By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Public transit in Durham Region just got a “shot in the arm” from the federal government.
At an event at regional headquarters, Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes announced that Ottawa would be chipping in a little more than $17.5 million to go towards a number of projects, including constructing more bus-only lanes on Highway 2 for the PULSE route, as well as adding or expanding a number of cycling lanes.
The funds will also go towards the purchase of more buses and outfitting DRT’s entire fleet with on-board security cameras.
“It’s certainly a good shot in the arm for us,” Vincent Patterson, DRT’s general manager, tells The Oshawa Express.
The funding, however, is not new to the region, having previously been announced in a transit report in November.
Regardless, Patterson says the expansion to DRT’s PULSE line is well needed, as it has proven to be one of the transit agency’s most popular routes.
“The proof is really in the pudding, as far as its success. Within the first year, we were at 50 per cent more riders than we expected. Clearly, there’s a demand there for good, frequent service – that’s what people expect to be able to turn to,” he says.
“It’s working very well, and this funding is good for that.”
According to the November report, these funds, which are available via the Federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, will not be held up in political limbo. With these new funds, 75 per cent of the project costs must be incurred by March 31, 2018, one year to the day from the announcement at regional headquarters. There is then another year for the remaining 25 per cent to be spent.
However, the announcement at regional headquarters was not the only one made that will affect Durham’s transit users.
At another event in Etobicoke featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne, it was announced that the federal government will be contributing more than $1.8 billion to go towards expanding GO Transit rail service in the Golden Horseshoe.
“These communities are growing at a rapid rate, and investment in public transit needs to keep pace,” Trudeau states in a news release.
“That is why we’re investing in the GO rail network and over 300 additional projects in Ontario to reduce commute times, decrease air pollution, and improve the lives of millions of Ontarians.”
A majority of those funds will be going towards line upgrades and the construction of 88 kilometres of new track on several different GO Transit lines, including the Lakeshore East line.
In June 2016, the province announced that it was going forward with the long-promised expansion of the Lakeshore East line, which currently terminates in Oshawa. The multi-billion-dollar project would see two new stations built in Oshawa – one at Thornton Road and another at Ritson Road – before expanding east to Bowmanville. While the province, which had previously committed to funding the entire project, says it expects the line to be up and running by 2024, no indication has been given as to how the new influx of federal funds will move things along.