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Published December 28th 2012
Because no city is perfect
It's an accepted truth that not all cities are created equal. Some have enviable climates, others showcase a rich tapestry of culture and the arts, while others enjoy some of the best cuisine the world over. While each city has advantages and appeal, so too does each city have drawbacks and things that irritate which you wish could be changed – with Brisbane being no exception.
Here at Weekend Notes our writers tend to focus on the best or the top things to do in a city – which is a great thing as mostly when you're looking for something to do you'd rather focus on the memorable rather than the forgettable. However for only time only I'd like to moan about things in Brisbane that really irritate and occasionally infuriate. Some of these could be changed with amendments to policy and regulation, while others are intrinsic to Brisbane and can't be changed no matter what wishful thinking is involved. So with that I bring to you – in my opinion – 5 of the most unfortunate things about our charming Sunshine State capital – Brisbane.
1. Tolls, Tolls, Tolls.
It seems every-time they build a new road in Brisbane it has a lovely little toll attached to it – even if it's just a dash across the river on the Go-Between Bridge a whopping 117 metres long you're still expected to fork up $2.50 for the privilege. The tunnels save time but add close to $10 dollars to a return trip quickly making them unviable for many. Even if it's a necessary crossing over the river on the Gateway Motorway (part of the national highway) there is still a $4 each way for cars. Also tolling your way to bankruptcy and tins of baked beans are the Logan Motorway and the soon-to-be-completed Legacy Way, also set to toll us for the right to drive on its 'paved-with-gold' surface.
Part of the problem is the toll itself, however the payment method of said tolls is a further gripe with no longer an option to pay cash at a tolling booth. Instead the onus is on the driver to remember where they have driven, or give their bank account details to Queensland Motorways to have tolls direct debited from their account. For tourists the toll payment system is a headache with two different companies operating different toll roads. Additionally with only three days to pay a toll after driving on the toll road, the operators quickly bank on the fact people will forget to pay tolls in time which entitles them to charge a hefty administration fee for the laborious task of sending out a letter. Can anyone say cash grab?
2. The Perpetually Brown Brisbane River.
The Brisbane River from the Goodwill Bridge. Nicer if it was a little clearer no?
It's not called the River City for nothing and what would Brisbane be without its river? How much nicer the River City would be however if on any given day the river was not varying shades of murky brown. While some may say it brings character, I've tried explaining the reason of its brownness to international visitors and came up with very little. For the simple sake of aesthetics the pretty city of Brisbane would look so much prettier if the river was just a little clearer and bluer. I know it would have done my international guest's photos of the city more justice and tourism brochures wouldn't have to resort photo-shopping brown hue to blue.
3. Late Night Dining a No-Go, CBD shuts down after hours
Ever tried to get a decent meal after 10pm in Brisbane that doesn't involve fast food, pizza by the slice or sloppy kebab? Well good luck to you since the city and its cafes and restaurants practically shut down after 9pm and often earlier mid-week. While the odd place may be open, Brisbane CBD definitely lacks vibrant after hours meeting places other than the not so cultural Casino or a few pubs. No street vendors, no outdoor performances – just long deserted streets after the office commuters have headed back to the suburbs. For a city approaching 2 million people, Brisbane's heart and CBD really is missing some much needed late-night activities, food and action - the city that never sleeps this is NOT.
4. A Lovely Bay but No Proper Beaches.
Moreton Bay may look nice enough but a proper swimming beach? Forget it. Saw hello to mudflats and stinky mangroves instead
No chance of this ever being changed but Brisbane would be so much better if it had it's own beaches and you didn't have to resort to a 1 hour plus drive to the coasts to swim at a proper beach – and not have to traipse through mudflats on Moreton Bay with no waves. And no, the communal urinal cesspool at Southbank doesn't qualify as a beach. This is a great pity since Brisbane is located on the coast and is no means an 'inland' settlement. If only John Oxley and the original settlers had scoped out a site closer to the open beaches, Brisbane might be the envy of other cities around the nation, most likely taking the mantle from Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach as Australia's most loved urban beach. When its hot in Brisbane (which it is for at least a quarter of the year) it would be so much more fortunate to be able to head to a proper beach of our own instead of having to resort to a lengthy drive to the Gold or Sunshine coast to cool off. And no sadly I don't have a swimming pool or enjoy using public pools. The garden hose and tatty plastic slip and slide will have to do then.
5. The not-so-affordable public transport
Third highest public transport fares in the world - and for that we get a limited network, many not-so-frequent services and did I mention delays?
2012 welcomed another hike in public transport fares and now Brisbane of all places has the dubious honour of having the third most expensive public transport fares in the world, Behind Oslo and London. Perhaps we should be willing to pay top dollar if we had the services of London's double deckers and fantastic rail network, however sadly our network of buses and trains are nowhere near as frequent or extensive. A recent adult ZONE 1 paper ticket from Kangaroo Point (practically on the edge of the city) into the CBD cost me $4.50 on a bus - a journey of not even 3 kilometres.
Even the much-loved City Cat is limited to a few stops on the lengthy Brisbane River stopping well short of the many riverside suburbs further up and downstream.
Delays on weekends are routine on the train network as buses often replace trains on many train lines - however discounts for the delays? I think not. Here's an often parroted thought which I subscribe to: Make public transport more affordable, and while you're at it the tolls roads then people might actually want to stop using their cars and take pressure off the already congested Brisbane roads.
And with that off my chest...
With all that's been said, I'd like to assure that I still do like Brisbane, and no I won't be leaving anytime soon so hopefully that takes care of the predictable 'love it or leave it' remarks. Its just that should I have the divine powers these things would be at the top of my things to change about Brisbane. After all there's room for improvement with everything is there not? For those readers who also have a bone to pick with Brisbane please feel free to share you despair with a comment, rant, a whinge or just a general moan.
Very valid top 5 !! I would like to add the condition of our roads and the complete carpark that is the highway to and from the Sunshine Coast every weekend in summer.
And the lack of Daylight Savings .... why oh why must we have light at 4:30am and darkness at 7pm ???? Plain stupid !!
What a great list, Some of these problems could be fixed if the powers that be just looked at how it is done in other big cities (beach and rivers are a lot more difficult). I dont go into the cbd that often,but would do so more often if there was somewhere to eat after a show or day out. Perhaps thats why we still dont have daylight saving, they want us all home in bed like good children!!
Julian you are so right -you have fingered the things about our city that are the most really irritating.
The is a total lack of Olympic size public swimming pools in the Western Suburbs-just have a look- all the kids from the Gap and Ashgrove and surrounds have nowhere to swim and hang around after school s teenagers like to do. Compare that to the availability of swimming Pools all over Sydney suburbs. The nearest decent sized Public Pool for the Western Suburbs is Gregory Terrace.. In addition -the Council has removed every single water feature and fountain in the City.. Why? we have an expanse of grey concrete to replace them. We must be the only City in the world without Water Fountains,
As re the River---you are so right ! it is getting browner and browner every week, it looks horrible. Cant think why people pay top dollar to live by it-I don't think I would..not a nice river at all. Back in the 1800's I believe it had a beautiful gravel bottom and was so clear you could see the fish swimming in it, hard to imagine that now. I think the gravel has long ago been harvested,
Another thing-this City is completely without Music, evenings or Weekends,the closest thing to public entertainment is when the Hari Krushna's dance down the street,
..I wonder a lot lately if the City Fathers in any way interested . Our City is getting more dreary by the day, it's a boring lifeless City compared to what it could be,
Thank you for the article, you are spot on -
Great list, but really need to add the daylight saving fiasco! After living in cities with daylight saving it is so obvious how much it is needed in Brisbane. We have the prefect climate for the extra evening hour and certainly dont need the days to start at 4.30am. If Brisbane has grown up and wants to play with the big boys, we need daylight saving too!
Lack of daylight saving in SE Qld - why can't we have it? Trying to find some place to eat after seeing a show last week and drove 22km home from the city and the only place still open was McDonalds! Whilst in Sydney last month we used $2.50 multi ticket all day on a ferry, train and bus. The public transport system in Brisbane is half as good and twice as expensive!
I agree with the road tolls, but how can you make nice beaches out of mangroves or turn the river blue? Its just the way it is and I love it for that. Mangroves shelter so much aquatic life and I enjoy them for bird watching and looking through the low tide pools. I guess the river is brown because of all the rain we have in summer after a dry winter, so lots of soil gets washed into it. You have to make the most of what the natural world gives us- it's there for a reason!!! Happy New Year to everyone!!!!!
hi great list also u would heard that few times council needs to clean bit streets get the lazy guys doing something look at the gold coast sunshine coast they are proud of there area brisbain lets just get our pay cheque and wait for the weekend to go to nice areas
I agree 100%! And obviously so do a lot of people! It is so embarrassing when people from Melbourne or Sydney come here and see how soulless our city can be. What really frustrates me is how so many cafes are closed on a Sunday or on public holidays - so trying to find a good coffee is really difficult. Unfortunately we are just so far behind culturally. Come on Brisbane, there is so much potential to be the best city!!
I agree with all of this! The tolls are especially annoying i waste so much money on them! I also wish we had daylight savings here its one of the sunniest citys in Australia why cant we enjoy it for a hour or two more at night time!
Thanks everyone for commenting. It's great to know I'm not alone in some of these frustrations. I also would welcome daylight savings at least in south east queensland. It seems the majority in the south east are for it. - even if it means splitting the state into two time zones so the north and west can have their EST, Do not enjoy hearing my neighbours chickens lay eggs at 4.30am in those last couple of hours before having to get up for work!
I agree on the points of public transport being waaaay too expensive, and getting more so all the time, and also the river being brown and muddy. I understand from what I've read that the Brisbane river was originally much clearer and inviting to swimmers in the early days of our city. The turbidity is the reason and that is because of dredging. Hey, Brisbane Water, what's the deal?
Spot on Julian, Does anyone ever question why we pay for tolls and public transport is so expensive? Seems not, the Gateway Bridge has been paid for ten times over and still they charge a sheep factor public.
All so true. Especially tolls and public transport, I just returned back from a holiday in Austin were it costs $1 to travel on the bus, flat rate. It costs me over $5 to take the bus here in Bris and I live close to the city.
Absolutely agree. Also added to the public transport cost, is the fact that if you are retired, you don't get any concession until you are 65 , as opposed to 60, which is the case in the other states. So my retired friends aged 60 to 64, from other states come here, get their concession, whilst I cannot.
Oh, you are soooo right! They would be my top 5 too!
I am a Brisbane girl, who has lived in two other continents - then returned home to Brisbane, so it can't be too bad.
But, lets aim for perfection!!
I don't know why Brisbane doesn't have toll system that melbourne and Sydney have of one toll for a round trip. While traveling to Melbourne once back from Brisbane we drove from the beginning of the Sydney Motorway to the end for just 10 bux . I took hubby to Brisbane airport once by toll roll here and it cost me $19 something from Forest Lake to airport and back as far as Carina guess which way i went the next time i took him to airport yes yr right i went long way around avoiding toll and funnily enough it was quicker lol
Cannot express my disappointment more to support point 3! No shortage of places to eat when I'm in vibrant Melbourne and Sydney. Late night dining would add such a vibrance of warm active energy into the city's atmosphere.
Is it ever going to happen? I hope so!