During the school holidays, the kids and I will often leave the car at home head out to not just attractions in the CBD, but also to parts of the city we might not normally get to. Partly for the joy of exploration, but also partly because Jeremy is keen on hunting down secondhand video games, so we’re gradually ticking off visits to the various branches of Cash Converters around the place. (Though new discovery GameTrader is also worth exploring.)
We can get around fairly easily with PT on weekdays, as the network in my neck of the woods hangs together quite well for spontaneous travel because many of the main routes run every 15 minutes or better.
Even the government has figured out that this is appealing to people:
“This high-frequency bus service, with a bus arriving every 15 minutes during peak periods, is a viable alternative to the car.”
“In just a few months of service, we have already seen a 37 per cent increase in weekday usage along this route. That makes this SmartBus service the most popular bus route in Melbourne,” she [then-Minister Kosky] said. — Government press release, July 2009.
The problem is that the network of frequent services only serves some suburbs, and it really only applies on weekdays, which unfortunately is when white-collar workers like me are least likely to be wanting to go anywhere other than work.
Is every fifteen minutes perfect? Hell no. I think at least every ten minutes should be the target, but the key is that it applies all of the week, to all main routes, so you can get from anywhere to anywhere at (almost) anytime with a minimum of waiting.
So anyway, during the holidays just gone we headed to Northcote, where we found no good games, but I did get a couple of cheap CDs.
Another trip was to Frankston, where no games or CDs were found, but we had a nice lunch (this time avoiding the “I’m amazed they don’t get sued” Hungry Zak’s which we’d tried the previous time… a bit horrible). And as a bonus, within minutes of arriving I saw a guy try and swipe a can of drink from a shop, only to be chased and caught by the shopkeeper — classy, Frankston, classy.
On these and other recent excursions, we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to hop on trains, trams and buses. When it all works, it’s a very relaxing way to get around, and I get to talk to the kids way more than when I’m concentrating on the road. (Not to mention a quick trip down to Frankston for $2.02 full fare/$1.01 concession using a Myki or 10×2 hour Metcard is a flippin’ bargain.)
I’m more inclined to use PT for these kinds of trips for a number of reasons, but one I consider very important is that I’m getting my kids acclimatised to the world around them. I’m making sure they know how to get themselves out and about (not just on PT, but as a pedestrian too) so that at the point they’re old enough to (which isn’t far off), they can do it with ease. You just don’t learn any street smarts being chauffered around.