The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – July 16, 2014
It’s time to rethink transit. It’s time to read our municipal planning priorities. It’s time to admit that transit in Windsor isn’t working as it should be.
Windsor is the other Motor City, second only to Detroit. But like our collective histories, our two cities are intrinsically linked.
And it should come as no surprise that Windsor and Detroit’s transit operators are struggling to provide 21st century level of service in a region that is still very much stuck operating in the 20th century when it comes to public transit.
Both transit providers try hard, and while Windsor fares much better than its Detroit counterpart which is supplemented by the privately operated Detroit Bus Company a historical spotlight on the automobile relegated progressive public transit policies and planning to the background.
But just because Windsor is the automobile capital of Canada it doesn’t mean we should be subsidizing the automobile at the expense of other forms of transit, and that’s exactly what’s occurring. Entire cities are designed around the automobile as the primary form of transportation, and Windsor was no exception; our focus on the automobile only accelerated this process.
And while our city and population grew, it also expanded, far beyond the boundaries of the city.
The Urbanite freelancer Walter Petrichyn wrote in our last issue that most people in the Windsor CMA live in a suburb area, and while that is true, it’s also useful to note that many Windsorites actually live outside of the city, whether it be in Tecumseh, Lasalle, Belle River, Amherstburg, Leamington, Harrow you get the point.
Our region’s reliance on the automobile industry and its ability to provide a high standard of living for a large segment of the workforce allows for these workers to afford automobiles, larger houses in suburbs and the gasoline to get in and out of the city- all at the expense of public transit.
It’s 2014 and we need strong public transit. Residents should be able to get across the city quickly, efficiently and affordably, as well as travel to surrounding municipalities. But the only way to do this is to create a regional transportation provider, one whose mandate is to service the region.
Buses running more frequently and on more routes, light rail transit, dedicated bike lanes with cement barriers to provide safety from automobiles and car share programs are all possible if we get serious about enhancing public transit.
Just last week, the City of Helsinki announced a bold strategy that could render private car ownership pointless in 10 years by completely reimagining public transit and shifting its focus to the concept of “mobility on demand” by integrating ferries, bikes, buses, cabs, Uber services and smartphone apps into Helsinki’s Department of Transportation.
Windsorites deserve the best public transit that money can buy. We’re the automobile capital of Canada and it’s time we become the public transit capital of Canada.
If we can build the best cars money can buy, we can build the best public transit system too.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.