As a man who has never bothered to learn how to drive, I have been a strong support of public transit, and a frequent user. Back in Kitchener, I had a close relationship with the transit system, even knowing some drivers by name. The 7-line bus driver would even honk his horn and flip me off every time he saw me in the street, as a friendly gesture. Before that I lived at Jane and Finch, a part of Toronto so isolated from the rest of it, living without transit is nearly impossible. Buses, taxis, trains, are all fantastically punctual and horrifically crammed. When I moved to Brantford, the least of my concerns was getting around. I moved to the very downtown core, living above a deli, where I frequently eat. The convenience store is just across the street, and the grocery store is a five-minute walk away. Recently however, I have on several occasions had to go to Wal-Mart on the mall link 4 line, and inevitably had to start using the Brantford Public Transit system – from now on I am sticking to cabs.
The customer service is beyond incompetent – it is intentionally cruel to passengers. The bus drivers will scan cards into their data bases, and look over transfers like they’re looking for religious signs in them, holding up people at the stops unnecessarily long. The bus drivers frequently yell at passengers, for instance, just the other day a woman boarded the bus after running to the stop while the bus driver chastised her once she got on the bus for being late and holding the bus up. This bus driver was not in a bad mood, or rather, the bus drivers in this city don’t have such a thing as moods, but rather they have a mode. A friend of mine who has lived in this city for over 20 years described this mode as less than pleasant mode, but I just call it “crabby.” Also on the subject of customer service, if your Laurier card wasn’t printed in this city, which for a lot of students is the case, don’t even bother getting on the bus because you will be chastised, and will be allowed on about half the time. If you are a summer student, similarly, don’t bother getting on the bus, you will be allowed on 0 per cent of the time.
It is important to note that the buses are very clean, and even on the busiest days of the season, there are enough seats for everyone. This is not because of a particularly cleanly and good natured staff. Rather this is an extension of the first point, the customer service. You see, unlike in most cities where buses are taken freely and regularly, in Brantford taking the bus is the last case scenario. So disgusted is the customer with Brantford Transit, that they would rather take a cab and pay outrageous money then even think about getting on the bus. Since so few people are willing to take the bus, few people are on the bus. Fewer people means less garbage – so there’s your space and cleanliness – a lucky side effect of incompetence.
So take cabs. They’re a nice private industry; the drivers are courteous, kind, and efficient. Yes, transit still gets your tuition money, but they don’t have to get your business. You see, they have to keep track of how many students take the bus in order to negotiate how much to take from the students, and when that number nears zero, they will only be able to bargain for what they deserve – the end of their relationship with Laurier Brantford.