Sunday 31 October 2010

Bucket full of something ... and it's not water.

Saturday's Free Press included another one of their impressive multi-page exposés. This one was about the appalling conditions in the Island Lake First Nations communities, centering around a lack of clean water. It contained compelling stories about hardship, and heart-breaking pictures of children living in squalid conditions -- all the sorts of things that the obscure journalism organizations look for when they give out awards. However it also contained a bunch of exaggerations and misleading information.

I wasn't planning on writing about this at all, but by chance I happened to meet up with an acquaintance this weekend who works up at Island Lake. It was this acquaintance who told me that the story was exaggerated. For example, we read about these families who have no choice but to haul water by hand in "a used oil or chemical bucket." Not likely, says my acquaintance. Nobody hauls water by hand, they haul it with their Ford F150s. You don't have to take my friend's word for it though. 40 seconds into the video on the Free Press website two ladies put on a show for the camera by hauling water up the hill with their Chevy Silverado in the background:

I don't want to minimize the importance of clean water, but the continual references to third world refugee camps are unreasonable. They refer to the "dirty lake water" as though it were a muddy slough in the savanna. Remember, this is the same land that is so "pristine" that the government is spending over $1 billion to route Bipole III around it. So pure and untouched is this land that it demands the protection of UNESCO heritage status.* A family in Buduburam Africa would kill for this kind of access to water.

I also don't deny that there are serious health issues at Island Lake and Red Sucker Lake. We have seen the reports of TB and H1N1 outbreaks, and the rampant diabetes. But is this really all just an inevitable result of not having running water? People have lived for centuries without running water, and it wasn't that long ago that it was common to have large families crammed into a small house here in the prairies, but yet somehow the floors got swept and hands got washed.

At one point as the author, Helen Fallding, was interviewing a resident, a very young child showed up drinking a can of Dr. Pepper. Helen, applying no critical thinking whatsoever, paints this and the diabetes that is sure to follow as an inevitable result of not having running water. Now I'm not a botanist, but I am pretty sure that the toddler didn't pick this can of pop off a tree in the back yard. That pop was purchased at a store. The same store that sells bottled water, juice, and any number of other beverages. Red Sucker Lake, Wasagamack, St.Theresa Point and Garden Hill all have Northern Stores. Northern Stores, in case you have never been in one, have a grocery section not unlike a Food Fare. Perhaps not as well stocked in these cases, but you can be damn sure that they sell bottled water. If your toddler is drinking Dr. Pepper, is it because of parental neglect, not necessity.

You can't help but wonder what else is due to neglect. One has to tread carefully when talking about these sorts of things, but it is hard to avoid the subject when you hear the same things from almost everybody who spends time on a northern reserve.

Another picture in the paper showed a guy, Gordie Rae, carrying water up his driveway with a presumably broken late 90s Dodge Stratus parked on one side and a late 90s Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager on the other, the later with a missing wheel. What the hell happened? My car is late 90s and I'm planning on driving it for another 10 years. (It's not a Dodge, mind you).

Yet another picture shows Soloman McPherson dumping sewage in a sprawling garbage pile next to his house, with a circa 2004 Chevy Tracker in the background. Would it be possible, maybe, to use that vehicle to take your garbage to the dump? Garden Hill does have one. They all do. St. Theresa Point not only has a land fill, but a full time garbage truck that services all residences. Third world indeed.

Now suppose somebody doesn't have a vehicle to haul water -- which is unusual according to my friend -- but suppose. What about the neighbours? I attended a United Way event recently where the speaker was a very well spoken lady of aboriginal descent. She talked about how sharing everything you had was part of their culture, and about how it was necessary to survive in the past. Whatever happened to that? "Oh your Dodge broke down? Tough shit buddy." Is that the attitude now? When did selfishness become part of the culture? Perhaps around the same time that the chief and council started making six figure salaries? I don't know if that's the case, or if the author is only implying that it's everyman for himself. I don't know what to believe in this story.

What about the location of the houses? I have always wondered about that. The story points out that "No running water means that homes are built without bathtubs." In other words, homes are being not being built where the water is, but off in the bushes somewhere. Sometimes kilometers away. After the home is built they expect the government to pay tens of thousands of dollars to pipe water through the granite outcroppings and forest to these far flung residences. Who decides where these houses go? My understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that the individuals do not own any land. It is all reserve land, and is controlled by the band council. I'm making an assumption here, but could they perhaps do a better job of planning their community in such a way that access to water would be maximized?

If the names of these reserves sound familiar, it might be because of an event last year during the H1N1 outbreak when the government sent dozens of body bags to the Island Lakes First Nations. The chiefs were outraged. So much so that one of them flew himself and a small entourage down to Winnipeg to express their outrage in front of the TV cameras. (You may also remember would-be mayor Judy Wasylycia-Leis getting on board calling it "the ultimate expression of incompetence.") Of course as it turned out the reserves' own health care workers ordered the body bags, and in fact they were sent fewer than they asked for. Yet the cost of that one trip alone could have bought everybody in the community a clean pail to haul their water in ... assuming it were needed. But these are the kind of grandstanding buffoons that we're dealing with here. Judy was right about incompetence, but she was talking about the wrong people.

So here we are: people surrounded by pristine ... oh sorry: "dirty" for the purposes of article ... freshwater lakes, with grocery stores stocked with various beverages including water, yet nobody can wash their hands or clean their floors, and kids have to drink pop. That's how it is, apparently. Helen and her crew sought out the most appalling houses and woeful people of the 10 thousand or so that live in the four communities, exaggerated their hardships, and portrayed this as the victimization of a hard working people by a negligent government. I have no doubt that they will win awards for outstanding journalism for this masterpiece, but perhaps the Giller Prize would be more appropriate.

*These communities are not actually in the proposed UNESCO zone. They are to the north-east of it.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

And the winner is ...

Message to Sam: please don't interpret this as a resounding affirmation of your leadership. Make this your last term in office, and use it wisely. Finish phase one of BRT. Please. No more studies and flip flopping. (Ooooo .... Maglev!). Stabilize our finances. Focus on core operations instead of glamorous projects. You don't need the photo ops anymore. Forget about the waterpark. If it's going to happen, it will happen. Take your $7m carrot and plant it into the community club garden (if that makes any sense.)

Oh lord ... Eye or the Tiger? Really? Maybe if you walked in to Norah Jones you wouldn't be out of breath.

Message to Judy: Sorry. You have not changed anything at city hall. This whole thing has been a waste of time, but the good news is you get to spend your pension.

To the people who voted to Harvey Smith: Come here. A little closer. A little closer. A little closer. *SLAP*

About the voting process: I actually had to stand in line. What the hell, am I in Afghanistan or something? I guess I shouldn't complain about a 2 minute wait. Pretty groovy new voting tabulators though -- like little portable garbage bins. One little niggle: when you mark your vote with the marker, it leaches through to the other side, so if anyone is paying attention when the sheet is fed into the garbage muncher you can see how someone voted (somewhat) by how the black marks line up.

Message to follow bloggers Brian, Curtis and Colin: Well done, all of you. It's funny ... it wasn't that long ago that Frogger's dalliance with CJOB resulted in a 100+ comment debate about a blogger selling out to the Main Stream Media or some damn thing like that.

Oh my God, Sam. Don't Stop Believing? Really?

Monday 25 October 2010

Why I'm voting for Brad Gross

I have made up my mind. I am going to vote for underdog Brass Gross (that's "graas", as in "loss") in the Winnipeg mayoral election. Why? Glad you asked. I will tell you why, and will accompany my explanation with quickie doodles of each candidate:

Sam Katz
Sam has not earned my vote as mayor. His complete butchery of the rapid transit project alone might be enough to drive a voter like me away, but that's just where it starts. He didn't keep his word on Upper Fort Garry, the bus service to my neighbourhood has been cut in half under his watch, and our infrastructure deficit keeps climbing. His whole management system involves knee-jerk decision making without due process or diligence, meanwhile the city continues it's unsustainable sprawl into the surrounding farmland.

Don't get me started on the ugly sport coats...

Judy Wasy-whatever
Judy has three things going for her: 1) she's not Sam. 2) she actually took a position on property taxes. 3) she has a comprehensible position on rapid transit .. at least phase 1. However, at the same time she committed to by-passing the competitive bid process in favor of going straight to local co. New Flyer. In other news: the cost of New Flyer BRT buses just doubled.
That's the thing about Judy. She is going to spend money faster than my wife on a shopping trip in New York. The entire tax hike has been committed to infrastructure and policing according to her web site, which means that all of her other hare-brained ideas will have to get money from somewhere else. Where do these ideas come from anyhow? Who determined that there was demand for garden markets all over the city? How exactly are you going to create those and what happens if they're not successful? You could ask a dozen questions about every one of her ideas, but the only clear answer is that they'll all cost money. Remember: this is somebody who came straight out of the Provincial NDP: the party that overspent it's budget every single year and gutted our balanced budget legislation. I fear the day that a Judy administration has to negotiate a contract with a City workers' union:

Union Boss: we demand a 7% raise over two years.
Judy: 10%
Union Boss: Errrrr. Okay.
Judy: hey, this negotiating stuff isn't so hard!

Those are some of the reasons why I cannot vote for Judy. Or maybe it's because she's a woman, (not withstanding the fact that I voted for a woman in the last Federal election.)

Rav Gill
I am tempted to vote for Rav, simply because if I do not I am afraid he might turn me into a bat. However, I can't vote for Rav either. The campaign information on his website is so sparse that I have no idea what's he's planning on doing. For a fringe candidate who routinely gets neglected by the media, you would figure that he would have all kinds of detail out there for people to research on their own, but I guess not. It doesn't even list his promise of creating a gay village. Maybe that's because he realizes that it's a idiotic promise. I am sure that some other cities have gay villages, but were they created by politicians? Really? How do you do that anyhow? Give exclusive property tax breaks to homosexuals?

That leaves...

Brad Gross
Brad has a terrible website. The platform
on his main page looks like it was typed out over a coffee break with no prior thought whatsoever. Worse, the pages specific to each area of his platform like traffic, crime, and so forth, have no content whatsoever. He is obviously just doing this to increase his profile to benefit his real job as a realtor.

So why vote for him? Because in a campaign almost completely absent of vision and big ideas, Brad pushes the boundaries:
  • solar powered street lights!
  • move industrial areas away from the middle of the city!
  • community centres run by university students!
  • expel criminals! Ya, there we go! Not quite sure how you're going to do that, and I'm pretty sure it's a charter violation, but Ya!
Sure, most of the ideas miss the mark completely or are impossible to implement, but I like the idea of reducing the number of traffic lights and getting education taxes off the property tax bill. But that's not the point. The point is that if people vote for this guy with the crazy ideas, that might send a message to whoever wins that what we need at city hall is not rhetoric and fear mongering and waffling, but vision and bold thinking.

If I vote for Sam, then I'm rewarding incompetence. If I vote for Judy and she gets in, then I'll feel like I had a hand in the damaging policies and reckless spending that are sure to follow. Brad however is not going to win, so if I vote for him then I can rest easy knowing that I didn't contribute to the destruction of our city.

*all images © Me, whoever the hell I am.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Limited Ambulances

The Paramedics of Winnipeg union is taking advantage of the current civic election to push for more ambulances, with a snappy website and PR campaign. You can't fault them for that: more paramedics means more union dues and less work for each medic. It's in their interest to increase their base. Is it in our interest, knowing that the money for each additional ambulance has to come from somewhere else?

I was going home last Monday and
saw a firetruck rushing off to an emergency at a school on Archibald. There was an ambulance in the parking lot that had beaten them there,
and the fire fighters were casually strolling towards the entrance, chatting about something, knowing that they were not actually needed inside. Further down the same road on the same day, there was both an ambulance and a fire truck at an apartment building that was not on fire.

A couple weeks ago, the lady sitting behind me on the bus had a seizure. We called 911 and waited for help. The firetruck showed up first, and the ambulance later. There was another instance where I was playing ball and no fewer than 3 emergency vehicles showed up after a girl got stung by a bee. It wasn't even a killer bee. Just a regular one.

The point is that there is a lot of duplication and unnecessary effort in our emergency response system. This wastefulness doesn't sit well with me. Virtually every medical emergency, regardless of how small, requires two different teams to respond, because the fire truck might get there first, but only an ambulance can actually take somebody to a hospital. This is costly: Edmonton has 40 ambulances and spends $50m per year on that service. Winnipeg, with 60% the population of Edmonton, has only 18 ambulances but spends $44m on paramedic services -- almost the same amount (according to this editorial).

Our combined fire/paramedic system may produce quick response times, but it is a failure in terms of cost-effectiveness in my humble opinion. I agree with the paramedics union: we need more ambulances, but at the same time we need to end the experiment of combined fire/paramedic service and potentially make corresponding cutbacks to the fire service. We also need to work with the health authorities on reducing the time that paramedics spend parked at a hospital twiddling their thumbs as they wait to transfer ownership of the sick guy.

If we can make that procedural improvement, and bump up the number of ambulances a little bit, then we can have good response times while also saving money by cutting the fire fighters loose to focus on dumpster fires and other things that they are best equipped to handle.


Keeping on theme: here's a video from laid-back tunesters Ambulance Ltd. This one has a bit of a Lou Reed vibe to it. Ciao:


Wednesday 20 October 2010

About roundabouts

I am pre-empting a different blog post to clarify something about traffic circles, in light of the accident earlier today that everybody is freaking out about. As of this moment there are 203 comments on the Free Press article about this traffic accident, so clearly there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.

I have only read a handful of the comments, but what many people are saying is that 'Winnipeg drivers' are too stupid to figure out traffic circles or that people need to be educated on how to use them. Even the Director of Public Works was on TV saying that "it's going to take a while for people to get used to them."

Wrong wrong everybody is wrong. The problem is not that traffic circles are too hard to figure out. The problem is that they're poorly designed. A properly designed traffic circle is a snap to use. I know because I drive through one all the time. The roundabout at Beaverhill and Lakewood in Southdale is well designed: as you approach it, the road is divided such that you are turned to the right and away from the approaching traffic. As you enter the intersection, it is clear well in advance if another vehicle is turning off or going around because of the design of the intersection and because the circle is large enough.

Consequently, it is safe and easy to use. There is no need to "get used to it." You just drive into it and yield to on-coming traffic. That's all there is to it. Everybody knows what a yield sign means, so no education is necessary. It is almost impossible to fuck up, unless you do something exceptionally stupid.

On the other hand, the traffic circles in River Heights like the one where the accident was today are different because they do not have any of the design elements of a good roundabout. There is no lane divider to separate the traffic exiting the intersection from the traffic entering the intersection, and the circle is so small that there is no time to read what other traffic is intending to do. Little surprise that the lady in the small white car was frozen at her yield sign as I approached the intersection this evening.

So yes, perhaps people need to get used to these roundabouts, but only because they're crappy roundabouts to begin with. The thing is that traffic circles in general are an excellent traffic control device, which is why they are used everywhere else in the world. To quote jpenns in the Free Press comments section:

The awful thing is that people will use this as proof that traffic circles are dangerous, disregarding the worldwide acceptance that they are safer, better on gas, better on cars, and quicker to get through than four way stops.
now ... back to my regular programming ...

*edit* related posts: graham 1 and 2; policy frog, dobbin,

Monday 18 October 2010

City hall parties, bananas, and nuts.

If you read or watch the news and blogs -- and I think it's a safe assumption that you do if you've made it all the way to this little piece of internet real estate -- it's hard to escape the farcical goings-on in our civic election here in Winnipeg. If I try to link to all relevant posts and articles I will run out of links and have to buy more from Blogger, but a few recent examples could be found at Slurpees and Murder and Dan Lett's newest column.

I don't know about you, but everyone I talk to doesn't know who the hell to vote for because every candidate sucks rocks. Who-o-why can't we get somebody capable in office? Well, it may comfort you to know that inept mayors aren't confined to Winnipeg. Brian Kelcey has been doing a good job of covering races in other cities, unfortunately he has made me even more depressed by unhelpfully also pointing out competent candidates in other cities, like Jim Watson in Ottawa. That is why I was relieved to open the Maclean's web site and find this article: Canada's lousy mayors.

The author Nancy MacDonald talks about the “complete disaster” Larry O’Brien in Ottawa, “Dr. No.” Ric McIver in Calgary, as well as candidates in Mississauga, London, and Toronto. Winnipeg doesn't even make the list! Maybe we're doing okay after all!

... or maybe not. Nancy goes out of her way to find the loonies while avoiding any mention of the reasonable candidates. Plus I am quite sure that the only reason Winnipeg didn't make the list is because we're ... Winnipeg. The screwed up little town somewhere in the prairies that used to have a hockey team.

There is one interesting point that Nancy brings up however, and that is party politics at the civic level:

With a party system, mayors can whip their caucus into line, weakening narrow turf wars. Without it, that “how-does-this-affect-my-ward?” mindset, says Winnipeg councillor Jenny Gerbasi, can make it next to impossible to get mega-projects off the ground. “Council,” she says, “can lose sight of the bigger picture.”
Oh hey, look at that. She does mention a looney Winnipeg candidate. How did I miss that the first time? Anyhow ... it goes on:
Parties encourage accountability. If voters don’t think they’re going in the right direction, they can throw the bums out—as Vancouver voters did in 2008, returning an almost entirely fresh slate
cities have grown “way too big,” and the issues “far too significant,” to be left to the vagaries of individual candidates running on their own reputation and name recognition.
I have no idea if City Hall would function better with a party system, but it's hard to imagine it functioning any worse. Something to mull over.

Separated at birth?

If Dr.Ruth were running I might actually vote for her. Maybe she could get the juices of revitalization flowing downtown, lubricate our licensing and bureaucratic processes, and of course: get hard on crime.

credits: I stole the Judy pic from James, and I got the ruth pic from here.

This just in:
The Big Banana has a name

The Town of Melita made an error of judgment, in my view, when they chose the names for their giant banana statue and it's little bird side kick, selecting "Sunny" and "Breezy" instead of my far superior suggestions "Dildo" and "Peckerhead". Obviously Melita has it's own shortcomings in the council office.

Friday 15 October 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

As a blogger, I sometimes put in a half-assed effort to participate in Blog Action Day. This year I resolve to do even less.

I thought about it for a bit. Water. The theme to this year's Blog Action Day and the key to all life on earth. The stuff that I splash on my face after I exfoliate and before I moisturize. (Maybe should have kept that to myself.) What do I have to say about water?

Well for one thing, I grew up around water. A lake was right down the street from my house. I could see it from my front yard. Even if you don't live next to a lake, if you live in the same province that I do then you're never far from a fresh-water lake. We also have water in our wells, in our rivers, in our ditches, pouring over our hydro dams; and too often it's in our basements and flooding our fields. Lately, if we've had any problem it all, it's too much water. Some of it may be dirty, or loaded with phosphorus and algae, but nevertheless we have minimal water problems compared with most other parts of the world.

What do I know about these other parts of the world? I have cleverly managed to avoid dust-caked third world nations in my limited travels around the world, so I have no special insight. I do recall from when I was in Spain that there was a problem with scarce water being diverted from irrigation for farms to posh golf courses and retirement resorts for wealthy Brits. Spain is drying up, as are parts of the U.S. and many other places. Everybody knows this though.

My dilemma about what to write was solved when I came to the realization that "Blog Action" is an oxymoron. There are few things that are less "active" than sitting in front of a computer blogging. The idea I suppose is that people read blogs, and maybe ... maybe ... somebody reading a "Blog Action" post will actually take action of some kind. But I think more than anything else, it's a feel good thing: be a part of a community or movement and experience a sense of camaraderie and purpose that you don't normally achieve by typing on a laptop in a basement while wearing a bath robe.

Perhaps if I had some unique experience to talk about ... but I don't. I installed a rain water collection barrel this year, but sadly I never made use of it. I installed a low-flow toilet in my house, so I guess that's something. I don't water my lawn, but mostly because I don't really care what my lawn looks like. If it can't survive on it's own, then screw it.

I will certainly read other people's posts and see what they have to say. I may learn something or get a new perspective on something. That's fine. But I won't feel bad about my own pitiful contribution. If the topic were "Beer that tastes like water" then okay -- I would have lots to say -- but that's not the case.

for different, probably more enlightened, views from local bloggers: DriveGoddess, SMW, OneManCommittee,

Monday 11 October 2010

City Hall: Buy this land

I don't normally pay attention to these things, but I happened to notice that Manitoba Hydro is selling surplus property on the north east corner of Kenaston Blvd and Sterling Lyon Pkwy. I suggest to the City that they consider buying this land, because eventually we will have a leader who recognizes that massive traffic congestion on a major thoroughfare is BAD and that accidents involving SUVs with IKEA furniture strapped to the roof is also BAD.

Inevitably that visionary leader, whoever he or she may be, will realize that this thing needs to be fixed, and will decide to do what should have been done in the first place, which will be something like what I suggested should have been done, which was to build a north-south flyover on Kenaston with on and off ramps, and have a controlled intersection with stop lights east of the overpass on Sterling Lyon, as shown here, thus allowing the majority of the traffic on Kenaston to flow uninterrupted past this gong show of Starbucks-fueled suburbanite shoppers.

If you're unwilling to do it properly the first time, then at least buy this land, sell off the bits you don't need, and keep the rest so that a future leader will be in a position to fix your mistakes.


just to liven things up a bit, here's a photo I snapped today when I stopped for ice creme in Trehern. What a beautiful day!

Thursday 7 October 2010

Quick thoughts about the S & J forum today

I was at the Sam & Judy show, Hydro building edition, this evening in downtown Winnipeg. Some thoughts:

  • If you're a single guy then, dude, you should have been there. Lots of yummy girls, especially of the geeky/brainy variety. Oh sure they look all serious and unapproachable, but get a couple of drinks in them and look out!
  • Speaking of which, if you had a shot for every time Sam said "Basically" you would be dead or having your organs transplanted right now
  • Good job by the moderating tandem of Dan and Richard.
  • Funniest part of the night: Bartley Kives getting up to the mike and asking Katz if he had seen a report that Bart himself showed Katz earlier. Katz denies everything.
    Bart: Are you sure you haven't seen it?
    Katz: I have never seen that report.
    Bart: Are you sure? Nobody showed it to you or talked to you about what was in it?
    Katz: No, I told you I have never seen it.
    Bart (giving him one last chance): Are you suuuuure?
    Katz: Again, no. My sources aren't as good as yours. I have never seen it.
    Bart, returns to his seat shaking his head.
  • Judy's strongest issue by far: rapid transit. No surprise there. The more Sam talks about rapid transit, the more I don't understand what the fuck he's doing.
  • Judy sees herself as a short, female, non-gay (?) version of Glen Murray
  • Katz "basically" has already done or started doing everything that you could possibly ask for, and if you don't realize that then you haven't been paying attention.
  • Judy doesn't have any actual vision. Mostly just vague notions of building consensus and forming committees. Yay.
  • I am pretty sure that Kathy Kennedy is a smoker. Definitely a voice for singing blues.
That's all for my coverage, but every blogger in town was there so I don't feel compelled to ramble on too much. 'Till next time ...

Wednesday 6 October 2010

A weird thing happened reading the paper today

Reading a Francis Russell column usually results in me slamming my face against the computer keyboard multiple times in exasperated frustration that such biased ideological drivel could ever be published in a newspaper. This time was different though.

My finger hesitated over the mouse button for a second as I debated whether I dare open what would surely be another vitriolic rant about PM Harper's neo-con tactics; however much to my surprise she didn't use the term "neo-con" once, nor did she compare Harper to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Satan, or a baby-eating gorgon. That could be because she spends most of the space quoting Frank Graves from Ekos Research, but nevertheless it is a refreshing change of pace from what I am used to.

Much more worryingly, I actually agree with much of what she (or rather Frank) has to say. In fact, much of it echos what I wrote about back here . I don't doubt for a minute that Harper could have a majority if he wasn't such a nimrod. Every time he builds political capital he promptly squanders it by doing something stupid and divisive. That's his MO, and it's why he is doomed to be a minority PM until the Liberals find somebody with an ounce of Charisma (bonjour, Justin) and boot him out of office.

I have seen a similar analysis in Maclean's magazine as well, but the fact that I agree with Francis Russell about something is scary as hell. I don't know if she is coming around or if I'm turning into a bat-shit crazy lefty, but something is wrong in the universe. Wait a minute ... didn't that exact same cat walk by here a moment ago? What happened to my window ... It's a brick wall now!! ACK!


Oh, one other thing before the agents get me: One of you guys at the Free Press should let Francis know that Stephen Harper is speaking in Winnipeg tomorrow evening at Canad Inn Polo Park, and it's completely free! You have to register ASAP though. Sorry for the short notice.

I won't be there. If anything, I'll go catch the Sam and Judy debacle at the Hydro building tomorrow.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Winnipeg Transit, take me home

I haven't posted a profanity-strewn tirade in a while, so without further ado...

I live in a 40 year old middle-class suburb that we'll call "Southdade" for the purposes of this post. One day last week, I worked little later than normal and left work at 5:30 to catch the express "57" bus home. I get to the bus stop and check the electronic time board ... no '57'. What? Must be some kind of mistake. Phone telebus ... "Route 57. Next bus: 7:10. Following bus: 6:15. This is the last bus of the day". WHAT?? What the Hell?? What happened to my 5:45 bus? Since when is there a 7:10 bus? ?

I'll tell you what happened: the 7:10 bus is my 5:45 bus -- delayed by an hour and a half:

Lest you think this is an isolated incident, there have been at least three other incidents recently where I have noticed this schedule "glitch", including one incident where my wife was left standing on Marion for an hour waiting for the bus, until I finally came and picked her up with the car.

Okay. So. I don't want to wait around 45 minutes for the next 57. The only other bus that goes to my neighbourhood is a version of the 16 that meanders through Osborne Village, Fort Rouge, St.Vital, and part of Windsor Park before finally arriving at the north edge of Southdale. It only comes once an hour, but maybe I'll get lucky and catch that one. Oh, but Graham avenue is under construction ... so where do I catch it now? Well, I see that transit taped a handy little map to the sign post over here ... let's have a look:

Route 16 ... "north on Smith, west on Portage". OK. So I can catch it at Portage and Donald.

Cross the street to the westbound Portage and Donald stop ... look at the electronic signboard .......... No sixteen! What? Ok, phone telebus for the second time in five minutes .... "invalid route number". What the FUCK? I cross the street again to double-check the sign. Yup, there it is, the yellow line right at the little dot: Portage and Donald. Hmmm.

So here I am downtown at 5:35 and I have no bus to take home. The 57 isn't coming for 40 minutes and I don't know where the fuck the 16 goes. Why the farking hell is it so hard to get a stupid bus!?! Anyhow, a 19 to Windsor Park came by, and for lack of a better option I decide to hop on that and take the 30 minute walk to get home from Drake Ave.

I don't doubt that the civil servants who run Winnipeg Transit are either sleeping on the couch by 5 o'clock or stick-handling on the 9th green at Pine Ridge, so perhaps they can't comprehend that somebody might actually have to work past 5 and take a bus home. But here's the kicker: as I was riding home (and by "home" I mean "to a different neighbourhood in roughly the same quadrant of the city") on the 19 bus, I saw two more 19s going the same way. In fact, by chance at one point there were three 19s on the same block going the same way. Why the hell are so many buses going to Windsor Park when none are going to Southdale? Do the geniuses at Winnipeg Transit think that Windsor Park is some inner city slum where nobody can afford a car, while Southdale is a posh suburban paradise where everybody drives their Range Rovers in to the office?

It wasn't always this bad, but a couple of years ago Transit cut back the number of routes run by the 57 bus, and around the same time they also chopped the route 50 bus completely, diverting it instead to the transit-riding hotbed of Sage Creek. Urban sprall: decreasing the level of service for all of us. Like I told Transit (via. 311) "Bus service to Southdale has been cut back substantially in the past few years to the point that it is barely adequate. If it cannot at least be reliable then it is completely useless. "

footnote 1:
When I finally got home, I checked the Transit web site to see what was up with the 16 bus, and voila: it goes down Ellice, not Portage. The map at the bus stop was wrong. Me being the good guy that I am, immediately sent a note to 311 telling them that the map is wrong. I even sent them a picture. This was a week ago -- Sept 28. Did they fix it? No. I walked by the bus stop today and the incorrect sign was still up there.

footnote 2:
You'll be happy to know that I didn't pay for my bus ride. Even though I had a pocket full of bus tickets, I asked for a courtesy slip instead, which I properly filled out with my phone number. If they ever call looking for their two dollars and thirty-five cents, I will politely explain to them that I am not paying because they failed to provide adequate service.

somewhat related: Rise & Sprawl

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