I get aroundGood, bad or indifferent I am, in certain ways, the product of being raised in Southern California. Therefore I am what one might call "mass transportation deprived". I was raised in the era of the automobile. That is to say the automobile, car, wheels, short, sled or what ever else you might call it, was almost as important as sex. In fact for most young men of my generation sex and the automobile are joined at the hip (no pun intended). With all that aside the idea of relying on "Public Transportation" was unthinkable. Not only would you never get any , you would never get anywhere since there was never much of a Public Transportation system anywhere near where I grew up and therefore I had no faith in such a mode of transportation. Later in my life during the 70’s I did try to get environmentally conscious and did a combination of bike and bus riding while living in Santa Barbara. But that was strictly to and from work and to tell the truth I did not keep it up for much more than a year. For everything else I relied on my car. The mega-important extension of most of our middle class, testosterone driven male egos.
So when I arrived in Sydney I faced two major hurdles. One, those crazy Aussies drive on the wrong side of the road and there was no way I was ever going to adjust to that in the short time I was going to be there. Secondly I had no car available to me. Without some sort of endorsement or proof I could negotiate driving in that Superman Bizarro World of driving no one was going to rent me a car and AJ (aka webmonkey) is doing the urban living thing so does not own a car. That left the dreaded Public Transportation System. I did not know what good hands I was in. Sydney has an amazing interconnected system of rail, bus and ferry. AJ took me by the hand on my first day in Sydney and bought me my first "Weekly Red City Pass". A small card about the size of a credit card with a magnetic strip on one side. For $32 AU the card gave me one weeks’ access to almost all of the buses, trains and ferries that crisscross the entire city. The routes and schedules are posted at every stop and it took even a small town hick like me little time to soon learn that I could get almost anywhere I needed to go with just the swipe of a card without having to negotiate the backward traffic pattern or finding a place to park. After long ago realizing that my sex life, or lack of it, is not tied to an automobile it was easy to get hooked on this "Public Transportation System". Sydney has every reason to be proud of its transportation system. Each weekday City Rail alone moves approximately 930,000 customers to over 300 stations. I could not help think what it might be like in Los Angeles or Seattle if those cities had invested in an integrated transportation rather than the freeway mess full of solo operated cars looking for an off ramp and a place to park. Oh well, no worry because I was hooked on Sydney Public Transport and never really became disenchanted with it during my entire stay. And believe me, I think I personally accounted for a good portion of the reported 930,000 daily customers during my stay there.
What did slightly irk me was the following irony. I live in one of the wettest climates in North America. The Olympic rain forest receives up to 120 inches of rain a year. Bellingham averages over 30 inches of rain a year and averages only 136 sunny days per year. I traveled to the driest continent in the world and guess what. Rain. Cloudy days. In near record levels. Now admittedly the rain was much warmer. And, when it rained, it really rained. Not like the misty gray drizzle that I usually falls in Bellingham but a real gully washer down pour kinda stuff. And there were some really sunny, beautiful, hot days. But I did not travel 8000 miles from Winter in Bellingham to Summer in Sydney to get regularly rained on. I’m sure the travel gods got a good laugh out of that one. I survived. But it was just a little disappointing.