Charlottetown Gets Moving

It’s a big day here in Charlottetown: public transit has arrived (routes and schedules). And only 156 years after Upper Canada got theirs!

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.


Johnny's picture
Johnny on September 30, 2005 - 18:17 Permalink

If you think its unreasonable for a bus trip out to the mall and back with shopping included to take around 2 hours, then public transit in Charlottetown is never going to fly with you, unless we have magical rocket buses that stop in front of your house every 5 minutes. Commuting on public transit is time-consuming everywhere in the world, and thats the price you have to pay for clean air and less cars on the road.

Charles's picture
Charles on October 1, 2005 - 06:14 Permalink

I think the busses are pretty much just going to be useful for senior citizens and students, although I think all the students in PEI live right across from UPEI, so I doubt they need a bus. For everyone else, they just aren’t convenient enough.

Considering Canadian winters, any more than a 15 minute wait just isn’t going to fly.

Cyn's picture
Cyn on October 1, 2005 - 18:04 Permalink

Charles is right, alot of the UPEI students live in Brown’s Court. But now that there is a transit system, students can now have the option of renting apartments downtown and much cheaper prices. Not to mention make more reason to put back a grocery store somewhere for the downtown-livers.

Yay for the City!

Josh's picture
Josh on October 2, 2005 - 18:29 Permalink

Johnny (first poster) missed your point entirely. He also sounds like a complacent moron.

I wholeheartedly agree with the statements in the blog entry regarding the poor frequency of scheduling keeping people in their cars.

I live in New Westminster, which is a suburb of Vancouver, BC. Lots of transit in the core but it goes to shit once you hit the suburbs.

I normally work fifteen minutes from home and gladly take transit in to work because it takes about twenty-five minutes to get there. Factor in futzing around with warming up the V8 and parking and it’s the same basic time. Transit is a no brainer. I’m a monthly pass sort of guy.

(Actually, I’ll admit to a spat of driving there when gas was cheap but that was due to being lazy.)

Unfortunately, the company I work for is involved in a labour dispute (TELUS sucks, by the way!) and so I’ve found alternate employment in metal trades at a pipe fab shop in Port Coquitlam. By truck— including parking and clocking in— the trip takes exactly twenty-five minutes.

All my previous experience tells me I should be able to get there in thirty-five minutes as I would have to transfer from light urban rail to a bus. The estimate is grossly inaccurate. One hour and twelve minutes with a kilometer walk on one side and a five-hundred meter walk on the other.

By the time all is said and done, I lose almost three hours of my life to just getting to work.

No thanks, Gordo. Until the Greater Vancouver Regional District wakes up and realizes that transit is supposed to ease commutes instead of burden riders I’ll stay in my truck.

The good news? I just tuned up the beast and also installed K&N filters so fuel economy is up and emissions are down.

The bad news? My truck is big enough that when it rains I kick up waves that swamp the smart cars next to me.