For the duration of my university career (three years under my belt now), and really the majority of my life, I have been a public transportation user. I know exactly what time the buses come by my house, the exact route of each bus, and which self-assigned seat on the bus is mine (an actual phenomenon that occurs on buses is the destruction of the social order when your regular seat is taken by a newcomer).
Initially, I felt hindered by having to take the bus — I felt plagued by potentially missing it and the travel time to places that were not that far away seemed ridiculous. There was nothing I hated more than waiting endlessly for a bus outside in the freezing cold. I truly believed that owning a car would solve all my transportation woes. After using a car as my primary form of transit for a few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that public transportation is actually a blessing.
My sister’s old car was the best hand-me-down you can receive as the younger sibling. Finally, I would stop being that friend that needed rides everywhere. I would be able to sleep in because I could drive to school instead of bus. I thought all my problems were solved until I realized that driving has a number of its own issues.
My number one issue with driving is parking. Just owning a car is expensive enough — I can’t drop another grand for parking. Park and rides are pretty much a non-option at this point, especially since Century Park has now increased the paid parking stalls and apparently has a four year wait list to reserve one. You can arrive at 5:45 a.m. and see the full free parking lot at Century Park, which happened to me. And parking on the street is a no-go because the streets all around the university area are littered with no parking or hour-long parking limits. Believe it or not, I have more than two classes, so unless I plan on moving my car between them, that limit doesn’t work. If I ever did manage to find street parking, it’s at least a 15-minute walk away from campus.
My idea that having a car would alleviate time spent in the cold was false. I think I actually began spending more time in the cold from walking back and forth to a parking spot. I’ve also spent more than half an hour after school scraping the ice and snow from my car in the cold, wishing so badly that could just hop onto the warm LRT instead.
Google Maps says I should get to campus in 15 minutes, but the traffic in this city means that I actually get there in 35. My drive to campus in the morning is just filled with honking, braking, and a lot of stress. The reality is Edmonton is simply too congested to have all of us driving ourselves in cars, especially in the university area.
When it comes to commuting to school, the ETS serves as almost as quick of an option as driving (at least in my case). It takes 40 relaxing minutes — I’m free to study, read, or text, and I can avoid 35 minutes of aggravated driving among people who are late for work and have a complete disregard for speed limits and driving etiquette. The five extra minutes is not worth the traffic, stress and gas, and I’m paying for the U-Pass in my tuition anyway, so I may as well use it.
I used to think public transportation was the bane of my existence and I was cursed with having to chase after buses. Driving seemed like some sort of utopia where all my problems with transportation would be alleviated. I’ve realized that despite its shortcomings the ETS has special moments of magic and practicality that can make it a better form of transport especially when it comes to commuting to school.