Everything sucks, so what to do about it?

Writing posts about hostile circumstances for bus riders in Western Canada got us thinking about strategy.

Our tandem journey began with a conversation about the difficulty of traveling from one city to another. We then collectively realized the absurdity of Ontario not having comprehensive intercity public transport maps. The project to make a bad map was incentive for us to contribute to public forums and then start writing this blog. We have received encouraging responses to all of these interactions (including helpful criticism). Awesome – we created ourselves a little soapbox. From this soapbox-y, chat-it-up online-y position, the overall crappiness of riding intercity public transport in Ontario is a little less lonely.

But having company does not inherently make it any less crappy.

Which is why we are in a looking to re-assess our involvement for greater impact.
Our recent attention to an incomprehensibly hostile bus station location in Edmonton and Saskatchewan’s decision to cut one of the few good things it had going for it have made us realize that this is a good time to be more strategic.

We like analyzing political dynamics, but we’ll save the in-depth analysis for another day.

Let’s just give this little teaser: in 2018 there will be elections at the provincial and municipal levels. These elections will have profound effects on GO, Ontario Northland, and the municipal/regional systems that save us from being locked into Uber-and-ride for our first & last miles.

We have yet to figure out the relation of electoral politics to the private, for-profit operators that we profiled in our Map 1.0. Regardless, we are confident about this: when intercity public transport and its riders remain marginal, the prospects for making advances are poor. And this dynamic is equally applicable, regardless of whether we are talking about citizens demanding better public services or paying customers making rational decisions about profit-seeking businesses.

Here are some purposes that we are thinking about moving forward:

1. Drawing attention to specific intercity public transport issues
We often see a lack of dialogue about city-, route-, station-level issues; or sometimes dialogue that is without the voice of riders. Maybe we can change that?

2. Encouraging further thinking about all public transport modes as a network
We have seen some recent advances, in part from others who saw our bad map and proved they could do better (see here and here). Even this has multiple benefits, from riders discovering practical information about how to travel, to advocates being able to present informed perspectives from a bird’s-eye-view.

3. Creating and circulating information about the specifics of the system
We know from our own experiences that a lot of the information that is useful to us is not available from any official source. Getting this information out to more people puts us all in a better position to travel well with the pieces that are already in-place.

4. Building community among riders
By embarking upon this project, we were motivated to learn more about other people who care about intercity public transport and connect with them. How might we turn some of this interest into collective energy?

With a re-assessment happening, we even have a chance to re-consider our tone – even the title of this post is an example. We realize that slagging intercity public transport hard will not encourage more people to ride, and stagnating ridership is not an outcome we’re seeking. Then again, enthusiastic promotion of the virtues of this way of travel would be inconsistent to our experience to the point of dishonesty. We are still working to determine the optimal balance of positivity and negativity, all while still enjoying the project enough to continue writing content.

This seems like a good time to thank everyone who has contributed to this project through feedback, dialogue, or even by just looking us up! With us making strategic decisions soon, we would love to hear from you.

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