Roads Need Rails
With Cairns steadily growing in population there's a lot of talk about how to make sure everyone has the capability to get where they need to go in town. Cairns needs something serious done about public transport. I've been griping since moving up here about the woeful state of the bus timetable; if I want to get to work on time, I have to get a quarter to seven bus which gets me into town at twenty past; the next bus, which leaves at quarter to eight, doesn't get into town until a quarter to nine.
A month or so ago, we received a pamphlet in the mail detailing a Cairns Regional Council plan to revitalise public transport by instituting a bus network scheme. While any improvement is worthwhile, there's one thing that really bothers me – the Council's reliance on the roads for public transit.
Each main approach to Cairns relies on a single highway: the Bruce, conveying traffic from the south, and the Captain Cook, bringing in Northern Beaches and Tableland traffic (which joins the Cook via the Kuranda Range Road). Virtually all Cairns transit relies on these two highways, and if one is cut, there's no serious alternate route for all that traffic, buses included.
A few weeks ago, there was a fatal crash of a car and a truck at a traffic junction roughly two thirds of the way into Cairns from home. It occured at seven AM, and the police had to close off that stretch of the highway until they could process the scene. I left home for work at around seven thirty. Traffic had already banked back to the journey's haflway point by the time I got there; it took me ten minutes to travel maybe four hundred metres to the next set of lights, where I got off the highway, turned around and went home.
A half-hour of rest later, I decided to try again. This time, the traffic was banked back even further. Again, I got off the highway and went to have some breakfast at a local cafe. I sat reading and eating for another half an hour, and by the time I'd finished, it looked as though traffic was moving again, so I got back on the road. No such luck; traffic was still in gridlock. After another ten to fifteen minutes of stop-start crawling I got back to the set of lights where I turned off after my first attempt to get in. I went to a nearby shopping precinct, bought myself a bottle of water and sat and read for a while longer (maybe another twenty minutes). By this time, the police had presumably finished their work and cleared the scene; the traffic was finally flowing. After leaving home at 7:30, I got through the doors of work at eleven AM.
Now, this is one day where I was thankful that I owned a car. I agine being traped on a bus for three and a half hours, unable to turn around or off where you want; your only hope that you can get off near somewhere that you can get something to eat or drink, stretch yor legs and/or sit down and not have to buy a whole new ticket on the next bus that arrives – if one arrives any time soon.
Cairns can't simply rely on its roads for the entirety of its metropolitan transport, public or otherwise. If the roads fail as they did a few weeks ago, the city is crippled for at least half a day. Council needs to implement alternate public transport in Cairns. The cane rails give us plenty of track to work with and there's a main line that takes inter-city expresses to and from the city (it even has a station here at Gordonvale). There was even a motorail service several years ago, and I'd gladly give up driving to and from work if there were a rail service available that could get me into work on time.