Activism

Letter: City Should Provide Sufficient Bus Service

By Letter to the Editor
Published October 11, 2013

At 11:30 PM on Friday, October 4, my daughter-in-law was mugged by two teenagers at the entrance to Eastgate Square near the LCBO.

She was on her way home from work, walking alone to catch her bus. One teenager on a BMX bicycle stopped beside her to ask where Greenhill Road is. As she pointed, the other one came up behind her on foot, knocked her down and snatched her purse. They ran/rode quickly away, and the police have not yet been able to identify them.

She is forced to walk such a long distance late at night from the new location of the Walmart store at 510 Centennial Parkway North, where she is employed, to Eastgate Square in order to catch a bus.

The city bus service ends at 6:00 PM for the Walmart location, although the store is open seven nights a week until 11:00 PM. She has no choice but to walk alone because her hours of work are planned around her husband's work schedule, so one of them is always able to be home with their one-year-old son, she does not drive and the baby is sleeping at this late hour. (She didn't want the baby disturbed and put into the car at 11:00 PM so her husband could come and pick her up). A babysitter is not in the budget for this young family, nor is taking a cab. As with a lot of young families, both parents need to work.

Since this traumatic event, she is fearful of walking alone and they have had to make the decision to disturb and wake their young son on the nights she works late, take him out of his warm bed, put him in the car, so her husband can ensure her safety by picking her up.

It is sad and maddening that this baby will now experience constant interrupted sleep, and a young family now lives in fear of their personal safety, due to the despicable actions of the two teenage thugs who attacked and stole from this young working mother.

But the accountability for this crime should also be shared by the City of Hamilton, which does not supply adequate bus service to populated areas, and the Walmart company, which knowingly discontinued their shuttle service for employees to Eastgate Square not long after their grand opening.

In today's society, why is it always about saving money rather than ensuring the safety of and caring about our fellow citizens, employees, and the general public?

Loretta Paszkat
Stoney Creek

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23 Comments

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By Sara (registered) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 15:05:04

Thank you so much for posting this letter, Loretta. I hope you send it to The Spec, too. And to your City Councillor - Chad Collins. I wish the very best for your daughter-in-law, she sounds like a great mom (as do you)!

Your analysis is so well laid out - you describe in detail the consequences of the low wage economy that's such a big part of our city.

If employers like Walmart paid a decent wage and provided shuttle service to ensure safety for their employees they would be beenficial to our economy. But instead they take away more from our economy and our quality of life than they contribute.

The city allowed Walmart to locate at that plaza without any proper planning. They had to close a lane of traffic under the bridge at Centennial because there's no sidewalk there and lots of pedestrians were using the road at very high risk to themselves. The City has had to add a bus to the Plaza, but like you said not enough hours to cover shifts. That bus costs the city about $250,000 per year, and they only get back about $50,000 in fares, so it is in fact a subsidy to Walmart to allow them to pay low wages and still have employees. If the city did not provide the bus service - Walmart would have to either pay for their own shuttle bus, or pay employees enough so they could take a taxi home or own their own car.

Again, thank you for sharing your story here, and urge you to share it with your city councillor.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2013 at 20:18:22 in reply to Comment 93144

Great to see the numbers above Sara. Thanks for posting this information so we can understand the costs and what these big boxes outside of civilization are actually costing us.

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 12, 2013 at 23:48:27 in reply to Comment 93144

Hi Sara, thank you for your kind words, sharing your thoughts, and interesting information. Walmart did have a shuttle service to Eastgate until the present bus service started. Then cancelled it! The lack of caring for their employees' safety makes me so angry. Management is aware of the mugging, but have not taken any action nor have said anything to my daughter-in-law. From what I understand, this is the norm.

I did send my letter to the Spectator right away. Frustratingly, only silence to date. Also sent to Chad Collins. He replied the next day, but his reply was unsatisfactory. I responded back to him, and asked what his immediate action plan is along with my suggestion of taxi scripts in the interim. Waiting to hear back. I will post Chad's reply, as I am sure it will be of interest to you and others.

This tragic incident was not the first, nor sadly will it be the last. I would love to have our city free of crime and a safe place for all, but that is not our reality. Knowing that extended bus service, transcab service, or Walmart supplying a shuttle service could have prevented an incident like this; I had to speak up and will continue to do so until a viable safety plan is in place. Being quiet and "letting it go" is not an option for this outspoken and darn stubborn girl :)

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 12, 2013 at 23:55:33 in reply to Comment 93185

Here is Chad's reply to my letter and my reply to him:

Hi Loretta, thanks for sending to my attention. I read the small article in the paper as well; I hope your daughter-in-law is recovering quickly (both mentally and physically) from the ordeal.

I’m well aware of the busing situation along Centennial as I worked with the employees of the new development, SmartCentres representatives and our HSR staff to implement the current service. We originally passed a ‘pilot service’ in 2011/12 wherein we would gauge the ridership and determine after one year, whether the schedule needed to change. At the time, the new service was given priority over other areas of the City that were waiting for new or expanded HSR service for years. It's probably small consolation for those that are now forced to take the Barton bus and/or walk from Barton/Centennial outside of the Confederation route hours but unfortunately it was quite an ordeal to manage to secure the funding to expand the Confederation route.

One of the options for the Centennial service was to mirror the service offered to the Smart Centre shopping complex on Rymal Road. The service on Rymal was extended in '09 or '10 to coincide with the Walmart opening and has operated Mon-Fri (6am to 9am in the morning and 3pm to 6:30pm in the evening). We collectively decided that the additional cost of providing better service to the Centennial site would be better received by the employees and customers than the service we provide on Rymal and elsewhere.

As new businesses are established and demand for new services increases, we'll certainly continue to look at expanding the hours of operation. By copy of this note I’ll advise our HSR staff of your request and ask that they respond with the most recent ridership numbers. Thanks. Chad

Hello Chad, Thank you for responding but the bus service is needed now, or at the very least taxi scripts to get people safely to the nearest bus connection. We don’t have bus service in my area, but we do have taxi scripts. People’s safety is at risk! I would like to know what immediate action you will be taking to address this. Hopefully it won’t be after someone gets raped or murdered. Saving money should not take priority over people’s lives. Loretta

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2013 at 15:57:43 in reply to Comment 93144

There will always be employers who will pay minimum wage at a location that is not amenable to transit. Until the province or the federal government institutes a separate minimum-wage for car-only locations, this problem is not going away. While the city could further-subsidize this one Centennial North location with more after-hours transit, there's always going to be another Wal-Mart on the edge of the transit map. I don't know where the line needs to be drawn, but it will end up getting drawn somewhere. How few riders before the city says "we could serve other people better with this money"?

Ultimately, the best option for Loretta's daughter would be to find another employer who is located on a proper bus-route. Hopefully her experience with Wal-Mart will give her enough to put on her resume to get a retail job at a better location. Obviously that's not really a solution and is kind of disappointing advice, but I don't see a better option for her or the city. I'd like to imagine a perfect free-market world where these remote stores notice they have trouble retaining staff who can't afford to get to work on the pathetic pay and this leads to better locations or better wages... but yeah, real life doesn't really match the theory.

But yes, the situation sucks and I feel very bad for the young woman and her ordeal. Nobody deserves to go through crap like that. I hope she gets this sorted out and finds a good outcome.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-10-11 16:03:05

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 00:21:39 in reply to Comment 93149

Hello Pxtl, thank you also, for taking the time to comment, and your kind words. The option you suggested is a good one, but sadly will not work at this time for the family. Walmart did allow her the flexibility to choose shifts that would work around her husband's and my work schedule, so their son is always cared for by one of us. It would be difficult, likely impossible to find another employer located on a bus route that would allow her the same flexibility. But if that opportunity should ever arise, that would be wonderful :)

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By Sara (registered) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 16:03:39 in reply to Comment 93149

THe city has more power than you think. City Council voted to allow the land to be re-zoned from industrial to allow retail. There were lots of people opposed: http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/view_articl...

And we can't let Walmart off the hook. They should be providing shuttle bus service, no question.

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 00:38:50 in reply to Comment 93150

Thanks for sharing that link Sara. Thought you would be interested in knowing this;
the paragraph that said "A second large block of employment land – this one 44 acres on Fifty Road in Winona – was converted by council last month for another big box power retail centre, also dominated by a Wal-Mart." >>>> is another area with NO bus service, never has been. So the problem spreads..........

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 16:53:44 in reply to Comment 93150

This situation is one symptom of exactly the types of problems that were the basis of objections. Citizens were rightly concerned about the ability of infrastructure to keep up with expanding sprawl. The transit in the core needs intensification, while under serviced suburban routes still lose money. It is very expensive to provide all urban amenities to thoughtless sprawl - you end up with so much low density infrastructure to support. The city seems to have put the wishes of their Walmart tenant above sound planning and infrastructure assessments. Particularly if Walmart bullied the city to get approved/rezoned - they should be on the hook for any gap between tax revenues from them, and investments required in supporting infrastructure.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 00:10:58 in reply to Comment 93155

So would you prefer the young woman in this story be unemployed then?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 19:25:16 in reply to Comment 93206

That's an absurd thing to say ... how does it translate that this woman would be unemployed if growth policies favored intensification over sprawl?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2013 at 16:26:44 in reply to Comment 93150

My bad. I didn't realize the construction of that particular Wal-Mart was controversial. Well, more so than the normal baseline controversy of Wal-Mart, I mean. It says a great deal that the city went to bat for Wal-Mart for this particular location.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-10-11 16:28:18

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 16:16:12

Are there any Walmarts in the Hamilton area located on a transit line operating in the evening which would be convenient for this young lady to work in? E. g. Barton St. or Upper James. If so, could she ask for a transfer to such a location?

Comment edited by beancounter on 2013-10-11 16:16:51

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 01:08:25 in reply to Comment 93151

Hello Beancounter, thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes there are other Walmart stores on a transit line, but unfortunately the travel time would be approximately 2 hrs each way from her home.

Thanks also to DowntownInHamilton for posting. You are correct; "they frown on inter-location transfers." Your other comments are also true. Just so many things factor into this situation, it is overwhelming.

mikeonthemountain, thank you. Very insightful comments. As I mentioned in one of my other posts; the problem is spreading with the Fifty Road Winona land conversion with Walmart being the prime player......again!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 12, 2013 at 18:24:57 in reply to Comment 93151

Unfortunately, no. My wife was briefly employed by Wal-Mart a couple of years ago and they frown on inter-location transfers. It's done only for full-time employees, and only once an opening has been posted internally.

Also, as a note, I'm certainly not a Wal-Mart apologist, but they do pay better than minimum wage, have good benefits for full-timers, and provide lots of ancillary discounts to their staff.

Also, I know the pain of having worries for a loved one who is out, late at night: my wife was working at the Wal-Mart up at the far east mountain, and was continually working until 11pm. We live in the core and it was either take a 1.5-2 hour bus trip home (when the buses were running, and if you missed the bus, forget it, you're out of luck), or me driving the 25 minutes to get up there and pick her up, then come back home. As I was already working 10-12 hour days at that time, it was a big drain on both of us. She looked into transferring and was told the above. They also said you are free to apply to other stores but would lose all seniority and no preference would be given in the interview. Luckily she was only a seasonal employee and is no longer there, but it's tough when you are working at a location with limited transit options.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2013 at 20:30:31 in reply to Comment 93180

Maybe it's just me but this "They also said you are free to apply to other stores but would lose all seniority and no preference would be given in the interview." doesn't seem like a great employer.

Are these stores all privately owned and operated? What's the difference working at another store? What's the harm in keeping seniority and giving preference to a good known worker?

They should also be forced by law to provide taxi vouchers to the nearest bus stop whether the employee is heading east/west or south/north beyond regular bus hours.

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By karatespacetiger (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:18:32

I'm sure I'm not going to make any new friends with this comment, but having moved to Hamilton a few weeks ago I must say I am stunned at the number of children being raised by poor-to-extremely-poor parents, and it boggles my mind that these people just continue to have babies they can't afford. Your daughter-in-law's situation seems to me a good example of why, if life is so difficult and complicated already, and this or that work option is not available, one might hold off on adding babies to the mix. If they can't afford a babysitter, or a taxi, why did they think they could afford a baby? I just don't get it, when in this day and age birth control is so easily available, more young women here in Hamilton don't slow down and get their life in order, including their financial / professional life. Obviously that won't help your daughter-in-law now, she's already had the child, I'm just struggling with hearing about all of these "impossible" situations that it seems could easily have been avoided. Am I missing something? Do people here not get educated about birth control and the cost of raising children? The other day on Kijiji I saw an ad from a woman who claimed to be a surrogate about to deliver triplets for a woman who couldn't afford baby clothes, and was looking for donations (of baby clothes)... what? If you can't afford baby clothes, you can't afford a baby! If you are poor and want children, that's ok, but maybe work on becoming educated and comfortably employed first, because once the kids come, pulling yourself out of poverty becomes ten times more difficult! I'm not anti-baby, nor am I remotely suggesting that your daughter-in-law deserved to be mugged or doesn't deserve decent bus service and/or reasonably safe transport to/from work, again just struggling to understand what's going on here in a more general sense.

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By agreed (anonymous) | Posted October 15, 2013 at 20:42:44 in reply to Comment 93195

Teenage mums/impecunious young families are endemic to all impoverished areas of Canada. Tack it up to the low threshold for being a 'bad parent' in western culture and general societal conformance with bailing them out when they can't pay their bills or eventually separate.

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By karatespacetiger (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 13:38:28

Actually, I retract what I just said above. If I could delete the comment I would but there doesn't seem to be that option. Clearly I do not understand, and because I don't understand, I have no business spouting off about it. Also, my comments were off topic. I apologize.

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 21:54:18

To karatespacetiger, My family and I are shocked, insulted, and saddened by your presumptuous comments. As you are new to Hamilton, I suggest you educate yourself to develop an understanding of our city’s concerns and its citizens before forming opinions.

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By karatespacetiger (registered) | Posted October 13, 2013 at 22:25:19 in reply to Comment 93204

You are right, I was being presumptuous, along with intolerant and, if I'm honest, pretty selfish in hijacking a comments section for something that is none of my business and I'm not even sure what my problem is with these women. Evidently I have some soul-searching to do as to why this ignites me, and as you indicated, some learning in my future. Again I retract and apologize. If I could have deleted what I said, I would have, I realize what I said was wrong. But I will just apologize again.

Comment edited by karatespacetiger on 2013-10-13 22:42:55

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2013 at 20:44:15 in reply to Comment 93205

There is something to be said about honesty at both ends of your comments above. We all make judgements sometimes. Every last one of us. It's obvious your apologies are heart-felt.

Honesty is a tough pill to swallow. Part of what you say is true although I wouldn't direct it at any one person but more so a general comment. I Ryan (re-written a little differently perhaps), will likely allow you to send a comment for general wonderment that could be used outside of this comment thread and be taken much differently.

We also need to do better in the education of our children in the educational system. So many life lessons are left up to the family unit. There are many lessons I would have rather not have learned first hand.

There are so many subjects that could be skipped for real life learning. Managing a family financially and emotionally, learning about your city and how it works and where you come from. Learning about one another through mandatory World Religion and Traditions courses. We should also be learning about our own city history never mind all the 'Great' wars. And I love history.

This goes back to me believing the Parkview system is actually the best system. Real life lessons and skills.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2013-10-14 20:46:13

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By Loretta (registered) | Posted October 16, 2013 at 02:02:46

The primary topic of this thread seems to have been sidelined/ lost, we are discussing "City Should Provide Sufficient Bus Service" Please refer back to the "letter to the editor" at the beginning. Thank you for your continued comments/suggestions relating to the lack of safety for people employed in areas with no bus service.

Comment edited by Loretta on 2013-10-16 02:04:31

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