Q: How can you travel to Hamilton from Guelph — if you don’t have a car? (A: You can’t — unless you want to travel to Toronto first.)
Q: How can you get to Lindsay from Toronto? (A: By inter-city bus — but only once a day.)
Transit Toronto recently heard from two super-transit users — Shaun Cleaver and Vincent Puhakka — who have produced a map of inter-city bus services in Ontario. (Among his many other activities, Shaun sometimes contributes posts to this site.)
Their map is an essential tool that also fills an unfortunate gap in figuring out how to travel around Ontario. They’ve set up a blog to support what they’re doing, so we’ll use one of their own posts to explain what they’re up to.
“We’re two dudes without cars, who were just as sick of navigating poorly built bus company websites trying to figure out if we could actually see our family in Niagara (in Shaun’s case) or take our special someone for a ski lesson in the Blue Mountains. (that’s all Vincent).
“We’d forgive you for also asking ‘What’s the big deal, why not just get a car and go?’, after all, this is North America; where road maps are plentiful in every corner store and culturally, the idea of hopping in the family sedan for a carbon-fueled ‘stay-cation’ in a smaller city or rural tourist area raises no eyebrows at all.
“To answer this, there’s another thing about us two dudes you should really know; we’ve each spent a lot of time advocating for stronger local transit in Toronto as a part of TTCRiders and Scarborough Transit Action. Beyond Toronto, Shaun even built a map for the informal jitney services operated in Lusaka, Zambia. In our advocacy, we continually noticed a ‘blind spot’ among many, otherwise very committed, urban transit activists; no mention or concern when hearing of yet another rural coach service being taken off the road due to public subsidy cuts or lack of patronage. (hard to build ridership when driving remains ridiculously subsidized by the government!)
“In some sense, North American urban transit is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts as the effects of car culture on urban areas become more well known and, for various reasons, larger numbers of young people are beginning to forgo car ownership in favour of urban living. As well, the environmental movement continues to draw attention to the necessity of a low carbon future and poverty activists point out the costs of transportation on the working class, making transit investment a win in the struggle for equality.
“The funny thing is, while all of these issues aren’t purely city problems (e.g: poverty is deep in post-industrial Niagara Region and climate change is set to affect rural Ontario in many ways) the car remains king in our province outside of the inner cities of, say, Toronto and Ottawa. Nothing illustrates this more than complete and utter lack of any map of intercity transport in Ontario. Sure, some operators publish ones for their own services, like VIA Rail, Ontario Northland and GO Transit; while they clearly are not made by actual riders, they at least represent an understanding that people might want a visual look at where those operators can take them. Still, even these don’t show how each service connects with others in the province. It’s as if the idea that someone might want to know how to travel onward from, say, Barrie to Owen Sound is completely absurd. ‘What, you want to go past here? Why would you want to do that, the Hertz rental office is over there. Go get a car and be a normal person’.
“For the smaller bus operators, not even a bad map exists and so…..Shaun and Vince ride to the rescue! We’re not normal people (you can tell this by the fact that we spent many an evening working on an Ontario bus map) and we’ll be damned if we sit by and accept the auto status quo in this province. Making this map and learning about the state of intercity bus travel has been a fascinating process and in [our blog], we’ll enlighten you, with our methodology, struggles and hopefully delightful observations on intercity mobility.”