If you can see the image above, it shows you the last time I used public transit before the pandemic started. It was a Wednesday and I tapped my transit card at 6:20pm as I left Skytrain station close to where I live. I was coming home from work. I would not commute to work for the rest of the week because, my manager made it optional for my team to come into the studio. Then on Thursday, a company-wide directive instructed everyone to not come into work until further notice. I have not returned to the studio since.
Because I began working from home, I didn’t need to use public transit five days a week. Because of the pandemic and because I wanted to err on the side of caution, I stopped using public transit all together. Whether it’s buses or train cars, when it’s busy, you are packed in tight with people and frequently ventilation is poor, especially on buses. It just didn’t seem smart to subject myself to such conditions when I didn’t need to.
I started driving more and last August, I bought a much newer car that was more reliable and more safe. Sometimes the car is more convenient but other times taking the train is the better choice. It can be faster and you don’t have to worry about parking.
On Friday, I had to get downtown by 6:00pm to attend a dinner. I worked almost to 5:30pm. If I wanted to drive, I would have to contend with people driving into the downtown core for a Canucks hockey game and also Lions football game. Then there is the question of parking. Friday night is busy most of the time but it would be extra busy that night.
I made the decision to take the train into the downtown core. I had been thinking about taking public transit again on and off for a few weeks now. Since the pandemic started, I am now fully vaccinated and the vaccination rates for the Vancouver proper area is quite high. Masks are also required at all times on trains and buses. There has also been no evidence of mass infection events linked to a single trip on the train. It seemed to me that while the risk was non-zero, it was probably low.
I dug out my transit card which took me a minute. I had to go online to see if I had any money on it. In the past, I purchased monthly passes but there was no need to do that with work from home. Luckily, I still had $16 left on the card. That would be enough to take me downtown and back.
I got dressed and I made my way to the train platforms. I had not been this close to the platform is almost two years. It felt familiar and comfortable but odd at the same time. As I approached the gates, I tapped my card. The gate said, “Card Updated” after I tapped.
I walked on through and there I was on the familiar train platform. Again, it was as if nothing had changed but then again, so much had changed. In the time since I was last here they replaced old 1980s LED signage that announced when a train was arriving. In its place was full-colour, high resolution signage, that could display more lines of text and thus more information.
Since it was rush hour, there were many trains in service, so a train was pulling in as I entered the platform. I was also going west, as most people were going east, increasing my chances of having a fairly empty train car. I went to the last car at the end, which is usually less crowded. I was rewarded with a seat near the end of the car, with no one around me.
As I sat down, it felt like putting on an old glove. It felt alright. I did the actual math and it was 1 year, 8 months, and 8 days between public transit trips for me. The ride downtown was uneventful and almost mundane. It reminded me of why I loved taking the train before the pandemic. It was fast, convenient, less stressful than driving, and allowed my mind to just wander.
I don’t think I’ll start taking public transit everywhere again but if I’m going downtown again, it will definitely be a consideration.