March has been a big month for transit news in the Royal City, so it's apropos that it goes out like a lamb for city transit nerds with an announcement that the Federal government will be investing nearly $9.7 million in Guelph Transit improvements including new vehicles, new fair boxes, new shelters, and upgrades to traffic signalling.
Speaking on behalf of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield made the announcement long with MPP Liz Sandals representing the Province, and Ward 6 Councillor Mark MacKinnon, CAO Derrick Thomson and Transit Manager Mike Spicer representing the City.
The exact amount: $9,681,491. That represents about 50 per cent of the funding for transit with municipal and provincial levels of government picking up the other half, including $6 million shared revenue from gas taxes. A total of 312 projects were announcement today across Ontario via the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, or PTIF. In total, $19, 417, 982 will be spent on Guelph Transit infrastructure in the next couple of years.
Among the new funding initiatives are $7.37 million for replacement buses including 24 conventional and 9 specialized vehicles, $1.3 million for replacing fare boxes that will finally support the student U-Pass and transfers, $363,221 will go to upgrade 132 bus stops to make them accessible and add shelters, $147,500 will go to the development of the Transportation Master Plan, and $500,000 will be invested in upgrading the traffic signal control system to better coordinate traffic signals along busy streets.
"We have money in reserve funds and during the 2017 budget deliberations we knew that we were going to be doing some investments, so this allows us to do more than we had originally budgeted for," MacKinnon said after the announcement. The City already had new buses, the master plan, and fare boxes on the books, but the new federal money though is going help out with the rest, especially bus stop improvements. "People have been asking about them for a while so that's the big issue, I think the mobility buses are also new," MacKinnon added.
As for timetables, this won't all happen right away. "Most of the PTIF money has to be put in place by March of 2019, we have asked for some extensions though because there are going to be some projects that have to go beyond that," said Spicer. The buses will be bought sooner, but signal prioritization maybe one of the projects that can't implemented on the government's present deadline. "I know it is a priority for us to get together with traffic, the sooner the better, that's going to be my timetable."
The Guelph news followed an announcement in Toronto this morning where Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled new funding for GO Regional Express Rail (GO RER) to the tune of nearly $2 billion. That money, in part, will be going to help build new track that will allow two-way, all-day GO train service in the Toronto to Kitchener corridor, which also includes Guelph.
Sandals, for her part, was eager to talk about the additional money for all-day GO train service, but was more ambiguous about addressing the needs for regional transit in the meantime. "I think what we're seeing is that this incremental," said Sandals. "Eventually, when we do get the point where we have two-way regional express rail, that means you will be able to get on the train in Guelph and arrive in Kitchener, and then at either end there will be local transit that gets you where you need to go."
"If you look at GO scheduling, or for that matter Greyhound scheduling, it is very much in response to demand," Sandals added. "So if you look at the whole history of GO, certainly while I've been looking at it over the last 15 years, you see a gradual addition of more service to a corridor as a corridor matures and there's more transit riders to support that service. The ridership and the service grow hand-in-hand."