I made a mistake the other day.
It wasn’t a big one, on the scale of, say, testing diesel fumes on monkeys and humans, like Volksagen admitted to this week. But it did involve diesel fumes.
My mistake was taking on the rejigged Newcastle bus system and thinking there wouldn't be emotion, because there was always going to be a learning curve.
So I took an open mind and a stop watch. I should have included a damp cloth to mop the brow. Because the first thing I noticed about my new routes and bus stops was that no matter how many choices I now have, they’re all 15 minutes walk from my house. Talk about getting conditioned to change. With all this new walking, I’ll be well fit.
The buses I tried turned up within Keolis Downer’s promised 15-minute window (after the 15-minute walk) and some even added 15 minutes of new territory traversed, which was educational in terms of time taken. But not as eye-opening as the now unique Hunter Street drop-off process. Most buses that head down what’s open of Hunter Street now turn right at Steele Street towards Marketown, leaving anyone who used to get dropped off further up alighting 450 metres earlier and walking, or waiting for a connector bus that hopefully doesn't turn right at Steele Street. Otherwise, tack on 10 more minutes of Life Be In It.
Like I said, it was a mistake to think there wouldn’t be emotion, but there I was walking again. And as I did, I Googled Transport Newcastle to try and ease my emotions, but it would be another mistake to think it did, because the trip planner confirmed I needed to repeat the walking process in reverse that afternoon. As I pondered that I made note of the cars whizzing past and thought “I could be in one of those cars if I hadn’t left mine home today.’
I reminded myself it was only day one of my relationship with the rejigged Newcastle bus system, and that if you don’t have a sense of humour, you probably don’t have much sense at all, but it would be another mistake to think I was looking forward to day two. So next day I tried the “Park and Ride” free service from McDonald Jones Stadium and was transported to a world of wonder, mainly about where and when I was going to get dropped off and picked up. And would there be more walking? (Answer: yes).
A robust discussion with a colourful character outside Marketown that afternoon queried whether the needs of the people were being served by privatisation, and given he said he’d been waiting six hours for his bus you’d have to wonder. On the other hand, those kind of robust discussions at the bus stop outside Marketown aren’t unusual. When a second Park and Ride service that I didn’t know about (for the uni) drove past my outstretched pleading arms I had another robust discussion, with myself, along the lines of WTF.
I eventually got home a little later, after several more walks, talks, changes and exchanges, than if I’d driven, but it would be another mistake to think I won’t keep trying because as with all change, experience is a great teacher, and as VW knows, it’s only a mistake if you get caught out.