three dots …

On transit

I think about public transit a lot. I think it's really important, and I am very interested in how it can be made better.

I've realized recently that the activity of riding public transit, on the other hand, does, in general, not bring me joy.

Well, why should it bring me joy? I wouldn't expect anyone else to love it.—In my case, I can think of two reasons:

  • I have thought for a long time that transit is very important and good and beneficial. It seems consonant with these thoughts like being on transit.1 One hardly wishes to think to think when out walking, “Ah, transit is good”, and to think when on the bus, “Ah, this stupid bus!”
  • For most of my life, I have taken transit only occasionally and irregularly, and not ususally for trips where I had to be somewhere at a certain time. This meant that I actually did often enjoy riding transit.

The second point deserves elaboration. The purpose of my transit trips have typically been occasional in nature, whether for business or for leisure. Procuring a provincial ID card, for instance, or going to the Value Village. Even when the purpose was mundane, the journey often had the flavour of a special expedition or adventure.

The transit part of the trip contributed to this flavour. Through the windows of the bus I could see parts of the city that I had seen before only rarely or not at all. Even some of the navigating and wayfinding that one has to do—finding the next stop when changing buses, for example, or orienting oneself upon getting off the bus,——which one might otherwise find frustrating—becomes part of the adventure.

Recently, my situation has changed, such that I now use transit in a very regular way. I namely have a job – one that moreover requires me to go every other day to an office, which seems unusual these days! I don't mind it; I am glad to see my boss and my fellow-workers in person regularly. But I have to take transit to get there. Now my transit trips are no longer mainly occasional excursions, but regular trips to the same place. The time I must leave at is not determined by my whim, but by the combination of when I have to be there and the bus schedule.

I don't really dislike my commutes to work; neither do I enjoy them. The best part is always the fifteen-minute walk from my house to the O-Train station. After that, I just stand in a train for ten minutes, wait a bit, and sit on a bus for fifteen minutes. The entire trip is about 45 minutes long.

The train ride is certainly very comfortable, and the stations are modern. But the trip on the whole has no value for me except in that it gets me to my destination. I would much rather walk for 45 minutes, but that would not get me to the office. The value of transit for me, then, is that it gets me there at all while allowing me to get up at a reasonable hour.

The upshot is that my experience no longer lets me be confused about what the value of transit is for me. There is nothing that could reasonably be more pleasant or convenient about my regular commute. The only thing that could improve it would be if it were faster, because I have better things to do than hang out in a bus or train. When I have enjoyed riding transit in the past, this had more to do with the character of the trip than with the transit itself.

The fact that my commute so long as 45 minutes is not the transit agency's fault. The issue is that my workplace is in a neighbourhood3 that is awkward for transit to serve and generates very little ridership. My trip to work would be more convenient if the bus I take came more often (than every half-hour), but its ridership cannot justify more frequency. This is basically a predictable consequence of where my workplace is.2

I could make my trip shorter and more pleasant, however, by procuring a bicycle. That would change everything about my trips to work. I could leave at the time of my choosing, take the most direct route possible, and derive a greater degree of pleasure from the experience. Really the only thing deterring me is that I don't have a good place to store it. I think, however, that I do have a very awkward place to store, which may suffice for as long as I live in my current dwelling.

  1. In transit? ↩︎

  2. I would happily explain why exactly this is, but I want to wrap up this post; for now I just want to point out the geography issue. ↩︎

  3. Namely the western corner of Carlington. ↩︎