Friday, May 6, 2011

All I Want for Mother's Day is a Bus Every 10 minutes

Last week my nine year-old accosted me with the perennial words, “Mum, I’m bored I don’t know what to do”. Looking up from my newspaper I pondered a whole two seconds before he said – get this – “Hurry up mum, you’re wasting my time”. When I reminded him I don’t have to provide entertainment 24/7, he replied incredulously, “Yes you do – you’re the MUM”.

If television advertising is any measure, my son’s view is widely shared. The closer we get to mother’s day, the louder it becomes. After all, if Nick Riewoldt, grown man and iconic AFL footballer, can take his washing to mum’s why can’t you?  Why, with a hug and grin, or perhaps a new electrical appliance, she’ll happily pick up after you for another whole year.

Think about it. Driving kids around for an afternoon of activities makes me a “great mum”, but teaching a child to read a timetable, hail a bus and buy a ticket borders on negligence. Just ask Lenore Skenazy.

Suburban mums are literally tied to the steering wheel, but what we want and need is half-decent public transport on weekends. There’s plenty of evidence that effective transport is a measure of quality of life, and mothers are getting a raw deal.

Each weekday my two eldest kids get around by using their own legs, which work perfectly well, and the local bus which runs every 15 minutes in peak.

But with hourly buses on weekends it all falls apart. Consequently, I spend my weekends in a car. There’s nothing good about it, save an occasional illuminating conversation, and the chance to erode the 120 hour learner-driver requirement.

Last weekend I clocked up 164 kilometres, taking kids to sport in Lilydale, Forest Hill, Ringwood and Heathmont, and a band practise in Box Hill. Thanks to a Saturday night get-together in Kilsyth South, I made the same 20 minute trip four times. Add the fact 20% of Melbournians are aged 17 and younger, well, you do the maths!

Australia’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling includes living in a household without a car as a social exclusion risk measure for children. No surprises there. Buses are the sole means of public transport for over two-thirds of Metropolitan Melbourne, but scant weekend services mean young people depend on lifts or risk social exclusion.

Everyone knows kids need to get out and meet flesh-friends rather than virtual ones, play sport, have part-time jobs, go to parties, and get involved in creative activities. Strange that when independence is enabled, one never hears “I’m bored mum, what can I do”. 

From where I sit (mostly at the traffic lights) the Public Transport Users Association campaign, Every 10 minutes to Everywhere looks a treat, with trams, trains, and main road buses every 10 minutes, from 6am to midnight, 7-days-a-week, and Nightrider buses every half-hour, 7-days-a-week. Do I think it will ever happen?  Do you?

So here’s a tip for Mother’s Day. What she really wants is time, and that’s something you can give. Here’s how. Support the PTUA campaign for increased public transport. Then catch a bus to the shops and buy a long handled claw to pick your own socks up with. Oh and Nick, learn how to use a washing machine would you please. It ain’t rocket science.

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The Neighbours taste like....chicken?
Eating the Neighbour's Pets
Mothering: protection, prevention, permission and paralysis

1 comment:

  1. Good public transport is certainly part of the solution, but we also need the links to and from these transport modes, and to provide for the shorter trips that are still a bit long to walk. Bikes are the perfect link, and in the Netherlands they know how to make it safe and attractive. Kids use them all the time and they don't need adult supervision!