It takes me 22 minutes to drive to school when there is little traffic. I generally leave close to 7:00 – early enough in the morning that I avoid the steady build up on Highway 403 and the Queen Elizabeth Way that regularly accumulates, and usually arrive at work by 7:25. It felt important as part of the commuting challenge to further explore public transit options in Hamilton and Burlington.
On Tuesday, I left the house at 6:12 am, and walked to the nearby bus stop. There was a light drizzle, and the bus arrived promptly on time. There were not many people on the bus, and when I attempted to pay my $3.50 bus fare with my Presto card I realized it had insufficient funds. The bus driver very kindly waved me on without payment.
Driving in a car daily to and from work insulates you from the world. It is like a metal frame of bubble wrap takes you from A to B. The commuting challenge has forced me out of my car, and traveling on public transit allows me to interact with my community in Hamilton.
The bus traveled to downtown Hamilton, slowly picking up passengers along the way. The passengers were people who rely on transit to commute, and represented the diversity of Hamilton. Construction workers, students, health care aids: some you could tell who they were and where they were going by their dress. Others it was more of a guess.
At Main and Bay I transferred, and as I was approaching King and Bay for my bus to Burlington saw that the bus was starting to leave.
I ran and leapt aboard, and this time did pay the $3.50 fare with my debit card. This bus was full, but a woman near the front invited me to sit next to her, and we trundled off, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. At the Burlington GO station many people got off, crossing the street to get on the commuter train to Toronto. At 7:10, I arrived at my stop, having been on the bus for an hour to get to my destination. I walked the additional 850 meters to school, arriving at 7:25. The entire trip took 73 minutes from door to door.
I learned a great deal from my trip. First of all, I realized that I can make it to school and back without personal emissions from my car – it just takes a long time. Secondly, there are many people in my community who spend a long time on transit every day, and don’t have a choice (like I do) whether they take it or not.
I think that transit should be free. It would get people out of their cars some of the time, and get those cars off the road. Furthermore, it would be a direct and tangible way of financially supporting people who rely on public transit to get to work.