September 08, 2016

Horse 2161 - Every "Commuter" In Sydney Is Dead

It is Thursday morning, the 8th of September 2016. As of today, I am officially not a commuter.

This doesn't mean to say that I've quit my job, nor does it mean that I've ditched public transport in favour of driving to work, quite the contrary. What it does mean is that I am a pedant and that I have reasonable comprehension and literacy skills, and that I am going to take a word on its dictionary definition and not just the popular and incorrect vernacular.

In the early days of the Central Line on the London Underground, the price from any station to any other station was tuppence. This mean that regular passengers who went to work and back home again had to pay twice a day. By the end of the week, they'd bustled through the turnstiles ten times and also paid ten times. After passenger volumes had risen to the point of insufferance and because the various lines were still privately owned and in competition with each other, the Central Line decided that it would sell weekly and monthly passes for travel at discounted rates. Thus, people who had paid for a periodical pass, had their fares commuted to a lower rate. In the case of weekly passes on the Central Line, that rate would be one shilling or six trips.

It might surprise the vast majority of people as they travel forth and back across the city, that technically the act of travelling is not commuting. Commuters were named that because they'd had their fares commuted to a lower rate. Australia should be familiar with the term because from the beginning of British settlement, the first convicts who were sent to the colony of New South Wales, had their sentences commuted from death to transportation. Some would probably have argued though that transportation wasn't really a commutation of anything because Australia is a harsh country that where the wildlife and even the dirt itself is actively trying to kill you.

When Transport Minister Andrew Constance saw that people were taking advantage of the system, he obviously made it his mission to hurt as many travellers as he possibly could because the only conclusion that I can reach is that after reading about the latté sipping rat runners in active wear, who were running between tram stops in the inner city so that they could get cheaper travel, he took deep and cruel umbrage. In consequence, as of Monday this week, instead of a "free travel reward" which had actually been calculated after eliminating weekly, monthly and other periodical passes, all trips beyond the eighth will be charged at half rates where previously they were charged at a zero rate.
What this has meant is the end of the latté sipping rat runners in active wear, dashing between tram stop in the inner city, and for those of us who travel forth and back across the greater metropolitan area a direct punch in the hip pocket. By every practical definition of the word, because most of us have seen a sudden and very real fare increase, the era of the commuter is over.

On the 5th of September 2016, all commuters in Sydney died.

Because I live so far away from where I work, there is no way around it, I will pay more. The absolutely beautiful thing about this from a policy perspective is that because this happened in 2016 and not towards the end of the election cycle (with the next NSW State Election taking place in 2020) there is nary a thing that the good and fair people of NSW can do about it. There can be no backlash through the ballot box and because the election is four years away, the current sharp pain that we experience will be replaced by a permanent slow one and it will become the new normal.
I also find it galling that The Daily Telegraph who originally caused the media attention by yelling blue horror across its front page, has also gone silent on the subject. Their slogan "We're for Sydney" rings even hollower than the main bell in the clock tower at Sydney Terminal. To me this begs a deeper question about who actually made the policy, and if it was a case of looking between man and pig and pig and man and not being able to tell who is who, then that's even worse.

The pill that I found particularly hard to swallow was that only yesterday I saw the Transport Minister Andrew Constance in a hire car; which means that he personally doesn't have to live with the pain that he's inflicted. The old adage that you should walk a mile in someone else's shoes looks like Mr Constance is delivering a vial of micturition as he travels around in his lovely hire car. This is like a consignment of elderly footwear manufacturers, with the added irony that they are now paying more to travel to work.

The sad thing I see as I stand on the train to the city, is that the people who travel with me are all quietly enduring this. I look out over many pairs of blarey eyes which still haven't had the sleep wiped out of them; and I think to myself that they've mostly already swallowed the pill in silence.
By the time that this is published, I will have already arrived at work; after having paid for the ninth trip of the week. Where previously I would have paid zero for it, even paying one red cent for it means that my fare hasn't been commuted but exactly the opposite. All commuters in Sydney have officially died. Vale.

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