(This entry was written retrospectively, on 20 June 2001)
Three and a half days a week, I live without a car. It basically goes where the kids go, for logistical reasons, unless I really need it. Sometimes I worry that the kids will turn into lazy chauffeur driven teenagers, but I have schemes to counter that.
Where I live, it’s actually not half bad living without a car. I made sure of that when I moved here. It’s kind of just outside the hip inner suburbs, and it almost gives me the ability to do my impression of the groovy car-free (and care-free) inner-city bachelor. Oi, stop laughing.
What I mean is, it’s nice to be able to not worry about the big chunk of metal – where I’m gonna park it, have I locked it properly, does it need more petrol. It’s a reminder of my life before I had a car. Where all I needed was my monthly ticket, and I could go anywhere. Reality is not quite that rosy of course, but it still has its appeal.
So today I ventured into suburbia, where the whole theory falls down. Out east, they’ve got real transport problems. In the leafy suburbs like Rowville and Knox, they’ve got virtually no public transport: no trams, no trains, most of the buses are hourly or non-existent on weekends… yet apparently they’ve got some of the worst traffic in the city.
The Powers That Be reckon spending – oh, not much, only around a billion dollars – to put a freeway through the area is the answer, even though research seems to suggest most of the traffic is people making local trips, which wouldn’t be solved by a freeway anyway. Add to this the fact that the Environmental Effects Study on transport in the area was cobbled so it was unable to recommend major upgrades to public transport only, and you start to get the feeling that The Powers That Be are run by a bunch of guys with no interests other than Paving The Planet.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I use freeways. But hell, they are ugly, noisy bloody things. I remember Gardiner’s Creek before the South Eastern freeway was built. Gardiner’s Creek wasn’t fantastic, but it was a little bit of nature intruding into suburbia. In theory the creek’s still there somewhere, but with huge amounts of grey concrete dominating the scene, and cars and trucks roaring past 24 hours a day, the ambience certainly isn’t what it was.
So, like I say, I ventured into suburbia. As a loyal member of the Public Transport Users’ Association, I was deemed to be a prime candidate for dropping propaganda in people’s letter boxes. Thankfully the weather was nice, and it was certainly some good exercise – both physically, and mentally, as trying to remember which of the streets had been done and which hadn’t was quite a challenge.