A Note About “Cheating” on my #TransitTrial #MultimodalTrial

It’s funny…after listening to my CBC interview (link here: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/london-morning/segment/13236000), I noticed again that Rebecca used the term “cheating” on my transit trial and it made me think about it for a minute.

My reasons for this “experiment” were numorous. Mostly, I had to make an immediate and drastic change due to some unfortunate turns of events with my finances. But secondarily, I wanted to check out the system and review it from the inside for myself. Knowing that I had minor work obligations involving my vehicle, I decided to still adhere to those while on weekends vehicle-sharing with my boyfriend. It just made sense to me. This is how I’ve also saved 10$ more per month by only purchasing the weekday pass.

As I mentioned in the interview, the term “multimodal trial” was introduced – walking, busing, car, and now also bike. In fact, I had had the discussion with another friend during “the great transit debate” in the spring that there really was no reason why we as a community shouldn’t be incorporating all modes of transportation in our day. Anyway, I was struck by the term “cheating” just as I have been struck by other references and insinuations surrounding talk about Public Transit, and it got me thinking about the psychology around this discussion. 

I don’t actually consider myself as “cheating” on my Transit Trial when I use my car. I see it as a smart addition to my Multimodal Trial bag of tools. 

In bigger American cities such as New York and Chicago, in Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver (or even Calgary), as well as all over Europe, public transportation is widely understood as a necessity and equal opportunity service and, as such, has a very high rate of use. The service provided is effective and there are many who use it in conjunction with other modes of transportation. In many cases, in fact, it makes less sense and is more of a hassle to have a vehicle than it is to use the well maintained, well laid out public transit system. It seems to be a service used by a wider demographic of people, and with the attitude that it is a smart choice (or the obvious choice). 

Compare that now to London. Given our terrible history of investment in useful infrastructure – with money instead being embezzled in back room meetings for years – we are now left with a system that can’t possibly service the entire city in an efficient manor unless we do a MAJOR overhaul. Now consider that many major players in the decision-making world are still holding onto traditional London thinking “it’s good enough as it is” and you’ll understand the predicament in which a public transit advocate finds herself. 

From all of the conversations I’ve had, overheard, or heard about, the thinking in London often seems to be that public transit is for “those people” – the less furtunate, those with lower income or IQ, those too young for a car but old enough to be independent, or the many college and university students. The phrase even came up in my radio interview. I know 1000% that it was not used in a derogatory way, but Rebecca also asked an insightful question, what did I think about “those people” who have transit as their only option? Did I gain a new respect for them? Indeed! I have! In fact I used to BE one from 2008-2010 when I came home from Calgary, and earlier in my 20’s before I left for Calgary.

But, I digress…the point being that I really do think that many traditionally thinking Londoners have this subconscious “lesser than” mentality toward those who take the bus. I was one of them, so that’s how I know. I remember when I finally got my car in 2010, I really did feel like I had stepped up in the world because now I had access to more amenities, more opportunities for jobs, and it opened up a world not accessible to me otherwise. 

That alone is a shame, but is also a clear indicator of why the argument was made about the separation of the “classes” in London (through the distinction of using or not using the transit system). And yet…in the cities I described above, the top-notch transit with wider reach and more optimal accessibility neutralizes the playing field and is used by everyone. THAT is what I envision and want for London. I don’t want to think of  my driving car as “cheating” in my “game” of trying transit. I look forward to living in a city where we all make multimodal transportation a reality because it’s the smart thing to do for a sustainable future.

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