Public Transportation

Vancouver Sky Train

Vancouver Sky Train

I am a country bumpkin. I make no bones about it. When I go somewhere I have to drive. Even Mount Albert which is 6 minutes away by car is a 40 minute walk or a 20 minute bike ride for me. I often long for the feedom of public transit. Once I made a delivery for a friend in Toronto. The directions in were great but due to one way streets, reversing them to go home was next to impossible. I asked a woman in the store how the heck to make my way out of the warren of streets into the open fields… or at the very least to the Don Valley Parkway and  pointed home. Her reply floored me. I don’t know she said. I don’t drive, I always take transit.

Oh my. I was transported by fantasy. A life in which I didn’t have to drive anywhere flashed before my eyes. Just imagine! Oh the money I would save in gas, insurance, car maintainance.
Those of you who use transit regularly are rolling your eyes, I can tell. The romance of a thing is never reality. Think of the cold days waiting for buses that pass too full to pick you up…and splash you on the way by. Think of the places that buses just don’t pass. It’s not that good.

Maybe not. I am willing to concede that riding transit as a tourist during non peak hours and in no particular hurry has to be different than riding to work every day but over the last few days I have been living a transit lover’s dream.

To start with, I love the Whitehorse transit system. People who have to ride to work or would like to ride home from the bar in the evenings laugh at me. The last bus leaves the teminal at 7:30 pm. If you work a late shift you are stuck. It only runs on the hour so if you get off work on the half hour you could spend a lot of time standing in -30 degree weather (at some times of the year) and it doesn’t run at all on Sundays and only half time on Saturdays. So I get their point. It is useless for people who really need it.

On the other hand, It stops about 20 steps from Desiree’s door pretty close to the scheduled time and takes me anywhere I want to go in very short order. The drivers are nice. I meet all kinds of people and it just costs me $2.50 to give me some sense of freedom and familiarize my self with people and places around  town. Monday I met a driver who told me all about his upcoming trip across Canada on a Goldwing motorcycle. He is going to a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary in Lindsay Ontario. His wife was the flower girl at their wedding. This will be her first time riding across the country. They’re trip will take them 5 days. I hope she has lots of padding. I can still feel the tension in my butt from driving those long hours. Just imagine doing it on a motorcycle. Then he gave me a grocery list of things I just MUST do in Whitehorse and then he was gone. I was left with a big smile on my face.

Yesterday when I arrived in Vancouver I knew that I needed to find my way from the airport to Pitt Meadow on the bus. I started with the amazing welcome crew in the reception area of Arrivals. This green jacketed brigade of men and women greet newcomers with information and good cheer. They told me how much the bus would cost for 3 zones and since I had an idea of what I was doing I left it at that.

The first driver I met was really helpful but I couldn’t ride his bus because I only had paper money and not change. OK, I knew I needed the exact fare but I assumed that $5 was $5. Not so. Paper money doesn’t work. He was regretful but sent me to a change machine and went on his way. Of course the change machine wouldn’t work with my five and when I put a ten in, the machine ripped me off…swallowed it and didn’t give me anything. I was frosted. I found someone who called the people who fix those things and then I waited taping my toe impatiently…until I couldn’t do it anymore. I just left and got change from the drug store. Someone got a nice tip for showing up late.

The driver of the next bus was awesome. He told me that I could do my trip for $3.50 not $5. He told me that I was taking the long route and gave me tips that took an hour off my trip and then regaled me with stories of travelers. When we got to the transfer point he made an announcement that got everyone sorted out as to what bus they should take. What a guy. Then he let me off with good wishes for my way. The next driver was an old friend, well not that old, it was the first driver who wouldn’t take the paper $5. He greeted me jovially and agreed that the new route was better. He said he would make sure I got to my stop and when I did, he made sure I was going the right direction on the sky train…The wrong direction would have eaten up all of the time I had saved.

The Sky Train is Vancouver’s subway only most of it is above ground and quite wonderful because the views are great. They appear to drive themselves so I had no great driver experience there but it is a great ride none the less.

The last driver, the one taking me to Pitt Meadows seemed a little colourless by comparisson but when he noticed that my ticket was expired by a couple of minutes he waved me by and let me go without buying another fare.

I am sure that the bored people that you see riding buses every day can find their stops with their eyes closed. Many of them do it in their sleep but when you are a stranger in a strange land it is nice, actually esential to have caring drivers who realize that corners and stops are not obvious. It helps if stops are called out and if they remember to call your stop when they said they would. Those who go above and beyond are angels to travelers and I have been blessed by many angels.

I am driving to the airport to pick up Fred this afternoon and I am sure that the drive will not be half as relaxing as the ones I had yesterday.

Probably no posts for the next couple of days. I am going to Horse Shoe Bay for a visit. Talk soon.

One Response to Public Transportation

  • Janice says:

    Wow what travel stories and those are just the local busses! Just think if each of us got on a bus and chatted the bus drivers up like I can picture you doing we would probably all have great bus stories unlike the ones you usually hear from people. It really does sound like you are the right person to be traipsing all over Canada chatting up people and then telling us all about it.
    Well have fun in Horse Shoe Bay…have a nice visit with Fred! I hope it is full of wonderful surprises!

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