I have been a transit rider for nearly my entire life.
Some of my first childhood memories involve riding downtown with my mom on the bus, waiting in anticipation to pull the cord for our stop and hear the “bing.” Maybe it was because we were usually going to meet my dad at his office, or because — at the age of four — taking the bus seemed like a big adventure, but for some reason I always loved those trips.
The excitement of riding the bus, and ringing for my stop, has certainly faded over the years, but my appreciation for reliable, safe, accessible transportation around the city has grown substantially.
There is nothing glamorous about riding the bus, but having lived in six Canadian cities now, where transit was my main mode of travel I can honestly say that relying on public transportation is not nearly as awful as some of my more car-reliant acquaintances think.
Many times I have been met with looks of surprise or disbelieving laughs when I say, “I prefer to take the bus.”
Since moving to Ottawa nearly five years ago, the bus has become such a part of my regular routine that it almost seems strange on the rare occasions I catch a ride with someone or hop in a cab.
I hadn’t thought much about how much a part of my life the bus had really become until — like tens of thousands of other Ottawans — the winter transit strike took away my transportation.
As much as riding the bus is a necessity for many people, it is also a choice. Whether it’s because of an inability to drive or own a car, environmental reasons, economic factors or something else, when we as riders make the decision to ride the bus, it gives us independence, freedom and, on most days, a relatively stress-free way to get from point A to point B.
Sure there are frustrations with the bus-riding lifestyle in Ottawa, like rude passengers, late bus arrivals or these flimsy new over-sized and tissue paper-like tickets, but all in all most days it’s — dare I say — an enjoyable ride. Or at the very least a fascinating way to observe the city and the people who live here.
It’s why I look so forward to getting the chance to write about it in this column.