Suter, 59, is a careful grocery shopper. He knows his prices. But sometimes, when he gets really hungry and has no money, he will ask for an emergency food hamper. It's a cardboard box filled with potatoes, cans, meat, and produce. It weighs about 17 kilograms. Like other low-income people who ask for a food hamper, Suter has to go to the House of Friendship warehouse to pick it up. That's on Guelph Street in the industrial north end of Kitchener. The Route 18 bus goes right by the building. But at the end of the month, Route 18 — which took in part of Guelph Street, where the warehouse is located — will disappear. It is being taken off the schedule because of low ridership. The nearest bus to the warehouse is Route 6, which stops a few hundred metres away at Guelph and Lancaster streets. That's a very long walk with a heavy box.
On Wednesday during rush hour, a group of half a dozen anti-poverty activists demonstrated at Victoria and King Streets to restore the bus route or to add a stop on a neighbouring bus route. A petition has drawn more than 200 signatures.
Suter is under no illusion about poverty. He notices several kinds of poor people: Those who are still on unemployment insurance, they still have their vehicles and they use them. There are immigrants and refugees who are often able to get a sponsor or friend to drive them to pick up the hampers. And then, at the bottom of the heap, there are the people on social assistance. They almost never have cars, so they take the bus.
It's almost as if he's becoming invisible because he's poor. Suter gets frustrated when officials tell him that, yes, the bus route he depends on has been cancelled, but then they go on to point out the new routes that go to shopping malls.
Suter knows these are the people who everyone hopes will start riding the bus and the light rail transit when it comes. "Young professionals," he says. "If you're not part of that demographic, you don't really count. You're not the kind of people they want to attract."
Read Luisa D'Amato's full article in the Record
Please call the Grand River Transit Customer Service line at 519-585-7555, and ask to speak to a GRT Manager, to state your opposition to the elimination of this important bus route. Call or e-mail Waterloo Regional Council firstname.lastname@example.org