In my last column I explored the joys and perils of being a bicycle commuter. Now that the snow is flying and ice is covering Edmonton’s roads, my 24-speed is safely in the garage for the season. I am not a year-round cyclist. At this time of the year I can barely keep my balance on two feet, let alone two wheels!
This leaves me, as someone who is vehicle-challenged (at least as far as the motorized variety goes), with another option to get around town: public transportation. Edmonton Public Transportation is a reasonably low-cost option, although for people on low incomes, the $2.25 bus fare (for an adult), $18.50 for a pack of 10 tickets, and $59 for a monthly bus pass can add up to a significant chunk of change over the course of a year. However, when put into perspective with the costs of owning and maintaining a car, it is obviously the more economical choice. I told a friend of mine that I pay $59 for a bus pass. He said he can’t even fill half the tank of gas in his truck for that amount! His one advantage is at least he can get into a warm vehicle quickly and easily during the winter.
Taking the bus in this city often requires a lot of advance planning – and layers of warm clothing. Any frequent bus rider has their stories of buses that never showed up, terminally long waits, and having to walk a good length to even find a bus stop in the first place. Certain routes don’t even run in the evening and weekends. Buses can be crowded, smelly, and dirty, especially during peak hours when they supposedly come more frequently. When I take a bus home from downtown, I sometimes amuse myself by watching “the parade of eights.” In the time it takes for my bus to come, there are usually no less than three Number Eight buses that come and go from the same stop.
With their low floor buses and ability to move the front seats out of the way to accommodate those in wheelchairs or with walkers, ETS is also reasonably accessible for the differently-abled. I have friends who cannot walk long distances or ride a bike for physical reasons. They are avid bus riders. Again, the worst part here is actually getting to a bus stop, and then waiting for interminable amounts of time.
I personally think that the LRT should be built out all the way to West Edmonton Mall, to allow commuters to get from the West End to downtown or the University area quickly and far more comfortably. I also think that more routes should run on a 15-minute schedule than at present. With the influx of new people into Edmonton, buses are getting even more crowded. ETS has to be prepared to meet the demand. The money generated from all these new, extra fares certainly should be able to fund some improvements to the system.
Paula frequently takes the bus to go downtown and to the south side. She also uses the front-loading racks on some routes to put her bike on the bus. You can reach her at: email@example.com.