• Daniel Boutilier

Photo Essay: The Morning Commute

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Sydney, N.S.

Daniel Boutilier

After CBU and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday to address ongoing transit issues, the Caper Times on Monday made its way to Dorchester St. to see first-hand what the morning commute looks like for many students.

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The early morning sun casting shadows as commuters crowd the sidewalk.

0750: Not as many students here as I would have thought, perhaps fifteen or twenty talking in small groups.

0755: A number of buses have arrived at this point, but none with service to CBU. Some passengers get off in order to transfer buses. The buses remain waiting, mostly empty, until it’s time to move along their route toward places such as Whitney Pier, North Sydney, and Sydney Mines.

0800: Most of the buses depart now, and a lot more people have arrived from every direction in the last ten minutes, it’s not looking good for us all making it on the next bus.

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0801: The 8AM bus for CBU arrives and people quickly crowd around the door. I’m doing this on a day I don’t have class so I’ll be taking the next one, but it’s easy to see how someone of smaller stature could get pushed out of the way here or simply be too intimidated to risk the crowd. There is no sort of line or order, the first people to board depends primarily on where the bus pulls up to the curb.

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0805: The bus is full with many people left curbside. With the new Memorandum of Understanding and the additional service there should be another bus here soon. At this point though, if I had an 8:30 class I probably wouldn’t be making it on time.

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Students unable to make it on the 8AM bus.

0810: People continue to arrive at the stop but foot traffic has slowed noticeably. Still, not sure if we’re all going to fit on the next bus either.

0815: The second bus arrives.

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Mani, an Environmental Engineering student entering his second semester, looks back as he joins the throng of people boarding.

0818: I was the second to last one on and we are just able to fit behind the requisite yellow line.

0821: As our bus has reached capacity we begin to pass the other scheduled stops on the route. The first couple stops have a handful of people, but the one just prior to Sobey’s on Prince St. has at least a couple dozen people waiting.

0825: Mani (pictured above) and his roommate Aulakh, both international students who arrived from India this January, tell me that while the bus stop outside Starbucks on Welton St. is empty today, typically it has substantially more students than we saw on Dorchester St. We discuss whether students might be moving further up the bus route towards Dorchester in order to get on buses before they become full.

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A couple transfer tickets and our solitary change, the entire bus was filled with students – and their monthly passes.

June Boiyda, a second year student from Bangladesh, told the Caper Times that on one particular day she waited for, and missed, buses at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 travelling from CBU to Sydney. They filled up quickly and she was unable to make her way on board. She then called a cab. When she was told it would be forty minutes before the next car was available, she decided to start walking. Luckily a friend noticed her and picked her up, saving her a long and potentially dangerous walk. In the mornings, June started to walk from her normal bus stop on Prince St. to the one on Bentinck, hoping to catch the bus before it was full. Consistent with what we found today, the bus was already full from the crowd of students at Dorchester. June and a friend started taking a cab to school, ordering it the night before, but for most students money is tight and this added expense is difficult to justify – especially in light of having already purchased a bus pass. This is before the Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the additional services added, however, so we’ll be following up with June soon to see how the changes have affected her.

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0830: We’re just next to the Mayflower Mall now and traffic looks like it’s bad up ahead. The bus driver has been in radio contact with his colleagues every couple of minutes; they’re reporting which stops have been cleared and those they had to pass by. It appears there’s been an accident on Grand Lake Rd. and the bus ahead of us is advising ours to stay in the curbside lane as traffic is being reduced to one-lane on either side.

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A firetruck follows after several police vehicles, all with their sirens on.

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0838: As we pass by the accident, we have a stark reminder that getting to work or class safely is ultimately much more important than arriving on time.

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0842: We arrive on campus, the bus empties, and students began making their way to class for another day – hoping their trip home in the evening will be less eventful.

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