Christmas came early for Ontario municipalities who are still struggling with reduced revenue for their transit systems. At an announcement in Brampton today, Premier Doug Ford and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced phase 4 of Safe Restart Funding specifically geared to public transportation systems in 107 Ontario municipalities for this fiscal year.
The Government of Ontario is making $505 million available to cities and town to help cover revenue losses, operating expenses, and provincial transit priority projects, including fare and service integration, On-Demand transit, and other transit expenses incurred due to the pandemic between between February 1 and December 31, 2022. Guelph’s cut is $2,647,075, which is just enough money to make the bottom of the Top 10 in terms of municipalities that received the most money.
“This funding, on top of what has already been provided, will help ensure reliable transportation options are available for everyone, whether you’re going to work, school or the grocery store,” Mulroney said in a statement.
“This joint funding is imperative to ensure Guelph can continue to recover its ridership and get commuters where they need to go safely,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement including the Ontario government’s release. “The Provincial and Federal government’s have been there for our communities through the toughest years of the pandemic, and this additional funding is another demonstration of their support for Guelph and public transit.”
Guelph has previously received nearly $5.1 million exclusively to offset transit losses in the initial phase of Safe Restart Funding. Guelph Transit was especially impacted by pandemic loses in 2020 and 2021 considering that no funds were collected for four semesters in a row from the University of Guelph’s student bus pass, which accounted for $13.5 million in budgeted revenues for transit at the time.
Back in September, Guelph Politico was told by Transit staff that much of the ridership had returned to pre-pandemic levels. Over the last couple of years, Transit has taken a number of initiatives to increase ridership including the implementation of a route review, an on-demand business option on statutory holidays, a new three-tier affordable bus pass, and a pilot program that allows kids under 12 ride the bus for free.
The Safe Restart funding comes from a combination of provincial and federal funds with a total of $4 billion having been handed out to Ontario municipalities in one-time funding since 2020; $2 billion of that was earmarked for public transit alone. The funds were allocated to include a base amount of $5,000 plus a remaining allocation amount based on actual impacts reported through the first three phases of SRA funding.