Thursday, September 27, 2012

Route 160 Downtown - University of Manitoba

As I leave home this morning it is 8 degrees Celsius. There is no sun. The forecast high is 20+ degrees. With no sun, I can't imagine that we will make it. But I do love watching people during this transitional weather. On my bus downtown to transfer to the #160 Downtown - University of Manitoba bus, I see a man who is a regular on my route. All summer he wears shorts, running shoes with white sport socks up to mid-calf, and a sleeveless shirt. Some of these shirts are tank tops or some type that is made with no sleeves, others have obviously had the sleeves cut off. Today he wears "track" pants, a sleeveless shirt and a down vest. He likes to show off his muscular arms! He looks like he could be anywhere between 50-70 years old. Another passenger is wearing sandals, and another has a light parka. I guess one is an optimist and one is a pessimist.

 It is time to get the #160. I catch it at Balmoral Station. This is the old downtown Greyhound/Grey Goose bus station across from the University of Winnipeg on Balmoral Street.

The bus is almost full as it pulls out and turns on to Ellice Avenue. From there it turns on to Vaughan and goes across Portage Avenue to the Graham Avenue Transit Mall. By the time it reaches the turn on to Main Street, there are people standing in the aisle. There are also more people than usual drinking coffee on this bus. I have never seen so many Tim Horton's cups on one bus...I can actually smell the coffee. Except for about 3 passengers, all the rest look like students. They are reading text books and highlighting worksheets. Some are texting or talking on the phone. Many wear headphones or ear buds.

As we pass Main Street and Broadway, I notice Fort Gary Place. I have never understood the design of that building. The first 3 or 4 floors are done in some sort of neoclassical style, the exterior decorated with statues. Then the upper stories are in a modern style. Very strange.
A close up of those statues that surround the lower floors.
The "neoclassical" bottom floors with the tall modern portion behind.

After crossing the Assiniboine River, the bus enters the Rapid Transit traffic lights, no other traffic. The first stop is Harkness Station. This is at Harkness Road, just past the back of the Winnipeg Winter Club. Next Osborne Station. A lot of passengers get on here. We enter a tunnel (actually an underpass with the CN Rail line above it). As we come out of the tunnel you can see the Fort Rouge rail yards with stacked container cars on the right. When we come up to Jubilee, we meld into the Jubilee overpass with the other traffic. That is the end of this first phase of Rapid Transit. During rush hour it is great to miss all the traffic across the Mid-town Bridge and Confusion Corner. For many passengers it is a longer walk to the bus reach the RT Stations.
The Osborne Street Station
Pembina Highway is in bad shape in many areas. There is a lot of always. I have never been there, but I always like the name of Delicious Vegetarian Restaurant. I always wonder if it is....delicious. We only pick up a few passengers along this part of Pembina. We pass Winnipeg Technical College and Value Village. As other traffic bears to the left to enter University Crescent, the bus keeps to the right and enters a Transit loop just before the Earl's Restaurant. Then the bus has its own traffic light as it crosses Pembina and enters University Crescent. Summerland Apartments on the right still looks very inviting after all these years. The trees along this route are just turning colour and they look lovely with lots of yellow and red among the green. Suddenly to the right I am amazed by the size of the new Stadium. It really is big, both in area and in height. It certainly looks like there is a lot more work to be done before it can be used.

The bus takes the scenic route around the perimeter of the University of Manitoba before it turns on to Dafoe Road and stops at the bus stop there across from Tache Hall which is being refurbished.The bus schedule says that the bus should arrive here at 10:48 AM....and it arrives exactly on time.

Everyone gets off the bus here. It sits here until 10:54. While we are waiting, I notice a man in the bus shelter having a very animated conversation. Because of a pole I can't see who he is talking to. So I move and take a look. The man is alone in the shelter. In the "old" days, I would have thought he was talking to himself. But these days he may be talking on his cell with a bluetooth headset. I look carefully. He is about 50 years old...he is wearing what looks a Blue Bomber jogging suit, a small Spider Man back pack, and two carryall  bags over his arms. I can not see any sign of a headset. Yes, he is talking to himself.

This frame for a sign is empty. Looks sad.

On the trip to the U of M, the bus was so crowded that I could not see much along Pembina Highway. As we head back to the downtown there are only about 10 people on the bus, so I can see that between University Crescent and Oakenwald/McGillivray things are looking shabby. There are empty buildings and signs with the lights missing. All the apartments, condos, commercial/retail buildings and hotels used to look vibrant, now they are looking tired.

We join the Rapid Transit Corridor again and enter the Fort Rouge Station. I look around and it is hard to tell how people get to this station, or where they come from. (I had to look at a map to see that it serves people from the Lord Roberts area. I am not too familiar with that part of the city.) As we pull out and move along, I can see that we are behind the Transit Garage on Osborne Street.

Returning to downtown, the Rapid Transit Corridor ends at Harkness. The bus goes along Harkness to Mayfair and then up to Main Street. It takes Main Street to the Graham Transit Mall.  At The Bay the bus turns right and heads to Portage where it turns left and heads back to Balmoral Station.

I noticed a new sculpture by the Graham Avenue entrance to the Manitoba Hydro Building. There are large bison sculptures inside the building. I am not sure how long this calf has been outside.

NOTE: There is also a #161 University Super Express. This is the same route...except...It is non-stop between Jubilee and University Crescent at Dysart Road. This bus leaves the downtown starting at 7:14 AM until 2:50 PM. It travels from the University of Manitoba to downtown starting at 9:27 AM until 5:43 PM. Weekdays Only.

NEXT: Route #99 Downtown - Osborne Village. New Service linking Osborne Village, Harkness Station, and Downtown via Donald Street. There is a stop about a block away from my home, so I want to try it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Route 55 St Anne's

Winnipeg has been buzzing this week with the story of the Transit driver who got off the bus, on a cold morning, and gave his shoes to a barefoot man on the sidewalk. I wish I had been on that bus! It remains to be seen if my trip will have any of that kind of drama.

Too bad my bus driver on the the #17 was not as good hearted as that other driver. There was a woman on the bus who was trying to get off and transfer to the #20 which was just in front of us. She got off the bus and rushed to the #20, but it pulled away, so she rushed back to our bus. This happened at three stops. Our bus driver could have honked to alert the driver of the #20--drivers do this all the time--but he didn't. Finally in front of the Legislature, she managed to make the transfer.

I got off the #17 at The Bay and walked to the The University of Winnipeg Terminal on Spence St. to begin my journey on the Route #55 St Anne's. At least that is the terminus listed on the bus schedule. When I got there, I was greeted with this sign:
The sign said the new terminal would be in front of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Luckily I looked at the map and saw that the #55 stopped on Portage Avenue just across the street from the U of W, so I didn't have to hike all the way to the Art Gallery. I had just enough time to get to the Portage Avenue stop.

Most of us are familiar with the sights along Portage Avenue. But things have been brightened up by the placement of "marble" sculptures along the median. I think the best grouping is just across from the MTS Centre.

Some even have plants growing out of them!

There are other changes on Portage Avenue: the construction of the new complex across from the MTS Centre and about two blocks closer to Main St, I see the Avenue on Portage, a new condo development with the balconies looking over the Avenue. The condos are very small with partitions between the living area and the "bedroom". These are definitely for young professionals who spend all their time at work or in the clubs. Not for someone who spends a lot of time at home.

 At the corner of Portage and Main, the bus turns south and we pass one of my favourite building in Winnipeg, The Victory Building at 269 Main Street. It houses some Government of Canada offices.

Looking east towards the Forks, the skyline is dominated by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights...still unfinished. Today they added the last glass panel to the exterior, on the Tower of Hope. It is gigantic! I think it is out of proportion to its surroundings. The top of that tower is higher than the Golden Boy on the Legislative Building.

We also pass Union Station and the Upper Fort Gary Gate. The lots surrounding the gate and wall are still empty. No developments as yet.

The route crosses both the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. I could get off at Marion Street to visit Saint Boniface. I was expecting to see the Poulin's Exterminators building on my right...but it is gone! That building with the bug on the side has been there forever. Now it is a huge Santa Lucia Pizza restaurant. That was a surprise!

The bus heads along St Mary's Road until you come to the divide where St Anne's road goes off to the left and St Mary's continues straight ahead. Within a few blocks I spotted the brightly painted Mikes General Store. It sells collectables and antiques.  A fun place to visit.

Somewhere along the way we picked up one of the most frequent travelers on Winnipeg buses in the late summer and early autumn....the WASP....and I do mean the flying insect!  I used to "worry" when I encountered a wasp on the bus. But I have learned to ignore them. This wasp was very interested in the hair of a woman sitting in front of me. Her hair was what I could best describe as a modified Afro....instead of being big and curly, it was big and straight and spiky. She had to swat the wasp away several times, but she remained calm! When presented with a wasp, many riders change seats and look anxious for the entire trip. This wasp gave up on the woman's hair and disappeared to the back of the bus.

After we pass Fermor (Highway 1) and Niakwa, I notice the CAA Manitoba building. I didn't know that they had locations other than Empress Street. I should get to this side of town more often!

Along this part of St Anne's there are blocks and blocks of apartment buildings and strip malls. We turn on to Dakota Street and reach Dakota Collegiate and Victor Mager School. Then we turn down some residential streets before arriving at Bishop Grandin  and heading into the St. Vital Centre.

I chose this route because I knew that the Children's Hospital Foundation's used book sale was taking place at the mall starting September 20th. The bus loop at the Mall is outside the Bay and the Silver City Cinemas. I went in and found the book sales. I did buy a few books, but I couldn't wait to leave the mall. They have been "up-grading" for a long time, and it is such a mess that I felt tired just being there. The floors are uneven rough cement....very tiring to walk on. After a quick bite to eat at the Food Court, I was back at the bus loop and got the #16 for the fastest route to downtown.

NEXT: It is time to travel the new Rapid Transit System on the Route # 160 University of Manitoba-Downtown.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Route 77 Crosstown - North

I have often seen the #77 Crosstown - Kildonan Place at the Transit Loop at Polo Park Shopping Centre. I often thought that if I needed to go to Kildonan Place that I could take that bus. Well....that would be a mistake. Oh, it does go to Kildonan Place, but by the most circular, out-of-the-way route possible. And it takes an hour and a half to get there! If you are at Polo Park and you want to go to Kildonan Place, get a bus heading downtown on Portage Avenue and transfer to the #47.

But I digress....back to my ride on the #77. The bus leaves the Polo Park Transit Loop right on time at 11:10 AM and heads down St. James Street....a retail marvel. If you need it, you can probably find it on St. James Street.....especially furniture and mattresses! One store-front that catches my eye is The Arthur Murray Dance Studio (They were at the height of popularity in the 1950's and 60's. I didn't think they were still in business.). If Dancing With The Stars inspires you to take up Ballroom Dancing...this is the place to go.

The bus turns on Notre Dame and you see the edges of the Weston Area with all the small houses originally built to serve the rail workers.

Then it enters the Red River College campus. When it leaves the college, it takes King Edward  to Logan. This is mostly a commercial/industrial area with a few small houses sprinkled between the business locations. As the bus turns on Keewatin, I notice a soccer field with about a dozen Canada Geese standing and watching the traffic go by.

Next I see the CP Rail Yards. This is the western end of the yards. I could not see this area from the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge when I was riding the #17 last week. There is a large transfer center where the containers that were off-loaded from the trains are put on trucks to continue their journey.

We pass a large vegetable garden that takes up an entire empty lot at the intersection of Keewatin and Selkirk. I wonder if it is a community garden, or if it belongs to the neighboring house. Next the bus passes the Billy Mosienko Arena, named for a former NHL player from Winnipeg. He is in The Hockey Hall of Fame!

The bus turns on Burrows and moves through residential areas (Tyndall Park, Inkster Gardens, Meadows West, Mandalay West). Again I see some huge homes. Along Santa Fe Drive there is a large duck pond and it is circled by the back yards of some very large homes. The yards are terraced down to the pond.These homes are 3 stories high in the back with walk-out basements. They look like glass towers as each floor contains floor to ceiling windows.

The bus is back on Inkster and we pass  the Library & Archives Canada building. Then the bus moves into The Maples and covers some of the same area as the #17. We pick up students at Maples Collegiate (it is now 11:51 AM). We pass Seven Oaks Hospital and pull  into the Transit Loop at Garden City Shopping Centre. We are almost half way through the route!

We leave the Shopping Centre and  head down Leila to Main Street. On Main we pass Kildonan Park and Golf Course and take Chief Peguis Trail and cross the Kildonan Settlers Bridge to Henderson Highway. We turn on McLeod (at River City Sports) and meander through residential areas. I love the name of one street: Tu-Pelo (I think of Tupelo, Mississippi, birthplace of Elvis Presley.). We pass Concordia Hospital and the Winnipeg Tax Centre on Reenders Drive. At last the end of the route at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre. I get off the bus and walk out to Regent to take the #47 bus to downtown. It is 12:45 and I can see Chicken Wings on Wheels across Regent in the parking lot. Too bad I don't have time to get across the street and get some before my bus comes!

NEXT: Route #55 St. Anne's (Yes, I will end up at yet another Shopping Centre!)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Route 17 McGregor

I have gathered my traveling supplies (notebook, pen, Fair Trade chocolate bar, Fair Trade dried pineapple , water, music, bus schedules, and of course something to carry it all in.) I am expecting that this bus travel will work up an appetite!

For many years I took the #17 bus from Wolseley to downtown. I boarded in front of the Misericordia Health Centre and got off on Graham Avenue. In my quest to ride all Winnipeg Transit routes, I am going to start with this route. It is time I found out where it goes from downtown.

Starting at Misericordia Health Centre the bus moves down Sherbrook Street to Broadway. No matter where you look, you will find a restaurant: from sushi to Subway, from The Nook to Stella's, Indian, Danish, vegan, fondue. You won't go hungry on this street. We head down West Broadway to the Legislature, then we turn down Memorial and head to The Bay and the Graham Transit Mall. Turning on Fort Street the bus heads across Portage Avenue and turns on Notre Dame. You can get off at Albert Street to visit The Exchange or The Burton Cummings Theatre. Heading down Notre Dame we turn onto Isabel (the street of many names...Osborne, Memorial, Balmoral, Isabel, Salter) You could get off and stop at Bueno Brothers Supermarket for some Filipino specialties. Before crossing the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge I saw Freight House Community Centre housed in a fantastic old building. You really need to get off the bus and walk down the side of the building to see the old loading docks that now house the different activities that take place in the building--- a drop-in centre, sports, bingo, among many others.

Crossing the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge it is easy to understand why people want to see the CP Rail yards relocated to outside the city. They stretch from this bridge to the Arlington Street Bridge and beyond.  From the top of the bridge you see nothing but rail yards as you look west.

CP Rail Yards looking West from Slaw Rebchuk Bridge.

We are now on Salter Street but soon turn to Dufferin Avenue. If you like fish and seafood, you will love Dufferin Avenue. Here you have Marine Neptune Fish and Gimli Fish Market. Well worth the trip.
You can't miss the brightly painted Neptune Fish store.

At the Gimli Fish Market the bus turns on to McGregor.  At 374 McGregor I saw New Line Furniture - The Stool Professionals. Neat....if I need bar stools I'll know where to go.

The street is looking a little tired at this point-lots of boarded up buildings including Alycia's Restaurant. As you approach Inkster Boulevard things change. It is now a pleasant residential neighborhood.

The bus turns on Leila, a wide divided roadway lined by neat, well-kept houses, and heads to Garden City Shopping Centre. It pulls into a bus loop there. Then it is out and across McPhillips to Seven Oaks Hospital and the Wellness Institute. Now the bus heads either to Amber Trails or Maples (the route is the same - just goes in opposite directions and returns to Seven Oaks Hospital).
On Watson Street in the Maples, there is  a group of town houses called Dial-A-Life Housing. These provide homes for aboriginal families facing end stage renal failure. They have to come to Winnipeg from their home communities for dialysis. Here they have safe, affordable housing in the city. I love learning new things about this city.

The "end" point of the route is across from Maples Collegiate on Jefferson and Adsum. We wait here a few minutes before continuing.

In the Amber Trails area I see huge homes, many with 3 car garages, with nothing but bare fields beyond. These are the type of houses I think of in Linden Woods or Island Lakes. I did not associate them with the North of Winnipeg. I am quite excited to have my blinders removed and to see my city in a new way....thanks to Winnipeg Transit!

The bus heads back into the bus loop at Garden City and then follows the same route on the return trip. On Isabel the bus turns up McDermot to Main Street. This provides another opportunity to stop in The Exchange. After turning onto Main Street, it crosses Portage Avenue and again turns onto Graham Avenue. From there it is down to The Bay, over to the Legislature and down West Broadway to Maryland. I was back to the Misericordia Health Centre.

I started my trip at 10:19 AM and returned at 12:12 PM. We reached the mid-point at Maples Collegiate at 11:11 AM. Time well spent. Hop on a bus and go somewhere, you'll be surprised what you find!

NEXT: Route #77 - Crosstown North. Just imagine the most circular, indirect, out-of-the-way route between Polo Park and Kildonan Place.