Improving Public Transit
Public transit is the backbone of livable cities. Better transit means less congestion, faster commutes, more convenience, higher productivity and lower emissions. Simply put: “Public transit builds better lives”. That is a direct quote from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national voice of local government, which represents 34 million Canadians.
It is time for the City of Windsor to rediscover the transformative effects of good public transit. A fact we understood when our great city pioneered Canada’s first electric streetcar. From those early days, transit helped shape Windsor as we know it. Transit helped create some of our city’s most vibrant, sustainable, environmentally responsible and financially viable neighbourhoods. These higher density, walkable communities boast incredible amenities, broad sidewalks, pocket parks and “kissing canopies” of trees that relieve us from the heat island effect while absorbing CO2. Good transit is a catalyst for building good communities, access to jobs, and private investment.
Sadly, my opponent either chooses to willfully disregard these benefits, or simply doesn’t understand basic city building principles. The City of Windsor prioritizes road infrastructure spending over transit spending more than any other community in the province. Our per capita expenditure on transit is one of the lowest in Ontario. In saying this, let me be clear: Road infrastructure is critically important, as is automotive manufacturing as part of our history, our legacy, our identity, and our future. And it certainly deserves its fair share of investment. However, while my opponent bets too heavily on that one mode, it starves a proven slate of other transportation options that together, build world class cities. We’ve set goals for ourselves through our own master plans, including our Community Energy master plan, the Windsor Works Strategy for Future Growth plan, our Active Transportation master plan, our Climate Change Adaptation plan, our Corporate Climate Action Plan and our Environmental Master Plan. These plans represent what our residents, and what experts in those fields know we need done. When I say my opponent leaves so much on the table, this is one of the most blatant examples of how he disregards the vision, talent and hard work of so many in this community. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the blueprints of a world class city with input from thousands of folks, and he chooses to ignore our potential, and let it collect dust on a shelf.
Two and half years after unanimously approving the ‘More Than Transit master plan’ in January of 2020, we are far behind our implementation schedule. Initiatives expected to begin in this council term have now been deferred to the 2023 Capital Budget, for a new council to deal with. That’s not surprising, when, during our 2022 budget deliberations, my opponent called the recommended 418X transit Windsor bus route “the worst business decision I’ve ever heard”.
A general opinion he seems to hold on transit in general, and one not likely to change anytime soon. He explained that the reason he believed it to be such a poor decision was because ridership was so low due to the pandemic. This, from the only municipal leader in North America to shut down transit during the pandemic. By contrast, my opponent supported and continues to support an expenditure of almost $2M in upgrades to water slides at Adventure Bay even though there hasn’t been riders in over 2 years. He respects waterslide riders more than transit riders. It's really that simple. Leadership for Windsor means committing to funding and implementing the 418X route as soon as possible, and it means addressing the limitations of the central garage. Action, if not taken now, can bring the entire plan to a halt. If elected, a Holt administration will honour what experts tell us we need, and what our community is asking for.
The Windsor Works Strategy for Future Growth Report clearly states that our community is “too car-centric”, noting it as an impediment to growth. This is the report that has been lauded as having the potential to make Windsor a contender in the competition for the best and brightest minds on the continent, and which marked a complete rethinking of our economic development priorities. In contrast to other cities, who in the study period, were increasing their transit budgets exponentially, Windsor’s transit investments were essentially stagnant.
We need to be honest and straightforward on this issue today. My opponent has touted his record on transit as having ushered in record investments over the last 8 years. We all know those investments came only after strong advocacy from some of us on council as well as strong financial support from the Federal Government. There is no question as to which candidate has fought for and championed transit investments and will continue to commit to strong transit implementation over the next term. It’s not the person who shut down transit during the pandemic. My opponent has no respect for people who rely on transit on a daily basis and he has the record to prove it. I want to be abundantly clear here; there is only one choice when it comes to supporting transit. My opponent has stalled and shelved transit investments, keeping them at the lowest levels in the province, while I have fought for and introduced more investments over and over. The record is clear.
Yet another example: The first recommendation in the transportation section of Windsor’s Community Energy Plan encourages the modal shift to public transportation, even before implementing our Active Transportation Master Plan and before fostering the Adoption of Electric Vehicles. This, because of the 2.2 billion kms traveled by vehicles in Windsor every year, 90 percent is contributed by a combination of cars and light-duty trucks, including SUVs and pick-up trucks. That accounts for 26 per cent of the total energy used in the city; 36 percent of GHG emissions; and 46 per cent of energy costs.
Further, our city, along with countless others around the world, recognized the monumental and existential threat that Climate Change presents to us all when our municipality declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. As such, we have a duty to act within our powers. To quote council’s commitment on this matter, we are to “reduce overall (carbon) emissions through “robust and permanent changes in how the city…conduct (its) business”. Left unchecked, climate change will continue to adversely impact Windsor’s local economy, damage local infrastructure and property, put a strain on our municipal budgets and result in diminishing economic and health outcomes for all residents. We are already experiencing large and increased climate change impacts, including but not limited, to overland flooding, heavy rain event flooding, emergence of invasive species, increased number of heat days, the rise of vector borne diseases, the re-emergence of blue-green algae and harmful algal blooms in our lakes and rivers. If we are to truly lead this municipality towards a prosperous and healthful future, we need to take our Climate Emergency Declaration seriously and do everything in our power to attack root causes, many of which can be drastically influenced through municipal bylaws and policies. With over a third of our GHG emissions coming from how we move around our community, it is imperative we make real progress in implementing our Transit Master Plan and hit our mode share targets. A Holt administration will do just that. Equity for equity deserving communities, enhanced economic development, more resilient infrastructure, environmental sustainability and so much more is at stake.
In his first campaign speech, my opponent noted that “Building good neighbourhoods” was one of his priorities moving forward. After 8 years as mayor, and 8 additional years on council prior to that, it’s good to see that he’s finally getting on board with what has been the core motivator in all my work on council since day one. In fact in 2014, then Mayor Eddie Francis said it's time we focus on our neighbourhoods in his comments endorsing me for City Council. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of waiting another generation for my opponent to realize that he’s been one of the single greatest barriers to moving that work along over his tenure. I, as mayor, will work with and honour the expertise of our City of Windsor administration, our local experts and our amazing, passionate and engaged community, in the same way I have consistently done over my 8 years on council.
We deserve better. We have everything we need right here in this city. We have a plan. A great plan. Let's not waste any more time.
The Time is Now.
For Considerations: Every dollar that a city invests in public transit generates approximately $4 in economic returns; Every $10 million of capital investment in public transit yields $30 million in increased business sales; And every billion invested in public transit supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.