The pandemic caught us right in the middle of some big changes being made to Guelph Transit, so it seems like an appropriate time to sit down, look at transit, and consider the current status for those best lain plans and their future. In another special meeting of council, matters of transit are considered in this latest workshop and it’s special Tuesday at 2 pm start time.
NOTE #1: This is a council workshop, so there will be no delegates for this meeting.
NOTE #2: The meeting will be closed to the public, though it will be live-streamed on the City of Guelph’s website here.
Council Workshop: Transit Growth Strategy – This has not been a great year for transit. COVID-19, and the precipitous decrease in ridership because of it, put a big dent in any expansion plans and even forced a rollback of transit service. The impact of COVID-19 is one the things that his workshop will discuss along with the City’s transit strategy, the future electrification of vehicles, the new transit facility, and the transit budget.
In terms of impacts, the R/C Ratio, which is the ratio of the money invested in transit by the City to the amount of money raise from transit fares, is down to 21.5 per cent from 39.2 per cent before the pandemic. Passenger boardings have fallen by more than half, $8 million in annual revenue’s been lost, and Transit shed 27 jobs in the process. According to staff, it could take four years for Transit to regain ridership levels.
So is there’s good news for transit? Yes, we were still successful in securing the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) money to electrify our bus fleet including 30 new buses and 35 replacement buses, which we’re expected to receive between 2023 and 2028. The Federal and Provincial governments are contributing $75 million while the City of Guelph will be offering $47 million in development charges (DCs) and $57 million from capital reserves.
Along with those electric buses is the need to build a new bus bay, which might eventually be a part of a new operations campus on Dunlop Drive. Work on the business case and staging plan will continue in 2021. Council also approved earlier this year the order for three electric buses and the upgrades required to charge them at the present transit garage on Watson Road, and that work will begin in 2021.
In terms of budget considerations beyond 2021, the re-implementation of pre-COVID service levels is expected to cost $1.8 million, the addition of 16 new buses for growth will be $10.6 million, and there will be an additional $500,000 needed from operating impacts. Those items will be in the budget forecast, but there’s also an additional $5.4 million in City Building capital funding that’s presently not included.
Before the end of the workshop, council will be asked to consider the further measures for the budget including a framework for a comprehensive transit service performance review, the renegotiation of the ICIP funding, and the development of an affordable long-term transit funding strategy.