Monday 7 May 2012

Sydney Buses: They flex my fury muscle

I do not use the term "hate" lightly. 

I bloody hate the public transport in my suburb.

This guy. I hate this guy. Click to embiggen.

There's an infinite list of things that I absolutely despise about taking the bus to work, but I know you've got short attention spans so I'll try to break it down into a couple of the key reasons I either turn up to work or home after a day's work enraged at the public transport system.

Every single work day, I stand at the same bus stop and wait for my bus at it's allocated time. I understand that many factors can affect a bus's scheduled arrival time; I am at peace with influencing factors such as traffic, accidents or weather conditions having a direct impact on how late a bus will be to a stop.
Side note: I'm not sure if it's the same everywhere else in the world (I assume it is), but for some reason in Sydney the moment a tiny droplet of rain lands on somebody's windshield, they completely forget how to drive. A single car will spontaneously multiply into a gridlocked street of vehicles screaming and beeping at each other on every single street. All pedestrians vanish except for those standing next to large puddles, waiting to get drenched by a passing truck. All traffic lights experience an electrical fault that turns every traffic light to red, and roadworks sprout up on every corner. The roadwork always consists of a vehicle of some kind obscuring the busiest section of roads, with 5 guys standing around a hole watching 1 guy in a hole.
Sorry, I got caught on a tangent. Anyway, as I was saying, things affect the traffic. I understand this, and do not complain about the fact that buses can occasionally be late. The things is, they're pretty much always late by a 10-15 minute margin. Hello, Public Transport, you miscalculated how long it takes to drive a bus that stops frequently. Update your schedule accordingly

What really pisses me off, is that when they're not late (it happens) they turn up 5 minutes early. Yeah, that's right, that's a thing. They can, and totally do, do this. Apparently they're not supposed to, say the poor suckers that I call up on 131 500 and abuse the crap out of in the early hours of the morning. They're supposed to wait at each stop to allow the schedule to balance out. Thing is, they don't.

I can only imagine that bus drivers that finish their routes early get to go home early, and that gets me. It's not as if the bus driver can simply stop on the side of the road at 5pm, shrug their shoulders and say, "Sorry folks, knock off." before abandoning a busload of passengers in the middle of nowhere. They've got to either get to a handover point or the end of the line before they can bugger off. So, it stands to reason that if they've finished their route early, they can simply piss off home. This is my only mental justification why they would do this.

Now, again, this wouldn't be a problem if the buses were frequent. In fact, it'd be hardly noticeable. I happen to live in a very inconvenient area public transport wise however, so the bus is my only option. At it's most frequent, it's every half an hour.

Another thing to chuck into the mix is that bus numbers are not unique. "What do you mean exactly, by 'not unique'" I hear you wonder out loud. Well, let me tell you. My bus, the 357 bus, is known as the 357 in both directions. "Okay, whichever way it's pointing is what makes the difference, right?" Right. Okay, so maybe that's not an obscene system, but it's a bit silly. What I'm referring to you is the buses going in the same direction that do different routes, that you wouldn't know unless you were familiar with the schedule.

For instance, the 7:50 bus (which will get me to work anywhere from 30 minutes early or bang on time as traffic goes), goes directly to Mascot station. The 8:20 bus, which is always late at 8:30 or 8:35 takes a ten minute detour through the suburbs to drop off all the school kids.

"Well, you have to support the school transport." But, they're all private schools. They either have their own special charter buses or are dropped off in their parents' Lexus. I've caught this bus about 20 times over the last twelve months (I usually go for the 7:50) and I've never seen a single kid get off at a school stop. A completely superfluous detour that has maybe once netted us a single other person by actually being picked up on the morning school route. 

The 8:50 bus, well. It stops about 2 stops away from me, and doesn't go anywhere Mascot station. They're all called the 357 however, so don't be fooled.

So, the way my bus schedule works is: 

7:50: 30 minutes early for work or bang on time.
8:20: 20 minutes late for work minimum, usually 30 minutes late for work.
8:50: Doesn't get me there.
Post 9am: Literally not in schedule.

It's worth pointing out that my track record for getting to work on time consistently isn't that great. What can I say, I'm hard to rouse in the morning. At any rate, I've been doing pretty damn well recently. The reason for this, is because whenever the early bus is too early, I end up pay $15 for a taxi to make it to work on time. Problem is, taxis are also pretty hard to come by on this particular stretch of road, not to mention expensive if I get caught out more than once a week.
"Get to the bus stop earlier, then." Okay, sure. I have done this. I'll get to the bus stop at 7:40 or even 7:30 on occasion, and it's always invariably late when I do this. I hate you and your damn law, Murphy.

Then there's the issues with the drivers.

Because the God of Public Transport hates me, I'm apparently one stop away from a Zone 1 ticket. So, I have to leave my house 10 minutes earlier than I ought to to walk passed the bus stop I should be using, to the next stop to save myself paying an extra $1.40 per way.

...But, I'm very lazy and have never done this. Which is why I butt heads with the driver 1 out of every 10 mornings. Above, I say I'm apparently one stop away because 90% of the time, $2.10 is the asked for price for a ticket. I always do my best to supply the correct change, 'cause I'm just that kind of guy, so I rock up on to the bus after scrounging exactly $2.10 in change for them.

I'll tell 'em I want to go from here to Mascot Station. $2.10. Easy. I grab my ticket, and jump on the bus.
But... once out of every 10 mornings, I'll get some guy that insists it's $3.50. He'll say $2.10 is from Eastlakes, and I'm in Kingsford. I'll argue that the sign for "Entering Eastlakes" is 200 metres behind him on the same road. He'll either just let it slide, or push the issue until I'm forced to either cough up the extra in the form of a note or in one case (the first time I was asked for $3.50 after catching the same bus for three months paying $2.10had to actually get off the bus with no way of paying the extra. I don't know why I bother, but now I carry: A $2 coin, a $1 coin, a 50c piece and a 10c piece.

Here I am now, equipped for any possible situation they throw at me... with correct change. It'd be funny if it wasn't true.

Before closing, I want to bring up my last point; This is scientifically accurate, trust me: 94% of bus drivers are impatient arseholes with road rage.

I'm sorry buddy, but if you suffer from anxiety when in traffic to the point that you loudly swear and drive like a lunatic, your guidance counsellor really failed on you, huh?


  1. I always feel like I'm in the mix for a Stephen King novella when I'm on a bus.

  2. Haha. Early buses absolutely infuriate me. When I was living down in Hobart, the bus schedules had the following text:

    "Times will vary significantly during school holiday periods."

    (Read: "Buses will run anywhere up to half an hour early during these times.")

    And you'd know that buses in Hobart are as rare as hen's teeth.

    It sounds like you're in the pit of hell over there in the east.

  3. Well, I hate buses, in general - but I'd be screwed without them, so I gotta deal.

  4. This blog is scary accurate for those of us who don't live in a Utopian bus society (apparently on Sydneys North Shore only ;). These buses have the knack of sending me into a violent rage in record time.
    I will however say the drivers seem to be in possession of some kick ass emotional health benefits however. This I learnt in the peak of summer when I was fortunate enough to be kicked off the bus, along with all other occupants, after a skank fight had the driver close to break down! He refused to drive the bus another inch until he had received counseling.