A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting having breakfast in a Sunshine Coast café. We were all enjoying the warm sunshine and views across the seaside road to the beach and surf beyond.
We were pretty oblivious to the cars zooming along, but then I noticed something I didn’t expect to see in a coastal town focussed on tourism.
It was a bus.
And not just an old, clearly-seen-better-days bus that provides a localised service for tourists.
This was a modern, city commuter-style bus. With a 3-figure bus number, no less.
As I watched, I noticed that these buses seemed to go past quite frequently. Every few minutes, it seemed.
Later, I noticed that the buses were regularly going to several different places.
If this hadn’t been in a holiday destination, you could have been forgiven for thinking – based on observing the buses – that you were in a beach-side suburb of a large city.
And I guess that’s the thing.
Each town on its own might be small. For example, Alexandra Headlands, where I was staying, has a population just over 3,500.
But it is near other towns. (And in the case of the Sunshine Coast, I found ‘near’ to be ‘very near’ if not ‘side-by-side’).
And when you add up all the towns and country folk living on the Sunshine Coast, you end up with a population of over 300,000. That’s a fair size. In fact, it’s Australia’s 9th largest ‘city’.
So I guess it’s not surprising that it has a good public transport system. (But, then again, how many cities that size do?)
What did surprise me was the quality of the public transport (at least to a casual observer).
Modern, frequent, and apparently clearly geared at efficiently moving passengers (including commuters) over considerable distances.
With interconnections. And links between buses and trains.
Sounds like an effective public transport system.
So why were so many people still driving cars?
Were they all tourists who didn’t know about the public transport system?
I suspect that most people were driving in cars because they hadn’t even thought about catching public transport.
This is a problem that afflicts so many people around the world.
Transport by private motor vehicle has become so cheap and ‘convenient’ that a large proportion of people own a car and jump in it to go places.
Without any thought about the damage it is doing to the environment (especially in terms of global warming).
Or their health.
Or their community.
Or even whether it is actually convenient. (How often have you sat in traffic or driven round and round looking for a carpark?)
Can you tell me, for example, why one of my teenagers would rather drive in a cold car to the city, spend ages trying to find a carpark, walk a long way in the cold from the car to the venue, and then do the reverse to get home…instead of walking about 200m to a warm bus that delivers them almost to the door (and back)?
And, no, ‘someone might see me’ just isn’t a good enough reason.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Seeing other people use public transport can make it more socially acceptable.
And the more people that use public transport, the better it becomes.
And the more liveable and people-friendly our urban areas become.
So many state and local governments are trying to do the right thing with public transport (like Queensland’s Translink), but their efforts go unrewarded if hardly anyone uses it.
In several countries, though, people are using public transport more and more. Including people in the United States. And young people. (If you want to read more about this, The Washington Post has a good article on it.
So…will you choose to take public transport…at least some of the time?
Tell me about your efforts to use public transport more often…or about finding it too hard. Just leave your comments in the Reply box below …or send me a voice message by clicking on the tab on the right.
Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!