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