Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A severe indictment of Melburnians’ knowledge

Over the past two days, searching for a bookshelf for my brother’s new home and even for my mother’s birthday, I have undergone some quite substantial travels around Melbourne – to Ringwood, Watsonia, and Williamstown.

In comparison to the “galloping round the countryside” of twenty years ago, these trips have been rather less undisciplined and I have come home to actually eat dinner with my mother – something exceptionally rare even in the days before the Queen’s Birthday.

“Lack of public transport that can compete with the car leads to heavy car traffic” (Public Transport Users’ Association; ‘Driven around the bend Melbourne’s meandering bus routes’, May 2012)
Even if I have not been randomly “galloping round the countryside”, the desire in me to travel on as many bus routes as possible has never really been lost. With increasing runaway climate change observed everywhere, I have often joked that riding Melbourne’s awful bus services can show where global warming is coming from. Although it is true that all one-occupant car journeys being replaced by public transport would save a lot of energy, with age I have come to realise that almost exclusive focus on roads at the expense of rail is not the cause of Australia’s almost uniquely dreadful record when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, cars account for only about one-fifth of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and both coal power and land clearing stand as equal culprits in giving the country the worst emissions record in the world, especially considering its uniquely low-energy ecology amongst extant continents.

What really struck me hard about these trips to inspect bookcases was that none of the sellers knew even the local bus routes whose stops they must have seen when driving! This ignorance is rendered easier by the extremely low frequencies (never more than every forty minutes) of many if not most buses in Melbourne, so that casual drivers may never see a bus when not looking. This gives the illusion that there is no public transport whatsoever away from rail lines and the old inner suburbs.

In fact, public transport more often than not does exist, but is of such abysmal quality that nobody with a car would dream of using it even if concerned about the effect of cars on out climate. Nonetheless, having to use such extremely bad public transport is something people from countries where road lobbies are less politically dominant needs to experience. It will show them how vested interests can ruin the environment and create traffic congestion, and how fortunate most of the Enriched World is regarding its public transport, and how I have had to sacrifice proposed library trips today to do shopping to pay for my brother’s new bookcase because of the slow and very infrequent public transport in Melbourne.

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