After the recent snow, Prince George once again witnessed the limitless increase of white fluffy mounds on our driveways, roads and sidewalks. While extreme weather is a normal occurrence for those living in the north, it is not the norm for an East Coast born and raised, like myself. I recently moved to Prince George in September to begin graduate studies at UNBC. While, admittedly, it would have been a better idea, and much more convenient, to have rented an apartment in either College Heights or the Bowl, my partner and I were hustled into living in the faraway land of the Hart. While I do not harbour any regrets as to our decision, I have encountered a few difficulties in my commute to school.
As we all navigate the winter months, I will say that I cannot help but notice the immense amount of work that has gone into snow clearing and plowing as well as the resilience of P.G. transit to sustain bus schedules as accurately as possible. Were I back on the East Coast, school would have been cancelled and busses would not have been running at all, under the same conditions. However, it has also come to my attention that some residents do not hold as much value in the maintenance of alternative methods of transportation, other than driving, during winter conditions. I do not wish to make sweeping assumptions and generalities, however it has become a pattern that has continued time again and this behaviour is becoming hard to ignore.
Having opted for a more environmentally and economically friendly alternative to investing in a car, I have accepted the challenges that come with taking public transport. Although I am very lucky to be able-bodied and in good condition to make the 20-minute walk to the bus stop, I too have encountered difficulties including unwillingly resorting to walking on the road due to unmanageable sidewalks. What is more, while you think this would be dangerous enough, even with drivers allowing for adequate space while passing, there are drivers who have sped by me at an obnoxious proximity that is just not necessary. I can’t imagine what it would be like for an elderly person or child in my position. These experiences also include drivers rushing to stop signs to avoid my crossing in front of them. What is more, a resident on my street wrote to the government asking them to move the snow from their front lawn onto the sidewalk across the street from their house because “no one uses it anyway."
While it is understandable that snow clearing requires countless hours of work, many sidewalks remain icy and caked with snow making it extremely hard for both the elderly and disabled to navigate their way to bus stops. What is more, children are frequent users of the sidewalks (when there are sidewalks), of course given their ineligibility to drive, and therefore fall into the category of pedestrians who require the utilization of public and school transport.
If these are the attitudes towards those who do not drive and require alternative means of transportation, how can we ever hope to garner enough public support to increase funding of public transport? I have spoken to residents who cannot imagine their life without access to a vehicle. They have told me that their entire day to day lives would be compromised without their car. But, what if public transit worked in a way that your life in PG could go on without it? What if transit became more desirable or acceptable for those needing to commute to work or school? This is really a debate of “chicken or the egg." Do we need public support to fund public transport and make it properly accessible or do we need to make it properly accessible to garner public support?