It is January 21st 2020. I am just about to parallel park when my foot slips on the accelerator and I almost hit a couple walking on the footpath. Result: I fail my Italian driving test. 5 days later, I leave for Australia to undertake my first year of University in Perth... without a licence! My university is 25km away from my house and it is only going to be me, my legs and my Smartrider against the world.
Dear friends, you must know that whenever I talk about Perth, my hook is always public transport. Some people think it is quite weird and unusual. I mean, I could talk about the wonderful beaches, the polite, respectful and multicultural people, or the many work and study opportunities for students. But no, you must bear with my lecture about Perth's buses, trains, and stations. Don’t worry, it’s going to be worth it!
As I said before, I don’t have a licence and I can’t drive – so relying on public transport is vital to me, as well as for many other students. During my time in Perth, I learned some tips and perks that I would like to share with you.
Firstly, public transport here in Perth is run by Transperth. From their website, we can see that on a normal weekday there are 11,200 buses and 1,000 trains. This mean that the city is well-equipped and there is a lot of care for public transport, which helps the environment, the traffic and the community.
The best way to use these means is to get a Smartrider card which can be directly connected to your bank account (via Autoload) and your student card. The student discounts are very handy and with Autoload, you don’t have to worry about buying a ticket ever again! Transperth also has an app, which I would be totally lost without. I can track times, routes and buses on it. When you are a busy student living in a big city, optimising your time is key.
Secondly, stations are safe places; train and bus stations here are safe, clean, and well-lit. I happen to take trains and buses late at night and I am always happy to see officers in close proximity. And did you know that you can ask bus drivers to take you to an exact location on their route if it’s after 7pm?
When I started taking public transport, the first thing that I noticed is that you must say hi, thank you and goodbye at the beginning and end of every bus ride, especially if you are taking the free CAT (Central Area Transit) bus. This small action is telling of Australian culture. It captures the respect and kindness of people in Perth. And trust me when I say that at 7am, the smile of your bus driver can easily brighten your whole day!
I must say though that buses might not be always punctual and that in summer, you might catch a bad cold due to the strong air conditioning on public transport (tip: make sure you always bring a jumper with you). People do say that in other Australian cities transportation is more efficient, but Transperth has been my first approach to navigating Perth and is something I will hold dear in my heart forever – like the lovely old man at Murdoch station whose only job is to greet people entering the station.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wish I had my licence, but counting the dolphins at sunset on on the Fremantle line does sweeten the pill.
If you’d like more information on Perth's public transport, check out the Transperth website!