i’m sure i’ve whinged about public transport before. and maybe i’m just some flaky idealist that believes that the key to a good city is about proximity and access. but holy mother of god, i’ve had some shit transport experiences lately.
the thing is that i continue to be baffled by the apparent ignorance and/or stupidity of state governments (both victorian and NSW) to bargain away public infrastructure through dodgy deals, leaving them with stalemates in the city, 20 years down the track. i haven’t seen what the 2030 plans are for either melbourne or sydney, but i suspect that they’re ridiculously lacking in forsight and courage relating to public transport.
i should preface this with a reminder that i ride my bike everywhere now. i need to be in collingwood in 15 minutes? hey, no problem! i gotta go to the supermarket at 11:30pm? no worries! cross town to yarraville for kraft kuties? ok- long haul, but i did it. i became a dreaded cyclist out of convenience, initially. now i do it out of sanity – and my recent brushes with the draconian ‘systems’ which call themselves public transport – have served as a reminder to continue my wheely ways.
the weekend before last i was in sydney for the biennale and got up close and personal with iemma’s dilemmas. i used to live in sydney, remember? i spent almost 10 years there and while about half of it was inner west, i also lived in the ‘burbs too. try being a freak in french’s forest kids – not easy. and i can say that the PT situation there has deteriorated so quickly, that i can’t quite believe that monocle believes it to be the most livable city in australia. i guess it probably is quite ‘livable’ – in that, when you live there, you catch the same trains/buses to and from work each day, you have a well-worn route, and then on the weekends, you drive if you have to go anywhere outside your suburb, or you walk. but for anyone outside the commuter cycle, it’s pretty ghastly.
one obvious craziness that i noticed while there is that it’s a 30 minute wait between trains from central to newtown. are you kidding? for those who don’t know, newtown is 6 minutes from central. yes kids, 6 minutes away. which means it’s easier to catch a cab from the city. sustainable fuel, and all that. in fact, it would have been easier/quicker for me to get to lidcome, 20 minutes from the city and trains every 10 minutes, than it was to get to an inner city suburb. am i not seeing something here, or does that seem like a really bizarre occurence. it’s great that you can get to the burbs quickly, but it’s not exactly facilitation an increased density/reduced environmental impact kind of lifestyle. add to the fact that, for a tourist, there isn’t anything in lidcombe. whereas newtown is billed as one of the top nightspots (ok, so it’s fast losing its vigour, but still).
and the usual craziness with the cost of transport still plagues the city. the t-card has obviously failed (private infrastructure again), which means that tickets are not only costly, but inconvenient. hell, i’ve lived in london, which is fucking expensive, but at least with the oyster card, it’s convenient. you chuck a chunk of money on your card and you just swipe away – across most forms of transport. sydney has 3 different tickets for its 3 forms of transport and it’s all based on the journey – journey. the word ‘holistic’ just don’t come into it. i know it’s never been unified, but at least it used to be regular. now, it’s just a mess.
which brings me to the melbourne transport system. which, after the sydney visit is looking a whole lot dandier, but it still needs some major fixing, i can tell you. thankfully, the ticketing system was well-designed from the get-go. you can buy a daily ticket, you can jump on and off trains/trams/etc and within a certain area. it gives you the freedom to move. if you’re actually moving. the traithe eddington report is woeful in its lack of provision for public transport infrastructure. or should i clarify, helpful and new infrastructure. and the current system is going to die if as many people are moving to melbourne as i hear there are, especially the cultural/creative types, who are moving here like something out of a steinbeck novel, and the last place we want to be is LA. there are fucked up deals where citylink has a moratorium on new transport infrastructure for 10 years, which bothers me on a conceptual level to no end – private interests can have such a crippling effect on the public good, long after the elected fucktard responsible for the disaster is retired and heading up football clubs and gambling dens.
the reason i bring this up, apart from having a whinge, is that transport is a public issue. it facilitates cultural and metropolitan engagement. it completely influences your experience of a place and the more negative/frustrating the experience, the less room there is for really taking in the magic of a place. if cities like melbourne and sydney. or hell, new south wales and victoria hope to sustain a combination of residents and visitors, there needs to be some serious balls being grown in terms of infrastructural development.
*sorry angus, i know you probably feel like i’m pickin’ on your home town, but i promise i’m not.