ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Over 100 community members packed the Capitol Theatre Wednesday night to address transportation in Windsor and a universal transit pass currently being voted on by University of Windsor students.
Panelists agreed that UWindsor students are a key component in the “big picture” plans for improving Windsor’s outdated transit system.
The town hall style meeting, facilitated by CBC Windsor’s Susan Pedlar and Tony Doucette, allowed Windsor and Essex County community members to bring their concerns in person or via social media over issues ranging from bicycle paths to the current state of Windsor transit.
The panel consisted of University of Windsor Students’ Alliance president Andre Capaldi, Transit Windsor’s director of operations Pat Delmore, Kari Gignac of Bike Friendly Windsor and Ed Bernard, chair of research and development for the Canadian Association of Mold Makers.
“We’re setting records here,” said Capaldi after revealing over 2,500 students had already visited the UWSA General Election polls by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Delmore agreed with Pedlar when asked whether this was a “chicken or egg situation.”
According to Delmore, of the $25 million annual Transit Windsor budget, 60 per cent comes from the fare boxes themselves.
“We have a plan to blow the current transit system up and rebuild it, but it isn’t cheap,” he said. “$36 million would be where we need to be, but that’s without capital expenses like new buses, stops and bus shelters.”
To make drastic changes outlined in their “Road Forward “plan, Transit Windsor needs more money, he said. To get more funding we need increased ridership, and to get that increased ridership we need to improve the service, said Delmore, when explaining why the “chicken or egg” paradox comes into play.
“With this commitment from students, Windsor will see that improvement,” said Delmore.
Currently, Windsorites are paying about $100 per year on transit whether they use it or not, according to Bernard, who was in favour of any initiative that improves community health, despite working in an trade that relies on the automotive industry.
“It’s a small price to pay,” said Bernard, who acknowledged student financial woes, but sees how the savings would outweigh the expense in the long-term. “The money comes from taxpayers pockets anyways. Many students may not be paying taxes, but it’s the same idea.”
Some of the issues raised at the meeting and online, addressed rude Transit Windsor bus drivers, the absence of stop announcements, the lack of late night service and the need to service areas of the city that are lacking in any transit service altogether.
All of these concerns can be addressed by the new influx of ridership and the resulting capital from increased ridership, said Delmore, who pointed out that, due to financial constraints, many drivers have not received adequate customer service training.
Regardless of the debate, all four panel members agreed that, without the U-Pass, Transit Windsor will not be able to address community concerns anytime in the near future.