Getting around without a car

November 3, 2009 at 7:32 am Leave a comment

Urban historian Professor Peter Spearritt’s recent Inside Story article “Trouble in the City” includes some interesting comparisons between the public transport systems of Sydney and Southeast Queensland.

It used to be that Sydney had a great public transport system while Brisbane’s was hopeless and a car was a necessity, but that’s changed quite a bit.

Although Sydney still has a good public transport system with an extensive rail network, these days it becomes very crowded at peak hour. Town Hall Station can be quite dangerous because it is way over capacity.

However, the beauty of living in Sydney is that you can get to about 40 excellent beaches by public transport in a reasonable time and many in one leg. From Wynyard to Palm Beach might take 1 1/2 hours, but you’ll get there in one bus trip. Marrickville to Bondi Beach is two trains and a bus, but you can do it in an hour.

On the other hand, Sydney’s ubiquitous buses grind through the traffic, notorious for running late or not at all, although there are exceptions such as the buses whizzing along the Harbour Bridge bus lanes.

Up north, as well as trains that run on time, Brisbane residents love their busway system which takes people from outlying suburbs to the CBD in minutes. But outside Brisbane it’s another story. Spearritt reports that only two per cent of travel on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts is by public transport.

Getting to the beaches north and south of Brisbane can be a long process. Apart from private bus lines, traveling to the Sunshine Coast by public transport means a train to Caboolture, then a slow bus to the coast. You can rip down to the Gold Coast on a fast train, but only as far as Robina. From there it’s a bus to the beaches.

Both cities have water-based public transport systems with Sydney’s ferries traversing the harbour reaches while Brisbane’s ferries and CityCats cover the Brisbane River.

So owning a car is no longer a necessity in Brisbane, although you won’t make it to the beach in a hurry without one.

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