It’s always nice to head back to Sydney for a weekend. Nice, but confusing and somewhat disorientating at the same time. Canberra has, so far, been a fairly easy and congenial place to reside and, until the recent (and destined to last till September) cold snap, I hadn’t thought too much about what was missing from this town. Every time we’ve gone back to Sydney, however, it becomes rather painfully clear that Canberra is no Sydney.
Somewhat ironically, though, this last visit has perhaps confirmed that, for now at least, C and I have actually moved to Canberra. Which is fine, no really.
The weekend away was very pleasant. We caught up with friends, wandered the shopping area downtown and spent time with some of C’s family. But, at the same time, I think we both had mixed feelings. Up until now we’ve always spent our time in Sydney wondering why we were living in Canberra, but this trip we had an interesting conversation around the issue and came to the understanding that we’re actually, for the moment at least, happy to visit Sydney and live in Canberra. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it was a bit of a revelation for me.
So there it is. We live in Canberra. At least for now…
The one thing that bothers me about this new-found semi-permanence in the ACT is that Canberra has possibly the worst public transport system in the world. C and I are all about not owning a car for environmental reasons and we think this position is well borne out by the ever-rising price of oil (it’s at US$78 a barrel and averaging 134.7c per litre in Sydney today, by the way) and the fact that some scientists think we might have already hit peak global production, so things probably aren’t going to get much better any time soon. On top of that is the fact that cars are horrible polluters and have absolutely zero positive impact on the environment. They also cost a fortune to run and insure etc. and frankly we don’t like them very much.
We have taken care of the lack of car-ness in Canberra as much as possible by living super close to the city centre and riding bikes wherever we can. The only reasons we have to use Canberra’s lousy public transport system are when it’s too freezing to ride (which is pretty much June to October) and when we want to visit family members who live in Canberra, but in parts of it that are miles away. We can definitely ride to the family things when it’s not freezing, but winter and outlying family members do pose a problem, particularly when these two coincide on a Sunday. Sunday bus timetables are nothing short of horrific – something like one bus an hour (and never intersecting) until about 6pm and then you’re stuck wherever you are.
I’ll stop ranting now, but in the face of rising petrol prices governments (and especially the ACT government) are going to have to think long and hard about the level of service offered on public transport systems and how to address commuters’ concerns. Should we be forced to buy an unsustainable, environmentally devastating and horrendously expensive form of transport just because we might want to cross town after 6pm on a Sunday? Seriously. How hard can it be to have a functioning public transport system? Pretty much every other city I’ve lived in has had it mostly worked out (Sydney, Melbourne, Seattle, London – heck, even Vientiane was better than Canberra!)
So either Canberra public transport has to get better or I have to buy a car. And while there may be scant chance of the former happening anytime soon, there’s even less chance of the latter happening. It’s me versus the state and I think I’m more stubborn.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic, I found this on the Oil Change International site (via entropy production) and thought it was quite funny:
The Five Stages of Peak Oil
DENIAL — Driving from suburbia to your downtown job every day in your Chevy Tahoe.
ANGER — “%$@^##& Exxon!, gouging me at the pump. I demand you lower your prices or I will boycott you!”
BARGAINING — “The Chinese need to stop using so much oil. My, they’re burning six million barrels every day.” “We need to get corn farmers to make more ethanol, a 5 % blend would really help.” “Maybe we can invade Iran and take control of their oil reserves.”
DEPRESSION — “Oh God, civilization as we know it is going to be destroyed. What are we going to do without oil? How can farmers possibly grow any food? Think about the big box retail industry! Oh the calamity!”
ACCEPTANCE — “You know what, my ten minute commute by bicycle is far nicer than my hour long commute from my old place.”