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I Love Transit Week essay: Jon Coleman, about the #4 bus

To cap off I Love Transit Week, here’s another essay. Amazing local blog VancouverIsAwesome once ran a tribute to the #4 bus, written by contributor Jon Coleman, and I asked Jon to expand on it for I Love Transit Week.

Feel free to share your own favourite routes in the comments. And remember your responses might end up in the March Buzzer, as I’ll be putting reader contributions from I Love Transit Week into the next print edition!

Speaking of buses: the #4

by Jon Coleman

The #4, cruising down 4th Ave in Kitsilano.

The #4, cruising down 4th Ave in Kitsilano.

As a Kitsilano resident working in Gastown, my commuting method varies day to day. I most often hop on my bicycle for the journey but there are times when the weather isn’t in my favor or I am just too damn lazy to put in that kind of effort. Driving is almost always out of the question as the parking in the east of the city is both scarce and over priced. I enjoy hoofing it but that is dependant on me getting out of the house early enough. When all else fails I find myself on the #4 and have grown to love and look forward to the ride.

One of the #4’s obvious attractions for me is that its route has stops within a minute walk of each of my destinations, essentially providing door-to-door service. That is not what draws me to the ride however. It’s the filling of the transportation sandwich that really provides the flavor to the journey. Ooh “transportation sandwich”. That’s a good one! I think if I am gonna run with it then the #4 would have to be the toothpick that reaches each end of the city sammie by stabbing straight through the middle and pulling it all together.

In terms of people riding the #4 on any given day, it would equate to walking in a deli and ordering a sammie with “the works”. No ingredients left out. And as the toothpick pushes through that sandwich it passes the layers of ingredients until finally it pops out the other end.

When I hop on in Kits each morning I start in the company of a mix of UBC students heading into the city, downtown bound suits, west side residents on their way to Capers or maybe a yoga class and the entrepreneurial binner who has risen with the sun to scour the west sides alleys for it’s recyclable riches. Pushing on along fourth you lose some errand runners and perhaps an Emily Carr student or two at Granville Island.

Once over the Granville Bridge the suits have all filtered off by Georgia and more and more people begin to board. This crowd is usually a little more talkative and in fact if they aren’t talking to myself or someone close by, then often they are talking to themselves. Either way the conversation is usually quite interesting.

By the time I reach my stop in Gastown the amount of passengers has thinned out and over the course of the trip I have gotten in the mindset for work. The same process works in reverse on the way home also and the #4 can gradually wind me down as it makes its way through the city back in to the quiet west side. In one trip you see the diversity of multiple neighborhoods and witness the passengers unique interaction as their paths cross in the tight quarters of the #4.


2 Comments

  • By Ken Campbell, February 27, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

    There’s a great book about what is now the eastern segment of the #4 route, back when it was the #20 street car, from Renfrew to downtown. It’s called Along the No. 20 Line: Reminiscences of the Vancouver Waterfront, by Rolf Knight (New Star Books, 1980). You can even download it for free at Rolf Knight’s website (www.rolfknight.ca) If you haven’t read it, you should… one of my favourite Vancouver books.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 2, 2009 @ 9:19 am

    Thanks for the book recommendation Ken — I’ll definitely check it out!

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