Transit is an area of municipal services that’s been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Revenue has cratered because ridership is way down, so now would be the perfect time for the City of Guelph and other municipalities to hear that they’re getting more money to cover the cost. In an announcement today, Guelph received nearly $100,000 more in Gas Tax money from the Government of Ontario, and there’s more transportation news to consider.
From Queen’s Park Thursday, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced that 109 municipalities are receiving $375 million in transfers from the Gas Tax in 2020. That’s about $10 million more compared to last year when the Government of Ontario transferred $365.3 million for the annual dividend sent to municipalities as a way to expand and improve local transit systems.
“Our government is committed to helping municipalities sustain and improve public transit throughout the province,” said Mulroney in a statement. “Supporting transit systems is more important than ever as municipalities across Ontario struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will help ensure people have access to safe, reliable transportation to get to work or pick up essential items like a prescription.”
Two cents from ever litre of gasoline sold in Ontario goes to fund this program, so every year the total amount of funding available is contingent on how much gasoline Ontarians bought the year before. The funding, which goes to 144 transit systems in Ontario covering 92 per cent of the population, can be used to cover the cost of extending hours of service, buying new vehicles, improving infrastructure, adding more routes, or improving accessibility.
Guelph’s share for 2021 is $3,242,087, an increase of nearly $100,000 from 2020 when the City of Guelph received $3,150,233. Waterloo Region received nearly $11 million for Grand River Transit, while the City of Toronto received $185.2 million. In pre-pandemic numbers, the TTC services 1.69 million passengers per weekday, while Guelph Transit has 6.9 million boardings annually according to the 2019 service review.
In other transportation news, the City of Guelph has started the public feedback portion for the next phase in developing the Transportation Master Plan.
In November, the City’s Engineering and Transportation Services team presented four options to address transportation issues in Guelph: do nothing, focus on sustainability, focus on large-scale infrastructure, and some combination of expansion and sustainability.
The initial feedback from last fall said that a “comparable” number of people were in favour of the sustainable option, which is “Alternative 2”, and “Alternative 3”, which is the mixed option that calls for a “sustainability focus” while developing a “core network of four-lane streets running north-south and east-west across Guelph to improve conditions for walking, cycling or transit.”
“Alternative 4”, has been adjusted since November to add more car capacity for the future while at the same time tying to add new infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. It has since been rebranded as the “Car efficiency focus” model.
Until February 9, Guelph residents are being asked to rank the various options using the criteria of natural and social environment, the mix of transportation options in the network, and the cost to construct and maintain the potential plans. Staff will use the feedback to help generate a draft Transportation Master Plan, which will come back to council for approval later in 2021.