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October 3rd, 2019

traffic light contrasts

In Osaka 1, I could reach a conbini, supermarket, several restaurants, a subway station, more shops, and maybe a large park, without even passing through a car-enabled intersection. Helps to live on a pedestrian arcade, with the subway station providing an underpass under the main road.

In Osaka 2, I could reach at least three supermarkets, 5 different train stations, multiple malls, countless shops, the same large park, without passing through a traffic light (or intersection that needed one.) This comes from lots of narrow calmed low-traffic roads, pedestrian overpasses, and subway underpasses. W lived 20 minutes way but I would need at most one traffic light to reach her.

(Though more commonly I took a main road sidewalk that did have a traffic light for a garage exit; avoiding lights meant taking sidewalk-less one lane roads with the occasional slow car to dodge.)

This isn't necessarily typical of Japan. My place in Tokyo couldn't really be escaped without traffic lights. And exploring various cities, I certainly had to wait at lights a lot. Still, the ubiquity of low traffic roads, and the fact that all neighborhoods are at least somewhat mixed, raises the chance that you can reach something without much interaction with cars.

Brisbane 1, despite being very different, was similar in this. I could reach a supermarket, pharmacy, handful of restaurants, and the busway station, without lights.

Brisbane 2 and 3, not so much. Brisbane 2 needed a long-wait traffic light to reach the market, my favorite restaurant, or either busway station. Brisbane 3 needs a long-wait traffic light to reach anything other than a ferry terminal or one cafe.

In terms of walking to the central area, Brisbane 1 might have been better, though it might be that the same number of traffic lights were spaced out better, rather than jammed up at one end.

So, this probably explains part of how I've been feeling the past 2+ weeks. I went from 14 weeks where interaction with heavy traffic was completely optional, to places where such interaction is mandatory to eat.




How about other places I've lived? Where I grew up in Chicago was pretty walkable. I think stop signs would allow reaching the supermarket and bank and maybe library without lights, but for the train station and other things you would need a light.

Where I lived in Cambridge... subway station and several restaurants without light. Maybe one of the supermarkets. Harvard probably technically needed lights, but on low traffic roads where it doesn't matter much. At Harvard itself the subway gives some underpass capability.

Where I lived in Somerville, not so much. Couldn't reach anything without lights or dangerous jaywalking. You could get to one supermarket without much of a light but it was a long walk. Getting to the subway station took two lights, though one of them was pretty responsive to pedestrian buttons.

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Brisbane ferry

So, I chose poorly with this new place. Local bus runs every 40 minutes and stops running at 1930. It's a 23 minute walk to the nearest busway station. But it is near ferry stops, and today I tried that. There's CityHopper, a free but short route running every 30 minutes. CityCat, a long paid route that runs every 15 minutes during the day, though slowing down in the evening. And a few ferries that just shuttle across the river at points. I actually have three ferry terminals: one is Hopper, one is Hopper plus cross-river, one is CityCat.

So I went down to the CityCat one, and hopped on, toward QUT St Lucia. I sort of feel like it doesn't go THAT far down the river -- no further than I've already been -- but it does take 50 minutes to get there from Mowbray. This despite being a catamaran with 25 knots cruising speed.

Boat capacity is around 150 people, which given 4 an hour, doesn't seem much -- no more than 600 people an hour passing through a ferry terminal.

Anyway, it was fun. Having been to QUT already I got off at West End instead, which wasn't super exciting. The buses there aren't good, but there's a City Glider thing, which is two good buses -- 15 minute or better headways, USB chargers, 24 hour service on Friday and Saturday. Google Maps knows nothing about it, which is weird. But I took one (5 minute headway at 1630) and rode across Brisbane to Tenerife terminal, taking another ferry back home.

Ferries from North Hamilton go to every 30 minutes at 1719; going the other way from QUT, they switch at 1818. Pretty early.

First ferry was pretty punctual, not sure about the second one.

They look weird, like they're riding on ice skates. I assume there are pontoons beneath the water surface and I'm just seeing a thin connector.




Edit to add: I keep forgetting to rant again about the lack of announcements on the buses. (No sign, no verbal announcement, of what the next stop is.) It was particularly telling when I was coming back from the Botanical Gardens. Strange route, in the dark, with no landmarks, no way of knowing when to get off except asking the driver (maybe) or GPS. Does Brisbane assume everyone has a smartphone and GPS now?

Would have been an issue on the City Glider today too, but I was heading to the end of the line.

The trains and ferries don't have this problem, but all the buses do, including the fancy busways and City Glider.

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Damien Sullivan
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