Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner joined Cambridge Green candidate Carla Johnson at the Ainslie Street Terminal in Galt Tuesday to announce the party’s plan to help develop an inter-regional transit system linking cities in Waterloo region to Brantford and Guelph.
“We have a plan to triple transit use by 2030 and do it by building livable affordable communities linked by public transit," Schreiner said, detailing the Greens' plan to upload 50 per cent of local transit costs to the province so municipalities can afford to collaborate on operating a reliable and affordable inter-regional transit system.
In Waterloo region alone, that would equate to about $110 million based on the 2022 budget for Grand River Transit.
Schreiner said most of the funding would come from reallocating the billions the Ford government has planned for new roads like Highway 413 and using the money to buy electrified buses and expanded LRT.
Shreiner called the proposed highway through York, Peel and Halton regions “the highway that nobody wants” and said it will only save commuters 30 to 60 seconds.
Instead, the Guelph MPP said the Greens are committed to working with municipal governments to develop a "Grand River watershed transit strategy to connect communities."
“Doug Ford thinks the solution to transportation is more highways. He’s wrong. More highways will make life even more expensive and increase climate pollution,” Schreiner said.
Johnson called the need for better public transit one of the top priorities she’s heard since being named the Green candidate for the Cambridge and North Dumfries riding, especially since Greyhound announced it was pulling out of Canada last spring.
Greyhound announced it would cease operations in May 2021 as a result of falling ridership and other struggles related to the pandemic.
Johnson said the biggest impact from that loss was felt among students.
“There’s no reliable way to get around, so students, the elderly, people with low income, they really relied on Greyhound, they rely on public transit,” Johnson said. “We know we have the GO. The GO can get us to Toronto and back again but it doesn’t help us get us around in our larger region here. From Cambridge to Brantford to Kitchener-Waterloo to Guelph, we don’t have any efficient, cost effective way to get around.”
Johnson said with the region expected to grow to one million residents by 2030, a solution needs to be in place to get people between cities in an affordable and sustainable way.
Schreiner said the fastest way to solve the problem is to get electrified buses on the road. They provide a comfortable ride, he said, which is one of the reasons people often prefer rail over buses.
Ultimately, fast-tracking the ION light rail transit expansion to Cambridge is the goal of the Greens.
Schreiner said he’s been meeting with constituents in each city about the lack of inter-regional transit options and heard from employers especially who noted challenges with labour shortages. Many think one of the solutions would be better interconnectivity.
“Affordable and accessible transit is absolutely vital to making our communities more livable, connected and affordable,” Schreiner said.
Asked if a linkage for GO rail transit between Cambridge and Guelph is part of the plan, Schreiner said the Greens are happy to work with GO, but the goal of Tuesday’s announcement is to give municipalities the means to develop their own solutions to inter-regional transit using local transit systems.
“I can tell you as an MPP I’ve been asking for a GO Bus between Guelph and Kitchener for almost three and a half years I’ve been in office,” Schreiner said, explaining that much of GO Transit’s focus is getting people into the GTA.
Inter-regional transit advocacy groups like the Guelph-based Link the Watershed have been working toward finding a solution to the problem for close to a year and have been in talks with local politicians, business leaders and environmental groups on ways Grand River Transit, Guelph Transit and Brantford Transit can work together in advance of a funding announcement that would support their proposal.