An open letter from NCSAC to Niagara College transit riders

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A letter from Niagara College Student Administrative Council:

Dear Niagara College transit riders,

If you live in Niagara Falls and are travelling to campus, we understand your struggles!  Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council wants to fix the problem, but first we need to help educate everyone (by reading this) so you understand some background.

We know the easy answers to the transit issues; increase the frequency of buses during peak times (add more buses), use bigger buses to transport more students, and spread classes out so students are not all starting at the same time each morning.

We at NCSAC are working towards resolutions, but we need you to understand that there are some things in our way:

Budget (no, your tuition dollars DO NOT pay for transit)

Please understand that your Niagara College tuition money, DOES NOT pay for transit.  Transit is actually paid for by your U-Pass fee and has NOTHING to do with tuition.  Think of your tuition as a mortgage on a house and your U-Pass fee being your hydro bill.  Currently, there is not enough money in transit revenue to pay for all the expenses.  This means that the U-Pass bank account will be at a loss of $450,000 in 2017-18.

Your U-Pass fee charge $186.32 for 8 months, or $93.16 for each semester and this simply isn’t enough to pay for all the custom service that NCSAC has to add in order to get you to school from various cities throughout the Region.

Funding

So, now that you know the funds that are able to be used for transit, let’s discuss the U-Pass financials.

Last year, NCSAC collected $2.1million with our expenses being $2.5million for an overall loss of over $350,000.  Yes, we lost over $355,000 in transit in 2016-2017!

The truth is, the revenues for the U-Pass, the way they are structured right now, are not enough to deliver the service that we offer. This means that there is literally no extra money left in the U-Pass bank account in order to add additional buses without seriously depleting other sources.

So, the easy answer to this is to charge students more money for the U-Pass. NCSAC is regulated through our referendum agreement with you, the students of Niagara College, to a maximum increase of 5% of our entire U-Pass fee. We’ve increased the fee to the maximum each year for the past six years and this still isn’t enough to keep up with our contractual agreements with our 6 transit providers, therefore putting us at a further deficit each year. So the easy answer there is, we can’t charge you enough extra at this point to cover our costs under our current agreement!

Have the drivers come at different times and adjust schedules!

Although this sounds like an easy alternative, it’s not. NCSAC works with six different transportation providers to facilitate transit to and from Niagara College campuses. They are Welland Transit, Niagara Falls Transit, Niagara on the Lake Transit, St Catharines Transit, Niagara Regional Transit and sometimes even custom shuttles from private providers.

Although these providers often want to work with us to solve the issues, they are also responsible to answer to others in their communities in addition to students.  They advertise transit schedules for community member’s months in advance and major last minute changes to their regular routes aren’t always possible.

This leads to NCSAC having to schedule custom routes for students or add buses to existing routes, which funnels back to the issues of funding above!

So, how do we fix it?

Let us just say that we understand why you need the system fixed.  You rely on transit to get you to school and into your classrooms on time; it isn’t safe to have you pushing and shoving to get on buses; you pay for the service and it should work for you.

Advocacy takes time and we know you’re only here for only two or three years. You want the system fixed now and so do we!

We are currently working with the Region and transit providers within the Niagara Region to develop a new system. NCSAC will advocate on your behalf, pushing for a Regional transit system that naturally connects each city in the Niagara Region. This fix will not be quick and will not happen during the academic year …

We are working to solve the issues behind the scenes and felt the need to write this letter because we want you to understand that you are not alone in your frustration, anger and disappointment towards the system. We here at NCSAC are in this with you as we work forward to find a resolution.

How can you help yourself?

  • TRY TO STAY AWAY FROM THE NIAGARA FALLS TRANSIT HUB
    • If you live in NF south of Lundy’s Lane, consider using the 60/65 to the Welland Hub and then the #3 or #8 to the Welland Campus.
    • If you live in NF, West of the QEW, consider using the 50/55 route to Brock University and then the Brock Link to the Welland Campus.
  • Get on the 7am buses. We CAN NOT add service until these early routes are filling up.

Moving forward

In order to advocate for you and create a sustainable service we need your input in a productive, factual manner, so that we can find a solution that works for as many students as possible.  If leaving a comment, please indicate the city you live in, the campus you’re heading to and the bus number you’re talking about.

Sincerely,

Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC)

 

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