Members of the new Niagara Transit Commission board, including Wayne Olson, far left, top row. SUPPLIED

On June 28, the Niagara Transit Commission held its inaugural board meeting, a first step toward the launch of one transit system for all of Niagara. The new Commission will assume control of all transit operations in Niagara on Jan. 1, 2023.

Board members selected the first Chair, Walter Sendzik, Regional Councillor and Mayor of St. Catharines, and Grimsby Regional Councillor Wayne Fertich as Vice-Chair. With the board now in place, they will guide the formation of the Commission, working alongside the Steering Committee of Niagara Region and local transit staff.

The following milestones will take place starting this summer and continuing through the end of 2022: The hiring of a General Manager; development of the new organizational design; developing a strategic work plan for such things as a harmonized fare structure and fare technology; creating an initial branding strategy and name for the new Commission; and the transfer of transit assets, staff, and infrastructure to the new Commission.

Niagara Region and local transit staff are continuing to operate existing local and Regional transit systems and are collaborating on the plan for the transition of services through 2022, according to a Niagara Region statement. Transit users can expect that existing routes and services will operate at current service levels when the Commission assumes operational responsibility on Jan. 1, 2023.

The Niagara Transit Commission will be responsible for Niagara’s specialized, conventional and on-demand transit services, and is governed by a transitional board of 15 elected representatives from across Niagara, including Pelham Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson.

“We are all only one illness or accident away from a disability or separation from our loved ones,” Olson told the Voice. “I will always be looking for ways to enhance the service for the disabled and those without their own transportation.”

Olson asserted that the new transit system has the advantage of broad community support, including that of social equity groups, disabled groups, schools, post secondary, environmental groups and others.

“The consistently high experience ratings from our existing riders indicates to me that people are very satisfied. It also indicates to me that our drivers are doing a terrific job in delivering this important service. It will be easier to build upon this sound foundation.”