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Slow down, do more on public transport

August 19, 2016

I have long envied those that live in cities with good public transport. I always enjoy those trips where I can walk out in the morning, get to places, and get back without having to think about how. So I am watching with great interest the transport developments here in Johannesburg.

It’s not quite there yet. For me to get to my nearest Gautrain bus station is a twenty minute walk, which I am not opposed to, but which takes time. My 15 minute commute by car to work would take me about an hour and a half by public transport. I just can’t afford that kind of time, twice a day.

But I do take trips to Pretoria, to the Innovation Hub, about once a month. One of these meetings happened on Monday. I had it in my diary for 12:30 to 01:30, and my assistant had helpfully blocked out an hour before and after for the drive.

I woke up on Monday with a horrible migraine and although that passed in about two hours, I was left with the kind of hang-over that migraine sufferers will know makes it really hard to focus. Doing the death-run on the M1 with only half my brain functioning was not an attractive prospect.

So, figuring that I would not get a lot done on Monday anyway, I opted for public transport. This entailed a drive to the nearest station, train to Hatfield, and the H2 bus to the Innovation Hub. I set out at 10 am and got there at 12 noon. The trip back started at ten to two, and I got home at twenty to four. Lots of time goes into waiting for connections.

Yet, I had the most wonderfully productive day. While waiting at the station I cleared e-mails, including those that lurk in my “to read” box for months. On the train there I read though the documents for the meeting. On the way back I read and annotated a student’s work. My job entails a lot of reading and while that’s quite hard to do on the bus, it works well on the train.

Best of all, I felt calm and relaxed. I loved watching the traffic on the (not at all free) freeway as the train glides over towards the Centurion station. The sticker on the back of the seat in front of me told me that I had dramatically reduced my carbon footprint. I could let my mind wander to the lovely jacket that the woman on the next seat was wearing, and the way the light was catching on the grass outside – the kind of wandering that makes travel a pleasure, but which would be fatal on the M1.

It takes a certain acceptance that there will be delays, and that time will be spent waiting. For this a bit of planning is worthwhile: charge your phone, make sure you have data, print out the reports you want to annotate. Once you have done that, serenity is easy; certainly a lot easier than when driving, constantly alert and watching.

Monday turned out to be relaxing and productive, despite the migraine hang-over and the trip to Pretoria. So whenever I can, I will be slowing down, taking public transport, and getting more done.

  1. I wish we had efficient public transport systems like London and elsewhere. It is definitely a healthier and more sociable experience than being confined in a car for over an hour listening to depressing daily political rants on 702. Also I have an assumption that the stress of daily traffic congestion and long commutes especially in the mornings directly impact daily worker productivity which in the long term negatively affects our country’s growth and development. Lol. ;-)-
    (Rubina from SEBS. Stumbled upon your blog Judy. Some nice pieces)

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you. All that time trapped in cars can’t be good for the economy or anyone’s health. There is this lovely quote about transport that goes: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, its where the rich ride public transport”. I think that getting a really good public transport is the best thing a city can do. That is the kind of place I want to live in. One small improvement that you can make in the meanwhile though is to turn off 702. It really makes the drive much more relaxing!

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