GUESS WHAT, FOLKS?

GUESS WHAT FOLKS? TRANSIT WORKS!

I remember way back, practically ten years ago, one of my first pieces in the QCT was a critique of Bob McBryde’s article exhorting us all to save the planet by giving up our cars and taking the bus.

As I recall, I remember pointing out certain flaws in his arguments, not the least of which was the fact that transit was only efficient at peak periods, and that transit vehicles still used up raw resources to be produced and utilized.

Since starting my new job in the office at St. Pat’s Parish, I’ve come to appreciate our transit system here in Québec city. The RTC, as it’s known, has made numerous improvements to its services over the last 35-40 years. When I first moved to Québec city in 1968, we didn’t even have a transit system to speak of. Fournier buses, and a couple of other companies provided service throughout the city, and many parts of town had no service whatsoever.

Before that, the QRL&P (Québec Railway Light and Power, or as my mother and her friends at Bellevue Convent always said ‘Qui Roule Lent et Pu!’), provided electric train service between the Beaupré coast and Palace Station. From there, she’d take a tramway up Abraham hill to Youville square, then a bus to Bellevue Convent.

Since those times, the electric trains have disappeared, and so have the trams, as cars and highways had their heyday. Now, over the last 35 years, we’ve made steady improvement in our bus-based transit system. We now have bus shelters everywhere. Some of them, at large transfer points, are even heated. The schedules for the buses are posted on most bus stops, and the customer info number is plastered on each stop so you can call them from your cell phone at the stop, to see when the bus is coming.

They’ve added a transit hub in Beauport in the east and Les Saules in the west, with transfers to points hither and yon from there. They gave us the 800-801 Metrobus along the east-west axis, and north-south axis, and have since added the 802 for the north-south axis in the west end. These are frequent buses, where you don’t have to worry about when they come, you just go and wait and they come along.

The RTC has added late night service for special events like the summer festivals, the 400th anniversary, St. Jean Baptiste, Canada Day, with special late buses to bring revellers home safely, as well as regularly-scheduled late buses on Fridays and Saturdays. They’ve added low floor buses for the handicapped, as well as express buses between Monday to Friday to go from the suburbs to downtown in the morning, and back in the evening.

This is what really sold me on it. When I first started my new job, I started commuting in my car from Les Saules, and fighting the freeway every morning. It was very stressful. So I looked up on the RTC website for an express route from my place to my work and found one. The 274 takes me literally from the door of my apartment to work in 40 minutes. Driving takes ten minutes longer if I leave roughly at the same time! Duh! A no brainer if you ask me.

I still have my car for when I need to go somewhere after work, and will miss the last express. Then I use the vehicle. Or if I have stuff to transport for myself or friends, going to Church, or if I’m going somewhere where there’s no transit. But apart from that, the car stays in the driveway, and I’m a happy camper using the bus.

If I need to use transit off peak, I just plan my trip ahead of time. I give myself plenty of time to leave earlier, and plan my time of return, so that I can catch the right bus to come back and make the right connections. What’s the hurry? Someone once said that getting there was half the fun. On the bus I can let myself be driven around, and enjoy the ride, while I observe the microcosm of humanity within the metal box on wheels. Quite something.

Anyways, thanks Bob, for making me a believer in transit. You and many dedicated environmentalists are the ones who have made a difference in this world, and continue to do so. I believe you quoted us something in theatre class in St. Lawrence from some writer or poet who said something to the effect of, and I paraphrase generously because I don’t have the exact words: ‘It’s better for a man to have done a little, than to have done nothing.’ Meaning that all the little bits add up to one big bit.

Here’s to the fashioning of the One Big Bit. (The One Big Union didn’t pan out so maybe this will!). OK, I’m going to sign off now. I’ve got a bus to catch. Don’t want to miss that!

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