Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bus Stopped

Disclaimer: in no way am I saying that the people who live, work, make sexy times and raise families in the following places are bad people. I am credulous of their eyesight, but the residents of these places are, I'm sure, fine people with some sort of mass ocular disorder that prevents them from seeing the truth.

Which is: Kitchener is a total dump.

Oh, there are lovely pockets of the town. Whatever this is happens to be kind of pretty, in a what's-your-point sort of way. But vast stretches of the landscape are both really unattractive and vaguely offensive, as though the municipal government has thrown its hands in the air and said, "The hell with it, we're moving to Cambridge."

Take, for example, the bus station. It's totally groady, with the filthiest escalator I've ever seen. Think it's weird that I noticed a dirty escalator? This thing is disgusting. The whole building gives me the heeby-jeebies. Bus stations, as a rule, aren't known for their glorious architecture, but Kitchener's seems disreputable; if the building was a person, it would be seedily hanging around on a corner, trying to sell you watches from the lining of its coat. It's ingrained right down to its commuter bar ("Transfers," natch) and the fact that you have to buy Greyhound tickets on the platforms, as in not with the standard issue ticket-counter set up that is, you know, official looking. They keep the tickets in one of those Thermos lunch bags, as though the tickets need some sort of heat engineering. The whole thing seems unorthodox, and possibly illegal.

Taking the bus through Kitchener is one of those OMG-what-is-this-place deals. All the restaurants located in strip malls; the entire city seems to be housed in car dealerships. If aliens landed in beautiful downtown Kitchener, they would assume that humanity is powered, not by the sun, but by painful fluoresent tubes and pad thai. Across the street from the bus station, there is a tattoo parlour - nay, a former tattoo parlour, since it appaears to have gone out of business some time ago - named "Stray Katz." That's terrible.

This type of endemic ugliness isn't native to Kitchener's soil. It infects all kinds of small cities - Kitchener, along with Saskatoon and Burnaby, is home to about 200,000 people - especially places with an impverished downtown core and seeping sprawl along the outer rim. The downtown kind of looks like one of those "flea markets" that sell Confederate-flag bandanas and bootleg DVDs, and the sprawl is filled with big-box stores and Galactus-sized movie theatres.

I'm not demanding that Kitchener suddenly thrust a fat wad of cash into its downtown. It could start small - like the bus station, which is the pits, and unfortunately one of the transit hubs (and therefor public faces) of the city. Maybe small cities need to be more aware of their zoning outlook. Sure, Costco et al brings jobs into the area...but what kind of jobs? Low-paying, vest-wearing jobs that people need to drive to. It's kind of a losing situation all around.

Anyway, I'm just venting. I'll continue to travel through Kitchener, since it's a spoke on my wheel o' travel. I just wish the time spent there was just a little prettier to see.


  1. It's amazing what the humans can build. Until the recent opening of the busway, my commute to york involved passing through the worst kind of suburban wasteland. Every sight forces one to accept "we built that. We could have built anything, but we built that".

    There is a mass occular disorder. I won't name it though, it's probably not possible to name without coming off overly ideological.

  2. Awesome article! Thank you so much for sharing!