Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Putting the "Ass" in Mass Transit

Can someone explain to me what is with public transportation in this city? I mean, seriously, can it get much worse? Sure, taking the bus isn't supposed to be as convenient as driving your own car, but it really shouldn't make you wish you were walking the entire distance either!

This has been bothering me for quite a while, but I think I'm getting close to the boiling point, so I better get it off my chest. You see, I ride the bus to and from work everyday. I don't live terribly far from work, maybe 15 minutes by car, but I also need to drop off my daughter at her caregiver's house each morning, then pick her up on my way home, too. And I use the term "on my way" loosely because, in truth, I actually have to go out of my way to get there. But that's no big deal... I just wish I could say the same for the buses.

In the morning, it's not so bad. We catch a bus practically right outside our back door that takes us to within a 2 block walk of the caregiver's house. From there, I walk for another 5 minutes to catch an express bus toward the downtown core. I get off quite a way's away from downtown, though, and transfer to one of the crosstown buses that goes right past my warehouse. All in all, it takes about 40 minutes for the whole trip. Like I said, not so bad.

Then there's the ride home.

I catch the crosstown bus heading the other way after work. Of course, this bus is always late... usually by 10 minutes or more. Once, it was over 45 minutes late because it (and about 3 buses behind it) got stuck at a train crossing. Can you believe that? Here, in the "big city", one train managed to cripple a major bus route. Am I the only person who thinks this is ludicrous? Oh, and did I mention this bus is always packed, standing room only? Nothing quite like standing shoulder to shoulder with a busload of people who have had the entire day to work up some powerful body odor, let me tell you! Luckily, I only need to stay on it for about 15 minutes.

Then I transfer to an express bus back to within a 5-minute walk of my caregiver's house. Sometimes this bus is packed, sometimes it's empty. Sometimes it is on schedule, sometimes I don't see a bus forever and then 3 pull up at the same time. I can never figure out what the variables are that affect this behavior, because it seems entirely random. Anyway, that leg of the trip lasts another 20 minutes or so and I can finally pick up my daughter.

Now, here's where the real fun begins.

I live only about 4 minutes away from the caregiver, by car. By bus, it's a totally different story. There's one that goes right by the house, but always cruises by 4 or 5 minutes early, making me miss it every time. You see, it's the last run for that particular driver, and he seems to like getting off work a tad early. Lucky him. There's also a bus 2 blocks away (the same one we take together in the morning, but going the other way). This one would be perfect... if it ever came. As it turns out, this particular neighborhood happens to be the "end of the line" for many of the rush hour buses. What does that mean, you are wondering? It means that lots of buses bring people home to that neighborhood, but none travel back. Lucky me.

In all, my trip home from work takes about an hour and half.

Now, as I was riding one of the packed buses after work today, the bus driver made a little speech... He told everyone who was tired of the buses being late and overcrowded to call Calgary Transit and complain. Sure, good idea, but it's why he told us to do this that really got my attention... He said, "Because they don't do anything when us bus drivers tell them about the problems."

What the...?

I'm outraged! I have half a mind to take that driver's advice, call the transit people up, and give them a piece of my mind. Oh... wait. I've already done that. Their answer to my comments about the poorly planned after work schedules? They said they'd look into it before the new schedules were assigned... which has actually happened 6 times since then, but the problems are the same.

Oh yeah, and they raised the fares.
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