I’m going off the rails

In an act of hypocrisy I’m abandoning electric rail in favour of a fossil-guzzling car. This was not a light decision, but the Kapiti-Wellington public transport system has literally driven me off the rails…

For years I’ve been a staunch climate change warrior. I’d catch a bus from home to the Paraparaumu train station (20 minutes) – catch a train to Wellington (add 60 minutes) – then walk to work from the station (another 15 minutes). Count in waiting time at the stations and in all this would take me about two hours each way – that’s at least 20 hours a week commuting.

Except, it’s not actually 20 hours a week.

At least one day of the week the trains are running late, cancelled or take 90 minutes instead of 60 (last week I received six TXT messages telling me of peak-time train delays). And several times a month my train doesn’t connect with the last bus home (8pm) – turning a bus trip which usually costs $1.50 into $11 for a taxi. There has also been numerous times over the years when a taxi has not been available – meaning a very long walk home.

Last week  I tried commuting by car for the first time – maybe I struck a lucky week, but despite 15 minutes of traffic congestion each day the whole trip from home to the carpark  took me under 60 minutes. Add 15 minutes walk to work this comes to 2.5 hours a day – a time saving of at least 7.5 hours a week (in reality more like 10hrs a week saved).

My fuel efficient "Grandma Car"

The car (a 1997 Honda Logo – Auto) is fuel efficient – it clocked in at under 5 litres per 100km (as good as a hybrid like the Prius). And this is with the air-conditioning blasting (it’s summer here) and wonky tyres which need alignment. The cost for fuel will be under $NZD50 per week. This is about $40 cheaper than the bus and train but once you add on other car running cost it evens out. The big extra expense is city parking – this costs from $6 to $10 a day.

So, for an extra $50 a  week I gain an extra 10hrs plus my sanity – for my family it’s well worth it.

But for the planet? Not so good…

I figure it’s about balance and I’m doing my bit to offset the carbon.  I’m filling my small section with native trees and grasses  (which  don’t need much watering). I’m vegan so most of my food is locally grown and doesn’t mean feeding animals to feed me. We recycle, hang-out the washing to dry in the sun and other tricks of the trade.

But really, wouldn’t it be much better if the Kapiti-Wellington public transport network was faster, regular and efficient? It’s touted as the one of the best public transport networks in the country – true – but only when it’s actually working!

When a life-long greeny like me goes out and abandons the bus and train for a car it’s a sure sign the current system isn’t working – the government need to get their act together by properly funding the public transport infastructure and its numerous providers. Maybe they’ll even entice me back…

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