By Jason Menard
So, the naysayers opine, who would rather trade in their car for a bus? Who are these people that will embrace the London Transit Commission’s commitment to more efficient service, eschewing their vehicles for public transport?
I’m one. I’ve done it before and loved it. The only reason I don’t do it now is practicality. Well, that and I love my family, so I’d like to see them sometime instead of laboriously meandering through the streets of London under the flickering lights of an overhead advertisement.
However, for any public transit venture to be successful, the principles need to stop thinking green and focus more on the black and white.
When we moved to London from Montreal a few years ago the first thing I did was check out the public transit situation. That way, I figured, I could take the bus to work, which would allow my wife to have use of the family car. But there was a problem with that equation – something that refused to allow it to add up. Time.
Simply put, it didn’t make sense for me to take the bus. When I lived in Montreal, I commuted across the island from my St-Laurent residence to the downtown core or the Old Port. What would have taken me an hour-and-a-half by car, fighting through gridlock and inflated parking prices, only took me 15 minutes by public transit.
That’s it. It made sense. For just over $50, I obtained a pass that would allow me to ride the bus, Métro (underground subway), and commuter train. That monthly outlay more than made up for the amount of money I would have spent during the same time frame on gas and parking (the cheaper rates around where I worked went for about $100 a month).
And while the money was nice, it was the time that was the key. I could leave work by 4:30 and be home easily before 5:00. I could spend time with my wife and kids, and all was good. Devoid of road rage, I came home rested, relaxed, and in a much better mood than had I driven home through rush-hour traffic, swearing all the while, and watching my blood pressure rise during a twice-daily commute.
An ancillary benefit was that I read more than I had in years! Before I had a hard time finding the time to read. When I was on the bus or train, I had all the time in the world to quietly enjoy a book.
But here, in London, it’s the opposite. A 10-minute commute by car takes over an hour-and-a-half. There are multiple stop-overs and a significant walk involved. It’s hardly an incentive to commute.
And people have to stop focusing on the environmental incentives for taking public transit. We get it. We don’t care. If we haven’t changed by now for that reason, we won’t. Stop thinking green and focus on the black and white – what’s in it for me? Make it convenient. Make it affordable. And make it effective, and we will come.
The Bus Rapid Transit system is a good start for debate. However, I don’t think we need to investigate bus lanes and the like right now. The city’s not big enough for that. The one thing that would improve service is to improve the buses’ routes and schedule.
Straight. Up and down. Intersecting routes. And a bus every 10 minutes during rush hour on major routes. That’s it. Part of the problem solved.
Our public transit system tries to be everything to everyone. Routes meander through subdivisions, in an attempt to ensure that everyone can get where they want to go. But usually the fastest way to get anywhere is in a straight line. We have major arteries in this city, let’s use them.
A bus running every 10 minutes up and down major east-west arteries like Dundas, Commissioners, Hamilton/Horton, Southdale, Oxford, and Fanshawe Park Road, and north-south routes such as Wellington, Wharncliffe, Wonderland, Richmond, and Adelaide should be the basis of any system. Then you start adding the ancillary buses off of these major routes. Less-frequent buses up streets like Exeter, Baseline, Bradley, and the like would help make the grid more accessible.
Prioritize the rush hours. On these key routes buses running every seven to 10 minutes between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., and 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. would improve service.
Sure, it may take more than 10 minutes to get to work for me, but I’d sacrifice an extra 10-15 minutes to leave the car at home. After all, while some people may cling to their vehicle as a status symbol, personally it doesn’t do me much good sitting in the parking lot of my office for eight hours a day.
If London really wants to grow and be the city it thinks it is – or at least the city it thinks it can become – then we have to make an effort. After all, if we want to attract the masses, we need mass transit to get them where they want to go.
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