Niagara Regional Transit’s 2024 Budget faces upheaval due to proposed service cuts and fare hikes. Photo: Facebook/Niagara Regional Transit
As 2023 concludes in the coming weeks, plans for 2024 are taking shape on municipal and regional councils. One of the public services that has been drawing a lot of attention is Niagara Regional Transit (NRT).
In an attempt to be fiscally prudent, Regional Council is seeking to reduce the planned 7.8 per cent, or $4.3 million increase to the 2024 Regional Transit Budget. This reduction proposal has been a subject of great controversy.
On Monday, Nov 13, the St. Catharines City Council agreed to a formal objective of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Council believes the regional public transit system is vital in achieving this goal.
St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe has expressed significant concern about the proposed reduction in providing designated funds for Regional Transit. With plans to purchase more than twenty new buses in 2024, he also believes that increased financial resource allocation cannot be deferred until 2025.
In addition to the opposition toward service cuts, there is widespread concern about NRT increasing bus fares. This issue was a big topic of discussion at a Nov 21 Niagara Transit Commission meeting chaired by Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop.
St. Catharines Regional Councillor and NT committee member Caleb Ratzlaff believes that increasing fares and cutting services violates the Municipal Transfer Agreement (MTA) terms. Ratzlaff questioned Carla Stout, General Manager of NRT, about fare increases during the meeting.
“(Both the established by-law and the MTA) are silent on raising fares,” Stout responded. “They didn’t say that we needed to keep our fares static for seven years.”
Reflecting more broadly on the 2024 NRT Budget, Councillor Ratzlaff shared some key thoughts. “We’ve already cut back 2 million in reserve transfers,” Ratzlaff explained. “Making these cuts here, if we’re going to abide by the agreement and keep 2022 service levels (in all likelihood), is going to cost us more money in the long run,” he continued. “The savings just do not seem worthwhile,” “I hope we can keep the original budget we passed,” he concluded.
Those interested in learning more about NRT and its mandate or the 2024 Niagara Regional Budget can do so at the following links:
Nick Redekop completed his Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labour Studies at Brock University. He has previously served in municipal and federal politics. In his free time, Nick enjoys following sports, taking part in outdoor activities, and reading biographies. Nick resides in Niagara Falls