Guelph Gets [Not Much of] a Response from Mulroney on Regional Transit Issues

Greyhound buses were a vital link for Guelph offering express services to and from Toronto and Kitchener. Those days are gone now, but don’t worry because the Ministry of Transportation Ontario has received the desperate letter from the Mayor, the University of Guelph and the Chamber of Commerce, and they are ready to help us! You know, if someone else wants to help us.

The letter from Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney was included in the weekly information reports to council on Friday. To recap, Greyhound cancelled all its remaining Canada operations in May, which leaves Guelph in the proverbial lurch because Greyhound operated the express route to Toronto, and the direct route to Kitchener. Under normal circumstances, many hundreds of students, commuters and visitors used those routes to get to and from Guelph, and now they have to find another way.

“The ministry recognizes that intercommunity passenger transportation providers play a critical role in Ontario’s overall transportation system,” Mulroney wrote in the letter. “Like yourselves, we were also disappointed in Greyhound’s decision to permanently abandon its routes and the impact it has had to those who live in and visit Guelph, notably the sizable university student community.”

If you think this means that the Ministry of Transportation has an immediate and tangible solution to the issue, you’re wrong.

Instead, the letter offers reassurances that the conditions are right for another carrier to come in and pick-up where Greyhound left off thanks to the present government’s deregulation to let multiple carriers run the same routes. Mulroney also reminder everyone about the Province’s Community Transportation Grant Program, and explained that her ministry is aware of potential new operators who are looking at restoring service.

In terms of more immediate assistance, like adding express GO bus service on the old Greyhound routes, no promises were made. “My ministry continues to work closely with Metrolinx to determine the role GO Bus service can play in filling gaps in service and improving transportation options. I have passed along your recommendation to Metrolinx for consideration by their service planning team,” Mulroney wrote.

Mulroney’s letter did confirm something that Mayor Cam Guthrie mentioned last month on an episode of Open Sources Guelph. There are discussions with at least one private company to create new inter-regional transit opportunities from Guelph to other areas.

“They’ll have to figure out if it works for them or not, but whenever there’s a void by one company, there’s usually another company that wants to try to step in, or at least investigate it,” Guthrie said. “Whether it’s a public or private company, my advocacy is based around that we need something, so let’s try and see what we can do to make it work.”

The original letter signed by Guthrie, Chamber President Shakiba Shayani, and acting president and provost of the University of Guelph Dr. Gwen Chapman was sent to the minister on July 6. The letter’s three co-signers tried to make the economic case for getting more pubic transit to Guelph, especially with the return of in-person classes this fall.

“University of Guelph students are a key local economic driver, spending $370 million each year and generating over 5,000 jobs,” the letter said. “These economic benefits are at risk if students, faculty, staff and other workers are unable to commute from the GTA to Guelph.”

Presently, the only direct public transit route between Toronto and Guelph is the GO train. Two GO bus routes take people from Guelph to Union Station in Toronto, but one requires a transfer in Mississauga, and the other requires a transfer in Brampton. Getting to Kitchener is even more complicated because you have to transfer in Aberfoyle and then wait for the bus to Kitchener for an hour. The total trip takes around two hours, when driving between downtown Guelph and downtown Kitchener typically takes around 30 minutes.

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