He waited all summer for a replacement bus shelter, but now that it's here, Julian Slotylak says he isn't impressed.
His neighbourhood bus stop at Columbia Street and Third Avenue (just outside the downtown Starbucks) got a new shelter last week, a three-sided, glass enclosure with a double seat inside.
"It's fancy, there's no doubt it," he said. "But it's not practical. It's just all glitter and no substance."
Slotylak relies on city transit to get around.
The retired school district employee catches the bus three or four times a week, mostly to go to the Tournament Capital Centre to exercise.
Like everyone who catches the bus at Columbia and Third, he spent several weeks this summer without a bench or shelter as the City waited for a new contractor to install the equipment.
Creative Outdoor Advertising took over the maintenance of the City's bus stops earlier this year from the previous company, which had held it for 20 years. As part of the switchover, the new company was required to replace all existing shelters and benches at no cost to the City.
But almost as soon as the old structures were torn out, riders started complaining.
Some didn't like that there was nowhere to sit and nothing to protect them from the elements in the interim. Delays in getting the replacement benches installed only made it worse.
When the benches finally arrived in September, some riders complained that the divided seats were uncomfortable.
Slotylak admits he's no fan of the seats — mostly because they "hold water like a birdbath" when it rains — but it's the new shelter at Columbia and Third that really disappoints him.
"It only seats two people," he said. "Before, you could get six people in there."
Slotylak has called City Hall to complain, but said he feels as if the City's "bureaucrats" are not hearing him.
Perhaps no one, though, understands the realities of transit riders more than the City's transit planner, Erin Felker. For the past several weeks, she has been on the receiving end of complaints about the benches and shelters.
"We had (the last company) for 20 years and it was literally the same equipment for 20 years," she said.
"The seats were worn out, the roofs were worn out. Now we've got a new company with new shelters, a new style, and so there's things that are good about them and, yeah, there's things that are different."
So far, nine of 20 shelters have been installed, she said.
Felker admits the two-seater version at Columbia and Third may not be ideal to accommodate a large crowd but she said the City didn't get to pick a design.
"It wasn't like we went to the shelter store and said 'OK, we'll take this one,'" she said.
"Our choice was to stay with the status quo . . . or go to a new company that would be willing to put them where we want them."
Felker understands that not every bus rider will be happy with the new system, but she said the City is contractually tied to the new shelters for 10 years, the new benches for five. Breaching the contract would mean thousands of dollars in legal costs and, still, the City would have to find replacement benches and shelters.
Of course, the irony in all of this is that Felker, who is often accused of not understanding the plight of transit users, actually rides the bus every day. It's the only way she gets to her job.
"People think I don't understand, but I do," she said.