A lot of people in Brisbane like to moan about the public transport. I’m not heavily reliant on it so I’m not impacted by its shortcomings although I know they exist. I also don’t have a disability that makes it harder to negotiate public transport, whereas I know there are significant challenges for those who do. Brendan Donahue, a blind man who lives in West End and is reliant on catching public transport, says something as simple as announcing the stops would help him. They do it on the trains but not the bus. Just say “Stop 43”; not that hard.
But the fact is I love taking the bus. I like an excuse to take a bus rather than drive. Usually it’s just into the city where there’s sod all parking anyway so it’s easier in that respect, but recently I had a meeting in the city and then went to a friend’s for lunch at Toowong so I was able to get the bus there. And it was lovely because the bus went along Coronation Drive, a main thoroughfare that follows the river. If you’re driving you can’t look out the window, but if you’re on the bus you can. And that’s what I love; it’s like going for a fun ride. You get on and just sit there. You don’t need to worry about the traffic, and you don’t need to watch where you’re going.
And then there are the other people who catch the bus. This is probably one of the things that a lot of people don’t like about catching the bus, because after all, “hell is other people” (thank you Jean Paul Sartre, you Absinthe-swilling weirdo). But again, I enjoy the interesting folk who hop on the bus. The other day there was a woman sitting with her invisible (to us) friend having a very animated and sometimes heated discussion. Sure she made the people around her jump when she slapped the back of the seat in front and jumped in her own seat, yelling loudly in some foreign language, but for all we know her friend may have deserved to be yelled at, and she may have been making a very valid point that they just refused to accept. Hey, we’ve all been there.
About a hundred years ago when I was working in London, I used to catch the bus from Victoria Station to Edgware Rd and back four days a week. The bus went along behind Buckingham Palace and I always sat on the top deck on the Palace side so I could look over the fence, hoping to catch a glimpse of Her Maj doing a spot of pruning. There is a tennis court in the back corner and one morning I was very excited to see four people playing, but since they looked young and spry I don’t think any of them was her. I never tired of that bus trip; I swear everyday I thought, “Wow I’m in London. There’s Buckingham Palace. There’s the Albert Hall”. (To be fair the rest of the day I was looking after a demented old woman who used to swear at me and pull my hair, so I had to find some bright spots.)
Brisbane’s public transport operator, Translink, has a very cool thing on their website (or app) called Journey Planner. You enter where you want to travel to, when you want to depart or arrive, press a button and it politely says “Please wait while we plan your journey” and then several options magically appear. Sometimes the last option says you could just walk there, you lazy pig. (It doesn’t actually say that last bit.)
The Brisbane Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner, popped a little note in my letter box recently to let me know about the new bendy electric “turn-up-and-go” buses coming in 2023. The promo video says they are the first of their kind in Australia (take that everyone else), and will be “whisper quiet”. And these ones do have next-stop announcements. They’ll go EVERY 3 MINUTES! They’ll fit 150 people! What a time to be alive! And to be catching the bus.