As our family’s car use has decreased almost down to nothing, with the remaining rationale being trips to Canadian Tire and the grocery store, that we can actually travel around Charlottetown on buses for the first time is a Big Deal.
The actual hardware implementing the system is a bizarre fleet of modern “ye olde” buses dressed up to look like trolley cars. You thought people made fun of us over the goofy Anne thing, just wait until they get a load of these.
Yet one doesn’t want to look a gift-bus in the mouth, so I’ll grit my teeth, don my waistcoat, and mount the trolleys just as if we had infrastructure not to be ashamed of.
The schedule presents something more of a challenge. Rumours were that the buses would run every half hour; indeed I had a city councillor in my office earlier in the week suggesting that missing one, and having to wait 30 minutes for the next one, might be a deal breaker. As it turns out, he didn’t know the half of it: the buses every two hours. While that might be fine for people who would set off to make a day of going to the mall, I can’t see how a schedule like that meshes with anyone’s real life.
Last night, for example, I needed to go out to Wal-mart. I thought perhaps I would wait until this morning and take the bus out rather than driving my car. So I looked at the schedule: if I caught the 10:00 a.m. bus at the Confederation Centre, I would be at Wal-mart at 10:30 a.m. I could get out, do my shopping, and catch the 11:15 a.m. bus back downtown, arriving at 11:50 a.m. Figure in time to walk to the bus, and it’s taken me two hours to do an errand which last night, once I decided to drive, took me 20 minutes.
But that’s not the worst of it: if I missed the 10:00 a.m. bus, I’d have to wait until the next one arrived, two hours later, at 12 Noon.
This morning Catherine walked out to the Superstore. She thought she might take the bus back downtown instead of a taxi. But she would have had to spend two hours waiting for the next bus to do that. She took the taxi.
Transit isn’t something you can do halfway. Buses that run every two hours aren’t simply “half as good” as buses that run every hour, or “25% as good as buses that run every 30 minutes.” Buses that run every two hours are “appointment” buses, not “transit” buses, and if I can’t think “I should take the bus instead of driving” and have a reasonable chance of catching a bus in the next 15-30 minutes, there might as well be no buses at all.
That all said, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief until I’ve had a chance to actually experience Charlottetown Transit first hand; I’m not unwilling to adjust my life to bend to the collective schedule, at least somewhat, so maybe this will work out. I just hope the City mothers and fathers have the patience to stick it out, and the tenacity to realize that before this is singing along we might need more rather than less.