Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thoughts of a Transit Commuter

(Yes I realize this has nothing to do with Canada winning Gold this morning, Mike is judging me slightly for this...he said I should write a hockey related post, I told him to leave me alone and get his own blog.)
I grew up in a town with no public transit. No wait I lied, we had a bus service for a month when I was in high school. My first foray into "commuting" was attempting to catch that bus for a whole afternoon with some friends from school. We drove to city hall to get the schedule, and then drove to a bus stop to meet the bus. But alas, there was no bus. So then we drove to another stop to catch the fabled bus, and still no bus. We spent the afternoon driving around to try to use public transit. How ironic (don't you think?).

This lack of a bus was probably a good indication for the overall experience of public transit: frustration and disappointment at waiting for non existent buses.

In Halifax I got more comfortable with using transit, but driving or walking was my commute of choice. Even after moving to Toronto, I stayed car dependant, and I would still walk 30 minutes vs paying 3 dollars for TTC. But then EVERYTHING CHANGED. Just kidding, not much changed except I started working downtown, and Mike started working slightly north of the city so he gets our car everyday. This leaves me, for the first time in my life, a regular public transit user.

Even though I am walking distance to work, I use the subway/bus system most days for tutoring. I have gotten comfortable with the rush hour commute, the slew of people at union station, the "schedule" of the buses. I have even downloaded a few e-books to keep me entertained. It is legit.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a slew of mishaps (accidentally missing my stop on the subway, 45 minute waits for busses etc.) but I don't actually mind the TTC (GASP!). I know it could be better (more subways/LRTs would be nice!) but compared to Toronto driving, it is a little more relaxing. I can listen to music, read a magazine/book, or just do nothing. On a positive day I look at my time commuting as "free time". On a not so positive day I miss the bus, and wait for 45 minutes is the freezing rain with wet feet, and complain about it for 3 months.

One thing commuting has given me is ample fodder for blog post material:

If you are TTC commuter you may have noticed that on the big scary exit turnstiles there is a sign that says no bicycles. I noticed this one day and had a chuckle, thinking "Who was the one goof that tried to get their bike through the turnstile"...and then I googled and found this:
From the article, this happens once or twice a week. Apparently there are a lot of goofs that make that sign worthy.

Not stopping there, normal people do a lot of strange things while using the TTC. I have witnessed seemingly average business men and women, who I assume deal with people on a functioning level on a daily basis degrade to reflections of our palaeolithic ancestors:

"Ugh. stop. next. move."
"Seat. Mine. [point]"

Or the slightly more poetic on a crowded subway/bus: "BACK THE $%!# UP"

People can get very territorial during the crowded rush hour commute. Once after waiting FOREVER for a late bus at Lawrence Station, the bus finally arrived, and people were very polite letting people get off the bus. But behind the calm fa├žade of Canadian politeness was a quick eyeing of the rest of the anxious crowd. You could almost hear people thinking "If you cut in front of me I WILL CUT YOU!" At that moment I realized if humans are near vicious after waiting for 20 extra minutes for a bus, what will happen in a hypothetical post apocalyptic world.  Hunger games could be more accurate than we all imagine...dun dun dunnnnn.

But if that is actually the future I will be prepared. Using transit has made me walk more than driving ever could. On an average week I am walking at least 10 km extra, and that doesn't even include all the in station walking. (Side note, it gives me great personal satisfaction to take the stairs and pass the CROWD waiting for the escalator..heehee).

 Plus, even though when I moved to Toronto I vowed to never run for a Subway (they come every 2 minutes, there is no need to run for one), I will still run for a bus that comes only every 20 minutes when it is -20 degs out. Who needs the gym when you have commuting!

In conclusion, as much as commuting can be frustrating (45 mins wait for a bus, sorry I can't get over it), I can use it as free time, get some exercise, and roll my eyes at the people who run for the subway.

What is your favourite/least favourite way of commuting? Feel free to share some of your best/worst commuting stories in the comments!

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