Renaissance is an overused word. True “rebirth” is something difficult, and rare.
It’s been tossed around T-town a great deal over the last few years, as the City struggles to right itself and return to glory. If there is to be a sustainable and long-lasting rebirth, it will not happen magically. No renaissance will fall from the sky and anoint our beloved swamp.
We believe we’re in the middle of something important, a rejuvenation of historic proportions. And it is driven by core institutions which make our city a destination, a great place to live, work, and raise a family. In turn, those institutions are guided by great leaders.
The current energy in the City is the result of visionary leadership like Joe Napoli of the Mud Hens and Walleye, who has built Hensville, and made our minor league sports franchises, into economic development powerhouses. And Randy Oostra, who brought ProMedica downtown, in the process of restoring Promenade Park and the Summit Street corridor. Party in the Park is back!
Then there’s Brian Kennedy at the Toledo Museum of Art, whose vision of a complete arts-related campus sprawls across Monroe Street. And Jeff Sailer of the Toledo Zoo, who has overseen dramatic renovations of the WPA-era buildings. And Lori Hauser of Imagination Station, who took a failing museum and has turned it into a bastion of STEM education. And Dave Zenk, who continues to build the Metroparks into a crown jewel of the region, including bringing habitat restoration downtown.
The list is long and impressive, and we’ve only scratched the surface. There are those who have purchased and renovated historic buildings downtown, and entrepreneurs who have opened places of business.
In all this renovation, inspiration, and vision there is one important institution that will move us further forward among the nimble and the smart.
The Toledo Area Rapid Transit Authority, led for years by Jim Gee, could be another driver of the renaissance, providing desirable service, connecting Toledo’s neighborhoods with places to work, shop, and play.
Changes to an antiquated hub-and-spokes design (providing rapid connections across town, instead of forcing riders to go to a central location), continuing functional service on weekday evenings and updating weekend, holiday and evening schedules are working and should continue to expand.
Route changes to reflect shifting demographics and the new vibrancy downtown, abandoning the central business district bus loop (which will free up additional street parking), are being designed and implemented.
TARTA’s follow through on those plans are essential to suppporting the ‘rebirth’ of our swampy confines. Hey, Mayor Kapszukiewicz’ once a week TARTA ride focuses attention on the system, and the momentum must continue.
It’s time to take TARTA into the 21st Centuray and to move the renaissance out into the neighborhoods. A nimble, adaptable system, geared toward rejuvenation, is necessary, along with an app that can show bus locations in real time. Continuing to develop routes that shift as needs change, a combination of longer routes and shorter, shuttle-type rides, along with buses that run on the weekends and evenings, connecting recreation and night spots with places folks live are essential.
For the future of the region, TARTA is an important piece, not just a token!