Thinking outside the car

Janina Stajic

Monday, July 8 2013

I must add my thanks to the intrepid group of volunteers who worked so hard to get GERTIE up and running. Now it’s up to the rest of us to start thinking outside our deeply entrenched car habits and start supporting this service so that the three-year pilot project will take flight and become a permanent part of our island culture.

I know one of the most effective ways to change people’s habits is to speak to their pocketbooks, so think on this: I know a family of four – two parents with teenagers of driving age - who has decided that GERTIE makes it possible for them to be a one car family. Immediately that’s a savings of at least $1,000/year in insurance not to mention gas money and maintenance. And this is an active family – one member commutes to town for work – on GERTIE – and the teenagers work at various places on the island, using GERTIE to get there.

GERTIE is also about building community. In the rides I’ve taken I’ve meet seniors who didn’t drive anymore, and were effusive in their praise for GERTIE. Finally, they had a cheap and efficient way to get to Nanaimo to do their errands. I’ve overheard young parents chatting to each other and arranging playdates for their children. And I’ve enjoyed conversations with people I’d never met before. In short you never know who you might meet while travelling on GERTIE (I have one friend who met her significant other on public transit!).

So get on the GERTIE as it’s really making a huge difference in many people’s lives. And if all of us took it just once per week it would probably ensure it was a sustainable service for everyone- those who just think it’s fun and those who really need it. If you don’t know the schedule, look in the Sounder, clip it out and keep in your wallet.

Sure GERTIE might take a bit longer and requires a wee bit of planning, but for the money saved and the opportunity to meet interesting folks I think it’s worth it. Besides, don’t we all need to slow down a little bit?