“I’ll Make it on Time, I Think?” The Captive Transit User Series: Part 3

This is part of an ongoing series of posts discussion issues I personally encounter while taking public transit in Edmonton. Links to other posts will be added on an ongoing basis:

What is a Captive Transit User? I learned about the term for the first time from the City of Edmonton’s website. The easy definition is: someone who takes public transit because it’s the best (or only available) option for them to travel around. The part about feeling ‘captive’ comes from the restriction that sometimes comes up, perhaps because one is too poor to own and maintain a vehicle, one does not know how to drive, or for medical reasons, cannot operate a vehicle. In many ways, I relate to this a lot. Though I’m pretty fortunate to afford the occasional taxi ride, and with my husband having a car.

Volunteering and attending events take me to many parts of the city. Whenever people I chat with ask how I got there, and I say “public transit”, there’s a short flash of sympathy on their faces, followed by a slight grimace. One of the reasons is because they know and I know, how much time it takes to get around.

Taking transit, or at least using this method to get around, should never replace a car in terms of speed. I think that’s mindset flaw that many people have, particularly those who drive.

But I am not going to deny the fact that it does take a lot of time to get around places, while being optimistic that the connections that a transit user has to take actually work. Given the realities of travel, traffic, construction, and winter conditions cause a lot of delay. Missing connections cause stress and can discourage people from using public transit, or worse, grudgingly use it day in and day out, while making plans to get out of ‘feeling trapped’ as soon as possible, which is in the form of getting a car.

Frequency and convenience are two important factors that influence the appeal of taking transit.

Honestly, this is why I have mixed feelings with the Bus Network Redesign on a personal level.

First, the very micro-thinking, self-focused, part of me laments that I will lose the frequent bus stop that’s just a few steps away from my house. It’s so close, I shovel snow off the bus shelter during the winter, haha! I mean, the bus stop will not be removed altogether, it will be replaced by a less frequent, local bus route. The frequent major route is a 13 minute walk away.

Second, the solution-focused part of me is curious on how I would adjust to a 7 minute walk eastward, or a 13-minute walk northward to one of the several new, frequent bus routes. The 13- minute walk northward is a more familiar setup for me since I have done the same route on the weekends when taking certain buses. The idea of hopping on a bus that comes every 8 minutes is quite appealing. And since I’m an office worker who sits on my bottom most of the day, I suppose that a walk is actually a healthy thing to integrate in my daily routine.

Finally. the big-picture, community-oriented side of me is hopeful that once this new set of routes and schedules are implemented, there will be some hard evidence that will encourage the city to tweak things for the benefit of Edmontonians. Because I volunteer for our citizens -based government advisory board on public transit, I learned that revamping a city’s entire public transit network is something that many North American cities are going through right now.

The busy and fast paced way we are living our lives, pushes people to do things the quickest way. Traveling is one of those tasks that people don’t always have time or patience for. This is an important consideration when planning, changing, and implementing effective transit services.

Managing Winter Without Driving Yourself Nuts

By: Giselle General

Living in Canada comes with a huge adjustment coming from one thing: winter! Even those who lived in colder regions like the Cordilleras or Tagaytay in the Philippines, are not spared from the shock, the pain, and the hassle from having to deal with temperatures that rival our refrigerators and freezers. This list is a small collection of different techniques on managing the season, especially in a place like Edmonton where winter can get cold and long.

Have a person who appreciates your city. My spouse is a born-and-raised Edmontonian so I am lucky in that regard. This has helped us do activities (both winter related and not winter related) to keep us from feeling too trapped in the house all the time. If there isn’t one, be that person!

Have a positive, or at least neutral, emotional reaction to winter-related household chores. The complaining will likely only compound the sting of frigid weather as you shovel the sidewalks, brush off the snow of the car windows, or sprinkle gravel when it is zero degrees and everything starts to get icy. Procrastinating on winter clearing tasks can actually make them more difficult or more expensive. Snow that is already packed in or stepped on is heavier and more difficult to scrape off. Ignoring the draft on a window or door that is not sealed can increase one’s heating bill. Denying that patch of ice on the sidewalk or stairs can cause an accident.

Learn about and appreciate what your government does when it comes to snow clearing. Snow clearing is the responsibility of the municipal government for roads and public places. Follow the law on what happens right after a large snowfall such as the parking ban, which means not parking your car along a road so the machinery can clear snow effectively. Another important task – and it is the law – is clearing the snow in front of your home, business or any other building you own. It may be a drag, but perhaps thinking of this as following the principle of “tapat ko, linis ko” can be a motivation. That saying translates to something like “It’s my ongoing duty to clean and maintain the space in front of me”. And if something that is supposed to be cleared by government staff was not done properly, it’s okay to send a report – they are not going to kill you! Any resident can call, email or use the 311 app to mention what needs to be fixed and its location.

Walking safely in winter. A mantra I have started to deliberately embrace is “better late than injured”. It took me three years to eventually hear about the “penguin walking technique” to minimize the likelihood of slipping when the pathways are tricky. I have yet to learn how to land safely when I inevitably slip, though I kept on hearing that it’s better to fall backwards on your butt than falling forwards on your face.

Try at least one winter activity and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. The simplest is going for walks in our River Valley Trails. They are beautiful at all times of the year and it’s such a sight in the winter! Community leagues and churches in your neightbourhood will likely host at least one winter-related activity and our city has lots of winter festivals! Candy Cane Lane is a must-visit at least once. Our city even has a website specified for this, called Winter City Edmonton, where you can learn more information about different activities, both outdoor and indoor that you can try during the season. And if you are the charitable type, there are different fun walks/ fundraisers you can participate in that not only helps those who are most affected by winter and homelessness, but shares a valuable perspective about living during winter. There are lots of them, but two examples are the Coldest Night of The Year and Cold Hands Warm Heart.

Proper winter gear is a form of essential self care. To the Filipinos out there: during typhoon season we would want to be well equipped with an umbrella and raincoat right? It’s the same thing with winter. Find the pair of gloves that work with you and get an extra pair. There are anti-slip ice cleats that you can put on your shoes to make your walk less slippery. There are even rechargeable heated insoles for your shoes to keep your feet from freezing. There are attachments to help handling the snow shovel more easily so you won’t hurt your back. These items are worth it. Caring for your health and protecting your body is worth it.

Small talk about weather is fine, but don’t stop at the complaining. I think it’s a Canadian norm here, that at the lunch table or as a casual conversation topic in an event, the first topic is about the weather. That in itself is OK, but if it’s winter, it usually focused on complaining about how cold it is. I think this perpetuates that winter is nothing but awful, when it’s just how it is. I encourage anyone to insert something to make the conversation more positive or more interesting, perhaps talking about any topic related to the tips above. A volunteer lawyer at work was the first one who talked to me about the anti-slip ice cleats, so our conversation ended with a vibe of gratitude. A colleague during lunch talked about the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, and I left that conversation amazed at the community initiative. Another colleague lives in an acreage and tells all these adorable stories about the wildlife that roam around during winter.

There is beauty and adventure and excitement that can only be had during this season, and the not-so-fun stuff is actually just as manageable as mowing the lawn in the summer. I hope that some of these tips are helpful and that you can find other ones that keep you warm, safe and happy during winter!