Getting from A to B

In my previous post, Nancy asked me how long it takes to get from A to B, in reference to the lovely ferry trips I took into the Sydney Writer’s Festival last week. I told her how long each ferry trip took and left it at that.

However as I was drifting off to sleep, exhausted after my big week, but finding it hard to switch my brain off, I thought about all the other factors that I had to take into account to actually get me from A to B on public transport. A being my front door and B being Walsh Bay.

If, on a Sunday evening, Mr Books and I suddenly get the cravings for dumplings, Lotus at Walsh Bay is our first choice. We can jump in our car and be there in under 10 mins (no peak hour traffic at that time of the day!) For a few dollars in parking, we can park right out the front of the restaurant, relax, eat, enjoy a glass of wine and be home again in about an hour and half. A lovely quick, easy evening out.

However, if we decided to do the same thing with public transport, it would probably take close to the hour and a half just to get there and back again…and cost a whole lot more!

This week it cost me well over $50 in public transport fares…and a whole lot more in time travelling.

As the crow flies, it’s probably about 2 km’s from my front door to Walsh Bay.

To catch the bus in, I have to walk 7 mins to the nearest bus stop and then travel about 10 mins to Sussex St. It is then about a 20 min walk to Walsh Bay (I walk pretty quickly, so a more leisurely stroll might take the average walker half an hour). Let’s call that 45 mins.

I could also catch this bus up to the QVB (15 mins), walk into Town Hall train station and catch a train to Wynyard (probably 10-15 mins), then walk 10 mins to Walsh Bay (or for the SWF pay a gold coin donation to the driver of the shuttle bus that runs every 15 mins between Wynyard and the festival). Another 45 mins.

Or I can walk 7 mins to a different bus stop, catch a bus to Balmain East Ferry stop (5 mins) and take the ferry into Circular Quay (15 mins). Then walk about 15 – 20 mins up and over George St to Walsh Bay. Just over half an hour most days, assuming I was lucky enough to actually get a bus to the ferry in Balmain.
If there isn’t a bus to the ferry at the right time, it’s a fast 20 min walk from home to Balmain East with a couple of steep hills in between – good for my cardio-vascular, but god-awful on a hot, steamy day or a wet one! About 45 mins all up.

It’s also possible to catch this ferry going in the opposite direction – to Darling Harbour and the new Barangaroo terminal. This would be a 10 min ferry ride and a good 20 min walk to Walsh Bay. An easy 45 mins.

Balmain is serviced by two ferry routes, so I can also catch a ferry from the Balmain wharf. It’s a 15 min walk from home (no bus option for me for this one), a 10 min ferry trip (no stops along the way on this particular route into Circular Quay), then the 20 min walk up and over George St. 45 mins once again.

This doesn’t factor in any of the waiting time between forms of transport, late arrivals or no-shows.

When the opposition groups for new road projects like Westconnex say ‘spend more money on public transport’, they don’t factor in the time and cost it takes to get anywhere on public transport in Sydney…and I’m one of the lucky ones. I live in a very well connected (by public transport) suburb that is close to the city.

We are not London or New York City where a large city is built on a smallish amount of land. It is relatively easy to connect these densely populated areas with great public transport services.
However Sydney is a huge, sprawling city. Getting from one suburb to the next via public transport often involves two different buses, light rail or trains. And lots of time.

I’m a greenie by nature.

I have a coffee cup at work, so that I don’t use the throw-away cups from the cafe every day. I mostly remember to take my green bags to the supermarket. I compost our food scraps at home, recycle paper, glass and plastics and avoid harsh cleaning products when a greener options (with elbow grease) will do the trick. I almost never drive around my suburb as I enjoy the invigorating walks up and down our hilly streets. And if I have the time and the weather is nice, I love catching the ferry into the city.

I think that good, efficient, cost-effective public transport has to be an option. But we also have to be realistic. In Sydney, public transport will not get us to all the football fields we travel to each weekend with the boys in a time efficient or cost effective manner. It will not allow me to visit my family and friends in Central West NSW or Victoria in a timely or cost effective way. Perhaps if we had fast trains (and tunnels through the mountains), that didn’t stop at e v e r y  s i n g l e  s t o p along the way, then public transport could become a weekend away option.

However, if time or money or inclement weather (or lots of luggage) is a factor, then the car is the only way. Especially if Mr Books is joining me. For both of us to catch the bus and ferry in to see a play at the Opera House it would cost us together about $15 (and 45 mins in time) each way.
To park under the Opera House for a few hours is less than that and we can drive there in under 20 mins. For a few dollars more we could also get an Uber there and back, for quick, easy door to door service.

Sadly, in Sydney, public transport is not quicker or cheaper.

The rumour is that next year the SWF will be held in the Carriageworks near Newtown/Redfern whilst the Walsh Bay area undergoes renovation (see my previous post about this).

To get there by public transport I will need to take at least 2 different bus, ferry or train routes and just under an hour in travel time (without factoring in any walking to and from bus stops).

Or I could drive there in 15-20 mins.

Rant over!

6 thoughts on “Getting from A to B

  1. Given this well documented with place names and timelines rant I probably don't have to tell you that your strong suit is rhetoric (the art of speaking persuasively). You would make a terrific politician. Send this to Sydney's city council with the introduction title:Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…..!1So glad my question 'Á to B' inspired you!


  2. This is very interesting! We are lucky to live in the compact city of Birmingham. It's a bus journey or two with a short walk to get most places. It's as quick to get the bus as it is to use a car as there are bus lanes and the buses are frequent.


  3. Yep! In my last job, I could get there in 28 minutes by car, and it took two hours by public transport because there was no direct route. Which do you think I chose? And that was through Glasgow which is a major city with a fairly good public transport system. I'd rather they spent the effort on making cars greener than haranguing us all to put up with major inconvenience – 'cos let's face it, time is precious for us all, and it's going to take more than the occasional personal sacrifice to stop climate change. Fund the scientists, I say!


  4. That's how I remember it being in London when I lived there in '91. It was just so easy to use the trains, I couldn't even imagine why you would try to drive in the city at all.Frequency was the big thing. If you just missed a train, you knew another would turn up in less than 7 mins. Here it can be half an hour or an hour between services (ferries in particular), so unless your thing actually coincides with the ferry times, it's just not worth the hassle.


  5. That's the thing with public transport – unless the route in question actually takes you directly to where you want to go, it involves a lot of compromise.Options have to be practical and realistic.


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