There is a slight but embarrassing thing about being a commuter that cannot usefully apply the public transport system for their commute. This is something that I have never experienced, as every major journey that I have had to do can be easily planned and executed by subtle use of train, bus, and occasionally, a short walk. In Aberdeen, however, there is no such luxury. For a city that is so rich in comparison with other cities of its size, even outside of Scotland, the transport system is woeful at best.
In Glasgow there is a stunning selection of buses, trains stations and even a small but perfectly formed underground, making the city so easy to traverse you can sometimes forget the size of the city. Only in places that are new, such as the estates of Newton Mearns, do you notice the slight lack of service, but even then you are still connected to the overall network. It is only when you are removed from this idyllic transport paradise, do you notice and miss it.
In Aberdeen there is one main train station, oddly called Aberdeen. It has no smaller stations that are connected to it. There is one other station on the Inverness line, called Dyce, but that is useless even for the people who are supposed to use it; it is meant of the Airport, but is fairly disconnected its self. When heading to work then, I have one of two options. Get a bus, or walk.
You would think that with a lack of railway service you would find a large bus network, and you would be right. The Firstbus Aberdeen network is extensive, but incredibly is useless. Basically, as in Glasgow, all the buses are routed down one street to give a central area of service. In Glasgow, this is Hope Street/Union Street. In Aberdeen, it is Union street. So at least if you are going somewhere you can go there and probably get a bus from there to where. Here come the but. But, the service levels are poor. A bus every 15 minutes is about as good as it gets. And from where I want to go from, to where I want to go to, requires two buses, that are not synchronous, on time, or even close to being close to where I am going from or going to. Basically, it is a lost cause for me.
So, I walk 2 miles in the morning, and two mile at night, taking 45 minutes each way, which has allowed me to listen to every Smiths album, Interpol Album, Incubus Album, and a plethora of Ricky Gervais podcasts.
This week I stole the car. I thought that the commute would be nicer in the comfort of a warm car. But another thing that Aberdeen is lacking is useable roads in the first place! A scattering of dual carriageways that suddenly become single carriageway roads at intervals, roundabouts that are always biased in favour of the wrong direction, and just horrible driving skills amount not to an environment that is neither acceptable or worthwhile. There are no Motorways, as Aberdeen City Coucil did not come up with the grand idea of blasting a scar through a major city in the 1960s, and by the time Aberdeen needed one, Not In MY Back Yard was in full effect. Walking it seems is the only way to do things.
Which brings me back to my initial point. There are embarrassing moments whilst commuting via my own steam. Firstly is the traffic queuing alongside the road. I walk past a Bus stop, which has a number 16 bus heading to Altens, which is where my office is. This provides me endless fun as I match pace with the bus for 80% of the journey, even when it is on a 40mph Dual Carriageway; car parks have never been straighter. Secondly is the awkward glance you must give a pedestrian that you are sharing the short wait at a pedestrian crossing with. We both want the same thing, our goals are the same, yet we can only look at each other with slight bemusement and sly imagination about the other person and what they do.
Aberdeen is slowly becoming a great place to pick up these small differences in the population compared to Glasgow. More will follow I am sure. Last night I went car shopping.