchener past Frederick Station before returning to Guelph.

The funding for the initiative would be provided initially from the Provincial/Federal governments using money that has been earmarked for projects just like this; the province announced on March 1st that there is a pool of $650M for municipalities to use to establish new transit connections and make travel between different transit systems easier.

On Thursday, September 30th our President, Brendan Burke, and I presented the proposal to GRT planning staff and received some very positive feedback about the proposal; our planners have taken the proposal back for further study and consideration.

In addition, an online public presentation of the initiative was hosted by TAAG on Tuesday, October 19th and transit/municipal officials, MP’s, MPP’s, Chambers of Commerce, and local media were invited.  This presentation has led to several new media articles already, including a 570 News interview on the Mike Farwell show and an interview on the Guelph Politicast Podcast.  The responses received so far from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

Also, the members of TAAG have been doing more outreach to the local Chambers of Commerce and had a fruitful discussion with the CEO of the Brantford/Brant Chamber of Commerce; the Board of Directors of the Brantford/Brant Chamber of Commerce has now endorsed the initiative and are working to bring the other Chambers of Commerce in Grand River Watershed on board as well.

However, it is ultimately the elected leaders of our various municipalities that we still need to get on board to move the initiative towards implementation since only the municipal councils may approve that our transit officials can apply for the funding from the Provincial and Federal governments.  To that end, TAAG has set up a website to promote the Link The Watershed Transit Initiative and have just launched a petition with the goal of showing our elected officials the amount of public support there is for establishing these new transit connections.  We can all help get the petition going right now by signing it and sharing it with our friends, family, neighbours and social media groups!

You can learn more about the initiative, watch a video of the October 19th public presentation, download information materials, and sign the new petition by visiting https://linkthewatershedtransit.wordpress.com/

Without the vote of support from our membership at the August General Membership Meeting, we would not have gotten this far, and for that I thank you!

Yours in solidarity,

Warren Schnurr
Chair, Union in Politics Committee
Unifor Local 4304

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