As it is now warmer I can afford to keep a window or two open and I am privy to the antagonisms and aggravations that accompany the drivers on their way home. When the intersection at Arlington and Westminster is clear, someone in the line of vehicles, as many as three or four back, will bark encouragements at their fellow motorists. These less than kind utterances are received openly: “C’mon, say something, I’m itching”. Combined with the accents of car horns and countrified rock music (a local favourite), it forms a discordant soundscape which adds to the tension. Sweltering humid days provide the most favourable conditions for this to unfold. “How was your drive home, dear?”
There are few north-south routes in Winnipeg able to alleviate traffic build-up. There are no expressways (think of Kenaston). There are few ways in and few out. Commuters are required to add significant travel time to their already lengthy workdays. So, I wonder about alternatives, especially for those who live within a reasonable distance of their workplaces. What could one do to eliminate these escalations already amplified by a difficult day at work? Yoga? Mediation, perhaps? Doubtful. I suggest something more practical.
There are few, if any, drivers car pooling on this route. The majority of vehicles have single occupants. I see it every day. Car pooling takes organization and commitment but it can work. It reduces the number of vehicles on the road and the tensions inside the car because people will engage in conversation when together. Further, it may reduce monthly commuting costs for the participants.
Public transit can and should be used more. I do understand that routes only go to those areas where they can be assured of ridership. The transit commission has to consider their operating costs, too. What has contributed to decreased ridership? Certainly increased populations in outlying suburbs are a factor. These neighbourhoods are a considerable distance from workplaces and perhaps not as densely populated to warrant routes. I speculate that it is private vehicle ownership that has led to route schedule reductions and cancellations. The more folks who use cars, the fewer there are who require the bus. If your home is close enough to take a city bus to work and the bus is accessible, use it. Leave your car behind. Try it two or three days out of five. You may feel better for it.
The benefits of cycling or walking to work each day are well known. It is not possible for all to do so but many can. There is documented antagonism between Winnipeg drivers and cyclists. Each year the Letters to the Editor sections devote space to the debate. However, if there were more cyclists on the streets, there would be a greater need for bike lanes, paths and general accommodation. It has to start somewhere, folks.
It is now 5pm and the event is in progress. Vehicles are several deep and I can hear drivers grinding their teeth. Stress at work, in the car, and at home is apparent in their expressions and manifested in the manner in which they accelerate through the turn. Do they feel better for it? Is today the day they’re going to overtake the odds and achieve the windfall? “Oh, honey, you’re home early!” Yeah, it must be worth it.
(Check out Tales from the Winnipeg Woodlot Part 3)