Days 14 & 15 of 365 Days Of Low Carbon Living, where I catch the bus to a couple of lunchtime events in different parts of my city.
I often attend events during the middle of the day in our central business district (CBD) or a suburban business district (town centre).
I need to travel a little under 10km to get to either event. How to do it a low carbon and convenient way? And how does it compare with driving?
What I do
Yesterday I went to the event at the suburban town centre’s library, and today I went to the gathering at the edge of the CBD.
If I was fit enough and/or had not much to carry and had enough time, I could walk (about 1½ hours) or ride a bike (about 20-30 minutes).
However, they were not options for me those days (most days, really), so motorised transport was the way to go.
And when it comes to motorised transport, we are lucky that there are some clear signals and incentives to steer us in the direction of low carbon travel to major business districts:
- parking tends to be harder to find there– and we can expect to pay for it (sometimes a lot of money!)
- traffic congestion tends to be a problem there, at least for much of the day
- there are more cabs and cab ranks there
- public transport tends to be focused there, with the central business district usually the hub of the local public transport system.
Travelling to a regular event at makes it easier to know when and how to catch public transport. People who travel daily at the same times usually know the relevant parts of their timetables off by heart. With weekly travel, I find I only remember the approximate timeframe for travel – and I do know how long it takes me to get to the bus. (Before several route and timetable changes in recent years, I had my timetable memorised too.)
Why – and why now?
- The consequences of damage to our climate are coming faster and worse than generally predicted in the past.
- As electricity generation shifts away from coal and fossil gas and oil, transport will account for an increasing proportion of pollution – unless we rapidly shift away from fuel-based transport.
Roads and carparks take up huge amounts of land and resources like tar (a form of fossil oil) and concrete. They also:
- absorb huge amounts of heat…and radiate it back on us and our plants, making life in summer and heatwaves even less pleasant.
- create large areas that are impermeable to water, which denies water to street trees and adds to flooding (especially flash flooding), which is more likely given that intensity of rainfall (when it happens) is increasing as a consequence of the climate change now unfolding.
- contribute to water pollution, as the rainwater running off roads is contaminated by fuel and tyre residues.
Public transport, on the other hand, transports people much more efficiently in terms of the space and energy used than people travelling by car (even with several people per car).
The faster we use cars less, the faster we will reduce damage to our climate.
And the faster we use cars less, the faster fewer cars will be on the road, so the faster less road and carparking will be needed…and the faster our urban areas will become more people friendly (designed for people rather than cars), less expensive to construct and maintain, less of heat islands in summer, and less polluted.
There are also a few bonuses that you can usually get on public transport:
- looking at interesting people (and meeting them, if you wish)
- doing something else while you travel – like watching the world go by, reading or meditating – instead of concentrating on driving (and possibly getting stressed while you do it)
- it is almost always cheaper than driving, when you consider all the ownership and running costs of owning a car.
What my travels were like these two days
My trip to the library went without a hitch.
- I used a backpack to carry the essentials like wallet, phone, hat, sunglasses, water and the few things I picked up at the library and nearby shops. It wasn’t heavy, which made the walk up the hill home from the bus on the return journey easily manageable. And using a backpack is better for my body and leaves my hands free.
- It was a quick 5 minute walk between the bus and the library and nearby shops – no time and energy spent finding a carpark, and the bus dropped me closer than almost all carparks in that suburban business district.
My trip to the CBD was a little more challenging.
- Because of the nature of the trip, I had a lot more to carry. I use a shopping jeep because that way I can carry a lot more (in volume and/or weight) without much hassle or damage to my body.
- On my initial journey, the bus was modern, with flexible seats parallel to the sides of the bus and facing into the aisle (and making the aisle wider). As is usually the case, I folded up one of the seats and put the trolley in the space beside me. (If the bus is full, someone sits on that seat and I put the trolley in front of me – because the aisle is wider, there is still room for people to stand and walk in the aisle.)
- On my return journey, the bus I caught was an older one.
- That meant having to climb and lift my shopping jeep up stairs instead of a small step onto the more modern, flat and low single-platform entry that can be lowered closer to kerb level. The stairs of the older buses in Canberra also have a bar running through the middle of them, so there is very little space in which to carry the trolley.(Sorry, no pictures – was too busy getting on and off the bus!)
- An older bus also meant that all the seats are in rows.
- Usually I can use one of the seats for low mobility people that face each other (separated by a bar for holding on). The shopping jeep fits nicely beside me, in the wider space between the two rows of seats and under the bar.
- On the return journey, however, those seats were ‘full’. Luckily, my shopping jeep was not very full and I managed to squeeze it in beside me in a normal row seat – a first for me. (If it hadn’t, the need to leave the aisle free meant that I would have asked some of the people in the ‘special needs’ seats to move, as they did not need to sit there; if they did need to use those seats, I would have had to lift the trolley into the luggage rack and hope it stayed put.)
- It was a hot day, so I was very grateful for the old-style shady shelter in which to wait briefly for my first bus. (I am aware, though, that the step at the entrance is a barrier to people using these shelters and that visibility is poor – but they do provide shelter, unlike our modern ones!)
- I was also grateful that the bus stops in the city are much closer to where I need to go than almost all carparking – and there is no stress from problems finding a carpark (and then the car at the end of the trip!) or having to pay parking fees.
On both journeys, I used my phone a little while waiting for the bus and then did some reading during the journey.
Yes there were more changes, and it may have taken a little longer, but overall I felt better: less stressed and feeling good about making our world a better place.
What regular event could you travel to by public transport?
Any change or challenge is easier if you have company along the way.
So let’s embark on this journey together.
- Read my blog every day for ideas, thoughts and experiences for living a lower carbon lifestyle, more in harmony with nature – while also adapting to the consequences of our damaged climate.
- Subscribe to get posts direct to your inbox.
- Commit to taking action yourself.
- Add a comment to let me know you’re joining in the effort to turn around our world so it can remain liveable – and what your experiences are.
- Share with others my posts and what you’re doing – our efforts, progress, experiences and challenges – on Facebook, on Twitter, in conversations with friends, on talkback radio and in letters to the editor.
A problem shared is a problem halved. We’re all affected by the changes to our world so we need to be all in on the action!
Till next time…