Please take this essay on public transit with a grain of salt because I’ve only taken the bus in four Canadian cities, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and saving the worst for the last here in Edmonton. And judging by the current mayor’s smartass retort to my pointed observation little, if anything, will change in the foreseeable future with Edmonton’s subpar public transit system. And the really sad thing is that it could be so much better.
When concerning public transit Edmonton city council seems to only listen to other city councillors, talking heads like Lorne Gunter and bean counters that only see transit in terms of profit margins and taxes. Maybe the city should (for once) listen to its transit dependent residents (mainly the lower income and poor) and let them help decide who should and shouldn’t take public transit instead of effectively ignoring the lower class by cutting back service and raising fares to ride.
Earlier in October Lorne Gunter proclaimed in his usual misguided and fiscally conservative opinion piece, “Why throw our tax dollars at a transit system only a few will use?” For his conclusion he states, “It never ceases to amaze me how freely politicians can spend other people’s money.” Usually if I want to cut to Mr. Gunter’s opinion’s chase I just read the headline and a few of his concluding sentences. In this case since public transit is so near and dear to me (I take it 4 to 5 times daily) I read his full op-ed.
I wish that I hadn’t.
In the first half Mr. Gunter states that “academic research conducted here and elsewhere” and “They’ve probably been to conferences at which “free” transit was all the rage” but Mr. Gunter does not cite his sources for this information. Although later in his essay he sure likes to back up his point(s) with statistics “proving” that ETS should not be subsidized anymore, how expensive ETS is, how little money ETS takes in and how much money ETS loses every year. It would also appear that if Mr. Gunter thinks that only Students, Low-end wage workers and Nannies take public transit then he hasn’t rode on ETS lately, if at all. ETS’s demographic is far wider than he or his followers would care to admit or have any knowledge of too. In addition to this I have no idea where he came up with his “facts” that public transit is faster than driving? Most ETS riders that I know, including myself, know first hand that public transit is almost NEVER faster than taking a car. Lorne Gunter’s agenda is quite simple here, no more subsidies for a transit system that few take.
The sad thing is that his followers will believe this. An even sadder thing is that many of Edmonton’s city council members will probably agree with Mr. Gunter too. Most likely including our mayor, Don Iveson. Speaking of people who don’t ride public transit much Mayor Iveson admitted so in his snarky response to my pointed observation on Instagram (see below). You’ll also see that as of the date that this was published my even more snarky response to Mayor Iveson has gone unanswered.
Let’s move onto the topic of free transit. Free transit may make it safer for drivers who have to ask passengers for the fares to ride. Like Mr. Gunter’s opening statements in his essay, I have no proof to back my up this statement. I only know that I’ve seen drivers come close to getting assaulted (verbally AND physically). So free transit is a start. An even better start would be to actually listen to citizens of Edmonton who ride public transit more than 2 – 3 times a week. Not only that, Edmonton city council could stop pandering to talking heads like Lorne Gunter and his followers because people of the press like Gunter seem to want you to agree with their political agenda and nothing else. No debate, just follow me because my opinion matters more than yours and I need my daily ego boost.
One could argue that I’m doing the same thing here in this essay. Maybe they’re right? I would like to think that with my essays, however many readers less than the megaphone mouths of the Edmonton Sun, have more substance than the select few in the press who seem to have nothing in common with most ETS passengers. Honestly I don’t have many solutions to the ETS’s woes and it seems that neither does Edmonton city council or Lorne Gunter for that matter. Listening to ETS riders is a good start. So is free transit too, but changing a whole public transit system for the sake of pleasing voters or readers is narcissistic.
Oh well, this really should come as no surprise to me anymore. But it never ceases to amaze me how politicians, in bed with certain segments of the mainstream media, listen to each other instead of the people who voted them in.