Convenience of public vs personal transportation

At a recent university course we had a bit of a discussion about the convenience of personal transportation (e.g. cars but also bikes) as compared to public transportation like busses and trams in Graz.

I was mostly on the “pro-public-transportation” side until one participant mentioned bikes. If you live in Graz, the bike is (if you’re weather-resistant) the better car. Most areas are well reachable and you usually aren’t stuck in traffic jams. During the winter months the bike lanes, sadly, are not perfectly maintained and therefore not free of ice. The reason for that is probably that they tend to be colocated with pedestrian ways and it’s not allowed to use salt/defrosting-substances there as they are dangerous to dogs’ feet.

The places where this becomes an issue are getting fewer by the year, though, and with with the renewed momentum for better bike lanes in Austria biking should eventually become accessible also for people with little practice throughout the year!

So, is personal transport more convenient? IMO no, it just has a different kind of convenience. With personal transport I gain independence from external services but pay for it with my time. While you ride a bike or drive a car you have to focus on the street and everything on and around it. So while I get the freedom of quickly moving from place to place, I cannot use the transit time for anything that I’d need my eyes for. While I’m on a bus or a tram I can read a book, the latest gossip on Twitter/Mastodon/Reddit/Blogosphere, or just listen to some of my favourite podcasts.

Out of these three things, listening to podcasts is the only thing that I can also do while I’m on my bike. It’s not something I can really focus on, though, unless I want to end up on the hood of a car… This is also my main reason why I usually advocate for going by train or bus to other places in Austria wherever I can. Especially trains give me so much freedom while being on them. Heck, they don’t have to stop just because someone on them needs a toilet 😅

To summarise: yes: personal transport is convenient. Yes: public transport is convenient. For me it usually boils down to what kind of convenient I prefer for a given trip in Graz. Sure, there are lots of really nice places where public transport does not work. For my day-to-day traveling, it does, though. And once we get more tram lines and a higher frequency, I will love them even more 😏

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