Sunday, 26 June 2011


"Around the country [America] we are seeing in many, many communities..., a rebirth in the use of public transportation,....People are discovering that for many of their trips, good, quiality public transportation suits their needs."
William Millar

As always, if pressed for time, scroll down to the WHAT CAN YOU DO section.

A friend of mine recently moved.  One of the main adjustments she mentioned was having to get used to public transit once again, and how she would spend about an hour getting to work, and then home again.  This inspired me to rethink the blog entry that I had planned for this week. 

I had started to prepare the research and materials I would need to discuss how wonderful public transit can be for the environment (don’t worry – an upcoming blog entry will deal with just this subject, lucky you!).  Many of us take buses, or metros (subways to those of you outside of Quebec and France), and know first-hand the economic benefits.  We often hear of the ecological benefits.  However, we rarely hear of the benefits that can be had on a personal level, with a shift in attitude. 

As someone who spends A LOT of time on public transit (some days four or five hours, getting to various meetings), I think I know a little something about the subject.  Yes, I’ll be honest; there are days that I wish I had a car, and that I spent less time travelling back and forth.  The truth is that public transit is the most practical option for me, given my budget.  The fact  is that it is also the most responsible option available to me if I have long distances within the city to travel to (otherwise walking, biking, etc. are the most responsible options – again, to be covered in upcoming blog entries).  It can be a royal pain in the butt at times – especially on those Saturday mornings that I have to be at the bus stop at 06h30 in order to get to work on time. 

However, I learned a long time ago that a shift in my attitude not only lead to an acceptance of my reality, but also celebrated unseen opportunities afforded me by my reliance on public transit.  The truth is that given the reality of rush-hour traffic these days, the time I spend on buses and metros is probably equal to or less than the amount of time I would spend in a car, stuck in traffic.  I feel much better about the environmental impact I have getting to work/meetings/etc. than I would if I were driving a car.  My expenses are much lower, and I can (and do) choose to spend the money I would have on car payments, parking, insurance, maintenance, and repairs on items that more accurately reflect my civic and political values. 

I have also learned the etiquette of bus/metro ‘culture’. 

1.   Go without perfume for the trip in to work or back home.  If you do choose to wear perfume, please use a very light hand as some of us are quite sensitive to scents. 

2.   Along that line, please PLEASE be kind and practice good personal hygiene (for obvious reasons). 

3.   If an elderly or disabled/injured person gets on a full bus, and if you see that that person would like a seat but is too embarrassed to ask for it, please politely encourage the person in the designated seat to relinquish it. (While occasionally someone with an ‘invisible’ disability will be installed in these seats, most of the time it is people who use them because they know that no one will call them on it.)  If these seats are already taken by elderly/disabled people, then please offer your seat. 

4.   If you are with children and an older person gets on a full bus, please either place the child on your lap and offer his/her seat to the older person, or have the child stand.  (You can steady the child in a number of ways, all of them safe.)  This will teach the child many lessons (respect for elders, the importance of sharing within a social context, basic etiquette, that s/he can improve his/her environment even at a young age, and that s/he is not the centre of the universe).

5.   Please carry Kleenex with you, and use it if you need to.

6.   Please cough/sneeze into your elbow, not into the air, the face of a fellow passenger, or into your hand (the same hand that will later touch a seat or pole on the bus).

7.   Please take your garbage with you.  If you can carry it in full, you can carry it out empty!

8.   Please be free with your use of the words “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.  Buses and metros are often crowded, and filled with stressed fellow travellers.  You can make or break someone’s day just by being nice.

Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned from taking public transit is that fitting in ‘me time’ is possible in an insanely hectic schedule, and that it doesn’t have to take place on tropical beaches, or at expensive restaurants (although those who would like to provide me with those experiences, for comparative purposes of course, are welcome to make a donation to the auntiapathy research fund!). 

I am not saying that my readers should give up their cars and immediately switch to public transportation.  I am lucky enough to live in a city with a good public transit system.  Many live in areas with no public transit system at all, or in suburbs where using buses and/or metros are impractical.  (Now you know by now I’m going to mention an upcoming blog entry about those issues, don’t you?)  However, for those of us who rely or are able to choose public transportation, here are some ideas regarding how you can choose to spend your transit time.  Reading is an obvious choice, but here are a few others you may not have thought of:

 Cuddle with your Daddy, and then take a nap...

 Visit with some of the local fauna...

including future entomologists and their subjects.

Text, or listen to music, or eat lunch...

...or eat breakfast for that matter.

You can prepare for a protest by cutting up flyers...

You can knit (and if you give knitting courses, this is a good way to advertise too, as long as you bring along business cards!)...

If it's summer, you can play 'spot the tattoo', which is actually a lot easier and more fun than you might imagine...

You can even reap economical benifits in unexpected ways!

I guess the point of this blog entry is that using public transit, while it may be a necessity rather than a choice for some, does provide us with an opportunity to be good to ourselves as well as good to others, in addition to leaving a smaller environmental footprint and a larger bank account.


1.   Shift your attitude.  See your travel time as ‘down time’ in which to shift into gear (pun definitely intended) for work, or decompress for home.

2.   Prepare for your time.  Bring snacks.  Bring music.  Bring literature.  (Bring bugs, bring pets, bring whatever…)

3.   Use the travel time to visit with friends, or bond with family.

4.   Calculate how much a car would cost (and include all the expenses).  Then calculate how much you spend on public transit.  By yourself a treat and reward yourself with some of your savings.

5.   Learn how you lessen your environmental impact by taking public transit.  You should feel better. You can do this by calculating the distance and using  this website .

6.   You may also be able to calculate the difference by using your public transit system’s website.  Mine tells you how many tons of carbon emissions I save a year by making return trips to the addresses I plug in.

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