Jul 21, 2015 – 8:28 PM EDT
Local radio show Rose City Politics has challenged Windsor councillors, business owners and decision makers to experience what many residents do on a daily basis: ride the bus.
“Just park your car for a week, and take Transit Windsor,” said Paul Synnott, a panellist on the show.
“What we’re encouraging is any level of participation … because if you look around council table, Transit Windsor board, business leaders, I’m willing to bet it’s been 25 to 30 years — if ever for some — since they’ve ridden the bus.”
Without any real knowledge of the system, Synnott said it is unfair that many of these people are responsible for making decisions that affect the quality of service.
The transit challenge, which other municipalities like Hamilton and Guelph have recently tried, aims to educate decision makers and create discussion around the good and bad aspects of public transport.
“We want these sorts of discussions now, so it can be an informed part of the budget process. Instead of waiting until December,” he said.
Synnott, who has been taking the bus to work for the past two weeks, said one issue that should be considered is a locally generated app that could estimate specific bus arrival times.
“For someone who relies on transit to get to work and get to doctors’ appointments or wherever else, that’s really important,” he said. “Especially if you have to wait 20 minutes or a half-hour for the next bus.”
The Transit Windsor website does however feature Google Transit, which is a public transport tool that offers route information and can estimate entire trip times.
Kieran McKenzie, another panellist on the radio show, said the tool was quite helpful for his altered morning routine — which comes with the added task of dropping off his two-year-old daughter before work.
“I had to wake up about an hour earlier to get to the bus stop in time and there was a whole lot more walking,” he said. “About one kilometre to the most convenient bus stop, one kilometre to her grandma’s house, and the same distance to work.”
McKenzie is one of about a dozen people participating in the transit challenge, along with Snackbar-B-Q owner Mark Boscariol and Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt.
“I’ve been doing it all week … I live in Walkerville, and work downtown. The transition is very easy, I’m near the highest frequency line too,” said Holt, the only city councillor participating in the challenge.
While Holt’s commute was relatively easy, he acknowledged that this is not always the case.
“There is a reason why most of us prefer cars, and it has a lot to do with the transit system,” he said. “It can always be improved — improved frequency, increased access. But unfortunately its not as simple as adding more buses.”
Holt explained that there are difficulties in running a successful transit in a low-density city.
“It’s South Windsor and East Riverside and those communities. The physical structure of communities are not really conducive to transit,” he said. “It’s not as much just say throw more money to transit, we also have to build communities smart to support transit.”
Nonetheless, Holt said he is excited about the open dialogue that the challenge creates by exposing what the daily commute on a bus is like.
Synnott said the implications of improving the transit system go beyond just the comfort and accessibility for users.
“I think for us to be a competitive area for jobs in the future, that’s important,” he said.
“Having a reliable transit system to get your employees to work on time is an important selling factor to a business that’s going to locate here. If you don’t have it, we’re putting ourselves behind places like London and Kitchener and other areas.”
Read the article on TheWayBackMachine HERE because it is not available on The Windsor Star