Thursday, November 17, 2011

Packed In Mustard Sauce

Jillian and I bought a car back in June.

Up until then, the bus was our primary mode of transportation.  As a result, our errands (etc) had been eating far too much of our precious time, and the bus commute to her job was a 2.5 hour affair... if she was lucky enough to connect with the once-an-hour bus downtown (the only bus that got her anywhere near her job).

Which, as it turned out, was a big if.  Taking either of the three downtown buses from our area, Jill had a 3-4 minute window to connect with that bus... and it never failed:  there would always be a traffic snarl on the way downtown, or a construction holdup, or passenger needlessly taking up the driver's time.  Taking an earlier bus downtown meant waiting outside, in the dark and cold, for 45 minutes because nothing was open at 6:30 am.  At least twice a week, Jill ended up having to take a cab from downtown in order to make it to work on time.

My own commute was relatively worry-free.  I used to take the #77 from Leila and Salter to my job in St. James.  It was great, only had to take one bus!  Problem is, it took a bloody HOUR as it wound its way through the Maples, Tyndall Park, Keewatin, and the Logan Industrial Park.  On a clear summer day.  If Red River College was in session, the bus would be packed by the time I got on.  Which typically meant standing for the entire hour.  If it happened to be during the seven months we're covered in snow, transit time was that much longer due to road conditions.

I figured I'd find a better way, and started taking the #32 Express bus downtown, then catching a #19 Red River bus.  Took roughly an hour, and the ride downtown was great.  I'd get off at Main and McDermot, walk half a block to the stop at Main and Lombard, and catch a mostly empty #19.  A fair amount of people would get on at MEC, a fairer amount at Portage Place, and a fairer amount around the corner on Vaughan.  By the time we left the Vaughan stop, the bus was packed.  Packed like sardines in mustard sauce.  More and more people would get on as we travelled up Notre Dame, and since I was one of the first people on the bus... I'd be in my window seat, trapped like a rat.  Getting off at my stop on Dublin and Notre Dame meant first fighting past my seatmate, then the throng of people (and their backpacks) in the aisle.  More than once, the driver would pull away from the stop before I'd made it to the door... at which point he would angrily pull over to let me out.  Which was usually followed by an angry look as though it were my fault.  Sitting in one of the sideways, aisle-facing seats usually ended in me giving up my seat to the infirm, elderly, expectant mothers, or baby carriages.

The trip home was almost as bad, replacing the college kids with drunks, loudmouth ignorami, twice the baby carriages, and kids who've listened to far too much rap.

This was my daily routine for over fifteen years (since 1996).  Suffice it to say, I didn't put up a fight when Jillian suggested we look into buying a car.  I've done my part for the environment.

Like many other longtime transit riders, I put up with fare increase after fare increase as a necessary evil.  After all, something had to pay for service improvements like those cold glass boxes they optimistically refer to as "shelters", those new-fangled, low-riding "kneeling buses" that helped clog the bus aisles with baby carriages, yellow strips that the lower-functioning riders have no idea how to use,  and nice new digital displays at major stops to tell you exactly how late your bus is.  Now that's progress!

As cynical as that sounded, at least we knew we were getting something out of the deal.

Now I hear bus fares will be increased, after no consultation, another 25 cents a ride.  But this time, the increased revenue will be not be used to fund improvements to the existing system.  Rather, it will fund eventual rapid transit improvements that will not, in all likelihood, be finished in the remaining twenty years until I retire.

So glad we bought that car.



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