The bus may not be for everyone, but we should all ride it at least once to see how it works at getting us from one place to another, and whether taking it more often rather than the car is a switch we'd be willing to make.
Guelph Transit works hard to please its riders and city residents in general. After years before council at budget time, the bus service managed to get funding in 2005 for two perimeter routes that travel around the outside of the city, meaning people don't have to go downtown to transfer. Guelph Transit uses biodiesel, helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions and set an example for other drivers who have the option of using such fuels. And on Clean Air Day every year the transit service offers free rides to encourage people to take the bus, and maybe reel in a few new regular customers.
On a recent foray into the land of public transit, Mercury staffer Magda Konieczna found both drivers and riders to be a pleasant, courteous bunch. Her clumsiness, she writes in today's Here section, was met with nothing but patience and even her decision to take a large, awkward composter onto the bus caused little hassle. That pleasantness is something other regular transit riders have noticed, sitting on the bus as drivers pull over between designated stops to let off passengers, and listening as drivers allow university students who have forgotten their ID to get on, with a pleasant reminder to always carry their bus pass. There are always improvements though, and it's not uncommon to hear people say the transit service would be better used if it ran more frequently, not leaving people stranded at a stop for half an hour if they miss their bus.
There are more reasons to use public transit than just being subjected to the niceties of drivers and other passengers. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities notes that municipal governments have the power to control or influence up to half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. A decrease in those numbers can come from investments in or changes to transportation planning. By 2012, the federation estimates, municipalities could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 50 million tonnes with community-wide initiatives.
Residents, however, must also take responsibility for their own transportation choices. Even if taking the bus isn't viable for weekday travel, try taking public transit to the mall one weekend and help the environment out. The Commuter Challenge each June also urges people to leave the car at home and take the bus, your bike or walk for a week. This year the number of people who participated in Guelph was down to 128 from 219 in 2005. We hope those numbers are back up again next year.
People should not have to be forced to ride the bus. It should be a decision that is easy to make. With more frequent service and service on holidays, Guelph Transit might be able to pull more people in, but it's already doing pretty well.