So, back in November, the editors of the Kitchener Post were kind enough to let me ramble on about public transportation for three weeks in a row. My objective was to propose a realignment of inter-city transportation in southern and southwestern Ontario. The file is being ignored by our provincial politicians, and various players are being allowed to operate in neglected isolation. It's time for this to change, starting with our inter-city bus network. Here's what I wrote:
I speak a lot about public transportation issues on this column. I do so not just because I'm a transit fan, but because I think public transportation should be taken more seriously by people and the politicians they elect.
We have built ourselves an environment where we expect to navigate our lives with a car.
This ignores the fact that not everybody can afford a car. It ignores the fact that not everybody can drive one.
As we get older, more of us are going to fall into those categories. Medical issues will multiply to the point where it will not be safe for ourselves or others to get behind the wheel. When this happens, doctors have a duty to report such people to the ministry of transportation. The roads are safer for this.
And without public transportation, these people become prisoners in their own home. In many of our neighbourhoods, it's not convenient to walk to work, to stores or to community services.
So, until the age of the electric self-driving car dawns, we have an obligation to our elderly, our children, and those struggling to make ends meet to ensure that some level of mobility is provided in our cities. It's the same reason why we need to keep our sidewalks shovelled this winter.
It would be nice if such a service could be provided by a profitable business, but we already subsidize our automobile use by billions of dollars in this province alone through tax-funded road maintenance and construction, not to mention free parking.
This is why, in 1945, most municipal public transit agencies across North America were profitable businesses and, by 1965, none of them were.
Earlier this month, Greyhound announced they were cutting bus service between Kitchener and Guelph. It was another in a series of frustrating announcements regarding service cuts by the agency over the past few years.
In its release, Greyhound blamed GO Transit for the service cuts, even though GO Transit doesn't provide bus service between Kitchener and Guelph.
In my opinion, Greyhound's frustrations were misplaced. The real cause of their lost profitability is the highly subsidized automobiles they share the road with.
True, GO Transit is subsidized -- albeit by the lowest percentage of any transit agency in North America -- but we acknowledge that GO's subsidy is an investment in the economy of south-central Ontario.
Without GO Transit, our workers would be a lot less productive, stuck in traffic, and we would have to raise taxes to pay for the increased road construction and maintenance.
Greyhound can't make a profit with its select routes because it doesn't have GO's network to feed them, but they cannot profitably operate GO's network of routes at the required service levels, or else they would have already done so.
With a provincial election on the horizon, the time has come to acknowledge the need for enhanced public transportation across this province, starting with our intercity buses. We need to buy out Greyhound's remaining routes and incorporate them into GO Transit's network.
Imagine being able to catch GO buses in Kitchener and riding them to Guelph, Hamilton or Aldershot to connect with the GO services there. Imagine if the Greyhound Toronto Express charged GO fares instead.
And we need to apply this thinking outside of south-central Ontario. The intercity bus network of southwestern Ontario is beyond anemic, now. This means increased isolation within those communities.
They deserve better, and so do we.