I’ve taken trains in many countries. I’ve only been scared here, on my ride home


This First Person article is written by Davin Tikkala, an avid traveller and author in Edmonton. For extra details about CBC’s First Person tales, please see the FAQ.

I used to be using the LRT again to my home on Edmonton’s south aspect. I’d simply spent two hours at a downtown theatre watching The Batman, as captivated by the moody visuals of a darkish, rainswept Gotham City as I used to be by the story itself. 

Sitting on a bench dealing with the aisle, I used to be relaxed, having fun with the nice and cozy air from the warmers and the lulling impact of the rocking carriage. There was a scattering of different passengers, most of them immersed in their digital worlds. 

On most days I’m impressed by the effectivity of the LRT. My morning commute ends like clockwork at 7:24 a.m. outdoors the University of Alberta Hospital the place I work. By and huge, the trains are clear and comfy and the passengers do their greatest to deal with one another with respect. 

At least in the daytime. 

When evening falls, the ambiance can deteriorate, because it did in March.

A person with a bat

Debris together with a hammer, meals and clothes seen on an Edmonton LRT automobile throughout a morning commute in April 2022. (Cort Sloan/CBC)

I used to be about midway to my vacation spot when a younger man boarded. He was carrying a trench coat and carrying a baseball bat. Out of the nook of my eye, I watched him stroll up and down the aisle. My senses sharpened with adrenalin, I heard his mumbles — largely incoherent — about not eager to take it anymore. 

He stopped beside a younger girl, who froze and didn’t lookup from her cellphone. To my dismay, he then approached me. We had been knee-to-knee, him squeezing and releasing the neck of his bat because the mumbling grew to become louder and angrier. My coronary heart was in my throat, and I ready to dodge a swing to the temple or a bunt to the brow. 

The man moved away because the prepare pulled into the Century Park station — my vacation spot as effectively.  Inside the station, a second man ran down the steps and started attacking the person holding the bat. In the following battle, the 2 ended up on the tracks. The only safety employees that I may see was a 20-something guard who pulled out her cellphone and began typing. (Was she tweeting?)

I do not understand how issues ended up. I hightailed it away with out reporting it to the police or transit authority. There was nothing in the morning information. 

It made me marvel how many different incidents by no means make the headlines.

Great trains in different locations

Man wearing winter hat and jacket abord a clean train with Japanese signage
Davin Tikkala strikes a pose whereas aboard the Keihan line in Osaka in 2016. (Yui Tikkala)

I like trains. I’ve taken the well-known Blue Train sleeper from Pretoria to Cape Town, spent over 24 hours on a wooden-seated bus in Africa with stay chickens in the aisle, and bullet-trained up and down the Japanese archipelago. 

Trains in Japan are notably spectacular: the interiors are glowing temples of cleanliness, paint jobs are up to date with the season, and what appears to be an unstated settlement to keep away from talking until spoken to makes for a pleasing ride. 

The least nice a part of Japan’s trains is the crowds however even this speaks to how effectively the system works. Everyone makes use of it. People belief it. They do not — as I do — contemplate an Uber at 15 occasions the fare for a greater probability of arriving home unhurt.

Mind the cracks

Scaffold wraps around piers.
Among issues of safety which have made headlines are cracks in the concrete piers of the again-delayed Valley Line for the Edmonton LRT. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

This summer season, Edmonton’s LRT was making headlines when cracks had been discovered in the concrete piers supporting the brand new Valley Line that can run from the town’s southeast to downtown. 

The metropolis’s dissatisfied mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, stated he anticipated the builder to repair the problems to supply “secure and dependable service.” 

When I learn the mayor’s phrases, my ideas returned to that March evening coming home from the film theatre. 

The ambiance that evening felt removed from secure and dependable.  It had me questioning if LRT, as an alternative of standing for Light Rail Transit, is an acronym for “Leave? Remain in my seat? Try to mix in with the upholstery?”

A sequence of violent incidents that occurred this spring — two girls who had been repeatedly attacked by a stranger on a bus and a 78-year-old girl who was pushed onto LRT tracks — sparked concern from the provincial authorities and motion from the town, which boosted the variety of transit peace officers and handed a bylaw to higher regulate the conduct of passengers. 

The union representing transit employees had been urging motion for months, noting the rise in incidents because the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But even throughout an uneventful commute, there are quiet indicators of bother throughout — spider-webbed glass in the shelters, empty beer cans rolling down the aisles, open drug use by individuals caught in the cycle of habit.  It’s all an excessive amount of for a commute or a visit again from the films. 

And when will the evenings begin bleeding into the times?

Pride and passengers

A anime character painted on the outside of a train.
The vivid exterior of a suburban prepare in Japan. (Submitted by Davin Tikkala)

The Japanese have each motive to be pleased with their system. I want we had such pleasure in ours. 

As quickly because the cracks had been detected in Edmonton’s concrete piers, there was a swift response adopted by common updates. 

I ponder why structural points are confronted head-on whereas experiences like mine are sometimes ignored, as in the event that they had been secluded occasions as an alternative of a regarding sample. Is it that we do not need to face the cracks which can be showing in our society after the stresses of the previous a number of years? 

The willingness of our metropolis to let passengers fend for themselves as incidents pile up — documented and in any other case — suggests an indifference that’s not a part of the Edmonton that I need to name home. 

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