‘It would be more convenient’: Proposal for transit connections between Grand River communities

A local transit worker says it’s time to connect more communities along the Grand River watershed by public transit.

A long time driver for Grand River Transit, Warren Schnurr says he is commonly asked the same questions by customers: "What bus can I get from here to Guelph, or here to Brantford?’”  

He says, as a transit worker, the answer is “pretty disheartening”.

 “Really your best option is a two-three hour GO Bus ride or maybe a double digit cab ride."

Frustrated by the lack of direct routes between major local cities, Schnurr, who is also the 'Chair in Politics' for Unifor local 4304, the union representing GRT workers, took it upon himself to draw out plans to fix it.

 He calls it ‘Link the Watershed’ and it includes four new routes he is hoping GRT, Brantford Transit and Guelph Transit will agree to add.

 His idea in a nutshell is this:

-          for Brantford Transit to add a route from the telephone city to Cambridge

-          for Guelph Transit to add a route from the Woodlawn Smart Center,which would run along Highway 7, dropping customers off in Downtown Kitchener

And, he’d like GRT to add two new routes:

-          one from Cambridge to downtown Guelph

-          another from Fairway station to the University of Guelph, travelling past the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

 The estimated annual cost to operate these added routes comes out to just over $7.54 million.

Schnurr hopes a few rural transit companies can also add stops. Guelph-Owen Sound Transportation (GOAT), Ride Norfolk and Brant County Transit, are amongthe names listed in the proposal.

 President of Local 4304, Brendan Burke is standing behind his colleague.

 “He brought it to the union meeting and we thought it was a great idea.”

 Burke, also a GRT driver himself is helping to pitch the proposal to municipalities and the Region of Waterloo, “I mean, more service hours and connecting more cities within our area is a great idea.”

Schnurr suggests using recent upper level relief dollars to fund the project which were announced in March in the form of the “Safe Restart Relief” fund. Dollars designated for municipalities to help them bounce back after the pandemic. According to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing the funds are meant to in-part, “help ensure the delivery of critical services and keep capital projects on track,”

 “With this potential funding pool we think now is the time to get this project off the ground,” Schnurr said.

 Transit advocates in Guelph agree.

 “With Greyhound gone now, there's definitely a need that's been bubbling up for years,” Chair of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph, Steven Petric said.

 Adding he would love to see the additions made as soon as possible, understanding the proposal is at least a starting point.

 “We’ve collected a lot of feedback from the proposal and a lot of people are saying they’d like to go to a hockey game for example, in Kitchener, and they live in Guelph.”

 Petric also used the example of Guelph residents who may have family in Brantford and have to take an expensive cab ride in order to visit.

 At this point in time, no direct transit routes between Guelph and Brantford exist. Despite vehicle owners having about an hour drive, transit users have the option of a threeor four hour ride which would take them east to the Mississauga area first, and then back westward to Brant County.

 Keira Walch is an avid GRT customer. She lives in Kitchener but her elderly parents reside in Guelph.

 Walch waiting for a bus transfer at Fairway station described the current transit route to visit her parents as, “An all-day event.”

 “It’s just too much.”

 She says the alternative of taking a cab can get very expensive.

 “It would be more convenient. It makes sense and I think that people who are working in Guelph and Cambridge wouldn’t have to get up so early,” Walch said.

 Dan Barcley was waiting for a bus out-front of the Stanley Park Mall when he told CTV News he would love to see the added inter-regional routes.  

 He says this is especially relevant since the pandemic and working from home began.

 “My family is down to one car now and my wife works in Guelph.”

 Barcley said for the odd time that his wife now needs to go into the office, an added Kitchener to Guelph routes would make it easier for their whole family.   

 “If I had to use the car, she could then use transit for that one day, or what not, to go to Guelph.”

 Grand River Transit confirms they are working with the union to help plan a report which will likely go to Regional Council in early 2022.

 The proposal would also need the approval of Brantford Transit and Guelph Transit in order to move forward.