Difficult as it might sound at first, one Maltese mother has successfully moved away from using her personal car… opting instead to use public transport whenever she can. And she’s loving every second of it.
Jennifer Zammit has managed to cut the use of her car in half in just two months, riding on her own initiative to assess the current situation of Malta’s Public Transport. She’s even set up a Facebook group for anyone who wants information about the cause.
The Public Transport Project aims to encourage a change in Malta, a shift towards the popularisation of public transport and alternative modes of transport.
Be it exclusive, complimentary or private care use, The Public Transport Project and Jennifer are working hard to make sure we’re all aware of the infrastructure we currently have and where it can fit into our busy lives.
Dubbed the #tallinjachronicles, Jennifer’s daily commutes are now shared equally between the busses and her car… as well as her feet.
“First, I think it’s important to clarify that I have not given up driving altogether,” she admits, “I also have a busy schedule and the current system, as [Transport Minister Ian Borg] rightly pointed out, is not efficient or reliable enough to cater for today’s fast-paced life.”
What Jennifer has managed to do is still an incredible feat, slashing the use of her car in half in the span of two months without bordering on a nervous breakdown.
“If we all managed the same, there would be half the amount of private cars on our roads, which would allow the bus system to run much more efficiently,” Jennifer puts it.
The idea came to Jennifer the morning after the For Our Trees protest, where she had participated with her own placard that read “Innovate Public Transport Solutions – Think Outside The Box”.
“Because to me, widening the roads is the most obvious solution, but I feel that it lacks creativity and isn’t a longterm solution.”
The next day, Jennifer found herself sitting in traffic on her way to work, amongst thousands of other commuters. All of them were taking up a ridiculous amount of space to get around, and so Jennifer thought to herself: “in a country that is becoming increasingly crowded by the day, surely we should be looking towards a more space-efficient way of getting around?”
“I decided that rather than grow old waiting for the government to implement these ‘innovative public transport solutions’, I would get to know, and make use of, the public transport system we currently have, whilst lobbying for its improvement.”
Jennifer hadn’t heard many good reviews of Malta’s public transport system, but wanted to find out the truth for herself.
“I started the group The Public Transport Project just a few days after I caught my first bus. I wanted to find like-minded individuals who were interested in using Public Transport and lobbying for its improvement.”
The transition from private to public has had its ups and downs for Jennifer. You can catch up on her progress by following #TallinjaChronicles – she’s been at it for about 10 weeks now.
“It was a steep learning curve, but thanks to some extremely knowledgeable and helpful members of the group, I’m quite confident in the bus system and have learnt that walking is very much a big part of it.”
“You can’t expect to be picked up at the bus stop outside of your house and then be dropped off at the stop outside of your destination – that’s just not how it works.”
“It does take a bit of planning and creativity to come up with the best route, but thankfully today we have apps like Google Maps and Tallinja to assist us,” Jennifer continued.
Jennifer admits she has had a few bad experiences, but since she still has the luxury of using her car if necessary, she is able to pick and choose her journeys.
Her empathy is cast unto those of us who have to rely on public transport daily.
“What irks me the most is that while Tallinja, the private company, is doing its utmost to provide a good service we have Transport Malta, a government entity, showing a great disrespect towards bus users,” she said.
Recently, Tallinja have been under fire for delays in services, complaints of poor customer service, etc. but it seems as though in light of this all, what Jennifer has found is that they are not the ones to blame.
“I want this to change,” she protests. “I want to see buses and bus users given the priority they deserve. This also goes for cyclists, pedestrians and all those using alternative modes of transport. They all deserve priority as they are the ones contributing towards the solution.”
The positives, on the other hand, are plentiful.
Experiencing the road from a different perspective has also made Jennifer more aware as a driver.
“I now make it a point to give way to buses, cyclists and pedestrians. I no longer feel like as a car driver, I am a king of the road. The roads belong to all and we need to show alot more respect to each other whilst using them.”
Jennifer also admits that not being the one behind the wheel gives her a sense of calm, as she can relax knowing she won’t have any road rage kicking in any time soon.
“I love the liberation that comes with not having to rely on a car to get around. I love the walking involved,” she tells us.
Jennifer then poses a very good question our way: Just when exactly did we stop walking on our roads?
“We are being robbed of so many joys, it really is about time we claimed them back.”
Another big positive of the movement is the environmental and social contribution. Using public transport cuts your carbon footprint down dramatically and although not always possible in Malta, even getting off a stop early on your route can have a great impact on your carbon footprint.
“I love the community I have found within the group and the assistance I receive, for free, from people who want to see the system thrive,” Jennifer continues.
“I don’t have an end date in mind for the project, I suppose I will stop when I feel that the bus system has reached its true potential. When the stigma is lifted and it is a mainstream method of travelling around Malta for everyone.”
Last Friday, Jennifer approached Ian Borg, Minister of Transport, and asked if he would consider using the bus himself.
His answer? A flat-out no. Jennifer, however, is optimistic and has faith that the day will soon come. In the meantime? Jennifer extends her challenge to us all, and here’s how:
Identify one bus route that you can make use of in your daily commute, give it a go.
Spread the awareness: upload a photo onto your social media feeds and tag it with #CatchABusADay.
See Jennifer’s most recent #TallinjaChronicles post for an example of how her car use has been halved so quickly.
Jennifer’s advice is to start with an easy route, “get to know the system and you might find, as I did, that it works for you.”