June 18, 2009

Car Sick

I’m writing this from the front seat of a bus. A coach line called Ontario Northland. I’m going back to my hometown to be with my mother.

As I sit on the bus, in the front seat (any Canadian will respect my choice to stay near the front), I’m stuck wondering about public transit.

As I alluded to in a blog from the beginning of the week, I hate car culture. It’s polluting; it perpetuates our need for oil; abetting urban sprawl - it gives the suburbs a reason for being, where driving to the store for a quart of milk is a way of life.

I never learned to drive. I was taking lessons at 17 when my father was in a horrendous crash. I never regained the nerve.

So here I am, on the bus, an alternative for the poor and very poor alike, wishing I was on a train.

My hometown is about 150 miles away from where I live in Toronto. Taking the train is a great big production, like something out of a 1940s movie. The train leaves Toronto and journeys right across Canada to Vancouver. Sounds great – Positively romantic. The thing is the train only runs 3 days a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It leaves at 10:30 at night.

Because there are only 2 of these cross-country trains, the schedule can be pretty loosey-goosey. Once the train leaving Toronto was 8 hours late. The return trip can be worse. There is not waiting room or ticket booth, just a platform and a 1-800 number. One summer night it was 9 hours late. Luckily, I had a home base to wait at.

What I would love would be a train system like the Europeans have. While I realize distances are shorter there and trains are electric, I dream of going to the train station and catching the hourly train to my hometown. And if I missed the 11 o’clock I could always catch the one at 12:00 not have to wait until next Saturday.

I remember being in Munich and having to catch the commuter train to the airport. The board above my head said “S8- next train in 45 seconds”. Bah! Riiight. Sure. As if. And after two other trains efficiently sailed in and out, there was my train before the minute was up.

To get from Munich to Salzburg there is a choice of at least 6 trains per day. Some direct; some through many delightful towns and villages.

In my heart I wish that some of the billions that the Canadian and American governments spent bailing out the car industry had been spent alternatively setting down an infrastructure for good mass transit. Wonderful, non-polluting, electric trains that leave when I want them to.

To my blog friends, I’m going to be away from my email for a while. Excuse me for not getting to you right away.


Brian Miller said...

i am with you on alternative transportation...and mass transit allows you to meet so many interesting people as well. safe travels.

Baino said...

I think there are great similarities between Canada and Australia in relation to public transport. Our trains around the cities are good but unreliable, my local bus system is incredible (thanks to upgrades during the 2000 Olympics) but long distance trains are few and far between, much better to get a coach which are cleaner and better than the Greyhound system. But you're right, if governments spent more on a good quality public transport system, we'd get more cars off the road! Have a good trip!

willow said...

I can't imagine not being able to drive! Sadly, the US is such a car centered society. My daughter lives downtown Philly and doesn't drive. But the public transit system is very good there.

Hope all is well with your mother.

Margaret Gosden said...

You are so right in everything you say. In fact, I seem to recall that President Obama has a similar vision, no doubt put on the back burner for a while. One would think that with the breakup of GM it would be a great opportunity for the government to put all those people back to work to restore the railroad systems, and then some. Setting an example to Canada, who surely would benefit from an influx of visitors following improvements on both sides of the border. Take a good book with you, as if I need to tell you that!

sallymandy said...

I agree with you about public transit.

Have a good visit with your mom.

I have not forgotten about our graphic doodads, either. Thank you for your patience, friend.

Ima Wizer said...

Be safe on your journey, be well and God Bless.

☆sapphire said...


The transportation conditions are quite different in Japan.
The public transportation system is generally pretty good around the country, though it is a little inconvenient in rural areas. In urban areas, trains, including subways, run every 3~10 minutes and they usually run right on time. And so do long-distance bullet trains.

But being too punctual sometimes brings troubles: Passengers easily get irritated only by 10~15 minute-delays and train drivers are apt to face excessive strains that once caused a tragic derailment accident with a large number of casualties.

Please enjoy your time with your mother!! The place where you are
is so beautiful! The sunset is amazing!! Thank you!