If there is one thing to distinguish the Francis Council it is its distinct failure to launch. In just about every situation, by not being able to get anything significant started, it stymies the city’s growth and development.
Transit is a good example.
Former mayor Eddie Francis bragged about an electric bus plant coming to the city. He went to China, at taxpayer expense, to find a company, but was unable to execute a deal, even one to street test its buses. Eventually, BYD settled in California.
Now Brampton will lead the nation as the first test city for Canada’s electric bus company, New Flyer Industries. Brampton Transit will participate in the Pan-Ontario Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial.
The city, northwest of Toronto, will deploy up to 10 electric buses and four overhead electric charging stations on several of its transit routes. Since the introduction of its battery-electric bus, Chris Stoddart, its engineering head, says New Flyer, “… has led North American efforts to develop industry standards for both on-route and depot charging of battery-electric buses.”
While Francis was running off to China, an intriguing transit idea emerged from disgraced councillor Al Maghnieh.
As reported in the Windsor Star on April 12, 2011, Maghnieh envisioned either electrical or motorized trolleys, “… following steel tracks along a single east-west line linking the VIA train station in the east to the proposed new aquatic centre on the west side of downtown. This ‘alternative method of transportation’ would be offered free to riders, Maghnieh said, adding it would connect people and neighbourhoods.”
Of course, the plan fizzled, even though at the time Detroit was planning its own trolley system. By the way, the Q-Line’s grand opening will be May 12.
Apparently, given what is going on in the motor city, trolleys are economic development stimulators. They will help The D increase its downtown population density, something Windsor desperately needs.
Right now, all major cities west of Toronto are building or finalizing rapid transit. The most advanced, Kitchener-Waterloo with one line running, proves there is a link between transit and residential in-fill development.
On March 9, Ontario’s Construction Secretariat released its latest economic outlook. It found the province’s building industry expects high-rise residential to be a stronger performer this year.
It also singled out K-W, which it expects will lead, “… in high-rise residential optimism with 63 per cent of contractors anticipating ‘significant growth,’ most likely a direct spin-off from the construction of new light rail transit.”
Ironically, because federal and provincial money finance much of the costs of these fixed path transit systems, Windsor taxpayers are actually paying for them, but getting nothing.