Within a few days of my arrival in Comox, l began traveling on its buses. If you want to get to know the area and its residents, use public transit. Not only is it less than one sixth of the average monthly cost of a new vehicle, but it also offers its own unique opportunity to connect with our community.
My journey began with bus drivers sharing their stories of spending time in the Artic, their passion with NASCAR and too many other wonderful snapshots of well lived lives to list here. Beyond this mutual exchange, I watched as they very respectfully helped elderly residents adapt to life changing mobility issues and one even greeted international students with phrases Googled from their language. The surprise and sometimes confusion, given the pronunciation, on the student’s face was hilarious to observe.
In Europe, public transit is a well-integrated part of daily life. During a trip to my birth country of France two years ago, I travelled 3,200 kms around the country visiting with family and friends over a four-week period. Both the trains and buses offered hundreds of conversations with complete strangers. Here in the Comox Valley, the more you travel on the buses the more you meet strangers, who then become acquaintances by the third and fourth meeting, as conversations flow from one week to the next. There is nothing like someone’s smile of recognition on a bus to brighten your day.
You cannot connect this way while driving your car. When you hear someone say, “Thank you for taking the time to speak to me”, as you prepare to disembark at your stop, you realize how vital this mode of transportation can be for members of the community who would otherwise be isolated in their homes.
Although press releases have been published about the implementation of the Next Ride App technology this past June and the new bus schedules of the 31st of August have added many more buses on certain routes to reduce wait times, it is very important for this community to understand that so much more can be done with this much needed economic motor for this area’s sustainable development.
This can only happen if we have continued conversations about our current and future transportation needs and we actively speak with and support the many individuals (bus drivers, dispatchers, managers and support staff) who provide this important service that is not often found within other communities of this size across Canada.
I assure you, that with your ticket price, the bus will always offer an opportunity for personal growth and connection with members of our community. But don’t just take my word for it. Get on the bus tomorrow, say hello to the person sitting next to you and enjoy the ride.
See you on the bus sometime.