Due to Councillor Longo’s raising of the issue of buses on secondary roads in Thorold and wanting them removed, Council was treated to, not one, but two Brock presentations, followed later, during New Business, by an incredible amount of discussion on a motion to try to deal with the problems.
The first presentation, by Faisal Hejazi, Vice President Finance & Administration and Patrick Foster, President, Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU), was directly about the buses and the bus routes. They presented a lot of numbers, such as the fact that students accounted for app. 650,000 rides in Thorold in the 2015-16 year and the amount of money that paid into the system. If you want all the other numbers, watch the live stream of the Aug. 9 meeting. They spoke about how important the buses were to the students, from both Brock University and Niagara College, not just for school, but for other trips which require transportation as well. Then they segued into the next presentation.
This presentation was by Brad Clarke, Director of Student Life and Community Experience, Brock University, who suggested that a renewed ‘Town and Gown’ committee could resolve the student problems within Thorold. I couldn’t help but think of the years they had such a committee during some of Thorold’s worst student episodes and I’m not so sure, but Council seemed to buy it.
Once Council arrived at Other Business, which took awhile, Councillor Whalen put forth a motion to meet with with Brock, Transit, etc. to study the bus route situation, which would look at routes, placement of bus stops, and all such issues. Gone was the immediate removal of the Winterbury Blvd. route. The only outright demand left was to redirect Route 31 away from Abbey Dr., reducing the number of buses on that road from about 70 to about 50 per day. The motion stated that Brock and the City come to a mutual agreement.
Councillor Long took umbrage with that last part, wanting the mutual aspect removed, reasoning that Council represents the taxpayers of Thorold and not the students, and they should do what’s right by the taxpayers. Of course, some time back, renters were given the right to vote based on the fact that their rent paid the taxes on the property. In fact, students often pay the entire year’s taxes in the eight months they live there. I understand where Councillor Longo was coming from, but maybe he should have divided it into full-time and part-time residents rather than by taxpayers and students, although I know homeowners that are here even less months every year.
There was considerably more discussion, much of it centred on whether the language should remain as presented and whether the bus stops should be moved (the students reps didn’t seem to think they should). There was also some talk about whether the effective date of changes should be January 1, 2017, as Councillor Longo wanted, or next September, as the student reps want since they seemed to believe the students can’t handle the mid-term change (scary to think our new crop of future professionals are so inflexible that a bus schedule change can throw them off). In any case, it was pointed out that it takes at least four months for St. Catharines Transit to make route changes.
Following a total of over an hour spent on buses, students, and related items the motion was finally passed (some Councillors couldn’t help bringing up partying students, although they all hastily added that they were a minority). And mostly what they had accomplished was to agree to talk more.