Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton)

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are chronic complainers about everything under the sun, yet they never take action to attempt making the situation better. (Don’t like the policies of your current government? Then make a phone call. Write a letter. VOTE!!)

But today I’m taking a step back and becoming one of those people who just vents for the sake of blowing off steam. (Sadly, I know I won’t feel any better for ranting… rather, all this will serve to do is increase my blood pressure and lower my life expectancy, but I digress.)


Top Five Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton):

5) Public transit and its users.

Given the lack of parking spaces in this city (thank you, piss poor city planners) and the unaffordable cost of driving and parking my vehicle in spaces no where even close to my work, I have no choice but to take public transit each day.

In a lot of ways, it really is the more convenient option for me personally because of my extreme lack of patience for traffic and drivers fiddling with their hand-held devices, but it sure is a pain in the ass most days.

My major issues with public transit and its users in the City of Edmonton are threefold:

a) There are not enough buses or trains travelling frequently enough to accommodate all of its users. I work on a busy post-secondary campus and, for 8 months out of the year, I don’t get to sit down on either the bus or train. It is standing room only (not just during peak hours), and often times there are people left behind because there just isn’t enough room for everyone. So incredibly frustrating. And also a reason many people are often late for class or work.

b) All bus stops should be equipped with a somewhat roomy and somewhat clean shelter to protect its patrons from the elements. Yes, I repeat, ALL BUS STOPS. I won’t rant about our climate (yet), but it’s ridiculous to me that the majority of our bus stops are out in the open. People die here and lose limbs from exposure. While effective indoor heating systems would be ideal (and also expensive), wouldn’t it at least make sense to have mandatory shelters at all stops to at least shield people from the unrelenting and unforgiving prairie wind?

I won’t lie, in my 20 years of riding public transit, there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve been waiting for my (late-arriving) bus and just haven’t been able to tolerate standing out there in the open for a minute longer. So I’ve turned around and just gone home. (Sorry, but life’s too short to be hopping on the spot and waiting for the bus while the tissue on my fingers and toes freezes and slowly dies.)

c) I have a problem with backpacks. And people who are so absorbed in their own little bubble that they have no awareness of anything happening around them. As stated, I work on a busy campus, and my coworkers and I are all in agreement that post-secondary students are by far the most oblivious transit riders we encounter. (Note: this was a problem when I was a student myself, and it hasn't improved since then.)

I've been THIS CLOSE to telling a few of them this week that, unless their backpacks or Coach purses also paid transit fare, then they should kindly remove them from the seats and allow actual paying customers to sit down.

Moreover, I've also been tempted to pull some of their earphones out of their ears and force them to look around a bit and realize that there are senior citizens STANDING next to them. In other words, pull up your pants and do the right thing by giving up your seat. (Is common courtesy a lost art these days??)

4) Urban sprawl & cookie-cutter houses.

Last week my family and I drove out to the ‘burbs to pick up a used children’s kitchen set from a family advertising it online, and we were dismayed to see how much the city has grown in recent years. Where there was once beautiful greenery and natural landscapes less than five years ago, there are now multiple strip malls and an endless scene of cookie-cutter houses. (Cue Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” here.)

Sure, there are jobs in the city, which means families are constantly moving in and needing a somewhat respectable place to live, but do these new neighbourhoods all have to look the same? Couldn’t the City have hired a designer who is capable of exercising some free thought? (No, because that costs money.) For that matter, couldn’t our city bylaws at least be modified (or scrapped altogether) to allow for some originality?

I’m not kidding here. All our newer neighbourhoods are reminiscent of the Communist Housing Projects.

The city is now surrounded by rows upon rows (upon more rows) of identical houses and yards. They’re only allowed to have so many trees (of only certain varieties) strategically placed on their properties. And the colour palette for these homes is nothing short of bland and unoriginal.

When my husband and I first purchased our home almost three years ago, we were adamant about living in an older, maturely developed neighbourhood. Yes, it meant we paid a little more money for our smallish, 50-year-old house than what we would have paid for a bigger, brand new home in a newer neighbourhood, but we didn’t care.

At least we can look out the window and see an expanse of green space nearby. At least we have a sizeable yard and aren’t nestled like sardines among neighbouring houses. And at least every home in our area is somewhat unique in its colour/shape/design.

Houses in mature, established neighbourhoods tend to have old-school charm, whereas the products of our city’s urban sprawl have only a severe lack of character.

3) High cost of living.

My mother-in-law visited us from Upstate New York this past summer, and she was shocked, appalled, horrified, dumbstruck [insert your own adjective here] at the amount we pay for our monthly utilities and energy bills.

To give you an idea of what a cruel joke our living expenses are up here, we pay in one month what she pays in six. (Not an exaggeration.)  She flat out told me that, if she were to move to Edmonton, she wouldn’t be able to survive on her fixed income. And that’s the sad reality: Many people already CAN’T survive here, hence our ever-growing homeless and poverty-stricken population.

To top it off, Edmonton isn’t really that nice of a place to live anyway.

There are no mountains to take our breath away. No nearby ocean. And next to no mosquito control.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, lives in a stunning gated community in the wilds of Phoenix, and her home is a virtual freakin’ mansion, complete with an interior courtyard…. yet she barely paid more for her home than we did for ours.

And it’s in an area of utter environmental beauty. In balmy Phoenix, no less!

So why does it have to be so expensive to live here? Oh, right: We have oil. And we have jobs.

I suppose I could tolerate the outrageous cost of living in Edmonton ONLY if it was a halfway decent place to live. But, for nine months out of the year, it’s really not.

2) Lack of snow removal.

Our present city council is obsessed with wanting to be known as a “World Class City”, but what they can’t seem to comprehend is that they need to first invest in the basics and take care of the city’s needs before handing out millions in tax dollars to a billionaire who’s stating that he’s building a downtown arena. True story. (*cough*Daryl Katz*cough*)

One of those basic needs I speak of is the simple act of removing snow.

As a homeowner, if we don’t shovel the (city-owned) sidewalk on the side of our house within 72 hours of the last snowfall, we will be heavily fined. But for some reason it’s okay for city officials to send out a skeleton crew of workers in a half-assed attempt to clear our roadways of snow…. eventually.

And what they leave behind is even worse: Sheets of sheer ice that makes for deadly and treacherous driving conditions. (It’s no wonder I opt to take the bus instead of trying to navigate the roads myself.)

When my husband first moved here from Upstate New York, he, too, was flabbergasted with the state of our snow- and ice-covered roads and sidewalks. He constantly preached to me about what a perfect, loving, Utopia his hometown is, and about the fact that they’re masters when it comes to snow removal.

No one is allowed to ever park on the street, so our crews are able to remove the snow down to the pavement,” he bragged. “You can see the roads in winter, and there’s no ice at all.

Plus, we don’t even shovel our own sidewalks,” he continued. “Because there are workers who drive through all the neighbourhoods on Bobcats and take care of that for us.”

Naturally, I thought my husband was full of crap and only remembered his hometown the way he WANTED to remember it: as being perfect.

But then we travelled there shortly after Christmas in 2010, and I saw it with my own eyes. MY OWN EYES.

There, not even 20 feet away from me, was a worker on a Bobcat, plowing the snow off the sidewalk in my mother-in-law’s neighbourhood. And there was no snow or ice on the streets at all. Unlike here, where we say a little prayer each time we get into a vehicle in winter, we had no fear of the winter roads in my husband’s hometown.

I hate to admit it, but the place really is a perfect snow-removing Utopia.

And what really gets me is that, without fail, our clueless city council will announce (in December) that we’ve already blown our snow removal budget and should therefore just be happy with whatever we can get for the remainder of the season.

Umm, here’s a helpful hint: We live in Edmonton, the northernmost major capital city in North America. It’s a winter city. If you’ve blown your snow removal budget by December, THEN YOU NEED A NEW PLAN.

C’mon, people, prioritize here. We will never, EVER be a world class city if our government can’t even properly assemble a budget for removing snow. Just sayin'.

1) The weather.

Okay, you knew it was coming.

Someone once asked me about the things I hate most in this world, and at the top of my list was, “Edmonton from October to May.”

As a native Edmontonian, I used to fool myself into believing that I’m hardier than the rest. That no one else on Earth would be able to tolerate the climate in this miserable, frozen tundra, but that I’m one of the few who’s been able to survive, flourish, even.

Well, I’ve finally stopped lying to myself and others. To be frank, I really do hate it here. I would be able to tolerate all of this city’s other shortcomings combined if only we had a more temperate climate.

I’m not saying I want to live someplace where it’s hot year round, but I would certainly be infinitely happier to be in a place where people can’t potentionally freeze to death waiting for the bus. Or suffer heart attacks in their driveways while attempting to shovel the tons of heavy snow we’re burdened with each year.

(True story: During the winter of 2010/11, we had so much snowfall that the last of it finally melted in SEPTEMBER 2011. You know, right before the next winter season was about to begin. Typical.)

From September to October, there’s a chill in the air and a cool wind (of course, that ever-blowing prairie wind) that’s a mere blip of what we’re to endure during winter.... which then virtually lasts from November to April. Six long, dreary, unbearable months.

May is only barely tolerable because of the longer days, but it’s still often cold and wet and mucky out because of the snow melt and the sandy debris left behind. June, July, and August are (usually) wonderfully sunny and warm, but there are too many mosquitoes lurking outdoors that we’re often at their mercy and forced to take shelter indoors.

And then all of a sudden here we are. It’s September again. Blech.

Okay, so that's my rant. (And, no, I don't feel better for having lost my cool and published my thoughts on this blog. If anything, I do actually feel worse, as predicted.)

I'm sure those of you reading this are openly wondering why we even live here and, frankly, we wonder that, too. Truth is, family is what's kept us here. If not for that, we would have long since bailed on the tundra and gone somewhere more hospitable. At least from November to April.

Regardless, I'm sure you're dying to read about the gems Divulge with Dani and Juice with Junior have come up with, so please leave your comments and head there next.

Adios, and brace yourself -- winter's coming.

9:35am - This just in! My husband just couldn't stay away and has decided to post his opinion as well. Check him out at Wayward Yankee.


  1. The only small comfort I can provide you is that at least you do not have the horrible rush hour traffic of Calgary - it drives me nuts everyday - and Calgary drivers seem less courteous too.

    Other than that, I hear what you are saying.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Ren!!

    PS - Steve weighed in on this as well. I just posted his blog link above... check it out!

  3. You guys are really killing the fantasy this New Yorker has for Canada (for reals, I understand what you're all saying). Please tell me it's nothing but kind people hugging all the time! Please!

  4. lol.... I was worried that might happen, Junior! I didn't want my ugly side to come out in this blog, but once I started typing, there was no holding me back. It's like all the rage I've bottled up into my usual pleasant demeanor just exploded in this post, and I painted a horrible, horrible picture of this place.

    Not that the picture I painted was inaccurate or anything, but still. Maybe I should have sugar coated it a little and reinforced the idea that, yes, we do still walk around hugging each other. (Or at least consoling each other in our misery. LOL)