Saturday, March 29, 2014

In praise of public transport

I'm a sceptic about many things and can easily rant about things that bug me but one thing I cannot complain about usually is public transport.

It gets a bad rap from many people I think largely because it doesn't run where and when they exactly want it to run.  They have to walk to where the bus, train or underground runs from which of course nobody wants to do these days.  We live in a time of personalized everything where we believe we are in charge of our lives totally with for example TV on demand, smartphones available with apps that do everything, and so on.  If we actually got up and walked the often short distance required, I think people would be pleasantly surprised how well public transport actually works.

Sadly it's a self fulfilling prophecy if people don't use it, then public transport becomes too costly to run as the costs of running grow which in turn prompts cuts to service which in turn prompts complaints that the service isn't good enough, and so on and so forth.  Personally I think that public transport is one of those things that governments should operate.  They at least don't have the 15% ROE targets that private enterprise is constantly striving for.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in England where public transport has been largely privatized and its cost to use as a result has gone through the roof.  Our experience in Miami by contrast was nothing short of sensational.

In previous years Viv and I had used taxis or the official tournament shuttle to and from the tennis on Key Biscayne.  The taxi would cost $40 while the shuttle was $15 return daily per person.  The difficulty was that late in the day, taxis would become scarce for the way back and the shuttle only ran hourly and sometimes it was tricky to determine quite which vehicle was the correct shuttle as there are always loads of buses hanging around and none of them seemingly were the correct ones.

This year though Viv googled buses to Key Biscayne and after some mishaps we found that the B bus from Brickell Station stops outside the ground with the return bus stop on the other side of the road and operates between 5 am and 11.30 pm every half hour all for the cost of $2.25 per person per trip.

What a revelation!

Furthermore the buses always came on time and took no more than 20 minutes out and more likely 15 minutes back as evening traffic was much lighter.  The bus stopped right in the middle of Mary Brickell Village, a place that offers an endless supply of bars, restaurants and shops and was no more than a 10-minute walk away from our apartment.

As for the tennis, it was of course wonderful.  We saw some great matches including  Tsonga/Baghdatis, Dolgopolov/Lajovic -- a young Serb supported from the crowd by Novak Djokovic at least until the rains came -- Nishikori/Dmitrov and Bautista-Agut/Fognini.  These were all lengthy well contested close matches but there were of course some less well contested too but that is always the case.

From top: Tsonga, Baghdatis, Nishikori, Dmitrov, Dolgopolov and Fognini

Our final day in Miami was spent largely on and off the Miami trolleys, a free service we mistakenly took to be tourist buses but which turned out to be free shuttles for workers all around Miami.

We took the Biscayne trolley north and the Coral Way trolley to Coral Gables and if that wasn't enough did the full circle on the Coral Gables trolley too before finally giving up the ghost and retiring to the Mandarin Oriental on Biscayne Key, an 8 minute walk away from our apartment, for a restoring Martini.

Martinis at the Mandarin.  Viv's with olives, mine with a twist.

Our final dinner in Miami was at a nearby place called Truluck's where the waitress told us that last week Andy Murray had visited with his entourage and eaten 2 entrees.  The steak was lovely, by the way and all round the restaurant was very good.

Next stop on our tour is San Francisco!

The apartment Viv found on the 38th floor

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