Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This is more local trivia, so if you have no interest in either Winnipeg or buses feel free to skip this item.
The local press is reporting that Greyhound Canada has entered into negotiations with Winnipeg airport officials to move the city's bus depot from downtown to the airport. Greyhound's lease for the downtown facility expires in 2009. The University of Winnipeg has expressed interest in acquiring the property if the Dog should vacate, and there is little doubt that this would be a prime acquisition for the University being as it right across from their main buildings. Even the local MP, Pat Martin of the NDP, has expressed the opinion that move would be a good thing. According to the Winnipeg Free Press he says that,
"Having the bus depot where it is, is an eyesore, a nuisance, a headache, an absolute disaster. It's inappropriate for it to be where it is."
Now, I've met Pat, and he's a very nice man. He's actually one of the few members of the NDP caucus who occasionally takes the socialist name seriously, and his record in Parliament is exemplary. But...I have to disagree with him here, just as some of the bus users who were interviewed by the Free Press did.
Bus depots are always and everywhere an "eyesore" and a "nuisance". It's their nature. They are a large institutional face of the real facts of class differences in society. They are the beggar on the street magnified by a factor of 10,000. Molly can remember many trips on the dreaded "bone shaker" across Canada, with all the insanity that goes with the territory.
But they are still...necessary. For a large number of people it is the only affordable method of intercity transit, ugly and inconvenient as it is. In Europe the trains, which are much more comfortable give a much more efficient method of travel, but in Canada the rail industry has been destroyed by government policy.
Bus users interviewed by the Free Press pointed out that the present location of the Dog is the most convenient for out of town people who must come into Winnipeg from remote communities for medical treatment. It is a quick jump to the dreaded Health Sciences Centre. A shuttle bus just doesn't cut it, unless the taxpayer is-as usual- expected to fork out the dough for a shuttle that has the many stops that out of town people may need. Take it as a given that such a service wouldn't break even if it didn't charge fees equivalent to taxis. Besides that, after a 7 hour ride on the bone shaker the last thing a sick person needs is waiting at 30 below or 30 above for the "shuttle bus". Perhaps standing on the bus if it is too crowded.
Then there is a matter not mentioned by the Free Press article. What about those who wish to leave Winnipeg, a laudable ambition I'm sure. Presently many(most ?) of those who wish to ride the Dog either live in Winnipeg's inner city or are within one reasonable bus ride to the depot. It's what they can afford. Put the depot at the airport and many people would be faced with up to a two hour marathon in the heat or cold with transfers to get to the shuttle and to the airport. Winnipeg's airport is not as inconvenient as some, but it is till "out of the way".
In summation a move to the airport would penalize Winnipeg's poorest citizens even if it would be a convenience for charter buses of sports or music fans coming into the city for events. Molly will continue to follow this story as it develops and do her level best to prevent such a move.
An "eyesore" is the price that society must pay for its sin of having a class system.

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