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Sociology Writing Assignment: A Bus Ride in Toronto (Term Paper Sample)



Due By 11:55 PM November 24
Worth 15%.

General Introduction
In this assignment you will be asked to ride a bus, and to make observations during your experience on the bus. You will be asked to frame your experience using sociological concepts, and to explore the links between individual experience and larger, social structural factors. Finally, you will be asked to put what you have observed into context and write about an experience you could have if you were a parent of small children who must rely on public transportation.
This assignment requires that you become a participant observer, and that you use a sociological imagination to analyze the experiences of the people you observe in terms of the structural factors that affect their lives. In particular, you are asked to focus on the ways that social context shapes individuals' everyday experiences.
The Assignment
1. Choose a bus route. Each tutorial team should choose a bus route that travels through a range of different urban settings and neighborhoods. (See Appendix “A” Choosing a Bus Route).
2. Read Joshua Meisel (2008) “The Ethics of Observing: Confronting the Harm of Experiential Learning”. Teaching Sociology, 36, pp. 196-210. Prepare a half page (approx. 125-200 word) ethical discussion of potential instances of harm that you believe could arise as a result of this exercise.
3. Ride the team-chosen bus route during the day. Use observational skills and keep field notes describing who rides the bus in the various neighborhoods the bus passes through. Illustrate these observations with judiciously chosen photos. Keep track of the time spent and your overall experience in riding the bus. Make note of issues related to structural constraints that affect passengers using the bus, including time and cost constraints. How long did it take to get to your destination? How does the cost of using the bus compare to the cost of operating a car? Are safety or stress issues important factors? Use the observation log (Appendix “B” at the end of this assignment) to record your observations. Make sure you note the date, time and bus route number on your observation log. Ask for a transfer and make sure to include a copy of that transfer with your log. A copy of your observation log, and a copy of your ½ page discussion of ethical issues, must accompany your paper submission.
4. Write your paper.
a) Use your observation log to help you write a succinct description of the bus ride. Include observations about how long the ride took; the demographics of the ridership; changing neighborhood conditions and any other observations you find pertinent. Illustrate your observations with a few judicially chosen images. (1-2 pages excluding images).
b) Compare the different neighborhoods you observed during your bus ride with respect to neighborhood characteristics including: type and quality of housing, employment possibilities, and social class/gender/age/ethnicity of the people taking the bus. (Be sure to include a discussion of how you arrive at a determination of someone's class, age, gender, ethnicity etc. Comment on how structural forces - especially differing neighborhood conditions - might contribute to differences in the quality of life of the people living in those neighborhoods (2-3 pages).
c) Finally, imagine that you are a low-income single parent of small children and you have no other transportation options besides the bus. Write about what it would be like to use public transportation to drop a one-year-old child at day care and a six-year-old at school as well as get to your 36-hour-a-week job serving food in the campus cafeteria. What would your day look like, and how would you deal with issues such as if one of your children was ill or your work hours were changed from the day to serving dinner in the evenings? (1-2 pages).

Choosing a Bus Route

Work with members of your tutorial group to choose a bus route all members of the group will take. Information about TTC bus routes and schedules are available online.

Choosing a well-traveled bus route that passes through neighborhoods with differing economic resources will ensure you are exposed to a wide variety of people who ride the bus for varying purposes as well as be able to observe changing neighborhood conditions. A good map showing income distribution across regions of Toronto is available in Walks, Dinca-Panaitescu and Simone (2016) “Income Inequality and Polarization in the City of Toronto and York Region.” The map “Average individual income by census tract in the city of Toronto, 2012” is on page 12 of the report. You can use the map to help make sure the bus route you choose travels through different neighborhoods in Toronto.

You may take the group-chosen bus route by yourself. But if you are more comfortable taking the bus with another student, please do so, as long as you do not sit together to ensure you make your observations independent of each other.

Observation Log

Time Caught the Bus: ​​​​​Date:
Where Caught the Bus: ​​​​​Bus Route Number:
Time Arrived at Destination:

1. Notice the people who get on and off the bus. Based on what they are wearing (uniforms, casual/
formal clothes) or what they are carrying, where might they be taking the bus to and from, and
what could be their social class status?

2. Notice the ages, genders, and races of people who take the bus. Who seems to take the bus, and
does this change at different points in the bus ride?
3. Notice the neighborhoods that you are passing through on the bus. How do the conditions of the
houses/yards, the types of businesses and stores, the conditions of the streets, etc., change throughout
your bus ride?


A Bus Ride in Toronto
Income inequality or simply inequality gap has been an issue ever since most countries obtained independence. Income inequality is the disparity of income or wealth among members of a society or members of a certain group. It is what brings out the issue of social classes. It is the gap between the rich and the poor. The aphorism, "the rich grows richer, and the poor grows poorer" explains this better. This paper reports on the experiences on a bus ride in Toronto to bring forth the truth of the prevailing inequality gap in the City. It also looks into the experience of a single parent who relies on public transport for all her endeavors.
Before getting to the main point of the paper, let's look first into why the issue of income inequality would be of importance. It is true that this has been an issue that has never left the tables of most discussion boards. Sociologists and different analysts have spent their lives trying to analyze this issue. Why is it of importance? Looking into the pros and cons of income inequality to a nation and its people highlights the importance of the issue.
One of the pros of income inequality is its ability to drive an economy. Those with high social status work to get the coveted labor jobs. Those with low social status use innovation to come up with businesses so as to push themselves up the ladder of the income inequality. If the gap was smaller, the rates of innovations would be low. The other pro of income inequality is its role in fostering fairness in the society. To attain economic equity, it will mean that resources will be obtained from the have's and then given to the have not's which is not fair.
First con of income inequality seems to contradict the first pro; however, income inequality stifles growth. This is in the essence of poverty. Poverty is associated with poor public health and high crime rates. This is a burden to the economy. Inequality, as mentioned earlier, decreases the health of the people and increases crime. In addition, income inequality leads to inequality politics. People tend to choose leaders from the higher social statuses. Poor education is also associated with income inequality. The beneficiaries of the pros are those on the upper end of the inequality ladder. The cons affect those on the lower end.
Another thing to look at is why Toronto. According to Notable Life 2016, Toronto reports being the fourth highest in income inequality in North America. It is increasingly becoming a place of two groups; the haves and the have not's. The rampant inequality is despite it being a city of diversity. Globally, Toronto comes in the 19th position of the cities with high inequality gaps. The research continues to point out that the income inequality in Toronto when compared to other cities in the country; it is rising twice as fast. The 1960 census found that 68% of the areas in Toronto were occupied by middle classes. In 2012, the number had decreased to 32% (Notable Life, 2016).
The Bus Ride
The journey that seemed to have no specific destination started at 8.00 am. The journey took a total of five hours. It might look a shorter time but what I observed can fill an entire novel. Being an inhabitant of Toronto, am familiar with most places. This time, however, I went through the city with a different mindset; as if this place was strange to me. People got on and out of the bus on various bus stops. There are those who looked in so much hurry to get to the workplaces. Others had school children whom they had to drop to school before going to work. The bus carried people of diversity, but it was important to note that most people on the bus...

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