Proposed new bus connections could eventually see Guelph Transit connect with Kitchener, Waterloo and Aberfoyle.
Three expansions are listed in the 2021 draft capital budget documents, included in the forecast for 2023.
These proposed routes – to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and the GO bus stop in Aberfoyle – are “set as a placeholder” to “generate further discussion and consideration by council,” explained Robin Gerus, Guelph Transit’s general manager of operations.
“We are considering Waterloo region for two of the initiatives as we know that there are people who live there but who are also working or studying in Guelph, and who could likely benefit from interregional bus service,” he said in an email. “Demand and ridership numbers for the three expansion initiatives are a part of ongoing research.”
The potential new routes are expected to cost $1.379 million each for a total of $4.1 million. If approved by council when the 2023 budget comes around, $542,400 is expected to come from grants and subsidies, with varying levels of development charges and taxpayer funds to cover the rest.
Those funds, Gerus said, would be used to buy an electric bus and finalize route designs.
It will be up to council to decide whether the new routes, if approved, would be provided for the standard fare or if riders will have to pay an additional sum.
"Premium transit services normally have an additional cost associated with the delivery of that service," Gerus said. "The industry standard would be to include a nominal cost that would have to be approved along with the final recommendation (to council) towards these expansions."
Faced with ridership and revenue decreases as a result of the pandemic, city council members recently floated a number of ideas to reduce costs or otherwise change the existing transit system.
Decisions around that are expected during the 2021 budget process which is underway now. The budget will likely be finalized next month.
Gerus acknowledges the proposed Kitchener, Waterloo and Aberfoyle connections may be impacted as part of those discussions.
“It is most likely we will push out or slow down the three transit expansions listed in the 2023 capital budget,” he said.
The budget documents identify one of the proposed new connections be to downtown Kitchener, but the terminal there has closed, Gerus notes. As a result, that expansion is now to Conestoga Mall.