This was commonly heard on the buses in Birmingham, as the driver tried to squeeze as many passengers on as possible. We took the buses everywhere, and still do when we go over to visit, because they are so easy to use, and we didn’t have a vehicle. I never had a driver’s license in England, although I began learning to drive while I was there. Cars were a luxury and most families didn’t have them.
When I came to Canada, it was almost the reverse; cars were normal and public transport was not. Everything was so spread out that you needed a car to get around. Within a year I had my drivers license. I have only used public transport here in a couple places; Guelph, Oakville, and Toronto. Toronto is a piece of cake, with subway trains running every 4 or 5 minutes, but Guelph and Oakville were horrible. Buses only ran every 30 minutes, or less, and in Oakville, they only went to one place, the train station. It took a minimum of two buses to get anywhere.
Why am I harping on about buses? Well, I attempted the Mississauga bus system yesterday. Faced with three days a week without a vehicle, I decided to try it out for sanity’s sake.
I went last week to pick up a bus route map and timetables. Nope. Mississauga is paperless. Everything is online, and although they do print route maps they wouldn’t have any until October. Although environmentally responsible, not very helpful.
I went online and figured out a route to the house. I was surprised to see that the local bus into the city centre ran every 10 minutes. Wow! That’s great. The next bus was an express and went on the highway. A bus on the highway?! What is that all about. The buses in Birmingham couldn’t go above 45 mph. I know because our youth club chartered one to go to Blackpool for a day trip and it took us about four hours to get there!! I think we had two hours there and we had to turn around and come back. Big fun! Anyway, I digress. The salient point here, is that buses don’t go on highways.
With some trepidation I set out yesterday morning with my $3.25 in change jingling in my pocket. The first bus arrived, on time. I picked up my transfer and sat down. Unlike British buses where you pay for each bus, here they give you a transfer ticket so you get on another bus for a single fare. A pretty good deal. In the time it took to write a paragraph, we arrived. Then I had to find the other bus stop and I only had five minutes. Mississauga had a map of the bus stops posted in the bus terminal. Wow, again. It took me thirty seconds to find my next bus stop. The next bus also arrived on time, and it went on the highway, and it reached the speed limit. I arrived at my destination an hour after I had started.
I was really impressed. I saw lots of destinations flashing on other buses that I would like to try out. One of the routes goes to Kipling subway station which is the beginning, or end, of the Toronto subway system. Other buses went to various malls and community centres. Most impressive, for me, is that they were all wheelchair accessible. Also, if you have a bicycle, no problem, you pop it onto the bike rack on the front of the bus.
My first trip on Mississauga public transport was a success. For me, it spells freedom. I will be able to get around without a vehicle. It’s a bit of surprise after living in Ontario for two and a half decades to discover an alternative to the family car. Mississauga has gone up another notch in my estimation.