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On the Busses - 15+years of Public transport.

Our family, like most (I would hope) is on a budget - we decided really early on in the piece (over 20 years ago) that we would only have one car. When kids came along, the primary care giver had the car to be better able to take the kids where they needed to go.

I travel to and from work via public transport - busses to be more correct as i live a fair hike from the nearest train station. One (of many) important selection criteria for buying our houses is how close they are to City Express bus stops. We live on a side street of a major arterial and have an express bus stop less than 5mins idle walk from the front door - sounds hoopy. Having used this form of travel more or less exclusively since working at my current school (15+ years now) I feel it is time I shared some observations with you, my devoted reading public.

  1. Time is relative, scheduled bus-timetabletime is doubly so.
    One of the world's truely spontaneous and creative works of fiction is the bus timetable - any resemblence to fact or print seems entirely accidental. I regularly catch the 6:47 at 7:10 and the 5:10 at 5:45. Variety is the spice of life but why is it that the day you need to be somewhere on time is the day the bus is not?
    I used to use time on the bus to think things through and plan my day, using The Oracle. With the advent of the Southside Busway, the journey is now so short that I just get going and have to pack it all away - yeah,I know, never satisfied but some of my most evil and inventive thinking (and hence exam questions) used to be composed on the Bus.

  2. Road rules need not apply - bigger is better.
    Busses are big and their drivers know this. Having been in a car when a bus demolished it (after it went through a red light) I have lived as a very nervous passenger (indeed it took me ages to gather the courage to get on a bus after the accident that mangled my first ever new car - that was a long time ago and I am over it lovey *twitch*). Drivers need to let busses do what busses are good at - travel in as near straight line as possible - giving way to busses is not only law, it is more about survival. Kamakazee drivers weave in and around busses and it is only a miracle that has prevented me witnessing accidents in transit.
    The 'work-experience' bus driver is a bit of a worry - not knowing the route and having nominal control of a heavy vehicle is the stuff of white-knuckle journeys through unfamiliar suburbs as we weave and turn in an attempt to re-join the route we accidentally deviated from. My longest journey home (1¾ hours for a 10 minute trip) took me to places on the southside I had never been (and I have lived here for over 20 years).

  3. Air is thin.
    I am not a good passenger - in a car or boat I suffer from motion sickness (I was going to be a marine Biologist until I discovered that i get chronic sea-sickness in a bath). Busses are large and tend to sway - I stand rather than take a seat in the back of the bus as the resultant motion has me reaching for a bucket before I get off.
    The modern(ish) gas-powered busses are fully airconditioned (the same arctic air and experimental bacteria collection circulates around in them all day, bar the occasional wafts of diesel when the doors open) but the older bone-rattlers have roof vents and windows that almost fail to open to any useful size or allow anything bar fumes and relentless doofs from passing portable discos (cars with sub-woofers the Dean Brothers could use to demolish buildings). Inside a bus, the air is rarified - in really hot weather, breathing while commuting is a challenging exercise in risk management. When you get lots of people together after a hard day and transport them then the tapestry of odours is indeed rich.

  4. Gentlemen are gentlemen unless...
    there is an empty seat. Social ettiquette on a bus is fascinating - kids (concessional riders) sit and religiously avoid looking at anyone unless they make eye-contact with the little old lady struggling to remain standing as the bus hurtles around the corner. I have been known to give up my seat for a senior (man or woman, doesn't really matter) but there are times, after a bastard of a day that once i have my bum planted, an amputee would not get my seat from me - selfish I know but i guess I am human. I walk from central city to my school and back again and by the time I get to the bus, I am usually buggered - I should be fitter I know, and be like some colleagues who lycra-up and cycle to and from work but seeing me in bike-pants once was enough to convince me that I should not inflict that look on the world again. I have watched young girls, travelling in pairs, stand near a pair of occupied seats and start on the 'in the old days, guys would give their seats to a girl' guilt trip just loud enough for those in seats near them to hear and it is startlingly effective at dislodging even senior citizens with walking sticks (although it probably only works on catholics as they are used to assimilating guilt so i gather).
    Move to the back of the bus please, more need to pile on. Mind what you are grabbing to keep your balance and use 'sorry' to cover all those unavoidable situations when the driver slams on the brakes and your briefcase lands in a bikies lap and your head lands in the bikies girlfriends cleavage.

  5. Legs are a nuisance.
    Planes (particularly, unless you travel business class) and busses were designed around a peculiar anatomical model that makes adequate room for your bum but forgets that there are usually a pair of legs that will shoot out at right-angles from where the bum is planted. Couple this with a tendency to get deep-vein-thrombotic cramps and buggered knee cartilage and the cramped conditions are not comfortable - this is a plain winge that is caused by the imperative to fit in more seats, therefore less legroom. I guess if I was less tall it would be less of a problem.

  6. Fares seem not so.
    It is difficult to comment of fare structures - I use a 'faresaver' card and therefore do not have to dig for change each trip, but it seems a little curious that on weekends, when we are considering a family trip in to the city, it is more cost effective to take the car and pay for parking then it is to get on the bus. Now I am not suggesting that we make parking more expensive, and I doubt that bus fares can be any lower, they are a business after all, but striking a balance is interesting. We try to be as green as possible in our household, composting, recycling and using public transport instead of our car - how can that be made easier to do i wonder?

  7. Hightech goes nowhere.
    'Excuse me everybody while I re-boot the bus' - As a computer science teacher i am fascinated when our busdriver says this (I have witnessed it 5 times so far). The new 'gas-powered' busses are all computer controlled which is a good thing until it goes pearshaped. Lights, aircon, ticketing, ignition, door opening and closing are all computer controlled these days. sensors inside the doors decide if they are allowed to open or whether there are people in the way, similarly, sensors outside the doors decide if passengers have left completely rather than chopping bits of them off by closing the doors too early. The bus will not drive forward if the doors are open - one bus stop on our route has a kerb that rides a little high and freaks out the rear-door sensor - hence the need to re-boot the bus - gotta love high-tech.

  8. Full-body massage while you wait.
    Full and exhaustive recount of the therapeutic benefits of the full-body massage an old (or recently 'reconditioned') bus will give you. Extra points for being in the rear section of a bendy bus and being able to remain seated on tight corners - the Ekka does not have rides like this.

  9. Designed Insanity.
    My hat comes off the the design people involved with public transport. Route-maps are works of art - decipherable if oy have a major in Abstractism (or a degree in hypermaths). Lime-green busses are a look that will never date, and I love those 'whole bus' advertisements that cover windows and roof vents - I do not think that drivers on the road have nearly enough to look at as they are driving our freeways - do you?
    The crowing bit of design lunacy has happened in the 'makeover' the Myer Centre underground bus station has just endured. Apart from the labelling of stops (E B A C, in that order) that makes sense to all dyslexics out there, they have added a stylish opaque line of sticker (with tasetlully cut-out bus motifs) on the top edge of the windows in all areas where passengers line up to get on busses. That is all well and good, and being white, I am sure it will stay so for a long time... However ... the line of sticker now completely obliterates the only viewable place on the bus that displays the bus number. I am all for 'mysery flights' but do not appreciate having to guess what the bus is that I am getting on (as we have 3 different routes stop at the stop I use).

  10. Celebrate that which you take for granted.
    Our public transport network, warts and all, is a priceless asset to our city. We should celebrate that we still have a system that works, encourage them to see that integrating busses, trains and ferrys is not all that difficult in a city our size, and say THANK YOU to the driver as you get off - they managed to get you to your destination without mishap without you having to do much more than sit and watch the world rush by.

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