Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saskatoon departure by train

M. was staring hard at this computer. 

I peered over his shoulder, and the info on his VIA terminal did not lie: he was supposed to charge Michelle and myself $20 per bike, per trip, even though the bikes were folded down to the sized of regular baggage and even though we'd bagged them in VIA's own clear bike bags.

This was M.'s first day back at work after spending a week at this family's cottage about an hour north of here. It was 12:30am. I could tell he didn't want to be the heavy on policy, but there didn't seem to be any loopholes: at this time VIA ~ like most carriers ~ considered a bike was a bike, period. (I had read that Amtrak finally changed its policy after some letter writing by U.S. folding bike commuters, but here in Canada it was still a grey area.)

I looked up from M.'s terminal to the wall behind him. There was a poster that described how VIA Rail was making efforts to be a more environmentally-friendly way to travel ~ how it has "significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions," how it is committed to "minimizing our company's footprint," and how it owes many of its environmental successes to its employees, who apply "their individual responsibility" to find "cleaner and greener ways of getting Canadians where to want to go."

"You know," I said to M., "bikes are also considered sustainably-friendly transportation, and we're just trying to be environmental by traveling with them." It seemed discrepant to me that VIA was doing what it could to promote green transportation, but then dinged you $20 if you showed the same commitment by showing up with a bike.

M. looked peeved and understandably so. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place ~ VIA's folding bike baggage regulations needed an update, and until then he was constrained by the old ones.

It was late and not an ideal time for either of us to dispute the finer points of baggage policy. I conceded to M. that we'd put him in an awkward position, and he conceded that perhaps the two lumpy bags could be tagged as regular baggage, in the name of journalistic research.

We shook on it and M. was kind enough to escort us and our baggage to the appropriate cars.