Special Report: Transit

A One-Car Family at a Crossroads

In its current form, public transit in Hamilton is just not convenient or reliable enough to depend on for what should be a relatively simple commute - even on the two best served bus routes in the entire City.

By John-Paul Danko
Published September 29, 2011

Since getting married eight years ago, my wife and I have owned a single car between the two of us. We now have two kids, a big dog and a very busy life - but so far, we have managed perfectly well with a single vehicle.

I mostly work in Niagara, and I need a vehicle for my job. On the other hand, my wife works standard daytime shifts in one place. Knowing our usual daily schedules, we specifically bought a house close to my wife's work, and right on a major bus route (Route 27 - Upper James).

Our intention was to live with one car for as long as possible. It's not that we planned never to get a second car - we just thought it would be nice to facilitate a lifestyle that didn't absolutely require a car to get everywhere we wanted to go.

We also thought that it would be prudent to invest a larger portion of our income while we were young, rather than just spend it on an extra vehicle.

At a 4 percent net present value discount rate, and an average income tax rate of 30%, we estimate that we would have had to spend approximately $90,000 of our income over the past eight years to finance and operate a moderately priced $30,000 second car.

Instead, that $90,000 of income was available to invest in our savings and pay down our mortgage.


The distance from our house to my wife's work is just over two kilometers - so it's a pretty long walk. Since having kids, we were lucky to find a babysitter in our neighbourhood. Most days, I drop my wife and the kids off in the morning, while she walks and picks up the kids after work.

She also has an option to take the bus about halfway home - or she can take two busses the whole way when the weather is really bad. She rides her bike once in a while - and for a brief period, she even had a 1972 Honda moped.

For the past eight years, everyone - friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, Facebook friends - have told us that we "need" a second car. Multi-vehicle families are so common place that most people seem to really have a hard time believing that a normal, middle class, dual income family with two kids could possibly choose to have only one.

To them, a one-car family is not normal. It's like having one TV, or one phone, or one bathroom, or one computer, or one video game system - and nobody would choose to live like that!


Well, we are now at a crossroads. My wife recently took a new job at McMaster University. Walking is no longer an option. Bicycling between the central mountain and McMaster is out of her comfort zone. Her moped is long gone.

She is now left with two transportation options: take the bus, or cave and buy a second car. (We also considered moving closer to Mac, but we are too attached to our current neighbourhood).

Since we live right on bus Route 27 - Upper James (the A-Line) - and she will be going to McMaster from downtown (the B-Line) we thought that public transit should be a viable option. I mean - you should be able to get to work on the two best served transit routes in the city right?!

As it turns out - not so much.

Transit Hell

Over the past three weeks we have really tried to make public transit work out for us. But, we have come to the conclusion that, in its current form, public transit in Hamilton is just not convenient or reliable enough to depend on for what should be a relatively simple commute - even on the two best served bus routes in the entire City.

After all these years of living without a second car, buying another car feels like a failure - but really it is Hamilton's public transit system that is a failure.

To demonstrate the point that choosing to take public transit in Hamilton is more pain than it is worth, the following is a selection of text messages [slightly edited for profanity - Ed.] between my wife and me when she started commuting by bus:

"Forgot about the volume of students when school is in - had to take a cab from downtown as the bus was full"...

"You should be one of the first on tho?"...

"Hard to do when they're already clustered at the door"...

"Over half of the group didn't get on"...

"If I had realized they were all waiting for that one I could have taken a different one that no one got on a minute before but the B line is usually much faster so I waited"

"I'll be there on time - but when you run to catch a bus - wave your hand and then get to the door its really annoying when you're ignored and it pulls away."

"Holy f___ - this is ridiculous."

"A monthly bus pass is the same as my monthly parking fee."

"Leaving now - not sure how long it will take to bus"...

"U know whats really f'n annoying - when u watch your bus go by because you missed it by seconds when switching busses"...

"Likely a 20 min wait for the next one."...

"Make that 30 min"...

"Could u pick me up?"...PING!!!..."Nevermind - I'm taking the 24"...

"These shoes aren't made for walking though"

"We should seriously start looking at cars - I'm still leaning towards a new one so that we always have a reliable newer car - but it's a lot of money."

"Bus is late - I'm on the 25 - can u pick me up at the corner in 10?"...PING!!!...PING!!!..."At the top of the jolly cut?"...

"Nevermind - I switched off the bus and will wait for the Upper James"....

"I'm still downtown - don't know if the bus is behind cause I just missed one but the schedule said the next one leaves here in 5"...

"K - I'm on the 27 - hopefully it leaves shortly"..."See u soon"

"I want a f___ing car today!"

"3 busses - haven't been able to get on one. This is such bullshit! I'm surprised the younger students haven't mobbed one of the busses yet"...

"Most people are muttering a blue streak under their breath and its not even cold or rainy today"....

"I couldn't text the rest cause I was jammed in like a sardine the whole way here."

"So I'm at McNab just want to go up the mountain but all the busses except the Upper James (my first choice) are on the other side of a big barrier separating the sides. If I go to one side I end up missing a bus that pulls up on the other side (although I'm dumb and didn't notice the opening at this end)"...

"I also have to try to calculate if it's worth taking a different bus to the corner and walk part way or just wait the extra 10 min for the bus I want"...

"Hard to do when sometimes the busses sit here for a while and sometimes they leave right away"...

"And now the bus I decided to wait for is late. Should have f'in walked"...

"This is pathetic"

"And now the mountain is over 7 minutes early f___ing god damn it!"...

"Isn't it good that its early?"...

"Not when you miss it"

"Didn't get any angry bus txts from u this am?"...

"That's cause Mike gave me a ride!"

"I've sort of figured out the system and I made it on time today...BUT the number of people left standing at the curb is just pathetic. Most of the group were there when I went by on James they had 4 busses basically leave them there (I strategized and made it on bus 4 or 5)"

"I am leaving in 10 min (from St. Catharines) - do u want me to pick u up at 4:30?"...

"That would be nice since I wouldn't get home until then if I left now anyhow (by bus from Mac)"

(In Ottawa) "You should see all the busses here - its crazy! Seems like a good system compared to Ham (yes I'm taking a bus from the airport)"

And finally a few text messages since she started commuting in her new car:

"OK - this isn't normal since I only hit 1 red light the whole way, but 15 minutes from our driveway into my office!"...

"You'd have to wait more than 15 minutes just for your transfer downtown!"

"14 min again - Sweet!!! Thanks for getting the kids out the door"

"Did I mention I LOVE my car? I was walking from my class and started grinning like a fool cause it was so much less stress getting here this morning. The James access is definitely the way to go in the morning too"...

"Lights timed right is fantastic! I only hit 2 reds on the way! Little car is also awesome."

"Love love LOVE having a car!!! It was a good thing I didn't know what I was missing all these years as I can see there's no going back!"

In Part 2, I will expand on the financial implications of living with one car, the "time is money" cost of taking public transit and a net present value financial analysis of various car options.

John-Paul Danko is a professional engineer and small business owner.


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By gullchasedship (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:22:00

I feel your pain. I got a job outside the city at a native plant nursery about a year ago. After 11 years of marriage and only one car, we found we couldn't live without a second car. Transit isn't even an option when your place of work is out in a rural area.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:26:09

I do the bus thing from Westdale to Hamilton General... there are so many busses running east/west at rush-hour moments that I'm surprised your wife has such problems.

Admittedly things are much worse in summer when the @#*&$ers cancel the 51, but right now I'm enjoying short waits. That said, I take the 2, which is a heavily-used bus and therefore has a frequent schedule. Even though I often face the frustration of "bus arrives just in time to watch my connection leave", there's only like an 8 minute gap between 2s at rush-hour.

Does she commute at odd hours or something?

Either way, the big problem is the mountain - you can endlessly see almost-empty busses heading in and out of the downtown bus-stops. The city obviously can't increase bus-service up there because it's so much ground to cover with so few riders, but at the same time the wait between busses can be pretty painful. I'm surprised that the 27 gives you so much trouble though since the city obviously considers that "A-line corridor" to be a major route.

Also, look into the Presto cards. If you're not using the bus on weekends or recreationally and are just doing 2-trips/workday, tickets/Presto is slightly cheaper than a pass.

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By Indierinrin (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:52:52 in reply to Comment 70142

She must take one of the buses leaving the McMaster campus at rush hour which is complete pandemonium; I have witnessed it and wow never again! I try to avoid the 5C altogether.

I am fortunate to live near University Plaza where you can always find a spot in the beginning of a bus route (and it is usually on time).

I really wish there was a LRT *crossing fingers*. My family has to get around with 0 cars.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:37:44

Great piece, John-Paul. Love the text messages. Nice touch. I grew up on the mountain. north/south buses have always been terrible. I'd say it's more of an issue personally. I live off the Barton so I can't complain. My article would almost be opposite. They run every 10-15 minutes depending on the time of day and it makes me think that to work anywhere downtown, you need to live downtown. Barton, Cannon, King, Main, B-Line, etc. Many bus options down here. Or live at the west end of Concession where all mountain buses pass by. Otherwise the rest of the area's just aren't transit friendly. Every half hour and an hour on Sunday's is not acceptible.

Either way, LRT would be a long way away should it be brought back to the table. We need solutions now to get people out of cars. My biggest desire to get a second car is because the office I work out of is in an industrial district in Burlington very poorly served by transit. Get off of work past six and hello cab ride which you have to wait at least 15 minutes for when you call. Otherwise it's an hour from Appleby to Centre Mall once I have finally made my first connection. I read, write, listen to music, sleep and the ride through the Bay/Cootes, is my favourite part of my commute.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:59:11 in reply to Comment 70147

Has the city actually made any plans surrounding the A-Line and how it would relate to busses? I assume they'd ditch the "every bus goes downtown" thing and just have all the busses meet up at the various A-line stops. But that would require the HSR actually care about synchronizing transfers, and we all know how good they are at that.

I used to live in Guelph - the buses were infrequent, unreliable, and had far more limited hours than the HSR... but one thing they got right: they always made sure you'd make your transfer. Heck, if a bus was running late they'd find out who was transferring to what and see what they could do to get onto your connection.

edit -- as an aside to a fellow Barton rider: ain't the disconnect between the Go Centre busses and the Main/Macnab busses a kick in the pants? Getting dumped at Main & MacNab and then having to hoof it down to John street just to transfer blows.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2011-09-29 16:18:08

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:23:21 in reply to Comment 70150

Agreed, HSR frequency and service can be improved, but coverage is fairly comprehensive for a city our size (not that it couldn't be improved as well - but then again what can't?)

While all of the north-south buses go downtown (Upper James, Ottawa, Gage, Sherman, Wentworth and Wellington) I don't really see how you could elimiante any of those with the A-line (well, except Upper James), since they serve the lengths of their streets down to concession (or Queensdale in the case of the Upper Ottawa), neither of which meet up with the A-line route. If, say, you had them turn on Fennell and head to U.James/Fennell to meet up with the A-line (city really messed up on the opportunity not to create a more developed transit hub at that "node", imho), you'd have no service on concession, and you'd have no service on their namesake streets north of Fennell. So while you might be able to do one or two (so you maintain service on fennell) I think ultimately eliminating bus service north of fennell on any of the roads will be a non-starter.

Maybe the buses that are west of james (upper paradise? Garth?) could be redirect/eliminated...I'm not really certain about that either though, because I'm drawing a blank as to what route the Upper Paradise takes up the mountain.

As for the east-west buses (Kennilworth, Mohawk, Stonechurch, Rymal (they all intersect with the a-line already, and I think only kennilworth and mohawk head downtown, of which again, I don't think you could reasonably eliminate either route from heading downtown.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:28:43 in reply to Comment 70153

I didn't actually know there were that many east/west busses on the Mountain - I only knew about Mohawk. I meant eliminating the north/south ones and focusing on improving frequency on the east/west ones.

It means an additional transfer, but if the A-line is as fast as it's supposed to be and the frequencies for the east/west buses are high enough it might break-even on total travel-times and would certainly simplify the system and improve frequency.

The problem, of course, is that the east-west arteries aren't as close to each other as the north/south arteries. Mohawk is further from Fennel than Wentworth and Wellington. That means long walks to the bus-stops. So it's probably not a workable solution.

Either way, I was just spitballing an idea.

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By hereintheweeds (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 15:42:43

At the same place myself. HSR is only reliable in being unreliable. Wife has had similar complaints of full buses or drivers following their own personal schedule. Now looking at an additional set of wheels and all additional costs. Why is it so hard to have a transit system that works?

Comment edited by hereintheweeds on 2011-09-29 15:44:04

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:13:59

Maybe I'm more patient, but I had no trouble travelling to McMaster for four years from bus from teh central mountain.

I would take the 22 downtown, and then one of the four buses that heads to Mac. While the 22 only runs every 20 minutes in rush hour, I learned the schedule, and would plant myself at the bus stop five minutes early, so I made sure I didn't miss the bus.

Heading home the other way was more difficult, but you cluster at the first on campus stop (near the back of the hospital) and wait patiently, you'll get there eventually.

Generally, heading down, I started my trip an hour before I had to be there, and I typically got there in a half hour. The buses seem more crowded as people try and make it there "just in time for classes" and are typically more empty during the odd times between classes.

I don't think I've ever had to wait 30 minutes for the "next" bus to come along on the McMaster route, not when there are so many options.

Not saying LRT wouldn't make the service better, or that the situation as it is now is ideal, just that I, personally, would never choose a car over public transit heading to/from Mac from where I live.

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By BD (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 21:10:19 in reply to Comment 70152

For sure the sytem works better at different times during the day - did it in the summer season from the mountain to west end with minimal issues and usually in 30 - 45 minutes. The big issue is the prime time before school when up to 6 busses have passed the stop by McNab and getting on wasn't an option. It's also interesting to see disgruntled faces further down King as full busses buzz by and don't stop.

Then there is the after 6pm issue .. Upper James in particular starts running every 30 minutes around then ... if the busses ran on time it wouldn't be so bad, but lately they are very random - sometimes significantly early, and sometimes significantly late.

I have found commuting using 1 bus a good experience.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:50:48

At a 4 percent net present value discount rate, and an average income tax rate of 30%, we estimate that we would have had to spend approximately $90,000 of our income over the past eight years to finance and operate a moderately priced $30,000 second car.

You seem to be creating a false choice for yourself. It doesn't have to be a bus vs $90,000 decision. Why not consider a lightly used budget type car for around $8,000-10,000?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 18:28:55 in reply to Comment 70155

The problem with used cars is that modern cars have fairly well-set lifespans. Once it passes that magical warranty date one can easily rack up thousands in repairs as things start to break down. If you intend on owning it for a number of years, that's going to add up. Some of it's avoidable if you do your homework and know how to repair a car, but even so, I've known guys stuck paying for cars years after they're sold. And of course, for there to be used cars, somebody has to be buying new ones.

For longer-trips in city, a good quick bike is by far the best option, IMHO. Not much slower than a car, even over a distance, and a tiny fraction of the price even if you splurge. Lighter bikes with thin tires might not be as "comfortable", but the ability to get where you're going in less time with half the effort does a lot to balance that. Again, the mountain is a bit of a barrier here, but there are a lot of options in the west end (rail trails, stairs, Jolly cut etc).

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 09:41:59 in reply to Comment 70164

> For longer-trips in city, a good quick bike is by far the best option, IMHO. Not much slower than a car, even over a distance, and a tiny fraction of the price even if you splurge.

Faster. Bikes, generally, as a rule, are always faster. The entire nation's auto and truck fleet only manage an overall average moving speed of about 25km/hr. That is very very close to an easy pace on a bike, for just about any trip. (Distance may be a factor with some trips. :) )

There's a huge analytical glitch in the original article: nowhere does it indicate that the author's wife actually tried riding a bike. In other words, you have a very short distance commute with the maximum amount of transit overhead.

A good friend of mine does a daily commute from East Mountain to Mac in 12 minutes, which is typically faster than by car or motorcycle, or within a minute or two of the best possible times using either motorized alternative.

Centre-mountain to MacMaster is probably under 15 minutes by bike. Reading that the car is only getting a 15 minute time is like getting to the punchline of a joke. It's approximately 3-4km, and you probably end up parking the car in some obscure location and walking 5 or 10 minutes at the end of all that.

Buying a car for THAT trip seems so silly to this cyclist.

"I've tried nothing, and I'm all out of ideas. Let's get a car."

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By that guy (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2011 at 17:02:18 in reply to Comment 70186

So a woman who normally works at McMaster and lives on Upper James should hop on a bicycle to get to work every day when the bus does not work?

As a guy nwo has ridden down the mountain (terrifying) and ridden up it at the end of a long work day (exhausting), I can only wonder what kind of super fit people read this blog. I did not mention snow and rain yet but really?

The answer to every problem is not a bicyle in a city.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 02, 2011 at 10:33:16 in reply to Comment 70252

The notion that you must be "super fit" to ride a bike a few kilometres on a daily basis is the problem.

Sure, I could take a car. But that wouldn't make me any more fit, nor would it make the roads any more safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 01, 2011 at 22:05:31 in reply to Comment 70252

of course the answer to every problem isn't a bicycle. But the more safe, convenient options we give people, the less strain is put on the transit system and the less cars are on the road, which decreases congestion. I'm simply looking for balance. Our transportation options are about as balanced as Houston, TX in 1980.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 12:06:32 in reply to Comment 70186

Allow me to chime in with a female perspective. Urban cycling requires a certain degree of assertiveness and confidence that men, particularly younger men, often take for granted, making it hard for them to empathize with those of us who are intimidated by the prospect of cycling the streets of Hamilton.

Women are conditioned from birth to stay safe by making ourselves as small and invisible as possible. If we dress or act in a way that draws attention, we're 'asking for it'. It's a much bigger mental leap for us to take on something that requires us to assert our right to a share of the road, be highly visible, and physically take up space in order to be safe.

I'm working on it, and judging from conversations with friends, I'm further along than most of my peers and frequently tackle the downtown. However, I would be totally intimidated at the prospect of a regular commute up and down the mountain. That's a huge leap and I don't think it's fair to chide anyone who's not prepared to face it on a daily basis.

Also, the author mentions that he has kids. I don't know if you have kids anon, but having kids does a number on women's willingness to take risks. Consciously or unconsciously, you weigh the consequences of every action a little differently. There's alot riding on those tires!

It's one thing to suggest that she consider commuting by bike, but between social conditioning and motherhood, it's a bit much to suggest she is 'silly' for not trying.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 20:52:20 in reply to Comment 70197

Really good to hear female perspectives here, it's important not to forget about such things. Nobody can judge anybody else's personal situation, and none of us are perfect (I must admit a certain reliance on borrowed cars for my own child). All we can offer is suggestions and perspectives. Anything else is way too preachy.

Cycling isn't easy, and cycling full-time, year-round is even harder. Still, it gets a lot easier the more you do it - you get fitter and more comfortable, finding better routes and learning a better routine. It isn't an option for everybody, but I know a lot of people who've made it work, so it can't be impossible. And it may just be me, but I've seen a LOT more female cyclists on the roads of Hamilton lately.

As for the safety concerns, this absolutely needs to be dealt with. People are dying. Talk to any regular cyclist in this city and you'll hear horror stories. Death threats, hit-and-runs, total disregard for cyclist safety and yet every police "safety blitz" seems to target, primarily, people biking on sidewalks out of fear.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 22:48:37 in reply to Comment 70231

Undustrial writes ...

Cycling isn't easy, and cycling full-time, year-round is even harder.

I must insist that a commute of up to twenty-five minutes in the lower city - that's King & Sterling to Victoria & Ferrie via the waterfront trail on my 50lb three speed, carrying my 8lb briefcase 50lbs of post-nuptial weight, for example - is actual easy to do year round, but it requires the right bike. Not a special bike, just a sensible bike; one with ...

  • kick stand
  • enclosed chain
  • rear and/or front rack/basket
  • good fenders
  • front and rear lights

As an example, allow me the vanity of showing my commuter/everyday bike - pictured here with my luggage before I set out to meet the airport shuttle downtown ...

Off to the airport

See a larger image at flickr.com

Not required are ...

  • a bunch (or perhaps any) gears
  • frames made of space-age material
  • special clothing
  • special laptop bag

I went into detail in an RtH article a few months back: Winter Cycling in Hamilton in One Easy Step.

Now, up the mountain every day? That's another level of commitment - now we're talking about a workout. And probably the need for a few gears; and an extra big basket up front to carry the layers of clothing you'll shed when you hit the top of the hill. :)

But the lower city, particularly from Dundas to Gore Park, can be far easier than most people imagine.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-09-30 23:01:52

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2011 at 11:49:13 in reply to Comment 70238

Personally, I love winter cycling, and have spent more time doing it than I could ever count. But it can certainly be a bit daunting at first.

My preference is a fixed-gear with a low ratio, mostly because of the extra control and feedback over traction. Plus, I've had breaks and gears fail enough times in the winter (and from it) that they seem like a lot more trouble than they're worth in a snowstorm. For tread, I really like cyclocross tires, designed for off-road racing with road bikes. They have enough tread to grip the snow but are still thin enough to cut down through it to the road itself. For the record, though, pretty much any bike can be ridden in the winter - I've spent enough time doing it on fancy road bikes to know that's not impossible (though, as I must spend this afternoon replacing another salt-mangled dérailleur, not advisable).

Montreal has an incredible number of all-year cyclists. Given their drivers, roads and snow-clearance policies, this seems a bit of a miracle, but it certainly goes to show that it is possible.


As far as bikes go, the best advice I can give is "just do it". You'll be surprised what you can do, even if it's just Sunday rides. Nobody can force you - it's a personal journey, but one which can be incredibly rewarding. I road to Nanticoke and back last weekend, and our group included many "ordinary people", some older than my parents. A bicycle is a machine designed to make moving easier and more efficient than walking - and that's exactly what it should do.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 12:50:00 in reply to Comment 70197

You are bang on!

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:14:36 in reply to Comment 70164

I've known guys stuck paying for cars years after they're sold.

If you don't have the ability to maintain a beater than buying a "newer" used car can be a risk. If you don't know how to do some maintenance on your own a car, a warranty that will cover your financing is advisable.

Modern cars ARE a disposable product. They are designed to have almost zero maintenance for the original owner than eventually they just start to fall apart (rough rule, 7-10 years or ~200,000km). A marvel of engineering really... and sadly.

I buy (for cash) ~$3000 lower mileage cars (mainly Japanese) from the 1990s, maintain them myself and get what I can out of them, but I wouldn't recommend that for everyone.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2011-09-29 21:15:20

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 12:02:51 in reply to Comment 70166

I now have two friends who've repeatedly crossed, and one who has made it to Guatamala and back with Craigslist cars which cost $500 or less. So it is practical. Just a little more suited to the "it's ok if I'm a week late" lifestyle than daily commuting (as other friends, recently stranded in the Australian Outback waiting for a new transmission) will tell ya.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 29, 2011 at 16:59:36 in reply to Comment 70155

This is a good point. I've got an '04 Vibe that is still humming along nicely after half a decade and I didn't pay half their number for it when I bought it used. The only problems have been the cabin air system (cheap GM parts in an otherwise reliable Toyota car).

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 17:38:37

I actually live closer than you to the univ and tried to take the bus - should be a simple connection, but I can relate to everything your wife said. I did enjoy the freedom of transit, but in the end I couldn't reliably get to work and in the summer I think the frequency drops so the connection was always a gamble. After the bus drove past me one-too-many times, I went and bought a used car (05) for less tha half of new. Yes it sucks maintaining two vehicles and keeping fuel in both, but I am at work on time and also back home too. At some point you also need to factor your time which with kids is invaluable. I look forward to a time when I can instead choose to leave the car parked and ride the LRT to work.

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By Jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 17:40:57

Sounds like a good argument for light rail on the B line. The point is to attract riders who do have the choice - whether that's one car instead of two or zero instead of one. I have zero cars right now and that decision was in a large part because transit between my house and work is competitive.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:23:06

I live near Locke and King and can relate. My wife used the HSR twice to get to appointments at Mac, but never again after being passed by 4 jammed buses and being ridiculously late for both appointments. I've often wondered if the HSR is owned by some local car dealers? They do a better job of driving people to purchase another car than any commercial or newspaper ad.

I have a middle aged friend who lives on the West Mountain (Mohawk/Garth area) and recently decided to park the car and take the bus to work downtown in one of Jackson Square's office towers. He can't believe the mess the HSR has become. Constantly passed by or jammed on like a sardine with hundreds of students.

And to think, one of the candidates running for premier actually referred to a 'war on cars' in today's Spec. Talk about being completely disconnected from the real world.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:25:00

Buy a 7 passenger SUV and forget all this nonsense.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:35:25 in reply to Comment 70168

As long as you always have six paying customers that is part of the 'general solution'. if you don't then it is part of the problem as opposed to the solution ...

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:29:56

Make it a black SUV with tinted windows, put 21" rims on it, and never signal. Then, and only then will you be a Hamiltoniot.

[I actually cannot wait until gas is $5/L]

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:43:10

Note: you can't pick your children up from school on a bicycle. You can't pick your children up from the daycare on a bus. You can't take your children to swimming lessons on a skate board. And the way the Hamilton School Board sees things, you shouldn't be able to walk to school either. You can't bring home your groceries, unless, unless, and this is important to most readers, you are under 60ish years old and have good working hips and knees. Walk all you want, and ride your bike everywhere. Save the baby whales and think you're better than everyone. Wait until you have a family and/or get old. You/we need vehicles and roads.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 22:01:10 in reply to Comment 70171

Nor does the Board take into consideration teachers wanting to teach relatively close to where they live, especially in a dense area like downtown. But that's another story.

I'm sorry the HSR situation isn't better for the article writer. We took the bus, out of choice, to and from work for the better part of two years. It was my wife's clever way of ensuring that I realized that we didn't need two cars. We're down to one car...used mostly for long distance trips. We moved to where we are centrally close to what we like and appreciate. And we bike a lot to other places. But I feel like we are in the minority. The average Hamiltonian doesn't have that luxury.

What do we do for the people with little accessibility? Where I currently teach, there's not a close grocery store. You'd be amazed at the number of school lunches composed of corner store goods. Again, another story.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 21:53:37 in reply to Comment 70171

Note: you can't pick your children up from school on a bicycle.

Actually, I take my son to school every day with my bicycle. I've got a Chariot-brand bike carrier that I tow behind the bike. It seats two, and sometimes I drive both kids around with it.

I get a bit nervous on busy streets that don't have bike lanes, but hopefully, that will improve over time.

I read once - if I recall correctly - that if you have just one car, you can afford to have an extra $100,000 on your mortgage. I'd rather have one car and a sweet pad downtown, close enough to school and work that I can ride my bike there, than have two cars.

I know that's not an option for everyone, but if you can make it work, it's awesome.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 14:04:23 in reply to Comment 70172

My youngest graduated from the chariot a couple of years ago but I wouldn't part with it for the world. I use it for groceries, errands, the dog, and I've been known to ride downtown with an empty chariot because the cars and trucks give me a much wider berth. :)

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 11:27:43 in reply to Comment 70172

Actually, I take my son to school every day with my bicycle. I've got a Chariot-brand bike carrier that I tow behind the bike. It seats two, and sometimes I drive both kids around with it.

Ditto, but two kids. Works fine. Fresh snow will be tricky when that comes (will have to wake up early and hoof it), but otherwise it works well.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2011-09-30 11:27:52

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By Peter (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 22:26:50

Do HSR drivers still stop part way through a route to get a coffee and a donut, thus rendering it impossible for you to get your transfer?? That was always my favourite move.

Back in the day I tried very hard to use HSR but after years of waiting for late buses and sometimes having them pass you by, getting a car was just about the only option. Too bad.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 29, 2011 at 22:48:52 in reply to Comment 70174

I wondered why a full B-Line bus was stopped yesterday for 5 minutes at Main and Prospect until it dawned on me..... Tim Hortons.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 08:02:49

Pxtl, Burlington is also pretty good at calling in transfers.

As for Barton/McNab terminal, Barton bus drops me off at GO where I transfer to Burlington. Vice versa on the way home. Barton and Cannon and King are virtually perfect as they run now - minus some outdated and dirty buses that its time to retire. Also badly laid out. The ones where the Engines take up half the back as well as unusable tire humps and seats facing one another like the Go. Recycle those fast!

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 08:04:43

Excellent read JP!

Mike and Jocelyne (where your wife used to work)

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 08:18:50

My dad used to use a jocularly-delivered line on me 'when I was growing up':

How can I trust you with the big jobs when you can't handle the small ones...?

A confession: I'm not convinced that there's enough in place in Hamilton to handle 'the big jobs'...and that's as far as I'll go right now in 'finger-pointing'.

HSR has not been maxxed-out where its potential is concerned, it's not a well-run enterprise, certainly not as good as the last system I used daily, that of Brighton-Hove in the UK. (With wonderful electronic displays at stops that told you when the next few buses would be...not demanding that YOU phone THEM at YOUR COST to retrieve this information...) So even in this regardl, I'm a little skeptical of 'upgrading' to another level of service.

A level that that seen in the balyhooed proposals, to me probably isn't appropriate for Hamilton's needs.

And I say this as a lifelong user of the HSR going back to the 60s, most recently as an east-west rider, from one extreme of the city to the other.

The other night, a group of commenters here got together for yet another bout of coffee-'n-chat, RTHers v6.0. The venue on this occasion was Homegrown Hamilton. With our gracious host Mike Pattison sitting in, we had a blast exchanging ideas and disagreements as well as witnessing some amusing diatribes and tirades.

The main subject of the evening...with Town Halls Hamilton in the background...was LRT. Throughout, we heard some entirely divergent...and far more reasonable...approaches to both our needs and our wants.

Mike tells me that Monday evenings will soon be featuring a 'town hall/open mic/moderated mayhem' civic engagement theme. I know that good things will come from this. All who read here should consider attending.

As well, anyone who's interested in a more casual interlude should email me at mystoneycreek@gmail.com for an invite to the next get-together.

Speaking up is a great start. Dialogue, even better.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-30 08:20:23

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 08:44:09 in reply to Comment 70181

I'm not convinced that there's enough in place in Hamilton to handle 'the big jobs'...and that's as far as I'll go right now in 'finger-pointing'.

I'm often left with the feeling that the main purpose of some politicians is to make us believe the government will just mess everything up.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 08:49:25 in reply to Comment 70184

I'm often left with the feeling that the main purpose of some politicians is to make us believe the government will just mess everything up.

Then we need to change the players, the roles...and the very stage they're performing on, yes...?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2011 at 12:24:47

I must admit a certain mixed reaction of horror and glee when I read many of the comments above. Especially the slightly profane text messages. As a long-term transit supporter it's not always easy to read, but as someone who's used the HSR, it's pretty f-ing necessary. I really hope some city or HSR staff are reading these as well, because this is exactly the kind of feedback they need. These aren't just minor comments which can afford to wait until some future "public consultation date", they're stranding people who are late for classes, exams, jobs, appointments and other time-sensitive trips. This doesn't have to happen many times before people start looking for another mode of transportation.

The HSR is a vast single-tier system. Even if we don't manage LRT, we've grown far beyond the point where this just doesn't work anymore. It's time to decide if bus routes are going to be cross-town arteries or neighbourhood feeders. It makes absolutely no sense to wait an extra 20 minutes at McMaster because this #5 bus doesn't go to the right part of Deleware. Nor does it make sense to have five or so separate, slightly different Main/King routes which run on uncoordinated schedules (often all five at once every 20 mins, rather than one every four). Cities which have successful transit systems work because you KNOW the bus/subway/streetcar/skytrain/boat will be along in 10 minutes or less, and there'll be at most one short connection for most destinations. We just don't have this, but we certainly have enough busses to try.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 14:20:49

I really hope some city or HSR staff are reading these as well, because this is exactly the kind of feedback they need.

They've been hearing it for years. Ever tried calling the depot to speak with a live operator? The customer service is right up there with trying to get your mortgage company to stop charging the unnecessary mortgage insurance. The few times I've called the HSR I've been made to feel like I interrupted someone at a family funeral, and not their WELL-PAYING job.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 14:52:05

Great, Great Read! And Comments!

We've managed to stay single vehicle for the past 15 years in this city... but I've mostly worked from a home office and my bike, car rentals and the bus have served to fill the gap.

Now, with a couple of out of town contracts/employment and kids in Hockey and Ballet we can see that our situation may not be be something we can hold on to.

I hope we can though... I've really enjoyed NOT spending money on something that holds its value only slightly better than fruits and vegetables sitting in the hot sun.

I'm hoping that if we need access to more motorized wheels that Hamilton Car Share might fill the void...

But for those needing a daily commute option... better LRT and cycling options would allow way more people to save those extra dollars and spend them in the local economy.

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By Tom West (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2011 at 16:58:11

Most of her problems seem to be that the buses were too crowded - which means it is too popular!

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 13:27:40 in reply to Comment 70222

The problem is insufficient service, especially east-west. And it's a problem known to all the players - the riders, HSR staff, HSR management, the city. EVERYONE wants to ride east-west in the mornings and afternoons, but HSR is incapable under current staffing and capital budgets to meet that demand.

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By LRT us not the magic bullet (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 15:18:44 in reply to Comment 70262

banned user deleted

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By without_a_car (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2011 at 19:19:36

This was a great story and a really relevant comment. I've recently taken my car off the road to pay down some debt, as my insurance rates were arbitrarily raised by $20 per month in August. I do live within biking distance to work, but the walk can be a bit tiring at the end of a long day. HSR service is not very good, which I knew from my past experience of bussing into McMaster for classes. I learned NOT to take the Aberdeen bus to Longwood and Main because many buses would pass without stopping as they were too full. Instead I took the bus downtown and usually even managed to find a seat for a ride into McMaster! Parking at $20 per day was not an option. LRT is NEEDED in this city. City Councillors and Mayor: Please ride transit once per week for work or to do some errands. You will have quick insight into the challenges with our transit system. And those university students attending Mac from out-of-town? They will take their degrees and settle in another city -- one with a good transit system. This is a future growth issue. An issue with economic impact!

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2011 at 21:35:53

If Hamilton wants to be progressive withOUT breaking the bank LRT style, we could spend a pittance to throw a 3 or 4 of these things up the mountain and make bikommuting practical for all. Various styles available. For the trip down, we could install a zip line, maybe right to Mac!


see page 32 http://www.cts.pdx.edu/pdf/Birk%20cycle%...

This would really put Hamilton on the map:


Express!! What the #@!! are we waiting for!! Let's get Bratina onto this.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 10:40:08 in reply to Comment 70255

Someone send that pdf to Rob Ford. I imagine he'll keel over with a heart attack. If he survives that, it'll be fresh meat for his propaganda war about the "war on cars".

That bike escalator would be cool, maybe up the Jolly Cut? Or eliminate the James St access to cars? It'd be nice if there was a system beside the stairs to get bikes up easily.

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By bee (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 17:55:52 in reply to Comment 70255

Love the zipline idea :)

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By I'm a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 12:15:53

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By distance is subjective (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 16:57:00

"The distance from our house to my wife's work is just over two kilometers - so it's a pretty long walk."
I don't know how 2km becomes a pretty long walk? I walk just over 3km to and from work - 35 minutes each way. I could take a bus along the busy King Corridor, but I actually enjoy the exercise. That's my winter commute because I don't enjoy riding in the winter for various reasons.
But the bike ride is a 10 minute jaunt with no hills, no sweat, literally, except under extreme conditions. But I consider sweating a bit normal for 30+ Celsius, in fact I look at people who don't sweat with a wary eye...

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By I'm a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 19:57:33 in reply to Comment 70266

banned user deleted

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By personal comfort zone (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 18:19:39

As the wife in question, I'll clarify - the walk is close to 3km and took 25min when I was fit (30-35 min now). However, stopping to pick up kids on the way adds another 30 minutes (they are slow distracted walkers lol) and when it's basically dinner time that's 30 min I would prefer to have available to make dinner.

Certainly walking and cycling is a great way to go - I did cycle daily pre-kids, and biked home and back at lunch for a few months when we got our first puppy.

My issue with cycling is not the exercise, it's personal safety - particularly getting down the escarpment with no bike lanes. I know a number of people who cycle considerable distances every day and I admire that. However, it's simply not in my comfort zone, particularly when you add parked cars, buses and drivers who don't respect bikers. I've nearly been hit twice and I've been cut off by a bus more than once just on Concession. I also have several cyclist friends who have been hit by drivers simply not paying attention - one was thrown a distance. Both still cycle, but again it's personal thing.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted October 03, 2011 at 08:27:12 in reply to Comment 70268

The wife in question writes ...

My issue with cycling is not the exercise, it's personal safety - particularly getting down the escarpment with no bike lanes.

Speaking as a quotidian cyclist who thinks lots of people could and should cycle lots and lots more often ... I have to agree with this. I cycle regularly from Westdale to downtown, Dundas and Burlington as I go about my daily business. But I basically never go up the mountain on my bike for this very reason - not to mention the muck of sweat I'd be in at the top of the hill.

I do need to go up the mountain once a week or so - Mohawk College or one of the music shops, most commonly - but I always drive.

If we had one of those bike lifts which Bob Innes mentions? Or maybe a resurrected incline railway at Dundurn or Chedoke? Together with a segregated bike lane to come down safely and with the feeling of safety? Well, most of my mountain errands would be done on bike.

And just think about all of the traffic between Mountain residents and McMaster, and between McMaster and Mohawk, and downtown and Mohawk ...

Maybe Bob Innes posted that video for fun, but honestly ... it could change the way the city works in a measurable way. It's going on my letter to Santa this year.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-10-03 09:41:30

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 03, 2011 at 15:33:10 in reply to Comment 70280

Just give me a car with bike-racks on the hypothetical A-Line and I'll be happy. Or even better, a fully-vacant car with no seats (poles only) that cyclists are permitted to roll their bikes right into so I can even take the kids in when pulling my Chariot. That'd be good for parents with bulkier double-strollers too.

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By I am a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 13:37:26 in reply to Comment 70280

banned user deleted

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By I'm a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2011 at 19:44:13 in reply to Comment 70268

banned user deleted

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 03, 2011 at 00:15:21 in reply to Comment 70269

The part I don't understand is how anyone but the most extreme could possibly say riding up or down the escarpment is either safe or possible for the vast majority of the population.

I dunno...I've been doing it since I was 12. Seriously, some of the cycling-bashing on this thread is downright embarassing. First of all, it would be nice to actually hear some evidence with all the talk of how "dangerous" this is (compared to driving or walking, of course). Secondly, acknowledgement that there are ways up and down the escarpment other than riding in a lane of traffic. And most importatnly - acknowledging that as soon as you decide you're going to drive rather than cycle, you become one of those drivers who makes people afraid to cycle.

As for all the remarks about "enthusiasts" and spandex-clad "super-fit" cyclists, let me explain what a ride with such people actually entails. Many road cyclists go out for "centuries" (100 miles, or kilometres for a "light" day). My crosscountry friends go on 24-hour races. The McMaster cycling team does laps on the Sydnham hill in Dundas. How any of the in-Hamilton riding described above compares to this I can't imagine, but it only goes to show what people think the limits of cycling are (3-5km, light rain and a slight incline).

Comment edited by Undustrial on 2011-10-03 00:24:32

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By I am a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 07:19:08 in reply to Comment 70276

banned user deleted

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By you are a concern troll (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 10:56:48 in reply to Comment 70278

Nice concern troll.

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By I am a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 13:15:02 in reply to Comment 70285

banned user deleted

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By Turdbo (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 13:26:36 in reply to Comment 70287

Give it up Alan.

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By I am a bike advocate (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 07:22:39

banned user deleted

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By Robbie K (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2011 at 09:23:10

Have you investigated purchasing an older, gas miser, cheap to fix beater? I bought a 96 3 cyl geo metro a few years back for 500$. A new windshield later it passed safety no problem. Cheap as dirt to drive, cheap to fix. It only lasted me a year, but I put 35k on it.

Or, a Moped/Scooter :)

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By janetrymal (registered) | Posted October 08, 2011 at 19:46:24

My daughter goes to Parkside High School in Dundas, and we live near the West Harbour. This year, since I'm working full time, we decided she should start taking the bus on the the two school days she is here (shared custody thing). She "practiced" in the summer a few times and felt confident about continuing it. The first day, she set out at 7:20 am to be at school for second period (she had a spare and was expecting to be early - to hang out with friends). According to the HSR trip planner, she should have had no trouble getting there on time. She arrived at school at 10:00 am. A number of packed buses passed her stop and eventually, she got on a different bus and had to walk from University plaza. Same thing happened the next day. Since then we are driving in, with her being in Dundas an hour or an hour and a half earlier than necessary so that I can be at work for 8 or 8:30 in the city's east end. I have considered driving her to a stop more eastern than the King and James stop she had been using so she can be on the bus before it gets packed, but I give up. I am thankful that's she taking the bus home and that she's in Grade 12 and this should be the last year of this hassle.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2011 at 04:43:25

I feel your pain & your family's too, John-Paul.
Just a ? for those who cycle to work a fair distance, or Up the Escarpment.
Do you have a shower @ your workplace? How do you handle a wash & change of clothes before you start your day's work?

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