In a previous post, I had mentioned that, in my street-wise opinion, one of the leading causes of homelessness and poverty is the extremely high cost of public transportation. Indeed, many people work in cities in which they can’t afford to live but that they can also not afford to leave since cars are pricey and the bus is almost more so.
That you now have to be middle class to take public transit is outrageous. If you are poor, you bike. If you can’t afford a bike, can’t ride a bike or it’s, say, winter, you walk. This means that you have to make sure your job is within walking distance (by which I mean an hour, not ten minutes; when you’re poor you walk a lot) of your dwelling or you can’t work at all.
Forget taking the bus to go do things like have fun or socialize. If you’re too poor to afford a bus pass costing over a hundred dollars every month, you hoard your precious bus tickets for the days where you have to travel. Grocery-shopping days. Work days if you don’t live close enough to walk. School days if you don’t live on or near your campus. Every other day, you walk. Hours.
Determined to make the best of my homelessness (no obligations, lots of free time, almost a vacation!) I walked with great determination to one of Ottawa’s beaches the other day. It took me eight hours, one-way to get there. Admittedly, I got lost a few times. I’m also a slow-walker who travels heavy and takes lots of breaks. Nonetheless, by the end of the journey, I had swollen blisters the size of my hands on each thigh and, at the most irritated areas, my skin had chaffed off and left fresh scars.
That being said, the beach was awesome even though I left at noon and got there at nightfall. The thing is, I have a ridiculously high pain tolerance, the kind of will-power that legends are made of and I’m also a little bit nuts (as would be anyone who’d led my life, I’m certain). Most people are not willing to walk eight hours and suffer injuries that take days to heal just to go to the beach. Or to see their friends. Or to access any other kind of entertainment, really.
The funny thing is that Ottawa is a tiny metropolis. You could walk from one end of it to another in a day, if you were determined. However, if you happen to live in a city like Montreal or Toronto (which is HUGE), this is completely impossible. If your friend or entertainment is at the other end of the city, you have no choice but to remain isolated because your budget doesn’t cover the costs of maintaining in-person relationships or of having a life.
I’d like to point out that anyone who says “get a life” should first consider how fucking expensive those things are. Just because you’re alive, doesn’t mean you can afford to have a life (and that is a completely ridiculous statement because society is completely ridiculous; I’m just calling ’em how I see ’em).
This is why affordable public transport is NECESSARY. Transportation, in this day and age of big cities rather than tiny villages, isn’t a luxury. It is a need. If one cannot access transportation, one cannot work, cannot study, cannot socialize, cannot live. Public transit isn’t (just) for the middle-class, nor should it be. Public transportation is for the public and that includes the poorest members of it.