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…

4 responses to “I’m going off the rails”

  1. Johnny-johnny Avatar

    I can definitely sympathise with you and your reason for joining the car commuting classes! One question I wanted to ask you (because I know you would have thought about it) was why you don’t live closer to your work or work closer to where you live? That would help with the time spent commuting and the environmental cost, right?

  2. Zef Avatar

    Reply to Johnny-johnny: I did weigh up the prons and cons of this and it’s all down to a careful balancing act to achieve a good quality of life not just for myself, but for my whole family. I earn a good wage but with four people on my income houses prices in Wellington are way beyond our means. On the Kapiti Coast we have a big cottage with sunshine and a block from the beach. So while living closer to my work would be better for me, it would be much worse for my loved ones. Unfortunately my job as a manager means I need lots of face-to-face time with my team, users and clients – so working from home is a rarity.

  3. EJ Avatar

    Hi! I too can sympathise, and I really really really wish the trains would do what they’re meant to so people wouldn’t abandon them…anyway just wondering if you’ve tried to get in touch with anyone else working in the city who lives in your area so you could carpool – saving you money and maybe, if they were already driving, keeping another one or two cars off the road?

    [zef replies]. Thanks for the suggestion EJ. Yes, I have investigated this option but my eclectic hours make this unworkable. Some New Zealand sites worth checking out for those interested though are http://www.carpool.co.nz, http://www.carpoolnz.org/ and http://www.rideinfo.co.nz/

  4. Galen Avatar

    I’ve noticed a real surge in visitors to the Carpool NZ (www.carpoolnz.org) website. Almost doubling each month. As more people start to share rides, it will make it a lot easier for people to match up with someone going in the same direction.