OC Transpo, the public transportation company that operates in Ottawa, is attempting to launch a trial project that would allow pet owners to carry their pets on buses in pet carriers. I’ve had pets all of my life and currently have 4 cats. I am also very much against this new project.
The main issue I have with this project is room. I live in the suburbs and very often I have to look at 4 or 5 95 buses pass me by without stopping. They don’t stop due to the fact that there’s no room in the bus. On the route home from Place d’Orleans, the major hub of that suburb, the only local bus that ends up taking me close to home is often full because it only runs every 30 minutes (when it shows up). Allowing pet owners to carry their pets in bulky pet carriers would only make things worse. We’re already squished in like sardines as it is. Supporters of this pet project claim that a handful of other cities in the country have allowed pets on buses for years. I’m sure if these supporters would look at these other public transportation systems, they would see that they don’t suffer the overcrowding that we have. With rising gas prices, ridership has also increased, making the problem even worse than it was.
Before looking into allowing pets on buses, OC Transpo should address the lack of buses, their maps/runs and their schedules. I’ve moved into a new part of Orleans that has grown by 6-8 thousand people in the last 2 years but the schedule and number of buses that run have not changed to reflect this growing area, Also, there’s a ‘major’ stop about 1 km from where I live, the Trim bus station, yet I have no local buses that go to that station. I must take a bus to Place d’Orleans, a trip that takes 30 minutes, so that I can catch a 95. Instead, OC Transpo should have a local bus that goes to Trim station, which would cut a good 20 to 25 minutes off travel time each way.
Some folks have written in the local paper saying pets should be allowed except during peak hours. This would be a logistical nightmare. How do you kick off poor little Ms. Smith and her pet poodle off a bus she got on during off peak hours (let’s say 3:20pm) who’s long ride ends up going into peak hours? Do you just kick her off at a random stop and wish her luck at getting home? This makes no sense.
There’s also some people who have severe allergic reactions to pet dander. Should they have to suffer because someone can’t afford to take a cab to their vet appointment? Now some supporters of this proposition state that people with pet allergies already ride the bus with people covered in pet hair. This statement is absolutely ludicrous. Newsflash! Those who have pet allergies aren’t allergic to pet hair, but pet dander. A person having a few stray pet hairs on their clothes will not cause someone with allergies to have a reaction, save for an extremely small minority who have an acute allergy to pet dander. Those people probably already avoid taking public transportation. Now carry a pet on a bus, there’s a lot more dander flying around, which would cause even those with mild allergies to react.
Then there’s the issue of noise. I know a lot of pets (3 of my cats included) that meow or bark constantly when in public or a moving vehicle. I’m sure there’s nothing else one would rather look forward to after a long hard day at work than to get on an overcrowded bus with dogs barking and cats meowing. Ah, such a wonderful symphony of headache inducing noise.
OC Transpo should also conduct studies to see how many more new riders this project would bring in. A dozen new riders a month? A hundred? I somehow suspect that the number would be quite low, as those who would benefit from such a new policy probably already take public transportation. How many people would stop taking the bus because of this policy?
That being said, I am not against all pets on public buses. There are some people who suffer from a physical disability that require a pet, such as the vision impaired. At my old place of residence, I often took a bus with a very nice gentleman who used a seeing eye dog on the bus. These pets are highly trained, will not bark or bite and are there to aid someone who really needs the help. I have absolutely no issues with those types of pets being on buses. I do however have issues with someone getting on a bus with a ferret due to emotional reasons (see the article Ferret barred from Ottawa buses).
As a responsible pet owner, I knew the financial responsibilities that were attached with owning a pet. If one doesn’t have a car and can’t afford to take a cab ride to their vet appointment, then perhaps you shouldn’t own a pet to begin with. Else, when you’re taking Spot to his next yearly appointment, make sure you factor in the cost of a cab into the vet bill. I also suspect that most people who would end up taking their pets on a bus is not solely to go to vet appointments, but to bring their pet with them as they go visit friends or family.
OC Transpo has a lot bigger issues than looking at allowing pets on buses. These issues should be investigated and addressed before allowing pets that would take up much needed room on overcrowded buses. And if this proposition does go through, I do hope that riders who bring their pets onto a bus have to pay a fare for their pets. After all, the pet carrier takes as much or more room than a person, so it would only be fair that they have to pay a fare for it. I know there’s no chance in hell of that ever happening, but one can only hope.