Thom Yorke covered it best on the track Let Down. Released on Radiohead’s 1997 magnum opus, OK Computer, Let Down describes what it is like to commute in the mid-’90s.
Transport, motorways and tramlinesLet Down, Radiohead, Lyrics by Thom Yorke (1997)
Starting and then stopping
Taking off and landing
The emptiest of feelings
Disappointed people, clinging on to bottles
When it comes it’s so, so, disappointing.
The opening verse terrifically sums up what commuting via public transport is. It is the emptiness of feelings, travelling with people for hours though you do not utter a word. Only sighs hold currency on public transport, sighs and disappointment in the service that is only doing its best.
I had to commute across Manchester throughout my academic life, it truly is a horrible experience. People are forced to wear uncomfortable clothes, that have little to no colour. Constraining clothes with neckties and tight leather shoes. One often asks themselves is this uniform necessary?
Commuters travel to a place that is soul-destroying via a method of transport that is often overpriced, dirty or late. There can be violence, threats, arguments, suffocating people packed like sardines into a space that was designed for half.
However, there is another side to public transport, a side that isn’t dark or grey, or fast-paced with a hustle and bustle. Outside of rush hour, public transport can be quite relaxing.
Commuters can travel in non-uniform outside of working hours. The fare is more often cheaper, there are fewer people using the service, which makes it more comfortable. People are not dreading where they are going or what they are going to be met with when they get to their destination.
It is funny, everybody moans about public transport. It is a service for all, you can not please all the people all the time. Delays, cancellations, overcrowding and price are usually the top moaning points.
Although I do not think public transport is perfect, I do think that it is not as bad as people make out. The infrastructure needs an overhaul, more people are using public transport than ever, equally, there are more cars on the road too. If the government want more people to use public transport in the future, to get more cars off the road, then significant investment is needed.
Till the next reboot…