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Open Access: Troubles with transit

Leah Christensen’s weekly column.



File photo of Guelph Transit.

Last Saturday afternoon my husband generously handed me the last can of Coke, and suggested we go to Clairfield Plaza and get another case.

Though his suggested destination was about 5 miles from our apartment, and a rather long bus ride at that, I jumped at the idea.

In close proximity to the bus stop is a Shoppers Drug Mart that sells Coke by the 18 pack instead of just 12 packs, and in even closer proximity is a bank, and a Starbucks.

Hubby offered to run to Shoppers and get the Coke, while I enjoyed a coffee. What could be better? We need to run out of Coke more often.

In our haste to catch the next bus, we went out with neither coats nor umbrellas. We wouldn’t have far to walk, and it was warm.

Unfortunately, when we exited our building we realized it had started pouring.

The mumbled cussing that followed had nothing to do with the small amount of water on our heads. No, we were more concerned about the lake that would be awaiting us upon our arrival at the Clair road bus stop.

When we got there, Mother Nature did not disappoint. The lake that welcomed us looked like it had been put there to protect the bus stop from intruders.

How is that a safe place for passengers to stand? The driver had plenty of common sense and let us off closer to the Starbucks where there was less mud.

That was nice, and he was properly thanked for his good deed, but what good would that do us when we wanted to go home after? Where would we stand so they’d know we were actually waiting for the bus?

I’ve been to bus stops where I’ve sat on nearby benches, benches that anyone would think were associated with the stop, and the drivers have flown right by me. Why aren’t those benches closer to the signs?

I was told by a supervisor that the company that makes the benches and kiosks is not actually associated with transit, or something like that.

This is a rather odd technicality since one naturally associates that kind of bench and those kiosks with bus stops. If they are not affiliated with the bus stop, why are they always near them?

We got lucky that day, to have a relatively dry spot on which to get off the bus. There have been days when drivers have had no choice but to let us off in sinking mud, and we’ve almost fallen.

Of the stops my husband and I frequent, the two biggest offenders are the aforementioned stop on Clair Road, and the one just across the road from the Tim Horton’s, located at 715 Wellington Rd. West.

That was not an issue before the #9 Waterloo Ave. changed routes. Also, the old bench, the one where drivers used to pass me by, is still there.

I’ve seen out-of-towners and fellow Guelphites sitting there, because it looks like a bus stop. The new bus stop at Tim Horton’s is located in a grassy spot that is a lot further from the sidewalk than most of those grassy areas that separate the sidewalks from the curbs.

Fortunately the driver who took us back downtown from Clair Rd. that day, saw us standing in the same spot where we were let off, nowhere near the flooded bus stop. Good thing, because an Uber home would’ve cost $17.50.

Then there is a bus stop near a high rise on Waterloo Ave. my husband and I often use. There is a beautiful slab of pavement where the bus has plenty of room to stop.

The problem is, the pavement dips down like a driveway. This is not a problem for me, as I just grab both bus rails, lift myself up with my arms, and swing off, or step up and lift myself on.

Anyone who says women don’t have the upper body strength of men has never seen me do this. They’ve also never seen me fling a case of coke six feet into my waiting shopping cart. That’s a very good way to get someone to stop tailgating in a grocery store.

There is a beautiful kiosk with seating in it right behind this slab, and an official bus stop about 12 feet to the right. There is no pavement near the sign, but most buses will stop by the slab if people are standing there or sitting in the kiosk. Many drivers know me, and will remember to stop there.

Unfortunately I still get the odd bus driver who is a total stickler for the rules and will pull right up to the sign. Why don’t they move that sign closer to the paved slab?

Then there are the drivers who will move past the slab and insist I should get off on the grass because it’s higher, and that’s better for me. When I tell them it is not better for me they take it personally, as if I’d just called them a load of bull. Really?

I’m the one with the “disability” (again I prefer challenge) and some able-bodied person is telling me what works for me. Thing is, the paved curb is above the grass, so when I step off, the heel of my shoe is raised, and my toe lands in such a way that I feel like I’m standing in high heels.

I have nearly fallen several times. Also, the ground there is not even, and like the other two stops, it can get quite muddy; a problem that does not exist at the paved slab.

Drivers, please!

When a person with special needs tells you what they need, listen to them. If that need differs from what you think we need, it’s not the end of the world.

Folks with disabilities, we have a right and a duty to speak up for ourselves. We need to be our own advocates, especially when some well meaning person unwittingly tries to talk us into doing something that could be dangerous for us.

Several times I have called Guelph Transit. I know all the supervisors by name. Like most of the drivers, they are wonderful people.

I have not yet gotten a decent answer as to why there are unpaved stops in Guelph.

What Guelph Transit needs to realize is it’s just a matter of time before someone falls and severaly injures themselves.