Stay at home! The City has you surrounded!

By Glen Argan

Edmonton is increasingly becoming a city where transportation is frowned upon. Staying home or walking may be the best alternatives.

A week or two ago, I got a call and email from Keren Tang (www.kerentang.ca) who is running for city council this fall in Ward 11 which includes much of Edmonton south and east from Whyte Avenue and 104th Street. It had been suggested that she call me since I am supposedly one who has a vast knowledge of neighbourhood politics in that part of the city.

It’s not true – the knowledge part – but having an aspiring city councillor on the phone got me into abbreviated rants about the destruction of trees in Strathearn for the new LRT route and the city’s lackadaisical attitude toward maintaining gravel trails in the river valley.

Keren and I had a fine chat Friday morning at the Mill Creek Café. I recommend her; she’s smart and not only believes in grassroots democracy, but has experience in community development. My type of candidate, for sure.

However, it’s a good thing (for her) that we didn’t meet Saturday. After our tete-a-tete, I headed off to buy some aftershave balm at the Wild Prairie Soap Factory, further along Whyte Ave. I parked in front of the store, but then set off on an adventure to pay for parking at one of Edmonton’s computerized parking meters.

By the time I got that thing figured out, paid $2 for a two-minute stop and headed back to the store, my car already had a $50 parking ticket on the windshield. Fortunately, the parking meter lady was coming and, after a (very) minor confrontation, she cancelled the ticket and I bought my aftershave.

As I drove away, I saw another parking meter attendant prowling a side street. How many of these people has the city hired?

Meanwhile, my daughter Jen was trying unsuccessfully to get to the university on the city bus system. She waited 45 minutes for a bus on Route 4 where buses are supposed to run every 15 minutes.

When the bus finally showed up, Jen asked why it took so long. The only response she got from the driver was that he was 15 minutes late. That much at least! Obviously!

It’s had to know why. Traffic was light, snow is gone from the streets and it was a beautiful morning. Jen, who is normally a champion of the benefits of public transit, was 40 minutes late for her only class of the day. Sort of a waste of a few hours for her.

It makes you wonder. If you drive, you may run afoul of the photo radar hiding behind the few trees left on major arteries. If you park, you must confront a time-wasting parking meter system as well as the prospect of getting ticketed for an offence you never committed.

If you ride the bus, you never know when the darn thing will show up. And, if you ride the new LRT to NAIT, you crawl along at eight km/hr while vehicular traffic piles up in all directions.

The city has got you hooped. Walking seems to be the only reliable way to get anywhere.

It’s a shame. We need good, that is, much better, public transit. We need motorists to drive at safe speeds. But when you feel they’ve got you surrounded, it’s time to start looking for an escape hatch that leads out of town.

As for Keren, she’s got a photo in her campaign literature of a boat heading down the North Saskatchewan River. That might be the way of the future for some of us.

[Glen Argan, now a freelance journalist and part-time theologian, walks a lot when the weather is good.]

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