Hearkening to days when 60 million Toledoans rode trolleys and buses in a single year, and lamenting suburban sprawl, John Robinson Block, The Blade's co-publisher and editor in chief, urged guests at a TARTA dinner last night to strive for a new era of public transportation.
“Dare to dream of a mass transit revival in Toledo - there are a lot of good reasons for it,” Mr. Block said during a keynote address to the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's annual service and safety awards banquet at the Toledo Hilton hotel, 3100 Glendale Ave.
Public transit's future quite likely will be built around a new form of transportation that has yet to be seen, Mr. Block said. “It might be something far different from the diesel buses of today,” he said. “People will be thrilled to ride it. It will serve their needs. It will go where they want to go.”
“You have given a great challenge to all of us involved in public transportation in our community,” Richard Ruddell, the transit authority's general manager, said after Mr. Block concluded his remarks.
Mr. Ruddell has lobbied for expanded transit in Toledo. Partly at his urging, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments' Year 2025 Regional Transportation Plan includes proposals for light-rail transit between the Toledo Zoo and downtown and a first-of-its-kind personal transit system in the central business district.
After some introductory thoughts, Mr. Block opened his presentation with pictures of public transportation in cities where he lived at various times during his childhood, including New York, Washington, London, Paris, and Vevey, Switzerland. He then shifted his focus to historic views of Toledo transit - including streetcars, interurban railways, and electric buses - before concluding with some contemporary scenes.
In bygone days, Mr. Block said, the vast majority of people lived in compact neighborhoods and traveled to work via public transportation. The daily commute was an experience shared with other people, he noted.
Commuting by automobile, “we can escape contact with other human beings,” Mr. Block said. While the private car offers freedom, he said, its price is a “loss of community.
“You don't have to care about someone else if you don't see them, if you don't talk to them,” Mr. Block said. He praised the TARTA drivers and mechanics in the audience for the transit system's safety record, saying he could recall no substantial bus accidents here.
While TARTA carried only about 10 million passengers last year - compared with 60 million trolley and bus riders per year during the late 1940s - “you maintain quality service for those who do ride” and transit riders “absolutely rely on you,” he told the group.
During the brief ceremony that followed, TARTA officials and Mr. Block handed safety awards to 26 bus drivers and mechanics who had worked accident-free for at least three years, including three drivers who had driven 12 flawless years: Greg Gage, Jim Randall, and Jim Tingley.