You Have The Power
If the polls and the media punditocracy are to be believed, not since the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony has a day been so eagerly awaited by the people of New South Wales as March 26. Voters – so we are told – will be beating a path down to the polling booths that day in order to deliver a caning that the hapless incumbent Labor government will never forget.
I’m not so sure (after all, haven’t we heard that one a few times before?). But in any case, I’m a jobbing pollie, so I’ll let you know why I hope they do.
There are so many areas where we’ve been let down over the last 16 years, where do you start? For me, our public transport and the long, stationary car parks that used to be roads have got to be close to the top of the list. Waiting for a bus home the other day, I drew the short straw and squeezed aboard one of the old Mercedes and experienced human intimacy that would make Paris Hilton blush. Just like a truck fully laden with steamy cattle, 100 saturated commuters vied for space and gasped for air, faces pushed into sweaty armpits and cleavage.
My first bus journey alone was over 40 years ago on the 699 from school. It was a double-decker with a conductor. Keeping cool on buses back then involved sticking your head out of the window whilst playfully avoiding decapitation. One day, sparkling new buses arrived and the joke soon became that we had a chauffeur driven Mercedes. These Mercs still rattle up to bus stops each day but now the joke is that they‘re still in service.
After all these years the experience has changed little. We distract ourselves by surfing the web on iPads, chatting on iPhones or listening to music on iPods no larger than a matchbox – things inconceivable 40 years ago. Just as inconceivable, 40 years on, many journeys are even more crowded, noisy, hot and uncomfortable than all those years ago. For all the new motorways built to take traffic off our local roads, we crawl along at increasingly decrepit rates. In peak hour you can often walk faster than the bus. Yes, Sydney is more crowded these days but getting around does not need to be like this.
It’s difficult to remember what I imagined the future of bus travel would be like, but surely we all expected something better than this? In other major cities bus commuters can see on their mobiles when their bus is due – in real time. They enjoy integrated ticketing systems where the swipe of a card pays a fare and even pays the supermarket bill. Commuters travel across entire cities on different transport modes on one ticket. Clean and comfortable light rail has replaced the bus conga line on major routes, and entire new metros have been planned and completed. Why have we been left so far behind? Is it really a lack of money or simply a lack of vision?
So, here’s my pitch. In a few weeks I’ll be asking for your vote so we can make real change. On March 27 you may wake up with a new government but there’s a real chance you may not. It really does depend on YOU. Voters wanting change will give the Government a good, old-fashioned thrashing… those with a more masochistic bent can meet their needs on a Sydney bus.
*Bruce Notley-Smith is the Liberal Candidate for the Seat of Coogee and former Mayor of Randwick. He received no discounts for plugging Apple Corp. products in this article. He gets ripped-off, just like the rest of us.