Why I mostly avoid taking the bus

An enormous amount of snow fell twice this winter. Where do you wait for the bus as by now you are very close to the car lane.

OC Transpo is not sure why the numbers are going down. A report will soon be released. I can perhaps tell you why the bus is not that popular, despite a number of advantages.

oc 2013 numbers
Ottawa Citizen: 2013 numbers are down

Travelling by bus in winter is no fun. It takes considerable effort and willpower to get out of the door when it is -20C. Trudging through the snow and waiting for the bus is just not a great way to start the day. Waiting at a bus stop is challenging, taking your personal space on wheels on the other hand is so easy.

oc 2014 numbers
Ottawa Sun: 2014 numbers are down

Fisher Heights

When I take the bus from Fisher Heights, at Fisher and Baseline, I have two choices: walk 500 meter to Baseline or 1000 meter to Fisher Ave. I tend to walk to Fisher to catch the 86 as that is a direct bus to downtown. In all likelihood, when the LRT starts rolling, I will still walk to the 86, but change to the LRT at Bayview. The slowest part of my route is Baseline to Tunney’s, so I think I am not going to save much time with LRT.

oc 2015 numbers
580 CFRA News Talk local radio station: 2015 ridership stabilized at 97 million, but trend is down. Trillium line moves 2.1 million annually by the way.

Alternatively I can wait for the 118 on Baseline, unprotected in howling northwest winds blowing across the Farm, with traffic driving by at say 70 k/hr, spreading the occasional slush shower on passengers. It has happened to me. While we saw it coming, we were too late and half a dozen passengers were covered with slush.

The fastest door to door trip between my home and work is about 30 minutes, often it is closer to 40 minutes for an 8.7 km ride.

December to March

I postpone taking the bus as long as possible, usually until around mid December-ish when the Experimental Farm is no longer accessible for cycling due to snow piling up. The Farm is partly plowed but no connection to Fisher is kept open. I am really not enjoying cycling on Fisher, Baseline and Prince of Wales, not during warm days, let alone in winter. But I try to get back on the bike as fast as possible, usually around end of February – mid March.

The reasons why I don’t take the bus the rest of the year is that it is slow, bumpy and there are bus drivers who drive erratically, like the ones who use their brakes on and off to come to a stop, or those who pull up way too fast. Also, the walk to the bus stop and a 5 minute wait adds up to 15 minutes already, a time that gets me already to Preston street, about past the halfway point of my commute. There are some advantages of taking a bus: I can read my work email, read an (on line) newspaper and if I take the 118 to Hurdman and then a bus into town, I am mostly travelling in bus lanes and the transit way.

Cycling is enjoyable

I enjoy cycling for 30 minutes before going into the office for the whole day, although I admit that there are days I’d rather take a car. But than I think of all the advantages:

I never ever get stuck in traffic,

I never have to search for parking,

I observe much more in the city,

I am much more aware of my surroundings,

I enjoy the scents, that ‘spring is in the air’ or ‘fall fog’ feeling.

There, 5 reasons already. I actually get to wave to people I know or cycle to work with friends I pass along the way such as Isabel, Bert, John, Zlatko, Kornel and Jennifer to name but a few.

But eventually, when the snow starts to fall I end up in that bus stop on Fisher near Malibu. GPS tracking and the Busbuddy app definitely help making the wait for buses shorter. But take a look at the pictures below and you’ll see why people jump in the car or on the bike or prefer a walk.

First, we Fisher-Heighters need to be patient and wait for traffic or run across Fisher Ave when we get a chance. Often, we depend on the kindness of a driver who lets us cross. Sometimes we are standing on the centre line, waiting to cross the other lane with traffic passing us on both sides.

CaptureFisher
Red is more or less how we walk, yellow is the bus stop. Indeed, we should use the path, but from the path it is hard to get to the bus stop (when there are snow banks). The road in the pic looks quiet, but the reality is that Fisher is a very busy road in rush hour, with buses, delivery trucks and lots of commuter traffic. (Google screen grab)
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 01
Waiting along Fisher Ave for the northbound bus. The crest of the road is about 40-50 cm higher than the base of the bus stop.
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 03
There is a well plowed path behind the bus stop, but a connection is not made to the bus stop front side.
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 04
There is often garbage lying around. I can see why there are no garbage cans in there, but still…
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 05
An enormous amount of snow fell twice this winter. Where do you wait for the bus, as by now you are very close to the car lane?
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 07
The bus stop might be ‘plowed’, but not really,  damn the customers.
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 06
I wasn’t fast enough to switch my camera to film, but the plow came by and swung this enormous amount of snow into the bus stop. like Kudzu smothering trees in Atlanta…
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 10
…resulting in slush all over the place. This is on the inside of the back of the bus stop. Glad I was in the protected part of the bus stop and not checking my smart phone’s ‘where is my snowplow’ app in the open part of the stop.
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 11
Eventually a path was ploughed to the bus stop from the path behind it.
bus stop Hans Moor Ottawa 09
And then the snow melts and fills up the bus stop with an inch of water, not too mention the water turning into ice later.

So yeah, people aren’t jumping to take the bus. There are just very good alternatives.Such as cycling.

 

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this great post! I sincerely wish there was more attention payed to planning from the perspective of it’s (ahem) ‘victims’.

    I’ve still firmly stand by the idea that any person who is responsible for any decision concerning public transit (from supervisor to mayor and any and all consulting agencies) should be required to use public transit exclusively while travelling within the legal limits of the city of Ottawa for 30 consecutive days between January 01 and March 01 every year as a condition of employment.

    Furthermore, this condition would extend to all family members living at the same address as this same person so that not only would they fully experience their transit system but have to live closely with people doing the same.

    The same idea could apply to cycling infrastructure as well.

    Thanks again, keep up the great posts!

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