The Wheels on the Bus

20 Jul

Thanks Chris for last weeks post! Hope you all got out your bikes, took off the training wheels and slowed it all down a bit.

This weeks guest blogger Carly Godard spent time in Saskatoon where she rode the bus and now lives in Keremeos B.C. with a population of 1200 and no public transit! Good thing her job gives her tons of opportunity to fine tune her transit taking skills.

Whether 40,000 feet in the air or cruising around Canada’s great cities, Carly is constantly on the move. Her preference for public transit makes each city a new and exciting adventure.

The bus. Yes, it can be crowded. No, it is not always on time. And for some, it truly is a last resort. Many would rather take up long-boarding, or pull out the ‘ole roller blades than take the “loser cruiser.” My friend Chris wrote a great post about cycling last week. Though it may not have been his intention to throw me “under the bus” (pun totally intended!), I am always up for a good rebuttal, and am excited to enlighten the world on the joys of taking the bus, and other modes of public transportation.

I do realize that the purpose of this blog is to bring awareness of the impact we have on our environment, and how it can be lessened. As you will see, I do not have the fancy statistics of how taking the bus reduces our “carbon footprint;” I do not know how much fuel is needed to run a city bus for a day; I do not know how much less pollution is put into the air, (though I am going to guess 40 people on one bus is better than 40 cars going to work every day), and I do not have any cool facts about say, if one person takes the bus everyday for a year, an entire third world country could be fed for a month. But, I do know why I like to ride the bus and why other people should give it is a chance too.

Taking the bus is cool

I moved to the city of Saskatoon in 2004, a car-less, clueless-how-to-get-around-the-city university student. It seemed a lot of students in my area took the bus, and since there was a stop on my street, I thought, “Why not?”

Monday to Friday I took the bus to and from school, eventually getting to know the times and stops, and even alternate routes I could take. Not too shabby for this country girl. Yet, I did feel a bit restricted. I still mooched rides off of roommates and friends for trips to the grocery store and other such outings, because why would I take the bus?

But, when the fridge is empty, or there is party on the west side, and there are no vehicles around, desperate times call for desperate measures…I started to look into where the bus could take me in life. It was actually quite simple. The Saskatoon Transit System (STS) have a number of great resources: The website was super helpful. (I have actually found this to be the case with most cities’ transit websites, FYI). You do not have to know exact stop numbers, but just general addresses or landmarks. If you want to know a particular bus route, they have all the maps and stop times. They also provide the Call & Go service that if you know your stop number, you can call and it will tell you the next few buses going by and at what times.

And then, there are the drivers.

Hurray for bus drivers

In my experience, this has proved to be the most helpful, not to mention the most rewarding. They are all very informative and most are very nice…especially when you have a lost, desperate, dumb look on your face as I’m sure I had in my first few weeks of learning the routes.

Saskatoon is one of those cities that, I believe, if you put in a little time into learning the system, you will find you can go anywhere in the city, and you will know how to get there. And I have to commend the STS for the efforts they have put forward in the past few years to make taking the bus more accessible to the public. There are bike racks on the front of many buses, there are designated stroller sections, and most routes are equipped with wheelchair access, to name a few. The STS have improved their routes, reaching more corners of the city and they have increased the frequency of buses on major routes. Even after my days of university were long finished, I continued to take the bus everywhere and loved it.

 So why do I love the bus? My reasons may not be suited for everyone, but hopefully hit home for a few people. As mentioned, I started off my city life as a student, so financial reasons obviously played a role. I could not afford a car, or the many costs that go with owning your own vehicle (fuel, insurance, repairs, etc.). Students, last time I checked, bus passes are included in the student fees, so you might as well take advantage!

Regular bus passes are a great deal as well, and here is my little “Did you know?” segment…Bus passes can be claimed for tax purposes! Money in the bank people. I for one would love to eventually see public transit become free for all, but that is a crusade all on its own…stay tuned.

Some people may think I am crazy, but I also took the bus for the convenience. On those blizzardy, minus-100-with-the-wind-chill days, I did not need to warm up a vehicle or scrape any windows.

 

I'm chilled just thinking about it.

I just hopped on the already-toasty-warm bus, read a chapter of my book, and basically got dropped off at the front door of my destination. No parking, no walking, no plugging meters, and no frozen nostrils. Despite popular opinion, I do believe the bus is reliable. No, they may not come exactly on time everyday, but “the bus will always come”—a quote from a driver I had once.

In my eight years of taking the bus in Saskatoon, only one day did the buses not run. January 10th, 2007, as some of you may know, was the worst blizzard in Saskatchewan’s history. There I was, innocently waiting for the bus to take me to class, quickly becoming one with the snow bank. A bus going in the opposite direction, reading “Out of Service” stopped and waived me over. He informed me that the buses had stopped running, but asked if I needed to get anywhere, as he was now dropping people off…at their doorsteps! One of my many stories why I love the STS.

Probably the biggest thing I love about the bus is the people.

People watching is a great way to start the day

I can honestly say that I am a better person from what I have observed, or experienced, on the bus. I have laughed, I have cried, and have even had life-changing discussions, all on the bus. Maybe that is why I work in the public transportation business now. It’s about the people. Although I work 40’000 feet in the air, I still get to meet new people everyday, and find out a bit about their “story.” Whether it is a short friendly exchange with the driver, or a deep discussion with the person who sits down beside you, taking the bus gives us opportunities and experiences we do not normally get. And there are few things in life that give me as much joy as seeing a teenage guy giving up his seat, for the elderly lady who just walked on the bus.

The other day on my way to work (in my car…guilty!) I noticed something about the traffic in my city. As usual, the majority of the cars were stuck bumper to bumper, three lanes across, but there on the far side, lies the “High-Occupancy-Vehicle” lane, which was virtually empty.

It got me thinking, “How crazy is it that we get rewarded, just for having more than one person in a vehicle? It is unfortunate that so many of us, myself included, drive our vehicles alone. It only makes me wonder what impact we could have if we all used shared transport or public transit. We are given great opportunities to reduce our waste everyday when it comes to transportation. Though some may say that taking the bus wastes time, or is a waste of money, perhaps it is a greater waste not to use what is already available to us?

Whenever I am traveling in a city I always choose to take the bus or metro. For me, it is an adventure, a cheap one at that, and always the logical choice.

So, hop on the bus Gus…and always thank the driver!

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3 Responses to “The Wheels on the Bus”

  1. Jenni July 21, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    I completely agree the bus is the way to get around (second to biking, and I only say this because I have not had a bike until recently and the novelty has not worn off yet…) I love getting to know my drivers on a regular route and I’ve always had the best stories to tell from my experiences! Especially the time the bus broke down half way to work- it was an adventure!

  2. Shane Tcs September 5, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    I am Tan Chin Suen, student taking Diploma in Creative Multimedia at Segi College Subang Jaya, Malaysia. I am in final semester and doing my final year project. The purpose I write this email is to get the permission for use information material from your website. I really hope that you will provide information free of charge. I am very grateful for your helps.
    Thanks you.

    • nowastewednesdays September 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Hello Tan Chin Suen,
      Yes – we’d be happy to help! Could you tell us what information you’d like to use? A lot of what we post is from research we’ve done from other books and websites so let us know and we’ll make sure that credit is given to the original source.

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