Toledo’s new mayor boarded a near-empty bus Monday morning just before 8 a.m., part of his commitment to take public transportation to work once a week.
Wade Kapszukiewicz isn’t using a city-owned car to get himself to and from work, meetings, and appointments — as past mayors have done — and he decided to begin his first full week as mayor with a $1.25 commute on a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority public bus.
“I think folks who have access to transportation take it for granted, and our economy would be even stronger if we could find a way to support a more robust public-transportation system,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “It would help people get to jobs. It would help those jobs come to us.”
He settled in to a seat in the middle of the bus, one row in front of Richard Arnold, a mental health care consumer advocate whom Mr. Kapszukiewicz met 20 years ago while working at the Lucas County Mental Health Board. The two chatted as the bus rolled through the slush, stopping every few minutes to let new passengers on and other passengers off.
The mayor said he wants to “lead by example” and said using public transportation is convenient and easy. He plans to ride the bus from his Old Orchard neighborhood to his office downtown once a week throughout his tenure.
“Fifty percent of all people who work in Toledo come from outside of Toledo, and roughly 50 percent of Toledoans who work, work outside of Toledo,” he said. “So our economy is built on transportation, on movement.”
Jacqueline Lamb boarded the bus a few stops after the mayor, also on her way downtown. She applauded Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s choice to ride public transportation once a week. She said it will give him an opportunity to meet more citizens, and get a feel for what’s going on in the city and how Toledoans interact with each other.
“He’ll get out and meet people instead of just certain groups or members of certain organizations,” Ms. Lamb said. “It’s for everyone and anyone to take the bus.”
The mayor’s office had been assigned two city-owned vehicles, but Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he is giving one of those vehicles to the city’s building inspection staff, who had been carpooling to various job sites. The other will be shared among the mayor’s staff, and he’ll drive his own car on a daily basis.
The building inspection division will now have 12 cars, though four of them need to be replaced because of high mileage and the cost of continuous repairs, city spokesman Ignazio Messina said.
Passenger Rosylin Leach said she has been riding TARTA for decades. She said public transportation is important to her because she doesn’t have a car, and she was happy to find the mayor among her fellow passengers Monday morning.
“I like riding the bus because I like being independent,” Ms. Leach said.
Mayor Kapszukiewicz hasn’t been a regular TARTA-rider, and he said he hopes to spark a conversation about public transit in a city he called “not totally walkable.”
“Sometimes we just have to break out of our old patterns to do things to move the community forward,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “I think this is one of those things that Toledoans could do a little more of.”
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