Admit it — you hate taking the bus

Brian Jones
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Finally being allowed to take the bus by yourself is great. Suddenly, your range of freedom widens, and downtown and beyond are within your grasp.

The novelty wears off. In adulthood, taking the bus is loathsome. Relying on public transit is the ultimate time-waster, as you stand at the bus stop waiting for it to arrive and, once it does, you sit as it lurches along its route, again waiting for it to arrive.

Wait, wait, wait. Who’s got the time for it? Not many. As soon as most people can afford a car, they get one, and say good riddance to the bus.

It isn’t at all surprising that MQO Research’s MetroView survey, conducted for The Telegram, found a mere four per cent of St. John’s area residents take a bus daily, and 90 per cent of residents either never take a bus or take one less than once a month.

Nevertheless, a fast and efficient public transit system is essential, because thousands of people need it to get to work, school or the mall, and once they stop needing it because they managed to scrape together enough money for a used car, someone else will take their place at the bus stop.

But in this era of global warming and heightened awareness of the dangers and destruction wrought by pollution, truly outlandish claims are being made about public transit. According to some adherents, public transit will be urban humanity’s salvation, the solution that will kill the selfish and greenhouse gas-spewing car culture that thrives in every metropolis on the planet.

Their goal is laudable. But their expectations for public transit are delusional. It is wishful thinking in the extreme to argue that people will leave their cars at home if only public transit is bigger, faster, more affordable and decorated with pretty poetry.

The evidence to the contrary is massive and irrefutable. Even in cities that have the best public transit systems in the world, millions of people still insist on getting into their cars and driving to work. Why? Because even the best public transit system entails waiting — and waiting for a bus or train is a small portion of your life wasted and stolen.

Experts have studied this, naturally. If only they could convince people to take public transit, a lot of problems — financial as well as environmental — could be solved.

This approach meets with an insurmountable dilemma — you can’t convince millions of people to act against their own best interests.

Commuting is a fact of city life. Even little old St. John’s has thousands of commuters — “brown-baggers,” as some now-forgotten former mayor derisively referred to them.

Telling commuters to park their cars and take the bus or train is essentially telling them, “Waste some of your time.”

It doesn’t matter if a person’s drive to work takes 30 minutes, an hour or two hours — taking public transit instead will inevitably add to that commuting time.

People might have opted for that in the olden days, when time was money. But in our rush, rush, rush, hurry, hurry, hurry culture, time has become even more valuable than money. Thus, in world-class cities — and possibly even in Toronto — where downtown parking is outrageously expensive, people still drive and park, and pay the price to save time.

An upgrade in public transit won’t counteract this. London, England, has one of the best subway systems in the world, but millions of people still drive to work. London and some other European cities have become so desperate to combat people wanting to save time that they resorted to banning cars from the city centre.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: London, Toronto, England

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Recent comments

  • John
    April 12, 2016 - 18:18

    How does driving save time, if the traffic is outrageous (like it is in Toronto)?

  • charlotte
    October 20, 2012 - 23:05

    Your not missing anything, if anything your right and I agree with you.

  • Mount Pearl Guy
    October 19, 2012 - 11:34

    The other issue is that it's not just the time but the convenience . Some city's have neighborhood shops and grocery stores. As a student I could go to the mall on the bus ,do some shopping and get my groceries at Sobey's or other items at Walmart now you have to go these power centres. The city is not designed for Public transit, it's built for cars when it comes to services etc. Don't forget people don't just get up take the bus to work and go home, they go to the gym, get groceries and drop kids of at activities

  • Brian
    October 19, 2012 - 07:50

    The problem I see is that the system is currently tailored to those who have few other alternatives. For the daily working stiff cummuter, the routes are far too long and circuitous with too frequent stops. When I lived in the east end, I regular road the bus to work and back in the morning as did a few of my colleagues and peers. I've moved since and the routes have changed for the worse. While not in that part of town now, I would have been forced to drive to work as a result of the changes made. Here's a thought. Stop using grossly over sized buses and have more of them running on better routes designed to move people in and out of the key working centres. And advertise! Nowadays I live in Paradise and drive down Pitts everyday ... and everyday longing for the "Powers that be" to wake up and realize that there is a real demand for public transit. I'd like nothing more that to have a bus to ride from Fowlers Road to Water Street. It's insane, actually. For every car that's on the road there's usually a sole occupant. One person, one car. One bus takes dozens of cars of the road. Less fuel burned ... less wear and tear on the roads and on the cars. Fewer cars ... fewer accidents. And people will pay to ride, given how much is saved on fuel and maintenance. What am I missing!?