Catching the Bus

empty bus lane in peak hour by Adam Loh

I used to drive everywhere, but I’ve been trying to use public transport more and I’m catching the bus to Curtin University every day now. If I don’t get up early enough, the bus from near my house only comes by every hour, so I drive instead. Last year I was often sleeping in and driving more than bussing it. This year I’ve been getting up on time. I have to catch a bus, a train and another bus and it takes an hour compared to half an hour driving my car in peak hour traffic. Not having to worry about traffic is much more relaxing and I read to pass the time.

The different services of the public transport system in Perth are all managed by one authority, so the timetabling for services is well thought out. Connections between buses and trains in peak hour are timed to enable smooth transition from one to another (although at other times there can be lengthy waits). My cousin from Sydney recently visited Perth and was impressed with this.

The problem with public transport arises because of Perth’s enormous urban sprawl. Depending on where you live, if you’re not close-ish to a train line you might have a lengthy bus ride before you connect with a train (or your destination). The recently opened Mandurah Railway Line shortened the journey considerably for commuters in the southern suburbs. Mandurah is an hour south of Perth (by car) and it used to be a beach side holiday town, but with the land between Perth and Mandurah rapidly filling with housing (and bush being cleared to allow this) there was a need for a faster service between the two. My trip to Curtin has been shortened by the new line. I used to have to catch a bus, two trains and another bus.

The Mandurah Line replaced a bus route. Even though the railway cost $1.66 billion, I’ve read that Perth’s railway lines were built at a fraction of the cost of interstate lines [1]. Trains are more reliable, faster and have the capacity to carry more passengers than buses [2]. The railway lines in Perth run on electricity, which has the possibility of being generated from renewable sources (although it’s not at present). In an article in Dissent magazine, Professor Peter Newman from Murdoch University discussed the advantages of rail compared to car use and found,

data from cities around the world show that when rail systems are built back into cities then there is a significant reduction in car use…every new kilometre of rail use created replaces around 5km of car use. [2]

Grand Spider Orchid by Tom Carter, Mt Vernon Floragraphics

During the construction of the Mandurah Line flora surveys were completed along the route. 231 plant species were identified, 68 of them weeds [3]. Botanists carried out surveys of the Grand Spider Orchid (Caladenia huegelii) population at the site of the Murdoch Station. It was determined that most of the plants were growing in the north-east corner and a 0.8ha Grand Spider Orchid Preservation area was established [3]. The male of a single species of thynnid wasp is the only pollinator of the orchid (the wasp thinks the flower is a female and tries to mate with it) [4]. Before construction it wasn’t certain if the wasp was present in this 0.8ha [5], but the rest of the 3ha banksia and marri woodland was cleared for the car park next to Murdoch Station. The Grand Spider Orchid is Declared Rare Flora (Extant) because it’s rare in the wild and in danger of extinction [6]. Part of its original habitat was the area Perth consumed with concrete and asphalt (and is still consuming).

Another threatened ecological community – a naturally occurring combination of plant species – was also identified at the site of Warnbro Station. A new station design was created to preserve nearly one hectare of the best quality of this vegetation. [3]

Areas that were cleared for construction were revegetated with native species to try to return some of the land to close to its original state. The route was also planned to avoid the number of wetland zones along the line: Leda Wetlands, Pickle Swamp, Anstey Swamp, Paganoni Wetland and Black Swan Lake. In order to control runoff to these areas, silt traps and vegetated swales were constructed to maintain drainage patterns through infiltration where the rainwater falls [3]. Swales are the solution to every water problem!

Back to my driving, I’ve been recording my petrol use since September last year. When I used to drive to Curtin every day I used about 60L per month (although that’s a guess because I wasn’t keeping records). Over the past six months I’ve only been using 45L per month. I was still driving to Curtin a few times a week last year, so I’m hoping my petrol use will decrease even more. With my decision not to buy a parking permit this year, I’ll be forced to continue bussing it, even when it gets too cold to get out of bed.

I’m not getting rid of the car just yet. I still use it for shopping, visiting friends, going to the beach, etc. I should get a bike to do some of these things, but it hasn’t happened yet.


photo credits

Bus Only on Flickr by Adam Loh
Grand Spider Orchid on Flickr by Tom Carter, Mt Vernon Floragraphics


  1. Mees, Paul (2004) “Are our rail systems really at capacity?” Dissent, no.16, p.39-40.
  2. Newman, Peter (2005) “Trains, buses and cars: Planning for a sustainable future in Australian cities” Dissent, no.17, p.30-32.
  3. WA Public Transport Authority (2007) New MetroRail Project: the environment.
  4. Bland, Lisa & Brown, Andrew (2004) “Econotes: Grand Spider Orchid” Ecoplan News, Spring, p.5.
  5. Beal, Jonathan (2004) Development threatens rare native orchid. Stateline, 19 Oct.
  6. Chapman, Alex (2006) Western Australian Flora Conservation Taxa. Perth: Western Australian Herbarium.

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