I’ve become a public transit user again. After all those years of driving — fighting and complaining about traffic — I’m a rider again. Mostly. And it’s been great.
Dig through my archives and you’ll find that back when I was in Vancouver (but living in Burnaby) I took the sky-train to work nearly every day. It was the era of reading lots and discovering an affinity for being plugged into an iPod. It was the era of strange bus stories, the amusement of seeing the same sorts of people each day, and being part of a larger urban bustle.
Then we moved to Edmonton, and transit was… well… incompatible with my travel routine. I could have managed for a few months when we lived downtown, but later — after the job switch — shipping out to work in Nisku for nearly five years made the thought of using transit laughable.
Then in November I got this new job with the City. Now, needing to go downtown each day, I’ve spent the last five months habituating to first driving to the park-and-ride at the LRT’s most southerly station, then riding the speedy train north into downtown. I have my corporate bus pass. I have a selection of gadgets. I have my ‘usual’ parking spots. And I’ve got that indifferent fight-for-a-seat attitude honed again.
In the winter, amidst crazy weather, students going to University, and system growing pains, this was a trip that took a little more than an hour, me ducking out of the house ten minutes to seven in the morning and wheeling into my desk, coffee in hand, right at eight. Summer (at least according to the University calendar) has arrived, and with it a good twenty minutes from my commute. Shorter stops. Quicker trains. Fewer delays. More room on board. And warmer, to boot.
Despite the length of the ride, I really do like it. I like the forty minutes (give or take) of train time each way, when I read, listen to audio books, play games on my phone, or (like now) write. I people watch, a little and discretely. I see the city go by, albeit the same stretch of city every day. It’s a kind of enforced down time, when there isn’t much to be done about the things on either end of the commute — despite the gadgets and mutliple phones in my pockets.
Oddly enough, one of the first things I got handed at my new job was the transit portfolio. By that I mean they literally handed me a folio with a stack of transit information and casually mentioned that the architecture of the transit section of the website needed some work. I’ve spent the last few months working towards a gradually more refined information structure for about three hundred pages of bus and train info, and getting buy-in from people who need to approve those kinds of major overhauls to the city website. It has been a bit of a side-of-desk project, but don’t mistake that status for inattention. I’ve burned a lot of brain calories honing the new, soon-to-be unveiled site architecture. Tomorrow we start our broader testing. This summer, launch?
But me. I guess for the foreseeable future I’m a train person. Riding. Enjoying this complete change in lifestyle. And so, to say my life lately has been a swirl of trains, buses, and websites would be a bit of an understatement. I don’t recall what I was doing a year ago, but it was definitely much different than this.