Archive for February, 2020

How I Learned to Love the Bus #transit #bcmuni
February 5, 2020

It started as a question.

As a city councillor, there are recurring themes to conversations with community members. Chief among them (at least this time of year) is snow plowing, closely followed by garbage pick up, then potholes. Also on that list is our transit system. While I can’t plow, can hardly get my own garbage to the curb and should never, ever, be trusted to fill a pothole, what I can do is ride the bus. So I did.

Then it became an experiment.

The inaugural ride was great. Convenient, fast and inexpensive. But maybe that was beginner’s luck or the novelty of being driven to work after having driven myself, my kids and my stuff around town for the last 20 years.

So rather than try for just a day, I tried for a week. Picked up a strip of bus tickets at Downtown Askews and made my way around town by bus rather than by car over a number of days to really get a feel for the transit experience in Salmon Arm.

The findings were positive. It was still easy and convenient. The routes are designed such that you can get to important community amenities including the health clinic, hospital, high schools, college, city hall, local mall, recreation centres and downtown businesses.

Now it’s a good habit.  

Since October, I have been the proud owner of a Shuswap Transit monthly bus pass available at City Hall for $45. This has allowed me to travel car free during weekdays. I’m learning a great deal about my community. Riding on the bus allows you to see your city differently than being behind the wheel of your own car. You see things you’ve never seen and meet people you’ve never met.

Before I go any further, let’s be clear. A bus pass is not a replacement for a personal vehicle. It’s a substitute and so adjustments must be made. Those adjustments have had a positive impact on how I travel through our city as well as my day to day goings-on.

I’ve had to adjust how I manage my time. No rushing out the door to get to town on time and hope I don’t have trouble finding a parking spot or needing to stop for gas. I plan my time to meet the bus schedule. It feels much less chaotic. And overall, I make much better use of my time. The bus schedule is reliable. You can set your watch by it.

I’ve had to adjust my budget. One fill up of my car is twice the price of a monthly bus pass. I need to fill my car at least once a week. That’s an 88% decrease in cost. What’s more, because I can only carry so much on the bus, I’ve had to adjust my grocery budget. No car means no extras. I buy what’s necessary and suddenly all those extras are unneeded.

I’ve improved my fitness. Taking the bus is a form of active transportation because we aren’t moved door to door. There’s walking to and from the bus stop to take into account. And count it does. I’m walking approximately 25 kms a week. It doesn’t feel like exercise. It just feels good. And walking through your city also means you see things you might never have seen and meet people you might never have met. Also, I sleep better. Walking is a wonder drug.

I’ve reduced my carbon footprint. I bring my take out coffee mug and reusable shopping bag with me. There’s no room or time for carrying around extra baggage or the waste that comes with convenient consumption.

The truth is that convenience is our frienemy. Of course having a car is convenient. Being able to come and go as you please and grab whatever you need whenever you need it seems like a good thing. And for some, it’s an absolute necessity. I don’t dispute or condemn that. But convenience is not efficiency and increasingly it’s not sustainable.

But I’m not hear to preach. I have a bus to catch. And I look forward to greeting the polite and professional drivers under who’s care many of us get around town. I’m grateful and appreciative.

So next time you ask me about transit, count on me to give you a bus schedule and ask you to try before we have that conversation.

See you on the bus.