An LTC Bedime Story

by

I’m tired. And I’m cold. Oh boy, am I cold. But it’s important to me that I get this out while I can still remember it. So, I’ll do that as best I can, and I’ll ask that you indulge me while I try to tell you this story. It’s going to be fairly long-winded I think, so you may want to grab some milk & cookies first… that’s always pretty good at bedtime…

Monday evening was Committee night down at City Hall. It was an unusually attractive night to be there, with lots of things being addressed which interest me. True, they were all going on in different rooms at the same time. And true, the proceedings were so hard to hear that sometimes I had to strain through my trifocals and try to lipread what was being said. And true, the noise at the back of the room and the noise coming from outside in the hall made the job of trying to follow along just a little bit more difficult. But that’s nothing new, and nobody’s in a hurry to fix it, so you learn to tolerate it.

And what I managed to hear was very interesting, and I left at the end of the evening feeling that it had been worth the effort. Mind you, I had to wait about 20 minutes for my transfer at Dundas & Adelaide… why do they schedule the eastbound buses to leave Dundas & Richmond so that they’ll arrive at Adelaide right after the Adelaide has just left? 30 min. service during the evening, and it’s cold outside, and then you have to put up with kid’s with their feet all over the seats and “F…” every 3rd word or somebody talking on their cell so loud they must think the whole world wants to hear about how he was going out on her girlfriend behind her back… and don’t they know that I’m getting old and cranky and don’t really want to hear it?

Tuesday evening I went to a public participation meeting at Laurier S.S. Jay Stanford was there from The City to engage the community in a discussion about Waste Management and the kinds of progressive new things we may be doing in the near future. Not to tell us, but to consult with us. And he’s got a couple surveys on the city website that people can answer and help to influence the decision that get made which will affect all of us for many years to come. I like to be consulted. It makes me feel that I have some worth. That I’m not just along for the ride, but that I’m a partner in the kind of city I live in and the kind of city that I’ll be leaving my kids and grandkids with.

I left that meeting as well, feeling that it had been time well spent. And easily as entertaining and enjoyable as if I’d stayed at home watching the TV. I didn’t even mind the fact that it was raining quite a bit, or that I had a considerable distance to walk to get home. It was a mild evening, and I like to walk, and how often do you get to enjoy some rainfall at this time of the year anyways? I may never get the chance again, and so I enjoyed it.

This evening I was trying to cash a Trifecta. Another public consultation meeting, this time at the Central library with the Governance Task Force. A chance this time to influence some of the way that this city is governed and how we are served. Not a chance that comes along all that often. And so I skipped supper in order to get there in time, because it meant taking the bus.

I arrived at the transit shelter around the corner at 5:40. Shuffling from foot to foot, trying to stay warm. Because the mild weather of the previous evening had been replaced by a gusty wind, and a temperature about -10 C, and a chill factor that I tried hard not to think about. While I shuffled. And I shuffled.

Vrooom… what the? over the crest of the hill and 2 sec’s it’s past me and it didn’t even slow down and what the hell was that Baseline westbound doing in the centre lane? I could have grabbed that and transferred onto a Wellington northbound… God I’m cold!

Shuffle. Shuffle. I don’t think I can feel my fingers any more. At last, mercifully, the #16 northbound, and he’s going to stop! After a short trip up Adelaide to Dundas, I had almost started to feel my feet again but it was time to get off. A westbound bus had just gone through the intersection while mine was stopped at the red light, so the driver was bound to have seen us. And it is, after all, a major transfer point. Not to worry.

If that’s what you think, then you’re not a regular LTC user. Because by the time I had stepped off the #16 and walked the few steps back to cross the intersection to make the transfer, it had gone. Just like that. And I wish I could tell you that such things don’t happen often, but I’d be lying.

This time the shelter doesn’t deserve the label. It may serve at times if it’s raining, gently, and straight down. But it sure doesn’t provide much protection from the cold or the wind. Back to the 2-step shuffle.

Thankfully, I had some company to take my mind off of my misery. “It’s hypothermia out. I’m going to get Chinese or else I wouldn’t be out. It’s cold. When will the bus come? I’m going for Chinese…” Shuffle. Check my watch again. Will I get there in time for a seat? I can’t stand on my damaged knee for 2 hours! Shuffle. Check my watch. 6:50… OMG, here it comes! And joy, a seat by he front door that some kid doesn’t have his feet up on!

Another quick run… it’s not the actual travelling time that’s the problem… Here’s my stop… hurry into the building, I’ll just nip into the washroom as a precaution…

“Out of Service.”

Into the library… up the elevator… do some business… down the elevator… I’m starting to feel my feet again. Amazing! 7:00 and there’s still some empty seats. Quite a few actually. In fact, I think there’s as many people on the Task Force sitting up there behind the table as there are in the audience.

Too bad for anybody who didn’t bother, because speaker after speaker, it was all good. Not a dull moment from start to finish, which arrived all too quickly.

Back out into the cold. But wait, isn’t that a #1 going through the intersection? Not exactly my bus of choice, but it’ll get me part-way there, even if it is a roundabout way, and it’s better than standing in the cold…

I’m at the terminal point just behind the Pond Mills fire station, across from one of those dastardly TH’s that I’m addicted to, and I’m sooo hungry, and I hear a hot coffee calling to me… I’ll just grab a sandwich and warm up before having to wait for the #16 that will take me back west again the last few blocks that I need to go… pull out the laptop and start to record some of my thoughts about the meeting…

It’s 10:20, my transfer’s only good until 10:45, and it would be nice to be home in time for the newscast… away I go again. I’m inside the transit shelter around the corner by 10:30, lot’s of time I hope… Shuffle. Shuffle. Damn if it hasn’t gotten colder, this is just plain nasty! Check my watch. 5 min’s left on my transfer.

Here comes a #16 southbound, mine should be here soon I guess… Shuffle. Shuffle… Shuffle. Shuffle… 10:55. This is the pits. What now? If I stay, will he take the transfer? If not, I’ll have to hoof it the rest of the way home… It can’t be much longer, surely he’ll take it if it’s just a couple minutes… Shuffle. Shuffle. I’m getting too old for this. At least there’s a bench in this shelter, which often isn’t the case. Something to rest my carry bag on. Too bad it’s too cold to sit on… Shuffle. Wait! There it is! Oh, glorious sight… OMG, is that really 11:10? Forget the news, there’s no way this guy is going to take my transfer…

He didn’t even look at it. This must be the driver who passed me going the other way into the subdivision… shouldn’t there have been one in there already headed north? This guy must have seen me the first time going by and he’s too ashamed to look at me… oh hell, I’m too cold to worry about it, I just want to get home… 11:15 and there’s my stop. Small mercies. Time for another cup of hot coffee.

I’ll let you figure out my actual travelling time vs waiting time. I’m too beat. Besides, I’ve done it often enough before. And it’s depressing. Really, really depressing. Because my grandfather drove an electric streetcar here for 25 years. He represented that union for just as long at Labour Council. I used to run up and down the aisles of the Oxford East as my “uncles” drove that route several times every week until I started grade school. I used to love public transit. I still believe in it’s potential. But mostly… well, I’m too ashamed to say what I feel about the LTC these days.

You think John Ford and Larry Ducharme ever ride the bus? Or do they just sit around the big LTC boardroom table scheming how they’re going to spend millions on BRT? Personally, I’d be happy to see them just buy some more regular buses that would come every 10-15 minutes. But who cares what I think? I’m only a public transit user.

Thank God, tomorrow is backgammon night at the library. Hey, wait a minute… another bus trip downtown… bummer.

One last thought. And I thank you for your tolerance while I vent… Some of you may know that I’m a pedestrian advocate and that I’m still trying to put pressure on Council to find the guts to do the right thing and address my proposal for a Pedestrian Subcommittee the way that they should have done the first time around. And that I’ve asked people who care about pedestrian safety and pedestrian rights to contact me because the more voices the less chance they’ll be able to pretend that we don’t exist…

It’s hard to be a pedestrian activist without having an equal concern for public transit. In an ideal city, those things are like a good marriage. The one compliments the other. Either one might be pretty good on their own, but together good becomes great. So despite what I said a bit earlier, I’m not ready to surrender public transit yet. It’s simply too important. If you can appreciate what I’m saying and if you care enought that you’re willing to lend a hand, let me hear from you too. Because honestly, I’m not all that capable on my own. I could use some help. And this community would be the better for it.

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