Friday, March 10

Of Toilets And Public Transport

The Misfit


This article is published in March's edition of Catalyst, a RMIT Student Union magazine.

You can always count on the Howard Government and her lesser Parliament evils for a weekly dose of humour. If it isn’t their staunch support of President Shrub and American policies, it’s the Average White Band kickback scandal. Just this week the State Government has announced that it will install an additional 330 cubicles and urinals to existing toilets around inner Melbourne to accommodate the expected surge in visitors come Commonwealth Games.

I shook my head in disbelief and chuckled, “Why fix the bladder problem when they can’t even board a train or tram?”

For the last decade Melbourne has rode the wave of egoism after being tagged as the ‘Most Liveable City in the World.” I suppose 2006 is the year Melbourne sheds that tag and accepts the award for ‘Most Frustrating City to Travel In.”

Melbourne’s reliable and efficient public transport system is very much the nadir of an average, middle-class Melburnian’s nightmare. A system that was created over a century ago, trains that arrive infrequently and trams that derail as and when it chooses. Buses do not ply popular routes, and commuters pay an exaggerated fare system that does not justify the distance travelled.

What choice do these people have when prices of petrol are backflipping out of control and cars spend more time an an intersection than the parking garage?

It’s interesting to note that the Melbourne tram system was never intended for ferrying large number of people. Built in 1885, trams shuttle men heading to work from the suburbs into the city in the mornings and back home in the evenings. The city planners could not have foreseen and were completely unprepared for an explosion in population growth in the 20th century.

Trams and trains began to ferry women and children shuttling from one suburb into another suburb. People used public transport to visit families and friends living across the city. Your Regular Joe-Next-Door took the train to get to the city on weekends to relax. The population of Melbourne of increased exponentially over the last 150 years, yet Melbourne’s public transport still retain that 19th century “No worries, mate” urgency, charm and all.

In 2002 the State Government drew up bold plans for Melbourne’s future. The Government envisioned smooth flowing freeways with public transport connecting to all parts of the city infrastructure. They were even bold enough to call Melbourne the next Los Angeles. I don’t know what Transport Minister Peter Batchelor and his lackeys were smoking then, but I’ll sure like some too!

What audacity! Post-apocayptic Los Angeles more likely! I’ve never been to Los Angeles, but I’m sure Hollywood stars never arrive late for an audition.

We’d all like to see Mr Batchelor put his mouth to where the money is and start to see some improvements made on the public transport front. “Melbourne has one of the best public transport systems in the country, ” he claims. Sure, we’ll believe that.

Millions of dollars have been put into the fancy advertising and colourful billboards of the Commonwealth Games. For once we’ll love to see the same commitment and urgency put into a complete overhaul of the public transport system. They’ve been strangely subdued and flying under the radar, but my sixth sense tells me by the 3rd day of the Games Melburnans will be treated to a deluge of complaints to the letters editor of The Age with one gripe. I look forward to reading the 17 March edition.

Here’s to an awesome Games. Just remember to make a trip to the toilet before you leave.

John ‘adrock2xander’ Ng is a Second Year Professional Communications student. He still hasn’t been to Los Angeles.

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