The legacy of the old 196er

It has become a legend at York for anyone who takes it or walks by it – the line for the 196 bus is one of the more distinctive elements of campus life at York University, wrote Sarah Millar, a first-year student in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a feature article for the Toronto Star April 4. Though funding for the extension of the Spadina subway line was announced in the provincial budget a few weeks ago, even if the TTC started digging tomorrow, the subway chimes would not sound at York for years. Which means there will be a few more generations of students who come to know the line as well. And that means the dreaded 196 bus will continue to chug along, with students often spending more time in line than on the actual bus.

As you try to find the back of what feels like a never-ending line, you see a wide array of people waiting for a spot on the next bus, Millar wrote. The majority of them have iPods on, while others are talking on cellphones, making plans, passing the time. No one looks very happy. As you weave your way to your spot at the back of the line, you have to ask people to make sure you’re lining up for the right bus. Hate to waste all that time standing in line…and it’s easy to be confused. At your spot from the back of the line, you can barely see the bus pole for the 196. It’s not your eyes, though – it’s over a football field away, after all. The bus pulls up, but not for you. The line’s too long for you to have any chance to pack in. Slowly, the first bus fills and pulls away, York students are crammed on it like sardines in a can. If you’re lucky, you’ll just make the next bus and wind up cramming in beside the driver.

 A bus driver, who wouldn’t give his name, says the line for the 196 starts to get bad at 3 pm and stays that way until almost 8 pm He said it’s not uncommon for the bus to be so full that many passengers are standing past the white line at the front of the bus. Asked if he has ever counted how many York students he can fit on the bus, he laughs. “No. No, I haven’t. But I know when the lineup starts, you can only take three-fourths of the people standing there and the other ones have to wait for the next bus. That always happens,” he says.

The TTC hires checkers who count how many people get on a bus for the routes, Millar wrote. Marilyn Bolton, spokesperson for the TTC, says that last year the 196 and the 106 bus routes combined saw a ridership of 20,900 people per day from Monday to Friday. “That’s pretty big. A lot of the other routes are under 10,000 a day. For example, the 86 Scarborough is another big route, but only sees a ridership of 15,000,” she says, adding the numbers for the 196 are usually only seen on bus routes that go east to west from a subway station.

The Hamilton Memory Project

“Hamilton is but a shadow of its former industrial self,” said Rob Kristofferson, instructor in business history at York’s Schulich School of Business, in a story published in The Hamilton Spectator April 4. A Hamilton native, he has written a book to be published next year about Hamilton’s industry up to 1871. The city built its reputation as a lunch-bucket town on the backs of craftsmen who opened small shops in the first half of the 19th century to sell products to the agricultural hinterland to the west. They made stoves, farm tools, carriages, blown glass, boilers, boats, tobacco, beer and spirits. In the 1860s and 1870s, Hamilton was the sewing machine capital of Canada and soon became one of the biggest textile centres.

“These small businesses were built on sweat equity. Typically, a small metal shop in the 1840s had its two owners on the floor, one journeyman and a 14- year-old boy hauling stuff around. By 1871, that business was probably in a brand new factory employing 400 people…. Well-paying, secure jobs at companies like these allowed the city’s economy to diversify and thrive,” said Kristofferson, who researched Hamilton’s industrial past as part of the Made in Hamilton Industrial Trail project in 2000. “You had buoyant, lively communities built around those industries. Take Ottawa and Barton streets, for instance. What has happened to them since the downturn in the manufacturing sector? They’ve gone down with it.”

On air

  • Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the increase in charges for pot possession under the new Conservative government on Toronto’s CFRB radio April 3.
  • Debra Pepler, professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, and the Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke on CBC Radio in Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney and Yellowknife April 3 about bullying and healthy relationships.