|Base image © Depositphotos.com/@zager|
A flat tyre on my bike and an approaching deadline left me with two choices: drive to work or be organised enough to catch the No. 56 from Palmerston to UC. I was organised enough so at 8:03am, I stepped onto the bus in Palmerston.
Arriving at work, 10km away, I stepped off the No. 250 at 9:00am precisely. This represents a new level of inadequacy on the sole bus service for my suburb. Almost one hour to travel on the bus. The same trip can be covered on a bicycle in 30 minutes, and about 10 to 15 minutes in the car, depending on traffic.
But what is remarkable about this problem is that the latest Action bus timetable has made the Palmerston bus service worse than ever.
When I first caught the No. 56 bus back in 2005, it went from Palmerston out onto Gundaroo Drive and then on to UC in 15 minutes. Almost the same as the car. But then in about 2010, some bright spark thought that the service would be better it if went via Gungahlin. So, in effect, I got on the No. 56, went to Gungahlin, stayed on the bus, travelled back past Palmerston, then on to UC. Total travel time 30 minutes. About the same time as the bike.
But today, I discover the No. 56 ends at Gungahlin. So, too, it seems, does the No. 57. This explains why, when I miss the No. 56 and I ride down to Gundaroo Drive to intercept another bus there, I watch as at least two buses "Not in Service" travel past me quite smugly until the 250 comes along.
So the bus driver informs me that the 56 now ends at Gungahlin. I got kicked off Route 56.
I wait patiently for the 250, and then, in gloriously bureaucratic efficiency, I arrive at my destination in twice the normal time. Thankfully, I use my time on the bus to read. Mostly, I use the bus/bike combo because it is relatively cheap and it means I do not have to waste fuel or pay for parking. Even though most bus stops are quite a walk away from wherever I want to go, it is so much easier when you can cycle to and from bus stops.
But I can only imagine what it must be like to rely on the bus for the daily grind. Imagine living in Palmerston and working in Belconnen? A one-hour commute. That is the equivalent of living in Penrith and commuting to the Sydney CBD. This is hardly the way to encourage people out of their cars. It also makes the plight of Palmerstonians, in Canberra's most densely populated suburb, that much harder.
Want to get your kicks on Route 56? Then it's time for Action.