The Riot Act said I could write a “500 word piece for RiotACT on what catching buses regularly has taught you about Canberra’s transport needs,” after I commented about buses.
OK, seeing the number 500 makes me want to divide this article up into numbers. Let’s start with one.
1. Catching buses has taught me that we do not need a yuppy tram line to increase the price of Shane Rattenbury’s 2 investment properties in the tram line area, we need Alistair Coe’s rapid bus system. And that opinion is coming from someone who has never voted Liberal in their life, and who grew up with a Liberal hating father, who swore and cursed Fraser all my childhood, who saw Whitlam fund public schools so well and hated everything about Fraser. So, it’s a big step for me to say “go with the Liberals’ rapid bus system, it’s the best system for bus users and non drivers”.
2. Not driving for 3 years has taught me that not driving sucks, especially in Canberra. I miss driving to the country, I miss driving to Hall to go for a walk amongst the beautiful paddocks, and quiet country roads. I miss ducking out to get chook food at Hall, or from the new pet food place at Belconnen. How can you carry a 25kg bag of chook food home on the bus?
3. I miss seeing the development of this city, the changes. It’s hard to see it all from the bus. I miss looking, with my eyes, from the freedom of a car. I miss the independence of going where I want, when I want. I miss popping into cafes or galleries or doing whatever I want when I want. I think I just said that.
4. I miss being able to drive to the coast when I want.
5. So, I’d better get back to the issue. What has catching buses taught me about our transport needs?
6. Do the rapid bus system.
7. Build bus shelters on every main road-street. I have discussed this on my Facebook page, and then the other day I met a man who is blind, and he told me that his main concern is having bus shelters. He gets wet, waiting for a bus to work, in West Belconnen. That really sucks. Imagine being blind, you get dressed, get to the bus stop, and then it rains on you. Your work clothes are wet, for the day ahead. If we can build a tram line, then build bus shelters in all suburbs on major streets. The man told me that some bus shelters had been smashed, new ones. Well, maybe we can build the old concrete ones. Hearing that man’s story really moved me.
8. So, we need Coe’s rapid bus system. And we need bus shelters on all major streets-roads. Also, we need more buses on the weekends. Catching a bus on the weekend in Canberra really sucks. You wait ages. I campaigned to get rapid buses more frequently to Kippax, and now they are every 10 minutes on weekdays. They need to be more frequent on weekends. Recently, there was a talk at Kingston about local politics, with journalists. It was on a Sunday evening. Catching buses on the weekend would have been a huge headache – 2 buses to the event, then 2 buses home, after 7pm. No way, what a headache, what if it’s cold and it rains. Make buses more frequent on weekends.
9. The nicest bus driver in Canberra is Francesco, he is lovely. He smiles and “hi 5s” people on buses, he recognises you, he is great. Francesco should get a well-paid job teaching bus drivers PR skills, he is fabulous.
10. It rains in Canberra, and it gets windy in winter. Those winds can eat you with cold. We need bus shelters. It’s hot in summer, we need bus shelters.
11. Kippax didn’t have a My Way machine before. I asked for one, now we have one. Make sure there are My Way machines all over this city.
12. If My Way bus tickets do not work, bus drivers should be nice. Often, upset people get kicked off buses when their My Way card does not work. Those people look like they will cry on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. Be kind to people who have their My Way cards muck up, and not work. Let them on the bus. Most people look shocked and upset when their card does not work. Be kind.
13. When there are tram debates, about the pros and cons of trams, listen to non-drivers and bus users. Have you not driven in this city for one year or ten years? Non-drivers know so much, they know about transport, they are not thinking of their home prices increasing when they debate tram issues, or their 2 investment apartments increasing in value. Listen to people who catch buses. Ignore people who have bought 2 investment apartments in the tram area, to cash in on the tram line. Use common sense, not greed, when planning for transport with government funds.
14. Avoid being a non-driver, it really, really sucks.
Vanessa Jones is an independent candidate running for the seat of Ginninderra in the ACT Legislative Assembly election.