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Transport / Mass transit

This is why Sydney and Melbourne offer far, far nicer commutes than London

Everyone has good days and bad days on their commute. I’ve had days where a crazy woman has abused the people in front of and around her, as well as the ones inside her head, all the while gesturing for me to get out of her way (excuse me, but we’ve all been waiting).

That’s in London, though. And there are some cities where your probability of experiencing a pleasant ride to work on a regular basis is a bit higher.

For a Sydney slicker, the daily commute can include not only bus or train, but also skimming through crisp blue waters on the morning ferry to your workplace, or strolling across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (bucket list anyone?). If everyone started their workday with a sea breeze, I think we’d be a lot more Zen and a lot less hateful.

That pleasant ferry journey, favoured by my friends living on Sydney’s north shore costs you A$5.20. In all, you can spent as little as $50AUD (roughly £25) per week on travel costs. (In London, a zone one and two monthly travel card costs £123.) All in all, not too shabby for a commute where you can almost always find a seat.

 Sydneysiders have pretty good “commutiquette”, too, particularly on the buses, which account for approximately half of the public transport commutes. They’ll form an orderly queue, and then as many people will board as possible; once the buses are full, they’ll fast track straight to the city centre. This doesn’t alarm city goers, as the congested buses are both frequent and a bargain at $2.70 (£1.35). I’ve heard gallantry may still be alive down there as men often allow women to board before them.

Melbourne is more hit and miss when it comes to the daily commute. The trains will fill up, so your best chance of grabbing a seat is if you live a little further out. As far as physical discomfort goes, Melbournians are generally very conscious of others around them and will try as hard as possible not to knock into you, get into your personal space, and be apologetic if they do.

A map of Melbourne’s extensive tram network. Image: JohnnoShadbol/LiamDavies/Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, Melbourne’s train, tram and bus frequency is nowhere near at the level of other major cities such as London. Imagine waiting between seven and fifteen minutes for the next train during peak hour (in London, anything more than a two minute gap is considered poor service). Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, with 250k of double track; but the trams and buses are often held up by traffic including the two in three people who choose to drive over public transport.

Sydney and Melbourne may offer more enjoyable commutes than London, but they do have an advantage. They’re vastly less densely populated: there are simply fewer people along each major transport route. At the very least we can rely on commutiquette to stay sane during those mind numbing journeys.

Kat Houston is web editor at Design Curial.
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