As of this past week, Transit Windsor announced that you can now finally use Google’s trip planner to plan your route with their buses. It comes complete with information on the Tunnel Bus and full integration with Detroit’s transit routes.
Using the system, one can now see in realtime the complete disparity in travel time to get from say, Downtown Windsor to Devonshire Mall. By car, it takes a mere 13 minutes to get there. However; by transit, it takes almost half an hour and buses only come once every half hour. Crossing the border; already bad by car, it gets even worse.
A trip from Windsor’s Train Station to Detroit’s Train Station (a route one would have to take if they wanted to visit city such as Chicago if arriving by rail from Toronto) takes 20 min by car assuming no delays at the border. If taking the bus, it takes a whopping 1 hour 45 minutes with 2 transfers on 3 different lines all requiring different tickets.
Hopefully making transit travel times of the whole region accessible by Google will help open up a discussion for increasing transit funding for the region. Metro Detroit is the only major city in the continent that does not have a region-wide transit system. A combination of the decline of Detroit and its own suburban cities actively working against it have contributed to the city having the worst transit in the country.
It wasn’t always like this; around the turn of the century, Detroit and Windsor boasted the some of the best transit systems in the world. Windsor was the first city in Canada to boast a system of streetcars and regional rails. The Grand Trunk Railway tied the whole region together. A traveller could go from Montreal to Chicago on the same train with ease.
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars; it’s where the rich use public transport” —Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogotá
A stronger transit system would mean having a more sustainable and efficient region. Less time spent behind the wheel of a car would mean fewer accidents and more productive hours in a day. Our youth would be less tempted to drink and drive if public transit was more readily available. It would also make for a more equal society- people without access to vehicles would have the same opportunities available to them as those with cars. As Enrique Penalosa, Bogota’s former mayor put it: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars; it’s where the rich use public transport”.
The car may have built Detroit, but its important to remember that the car also contributed to the most destructive acts on the city. Highways tore through neighbourhoods, streetcars & plans for subways were abandoned in favour of buses. If Detroit is to progress into the 21st century, we need to look beyond the car and start exploring ways we can efficiently move people throughout the metro area with public transportation.