I’ve been without a car for a week. Thankfully I work from home and it’s only for the odd meetings or events that I’ve has to rely on public transport to get around. I’ve learnt a few things over the week…
A buzz word in urban design, so it was interesting to find so many places across Brisbane where the humble footpath, the main enabler of walkability, was missing. Even not making it as far as the post box and bus stop!
Do you know that if you try walking from Roma Street Station to South Brisbane via the William Jolly Bridge (something I thought a tourist to Brisbane might attempt) there are no safe pedestrian crossings to get to the bridge (certainly not without adding another half a kilometre to your walk!)?
In fairly old suburbs like Kenmore, the streets surrounding the Kenmore Village shopping centre do not have footpaths to allow safe passage to the shops. Even if you want to do the right thing i.e. reduce your car usage, it’s sometimes just not possible to do so because the pedestrian infrastructure is just not there.
Now the council recently spend some money adding a footpath along a linear park not far from home. I would suggest that the footpath was not necessary except for the stretch connecting one dead end road to another (yellow section in photo above). For the recreational pedestrians of the area, walking on the road is pretty safe given the extremely low traffic.
Whilst recreational walking should be encouraged, maybe a bit more focus on providing the infrastructure for ‘functional’ walking around shopping centres, schools and business hubs might have a higher impact on walkability. Especially as the density of inner, older suburbs is ever on the rise.
Not all suburbs are equal
Public transport services in the western suburbs of Brisbane suck! Certainly in my area!
Although half an hour from the city by car, the bus service that goes past my house (I’m lucky to have it), takes one hour. The bus runs on an hourly schedule. So if I want to catch the bus for an appointment in the city, it means that I have to plan at least 2 hours ahead to get there to allow time to walk to my appointment. The service also terminates early in the evening which means that I can’t use the bus for a night out.
The frequency of a bus service is obviously driven by demand and I understand that it is not financially viable to have a large bus driving around mostly empty. However that does not mean that people in our area would not use a bus if it came more frequently. What if the Council operated a fleet of mini buses instead? Which it does in a limited way, by the way – the Council contracts a taxi service (they call it the Personalised Public Transport) during peak hour only, collecting people at bus stops in the ‘remote’ suburbs of Karana Downs and Brookfield for example, to take them to a high frequency bus service.
Going from Kenmore to Fig Tree Pocket takes 15 mins by car. Trying to do the same by bus takes 2 hours and requires commuting to a bus hub (Indooroopilly) to change services. “Big deal” you might say. Except that there are 3 schools in Fig Tree Pocket, and families in Kenmore would definitely be in their catchment. That means that kids can’t catch public transport to their schools. And once again the car comes to the rescue.
I get my car back next week – phew!