Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Epic Bus Saga

I've spent the last few weeks mostly at my parents', since going home might mean being stranded by snow or poor weather (when the going gets tough, the buses get going...back to their cozy bus shelters without any passengers on board). However, three days ago there was a break in the weather, and I finally felt like I'd be able to go home without getting stuck there.

The next day, the weather was a bit inclement in the morning, some blowing snow, rain, and wind. But by the afternoon the skies had cleared, the sun was out, and everything looked fairly pleasant. I got invited to some friends who live nearby (although off the mountain, unfortunately). Checking the Translink website and the SFU Road Conditions site, things seemed to be running smoothly, and I figured it was safe to venture out of the house. I was wrong. :(

I left their house at 10:30pm, not too late, I thought. Unfortunately, the temperatures had dipped and the roads were frozen, and they couldn't get their car out. Not wanting to cause any trouble, I decided to take a taxi. The taxi came and made me walk half a block in this treacherous ice (because apparently people don't shovel their sidewalks anymore), and when I finally climbed in, the driver told me he wouldn't go up the hill. Admittedly, the side streets weren't in good condition, but the main roads were clear and perfectly fine! I got him to take me to the bottom of the hill, where I thought I'd wait for a bus. Except when I got to the stop, there were people there (not a good sign). They said they'd been waiting for about an hour, with no sign of a bus in either direction. The long and the short of it is, I waited about an hour and a half in subzero temperatures before a bus finally deigned to pick me up (several had gone by before, and although they were operational apparently decided not to stop for me).

Now, apart from the freezing cold and unpleasantness of waiting around for a bus for over an hour, a few other things annoyed me about the situation. At 11:15, I decided to call the Translink phone line to ask if the buses were running (apparently at this point, the SFU site said buses were 'delayed'). After being on hold for 15 minutes, the operators hung up on me. Apparently the 'service' ends at 11:30, so I guess they didn't feel the need to deal with my call. When I did finally get on the bus, the driver told me that he had no idea anyone was out so late (well, I didn't intend that, having left two hours earlier) and that we should just stay on the hill and never leave. I'm sure the professionals who spent hundreds of thousands on apartments and condos up there with the assurance that the community was 'green' and 'transit-based' would love that, too. Not to mention, what should we be eating for three weeks when the university is closed? There are no grocery stores to speak of on campus.

Looking back on it now, it wasn't too bad, since luckily for me I had a place to go. But the other person at the bus stop had to walk up to the top of the hill, because he didn't. That's a two hour walk in the dark, for a person without adequate equipment (flashlight, matches, emergency food). I hope he made it back ok.

Anyway, for a 'world class city' shouldn't we be able to do better than this? Cities like Toronto have more snow than us, and they don't grind to a halt because of it. Phone services shouldn't leave you on hold because they don't want to answer your call and then hang up when it's time to close up for the day, and we shouldn't be expected to shut ourselves in for three weeks in case we can't make it home again. :P

No comments: