Weeks away from turning twenty years old, I still don’t drive a car. I’ll learn the skill somewhat soon, but as of right now and in the foreseeable future I am 100% a pedestrian and public transit user. I really like it this way – while I may be bound by weather and transit timetables (and the rare occurrence of a possible GRT strike next Monday), I like the cost effectiveness of my way of travel and how it forces me to be outside in more social environments than when I would otherwise be alone in a car. Also, I’m an environmentalist, and that argument speaks for itself.
I enjoy my transportation lifestyle, but of course there are things that irk me; drivers who think they have the right of way when they don’t, late (or worse, early) bus arrivals and departures, and snow. I will admit that my opinion of snow is that it’s problematic in cities. It is only this way, though, because cities seem to make it so. That is to say that if there were better organization of snow removal, a minor blizzard wouldn’t be that disruptive of an event. Other technologies such as heated sidewalks are an option, too. However, these things can’t happen by the snap of someone’s fingers. This technology is expensive.
What I will focus on in this blog is the relationship between snow and the bus system. However, I won’t really be focusing on the mobility side of things, but rather the accessibility of the situation that snow creates (or, rather, the lack thereof). Everyone knows that snow throws off bus schedules by a little bit due to poor visibility and often dangerous road conditions, so there’s no point talking about that. There’s something else that has really bothered me over the course of these winter months: the lack of snow removal or salting at bus stops. To get you more engaged in the topic, here are some pictures I collected on a recent walk home after the bus:
You can see how difficult it would be to enter and exit the bus at stops like this, especially if you had a stroller with you or mobility issues. Take note that these pictures were taken days after the last snowfall after the snow had frozen over due to low temperatures. The terrain would be just as frustrating to cross in fresh snow, pure ice, and even thick slush.
There is a solution to this that the City of Waterloo doesn’t seem to care for (except at extremely popular stops which look plowed). When sidewalk plows do their sidewalk work, it should not take more than an extra minute to plow over the majority of the snow that currently inhibits the accessibility of passengers entering and exiting buses at those stops. In addition to this, to ensure that street plows don’t negate the work sidewalk plows have done (which happens way too often, unfortunately) better time organization and scheduling would ensure that roads are plowed prior to when sidewalks and bus stops are plowed to keep all snow out of the way. Also, where is the salt? The bus stops I frequent are not salted, making the snow and ice trek all that more dangerous.
You could say in response to this blog post that I shouldn’t be complaining about the snow because I choose to live in Canada, etc, etc. While that’s somewhat of a valid point to make (it’s a little expensive to move to a whole other region at my age, but sure, technically I could move away) I would argue that it’s important for cities to accommodate transit riders and ensure more safe and comfortable areas for people to enter and exit the bus. This should be true regardless of the weather-related situations these cities are forced to be in. However, these winter accessibility issues aren’t the fault of the bus service. It should be the responsibility of both the bus service and the city to provide safe accessibility for transit riders. According to Grand River Transit and the City of Waterloo, they are both committed to high accessibility standards, yet they need to work together on this issue to resolve it.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!