Sault Transit, as everyone knows by now, has always been my pet cause. I launched Sault Transit Reform in March of 2011 to educate the public about City Transit, and the Facebook page serves as a (unofficial) transit website. Sault Transit Reform is more accessible and more popular than the Transit page on the City's website. Of course, STR is responsible for reporting to the citizens of the city any changes to the transit system.
“A municipal budget is a financial plan that details the level of spending required to bring municipal services to our community and to maintain our municipal assets.”
“Municipal services” includes Sault Transit. Sault Transit is integrated into the City's Department of Public Works and Transportation. It is the responsibility of the city of Sault Ste. Marie to keep Sault Transit funded. The province of Ontario does not HAVE TO provide money to fund Sault Transit. The revenue from the people who pay property taxes within the municipality is the revenue that is supposed to fund the public transportation system. Money from the provincial and sometimes federal sales taxes, they are spent more on infrastructure and defense and social services and natural resources.
In this year's Municipal Budget, expect the government of Ontario to be funding the City's transit system more than the municipality. It's not property tax dollars that buy new buses, it's the government of Ontario. Our City Council, if they take credit for 'improving the system,' they are liars. It is the provincial gas tax and the OMPF (Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund) that buys our city buses. All the City Council does is vote. They vote to approve giving the PROVINCIAL DOLLARS to the transportation department to purchase buses.
Though the budget only mentions “transit” twice, once claiming that the transit system will be improved, and once showing that the OMPF is pouring $1.8 million into Sault Transit, throughout the year we'll see transit-related items. A bus needs to be purchased once or twice a year, some bus stops need to be upgraded from a sign on a pole to a bus shelter, a route needs to be changed. These matters are not dealt with during the budget meeting, but all year round there will be requests asking for funds to improve the system.
To summarize my point, the Sault Ste. Marie budget will allocate money to transit. The bulk of the money, however, comes not from the City, but from the province. It's not that big a deal, and it's good that SOMEONE is funding the system, I just think that the City (which is much more financially stable than MOST municipalities) should invest a bit more.
Oh, one more thing. Look this year for fares to increase. It's been a while since a fare hike happened. I have a gut feeling that this year will be the year that additional revenues will need to be generated by Transit. Maybe a $0.25 increase. Something we can all live with.
About The Author
Matthew Frank Kot was born and raised here in Sault Ste Marie. He first starting writing articles for Soonews.ca in early 2008, becoming the city's youngest columnist and journalist. He then went on to write for Local2, and for a short time had his "MATTer of Opinion" column on SaultOnline.com. Matthew was very involved in the 2010 and 2014 Municipal Elections and wrote several opinion pieces about important issues. In 2011, Matthew started Sault Transit Reform and has continued advocating for a better transit system since then.