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Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's Not Toronto...

When I  moved here many years ago, I was shocked to learn that the city did not have a public transportation system. It was after all, a capital city of a province. And, even though I might not have used/needed it at that time, I was taken aback not to have the option.
A few years back when the city was considering the feasibility of a public transit system they sent out a survey which I gladly filled out. I confidently said that yes indeed I would use a public transit system. Why not? It would be good for the environment, and also an affordable service for those who have no other form of transportation. At that time I lived in the city and had every intention of actually using the system; however as time passed I  continued to drive to work and use my car to putter around town. I would see the colourful trolley-like buses about town and think you should be taking the bus Za, but ignored myself  even as I scooted around the buses while they stopped to pick people up. I am no longer Catholic, but I think I still have remnants of that deeply instilled guilt because I have always felt guilty for saying I would use it. Silly...I know, but an odd fact.

Although I  no longer live in the city centre (Which would be an acceptable excuse) there is a connector service available where I live. Despite this I continued using my car citing convenience and time management as excuses. So, when my car broke down and suddenly I was without  a vehicle, although I did have other options, I decided it was time to finally try the bus system.

My next work day I woke up  early and made sure I  was at the bus stop at the designated time. This all coincided with a run of particularly cold temperatures in our  region, so I bundled myself up, plugged one earpiece in, tuned into our local CBC morning radio show, grabbed my fresh hot coffee and headed out the  door. The closest stop is about a five minute walk, but not through city streets, through a lovely tree lined trail. At first, it felt odd walking away from the  house, just me, my coffee and  my bag with lunch and dress shoes, but there was a certain freeing feeling about it. I was the only one at the stop, and the only one on the bus for  several stops because the system is dangerously underused, but my bus arrived right on cue.I had fifteen minutes to relax, listen to my show and enjoy my coffee. This relax, listen, sip your coffee thing is not a luxury I  usually allow myself in the hustle of workday morning preparations. Another woman, I observed on the bus must have the same idea, she reads the newspaper every morning.

The bus practically dropped me off at my workplace door 5 minutes before I needed to be there and I just walked right in. No fuss of parking, no worries surrounding if my car would start in the cold, no worries about traffic, or messy slippery roads. I loved it. It was a nice feeling.There was also a nostalgic feeling  from having used the metro bus as a child to get to school. I  didn't realize it had been so long since I had been on a city bus. The ride home was just as pleasant. I  got home a few minutes sooner than normal, so that time management excuse was out the window.

I have since gotten to know the driver a bit better and when he realized that it was closer for me to get on at another location he offered to  pick me up/drop me off there even though it is not an actual stop. The regulars call the driver by name. I heard him offer one older woman the option of waiting in her porch the next morning, stating he would just stop in front of her house saving her the trouble of walking a block and waiting in the freezing cold. Sweet. On those cold  days the  drivers strategically park the buses (As we wait to transfer) in such a way that we need not step out into the cold or touch the  ground at all, but just step from one bus to another. One day last week a woman brought the driver a large hot chocolate. Another time, I am told, they drove around the block an extra time to gather someone who had missed the bus by moments which enabled him to get to  work as usual.

Somehow in our small city, on day two I managed to get on the wrong bus and the drivers noticed two stops in and communicated with each other. My driver asked me if I was going to my workplace, and I was of course, so he informed me I  should get out and get on the bus behind him. Both buses stopped and I relocated, the regulars laughed as I got on the correct bus. I laughed too. All this and I still arrived at work on time with a few minutes to spare. I love our little city.

So, now, my car is repaired and life has returned to  normal with the exception of me taking the bus on a regular basis. It's not Toronto, but for this I am grateful. Grateful  for a bus that will stop where it works for me and a driver who notices I am on the wrong bus.

I would encourage others to use the bus system if possible.