New huts, are you nuts?!

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – October 20, 2005

Taking the bus is already a pain in the ass-must OC Transpo rub our faces in it too?

OC Transpo raises fares to the extortionate rate of $2.75 a trip while it is needlessly replacing some of the city’s bus stop shelter huts with newer ones. Now there’s some responsible budget action.

I’m no bus stop shelter hut expert but from what I see, they’re upgrading from four black poles, glass panes and a roof to … wait for it … four GREY poles, glass panes and an ANGLED roof.

Gang, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Somewhere in a boardroom some people huddled to talk about huts and we weren’t there.

It must have started with some geezers saying it would be a good idea to upgrade the shelters and raise fares to pay for it. No matter, said the Mercedes-driving bigwig as he or she agreed to fuck the public up our collective ass.

Is this supposed to be better for the company’s bottom line? Safeguard its integrity and the city’s “look” through the preservation of aesthetic quality?

Meanwhile, see the resentment build among bus riders who believe we’re financing our environmental choice, but then are getting screwed because we don’t have a flippin’ say about where our money goes.

Don’t tell me the angled roofs are better for our Ottawa winters because they discourage snow build-up and therefore prevent long-term damage. First, there are plenty of flat roofs on Ottawa buildings that are doing just fine-so that’s a no-go to the enhanced structural integrity argument.

Plus, a bus stop shelter hut is not housing families or some company’s headquarters. They are simply places for riders to stand in and be safe from the elements while they wait for public transit.

If OC Transpo really gave a shit about our comfort, they’d stick a couple of leather recliners in there with a fireplace. And, they wouldn’t be taking so long to replace the huts like they are along Carling Avenue where many people have stood in rainy weather the past couple of weeks in a wall-less, shelter-in-transition.

The old shelters worked just fine, so is this a modernization? Well, I suppose everything from your handbag to your bedspread needs upgrading at some point to avoid flashbacks to the ’70s. That said, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Are you with me here or what?

Think pubic hair. In the new Tracy Quan novel I’m reading, the one girl discourages another from removing all her pubic hair permanently through laser treatments: “Aren’t you worried that your pussy will have 2001 written all over it in 2010?” the chick asks her mate. “I hate to say this, but certain things can really date a bitch.”

But does upgrading a look – whether for your private or public parts – necessarily enhance performance? The assumption it does can harm the rider. It’s like assuming just ’cause something looks good, everything about it by extension is good.

But the reality is nice hut, shit bus. OC Transpo should redirect its attention to the fundamental issues, not solely the superficial, aesthetic ones.

For starters, fix the brakes. The screeching makes my ears bleed. And get a real bus designer next time. While it’s admirable the current models are wheelchair accessible, they are making invalids of the rest of us. Couldn’t the designer have balanced the needs of both? Sideway seats up front mean there are no seat backs to grab when the bus takes off. Grabbing a strap hanging from the top rails can dislocate your shoulder.

The “modern” Star Trek doors appeal only to the few who know how to open them. The bus wall next to many doors has had to be defaced with black marker telling riders how to work them.

How about the passageway at the back of some buses wide enough only for a skinny person? This bottleneck creates panic for riders who can’t make the exit in time. Add to that the emotional strain of getting sausaged in the goddamned door because it closes too quickly!

Windows often don’t open and ventilation hatches leak. And on some buses, the passenger’s view out the window is obstructed at eye-level by bad seat height and the window frame.

To say that OC Transpo accordion buses sound like a 747 taking off is an understatement. Add to such noise the hazard of toxic exhaust blasting out the sides of the monster powerfully enough to blow-dry your hair, covering you in a thin veil of gaseous slime. To say we’ve got ourselves a tragedy on wheels wouldn’t be a lie.

It might be petty to complain about public transit in a city like Ottawa where the system runs relatively smoothly in spite of the deficiencies of its fleet.

But that sounds like settling for bad sex in a lukewarm relationship. And I would like to think if it were happening to you – or your friend – you’d have the shaved balls to speak up about it.

– Sylvie Hill