Meet the squinter, the slogger, and someone who says her commute “just sucks”.
Getting around the Harbour City can be daunting, and transport looms as a critical issue ahead of the NSW election — now less than a month away.
We joined four commuters to see what they go through every day.
Sheryl — ‘The cross towner’
Sheryl Sidery has no problems finding the words to describe her daily drive: “It sucks, it’s torture.”
And for good reason, her commute involves Sydney’s Military Road — notorious for being among the most congested in Australia.
She says it’s as bad as everybody thinks it is.
Ms Sidery works as midwife at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick and lives in Brookvale, on the northern beaches.
She aims to leave home by 7am every day, because she says getting out the door even 10 minutes later extends her trip.
That’s what happened when the ABC joined her last week.
“It’s soul destroying,” she says.
“That’s why when they offered me a permanent position, they said we’d really like you to do five days.
“I’m said I’m not sitting in the traffic for five days.
“I can’t do it. It’ll kill me.”
Instead she commutes three days.
“Physically when you get to my age, it’s bad for me to sit for an hour,” she says.
“When I get out of my car, my hips are sore.”
Two years ago, the State Government promised to build the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link as a way to reduce congestion for Northern Beaches commuters.
The Beaches Link is designed to reduce the amount of cars on the Spit Bridge and redirect them into a tunnel under Middle Harbour.
But it’s still in the planning stage and hasn’t been approved yet.
Ms Sidery does not support the project.
“I don’t think the tunnel, to add more cars, is a good idea,” she says.
“I don’t think it’s good for the environment. I don’t think it’s what we need.”
Labor has vowed not to build the project if it wins next month’s election.
Mark — ‘The slogger’
Mark Stephens knows he lives a long way away from work.
He commutes from Kellyville by bus to Macquarie Park where he lectures in theology at a private college.
“You know you’re a distance away, it’s going to take 50 minutes to get to Macquarie Park on a great run,” he says.
“But you’d prefer if that one bad thing, or even just a peak hour wouldn’t destroy your work day and mean you have to prepare for an hour and ten, an hour twenty minutes of travel time.
“That seems excessive.”
He says if he starts work at 9am, he has to be on the bus by half past seven, just in case.
It was raining when the ABC joined Mr Stephens on his journey to work last week.
He says that means the trip will “absolutely” take longer than normal, and he’s right.
It takes an hour and 25 minutes, about 15 minutes longer than usual.
The bus moves quickly when it’s using its dedicated lane on the M2, but getting there can be a grind.
In a few months there’ll be another option.
The North West Metro will open, providing a driverless turn-up-and-go train service.
“I can’t wait for it to start,” Mr Stephens says.
“The North West Metro seems to be addressing a particular need that everybody has been crying out for 30, 40, 50 years.”
That transport project alone though, won’t influence his vote.
“I don’t really see it as a partisan issue,” he says.
“I see it as an issue that needed to be done.
“The fact that the Liberal Party did it is kudos to them they get a tick for that but it doesn’t really change my sense that Labor or Liberal would be more likely to do those kind of projects in the future.”
Hayley — ‘The squinter’
Hayley Hepburn calls herself a “squinter”.
That’s a commuter who drives from the west to the east each morning and looks into the sun.
“I’ve been a squinter now for 12 years, and for the whole 12 years its been awful,” she says.
She drives from her home in Kingswood, near Penrith, to her job in medical administration at Westmead Hospital using one of Sydney’s most talked about roads, the M4.
The 30-kilometre trip rarely goes to plan.
“If you’re going to be a squinter you’ve got to make sure you leave an hour and a half to get to work every morning,” she says.
“That’s three hours a day. That’s almost half a work day getting to the place where I earn minimum wage.”
Matters of State
Getting from A to B
With public transport dominating discussion in both city and the regions, what are the major parties offering to keep NSW moving?
She accepts living in Sydney comes with “some amount of congestion”, but says what she experiences is too much for someone who lives and works in the west.
“I feel like if you live in the CBD it might be the price you pay,” Ms Hepburn says.
“But I’m living in the outer western suburbs, way out west, the sticks.”
She doesn’t feel like the NSW Government has addressed congestion for western Sydney’s commuters.
“Nothing they’ve done so far has tickled my pickle,” she says.
“Yes OK, so they might have built two or three new roads, it’s not that impressive”.
She says transport infrastructure is an issue she’ll consider when she votes on March 23.
The M4 has made plenty of headlines recently.
The State Government has widened a section of the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, as part of the WestConnex project.
It opened to traffic in mid 2017 and a toll was reintroduced, with commuters paying up to $4.56.
The rest of WestConnex will open in stages, starting this year — but it won’t help Ms Hepburn’s commute.
Geoff — ‘The happy commuter’
Geoff Martin is a “happy commuter”, and he would know, after catching Sydney’s trains for more than 30 years.
“A few times are trying,” the human resources executive says.
“But you just have to take a deep breath and remember it gets you from A to B for a reasonable cost.”
Mr Martin commutes from Dulwich Hill to the CBD every day.
The trip takes 30 minutes door-to-door, something he says is “pretty good” by Sydney standards.
“I usually just sit down, I’m crafty enough to get a seat and just do social media,” Mr Martin says.
Transport has been a hot topic for people submitting questions as part of the ABC’s You Ask We Answer campaign.
Here are some examples:
- Would Labor, if it won, continue the Metro Line project to its completion?
- Will Labor if elected complete the Northwest Metro all the way to Bankstown or truncate it at Sydenham?
- Why haven’t we got super fast rail to inland towns so that people can buy in say Bathurst, etc and still get to Sydney within 40 minutes?
- Why isn’t there 24-hour public transport in Sydney like there is in every other major city in the world?
However, he also wants to see Sydney’s rail network improved.
The heavy rail Mr Martin takes to work has approval to be turned into a Metro system.
By 2024, there’ll be 66 kilometres of new Metro tracks in Sydney — something the NSW Government says will ease pressure on the current system.
“I’m really keen for the investment for the public that that goes ahead,” he says.
“Because we really do need a world-class line.”
If Labor wins on March 23, the Metro conversion in Mr Martin’s area will not happen.
“That’s a bit of a shock because I’m invested and excited for the Metro,” he says.
“Infrastructure is really important.”
Mr Martin is not sure if that difference in policy will influence his vote.
He, and the other three commuters have 29 days to decide.
Topics: elections, government-and-politics, state-elections, political-parties, alp, liberals, nsw, kingswood-2747, randwick-2031, westmead-2145, kellyville-2155, macquarie-park-2113, brookvale-2100, dulwich-hill-2203, sydney-2000
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