The Mardi Gras Transport Stuff-Up of 2009

In a little place called Sydney, a bunch of people in costumes with bright faces, make-up, and a sense of fun are all getting ready to go out and show the world just what it means to be themselves.

They've made floats and dresses and attached feathers and glitter and joy to all parts of their bodies. There'll be music that pumps and breaks through the crowd and Mardi Gras will show everyone that gays and lesbians are out and proud.

With parties being the order of the weekend, the police are out in full-force. It's only Friday and men & women in blue stand outside a train station while they hold teenage twenty-something drug offenders to the ground. The labrador who did the grunt-work sits ready to receive his pat, stroke, belly rub reward.

People walk by, walk on, wait for a bus or taxi, but mostly move on. No one wants to be a suspect or a criminal and no one would dare comment on the irony of ten officers nailing one person to the ground.

All throughout this, this little place's transport system attempts to serve the population by providing enough buses and trains to support demand. Enough means to get the people around, from place to place and point A to points B,C,D and F.

No one wants to go to E. We're all sick of it.
Despite the Mardi Gras being a one-night thing, Sydney's bus system seems to struggle with maintaining any sense of order or structure. Instead of responding with planning, the State Transit Authority seem to have taken it under their wing to make it more of a hassle for Sydneysiders to leave their suburbs than anything else.

My own experience is one of trying to get from Bondi in Sydney's East to Crows Nest in Sydney's North. This trip would normally take roughly forty-five minutes to an hour.

Tonight, this would take a lot longer.

Tonight, most Bondi-residents would be lucky to get out of their suburb. The bus stops are overcrowding and the little areas of the path that have yellow bus signs attached to them have become waiting queues of pissed off pedestrians all hoping to board what never comes.

What never comes does come in short bursts. The famous Bondi buses – the only Sydney bus to run 24/7 – don't come and serve the people. Buses drive by with numbers serving other areas, a driver who didn't want to work or was relaxing at the time. Services that should be taking their place are either not coming or avoiding people and taking their own breaks at the bottom where beach-goers dwell.

The surfers and tourists and families and folk are all boarding at the beach at the bottom while residents trying to get out of their one-road-town stand by and wait. They wait for one overcrowded bus that drives by, then another, and then another.

Some of these people get so sick of waiting that they stand a bit further from the bus stop with their hands out, their fingers held to attention up high as their arms extend from their bodies. They wave at the white & silver cars with the word "TAXI" nailed to the top but the cars just drive on by.

While most of the cabs are filled with a passenger ready to pay what's needed, many of them are also vacant with their drivers just shaking their heads at prospective clients who haven't a clue what's up. They drive on with their lights on, they see passengers who wave and turn their lights off.

Suddenly the passenger is no longer important and the cabbie in demand can treat the client like a load of crap.

Which is wonderful because tonight, the State Transit Authority is jumping on us in the heat and Sydney's taxi population are kicking us when we're down.

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