The chair of Windsor Transit is once again calling for regional transit service.

Bill Marra said he’s talked briefly to Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Glen Murray about the idea.

“It can’t be done on the municipal tax base,” Marra told CBC Windsor’s Tony Doucette, host of Windsor Morning. “It’s expensive to start. Buses are required and routes have to be paid for.”

Because Transit Windsor only services the city, Marra said it doesn’t qualify for some other government funding.

“If we are in a position to provide regional transit it opens the door to other funding,” he said.

Bill Marra 220

Windsor Coun. Bill Marra says Ottawa and Ontario need to help pay for regional transit. (City of Windsor)

He said there is interest in neighbouring communities, pointing to Tecumseh's own transit service and the fact regional transit was at least part of LaSalle’s budget discussion.

“The fact it got as far as budget discussion indicates some progress,” Marra said.

The issue of affordable, available and reliable transportation will be discussed Wednesday at Tecumseh Arena between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Windsor Enterprise Skills Training and Pathway to Potential will host the event.

On Tuesday, the groups told CBC News the lack of transportation is a barrier to employment for some in Windsor-Essex.

“There are employees immediately outside the corporate [city] limits who would love to see their employees take advantage of public transit,” Marra said.

Transit Windsor doesn’t service LaSalle, Tecumseh or Oldcastle.

“We need to create an environment where a budding community like LaSalle — and Tecumseh and Lakeshore, for that matter — are incented to participate in a regional transit system,” Marra said.

Not a new problem

Kevin O’Neil grew up in Windsor but now lives in LaSalle and works in Detroit. He said little has changed since the 1980s.

“For five years, back in the 1980s, Transit Windsor was my primary means of transportation. I was forced to buy my first car because the meandering 2.5-hour round trip bus ride was putting my excellent, career-related summer job at risk — and I both lived and worked in long established neighbourhoods within city limits,” O’Neil said.

Marra said summer routes are a problem. Decades ago, the transit board decided to correlate the bus route with the school year, eliminating routes in the summer. He said an additional $500,000 would be needed to reinstate full summer service.

Years ago, O’Neil wrote letters and called city councillors, even applied for a position on the board, all to help change service.

That’s what Marra wants people to do today: call politicians and demand regional transit.

“We’re going into an election year,” Marra said. “It’s a good time to bring issues forward.”