It definitely feels like an election is in the air as some interesting momentum followed the two delegations that presented at Council on November 20. We’ve captured below the local transit discussion as well as the Metrolinx Grimsby GO Public Information Centre held on November 21.
The full Council Agenda for the November 20th meeting can be found at: https://grimsby.civicweb.net/filepro/documents?expanded=542,543,79798&preview=88662
Niagara Workforce Planning Board Presentation (NWPB)
What is the NWPB? From their website at https://www.niagaraworkforce.ca/site/what-we-do:
“Niagara Workforce Planning Board (NWPB) is one of 26 regional planning boards in Ontario making up the Local Boards Network, partly funded through Employment Ontario. Niagara Workforce Planning Board is a curious and analytical team who work together to bring accurate and future-focused workforce data to Niagara’s public, private, and non-profit sectors in an effort to enhance decision making that will advance Niagara’s economic prosperity.”
Mario De Devitiis, CEO, presented an interesting breakdown of the recent census numbers showing statistics on workforce, population and job market. Over 50% of businesses in Grimsby are micro-businesses with 1-4 employees. Grimsby’s population increased 15.4% between 2001 and 2015. The 2016 census showed Grimsby’s population increased 7.9% (to 27,314) from the 2011 census, the second highest growth rate in Niagara.
Alderman DiFlavio commented that he hoped that by sharing this data, residents of Grimsby “would be more open minded to growth and understanding of our inability to provide some new housing types because of the Greenbelt land restrictions”. He asked the presenter if he had any “ideas we could use”. Mr. De Devitiis responded that Grimsby’s census data (dissemination area) is rolled up into Hamilton’s census numbers, not Niagara, which makes Hamilton look good.
Alderman Berry also added that the Town needs to “present a united Niagara front to solicit MP’s and MPP’s to remove Grimsby from the Hamilton census numbers”. He stated that a “data push could help the Greenbelt problem if we move the data into Niagara’s numbers from Hamilton”.
It sounds like there may be an agenda to try to use this data to show the province that Grimsby is growing way beyond its britches and needs to breach the Greenbelt border… we’ll keep our ear to the ground on this one.
Transit Investigation Study Presentation (local Grimsby bus service proposal)
Dennis Kar of Dillon Consulting, outlined the local transit options contained in his report as previously presented to the Admin & Finance Committee. There were questions from aldermen on the ridership forecast, frequency of service and the costing models. The favoured option is to pilot a fully contracted service with one bus and route to start – – but not to even bring it forward for consideration until the 2019 budget.
Resolved that the Administration & Finance Committee recommends that the Transit Investigation Study Final Report be received; and, That the consideration for initiating a 20-month one bus transit pilot program be considered for inclusion in the 2019 consolidated budget; and, that the growth-related portion of the lease, along with future transit capital, be included in a development charge update to the greatest extent possible.
Alderman Johnston commented that she did not want to see the study sit on the shelf for another couple of years, agreed with contracting out the service, and would like to see transit in 2018.
Alderman Seaborn noted that she has been active on transit committees since 2012 and that feasibility studies and extensive public feedback have determined there is a need. She felt the $200,000 to $1 Million cost for transit would be a hard sell. She didn’t see it happening in 2018, suggested 20 months was too long for a pilot, and raised concern that it could be shelved altogether by a new Council in 2019.
Alderman DiFlavio questioned the forecasted ridership and noted that Pelham averages 10 riders per day when busy. Mr. Kar stated he was “fairly confident in our numbers”. Alderman DiFlavio stated he did not think that doing the pilot right now is a good idea and the data would show that it is not needed. As well, he stated that by waiting longer, until 2020 (one year before GO comes), there would be more people living by the lake. He also commented that he believed Lincoln’s pilot data will show they don’t need transit.
More on Lincoln’s pilot can be found on their website: http://www.lincoln.ca/content/town-lincoln-transit
Alderman Berry confirmed the wording and intent of the Admin & Finance motion and that no money is committed to be spent on transit. He stated that “the worst thing that can happen to this Council is to see empty buses in this town” with the resulting pressure to not see the service continue. He asked, “where are they going to go, other than downtown?” He also had concerns with staff time administering the pilot and with the one bus route – – that if the service is not reliable and convenient, it won’t be used.
Alderman Mullins commented that “it’s great in an election year to find out what people are thinking” about transit and the impact on taxes.
Alderman Kadwell acknowledged local transit was a hot topic and put forward the suggestion that $36K in transportation reserves and the recent $150K NPI dividend could be put towards the cost of the pilot. Mayor Bentley hastily responded that those suggestions would be better brought to Admin & Finance.
Alderman Wilson wondered why it was turned down by Admin & Finance. Mayor Bentley responded that real data was needed and that they had just received the information. As well, he noted it would not be ready for 2018 and the Region has not yet come forward with inter-municipal transit to Grimsby. Regardless, he said, there is no room in the budget and we would be “going in blind”. Alderman Wilson responded, “now I know why they decided no”.
Town Manager Brandt suggested there may be a way to structure it so the Town could receive provincial funding (capital funds cannot be used to support pilot transit projects). The Town could “tell the Province we’re doing a transit system for 20 months, but don’t call it a pilot”. The Town better hope nobody from the Province reads this blog or makes use of a well known search engine.
Metrolinx Public Information Centre – November 21
Coincidentally this past week, both CHCH news and the Hamilton Spectator reported on the “not happening” all-day GO train service to Hamilton… is this a foreshadow of Grimsby’s GHOST Transit?
Read the article below:
At the November 21 meeting, members of the public raised questions that have been asked many times, with the same responses from Metrolinx.
- What will the level of service, and number of train trips per day, be?
- Metrolinx: We don’t know yet.
- Does the train go direct to Toronto, or do riders have to disembark in Hamilton?
- Metrolinx: Riders have to disembark at the James North (West Harbour) station and board another train. Metrolinx is still negotiating shared track use with CN which is complicated by the volume of freight train traffic.
- Why can’t riders connect at the Hunter Street station?
- Metrolinx: Because the tracks are owned by CP.
- Will the train stop at the Ontario Street VIA Rail station to pick up GO passengers?
- Metrolinx: No, but discussions are underway with VIA Rail to possibly relocate to the Casablanca station.
You can read the November 6th presentation to Council here: https://grimsby.civicweb.net/filepro/documents?preview=88267
Additional information sessions on the Grimsby station design will be held. Metrolinx has a website and email address to answer any questions.
Metrolinx.com/Niagara Microsite: http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/rer/niagara_expansion.aspx
Metrolinx Niagara Expansion Email: Niagara@metrolinx.com