Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca announced GO Transit expansion to the Niagara region will be moving forward, with regular GO rail service connecting Toronto to Grimsby by 2021, followed by St. Catharines and Niagara Falls by 2023.

For many Niagara residents, businesses and politicians, the news is certainly welcome.

I’ve seen first-hand the need for expanded service in many capacities—as a former St. Catharines resident, a daily commuter and now, a frequent visitor.

At this time last year, I drove daily from St. Catharines to Burlington to catch the GO Train to Enterprise’s office in Toronto. Now living in Toronto without a vehicle, travelling home can be a challenge and a burden.

I’ve long been an advocate for Niagara GO service, as has my firm. With offices in Toronto, Niagara, Ottawa and Six Nations, we have staff, like me, who live or work in St. Catharines, Grimsby and Hamilton and often travel the Niagara-Greater Toronto Hamilton Area corridor.

We have worked on the Get Niagara GOing campaign, supporting Niagara municipalities in their push for expansion through advocacy and communications initiatives.

Evidence-based business, economic, social and environmental case-making and alignment between municipal, provincial and federal decision-makers were key in advocating for the expansion.

We used this approach for early communications materials (see video below). It’s also evident in the final business case filed by the Niagara GO Train Expansion Project Team.

The potential impacts of this expanded service touch on a number of areas—economic stimulation, job creation, urban growth, traffic congestion, quality of life and environmental sustainability—all of which were key to making a winning case.

Expanding GO service to Niagara is expected to create thousands of new full-time jobs related to transit operations and more than 1,000 construction jobs.

It will also benefit the local tourism industry, creating a convenient connection between Toronto and Niagara Falls and easy access to the Niagara wine region.

Direct rail service will reduce travel time and environmental impact for commuters travelling from Niagara to the GTA, who currently have to bus or drive—often through heavy traffic congestion—to Burlington or Aldershot to connect with the greater GO rail network.

In recent years, the urban sprawl has expanded into Stoney Creek and the Niagara region, with housing and condo developments continuing to be built along the waterfront in Grimsby and north Niagara—growth that, while positive, has already resulted in major increases in gridlock and daily traffic along the Niagara-Hamilton corridor. Daily service will not only help alleviate gridlock, but also increase property values around GO stations and make the region more attractive to investors, businesses and new residents.

After years of campaigning by multiple municipal councils, public servants and business organizations (kudos to all involved), it’s encouraging to see the province take a positive step forward in connecting Niagara and GTHA with a direct, daily rail service—one that’s much-needed not only for commuters, but for the future of the Niagara region.

– Jeff Blay

@JeffBlay

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