Take it easy, take the busHome » Blog » Miyuki McGuffie » Take it easy, take the bus
Getting from A to B is one of the biggest issues a wannabe environmentalist faces. Blogger Miyuki McGuffie shares her love for public transport—and her reluctance to sell her car.
I love public transport.
A lot of people complain about it here in Wellington, where our buses almost always run late (occasionally early—even worse!), sometimes don’t appear, and often have less than pleasant drivers. Our trains have even made the news recently, with services being stalled during peak hours twice within a couple of weeks or so.
But really it’s not that bad and I think people should cut public transport some slack. Picture this: you’re driving a car and need to pick up four other passengers. Passenger A lives around the corner so can meet you at home, that’s fine. Passengers B and C live in the next suburb and D lives three suburbs away (you live in a big city). Let’s make things simple and say you’re all headed towards town. Passenger B needs to be dropped off at school, just before the city centre. Passenger A is going to the library, while passengers C and D are getting off at the mall, a ten minute drive out of the city.
Now imagine that situation with thousands of passengers instead of four, a more complicated route, dozens of stops, traffic, and a fleet of vehicles to organise. Because that is what public transport operators have to deal with every day of the week. Of course things are going to run late and of course there’ll be the odd delay or breakdown in services. But you know what? Whatever your motives for using public transport, it’s almost always better than the alternative.
The day I write this I am destined for my hometown Napier. I like driving long distance sometimes, especially by myself. I’m only responsible for my own safety, I can sing along to trashy music on the radio and I can stop where I please. But I enjoy taking the bus much more. It costs half as much, is one hundred times more relaxing—can’t sleep or read behind the wheel—and the time factor (it takes about four hours to drive from Wellington to Napier; the bus and I take five) doesn’t bother me because: a) I drive like a nana and b) I like looking out the window.
People in big cities should be grateful that they live in a place where there is enough demand for a decent public transport system. In Napier there are about three bus lines that run every half hour during peak time (if you can call it that), and on the hour during the day. The main service runs along the main road through Napier, not the suburbs, and all services cease at 6pm. Want to catch the bus on the weekend? Good luck. One line runs every two hours on Saturday and there are no bus services on Sunday.
It’s a lot harder to rely on public transport in a small town. Granted, Napier is flat and small enough for biking not to be such a hassle (damn these Wellington hills), but you’re hard-pressed to run on your own schedule if you want to use the bus, especially for things like groceries.
Funnily enough, I bought my first car only a couple of months before I was due to move to Wellington. It was never my intention to own a car in the big city but my friend’s grandma gave me an amazing deal and I figured it would be useful for the move itself. (I don’t know how we thought we’d shift our cats otherwise.) Unfortunately the car didn’t pass its WOF and with my impending journalism course, I thought it would be wise to sell the car to someone who could afford to fix and run it.
About a year later I had a friend come over from the US, who my boyfriend and I hoped to travel the South Island with. We went thirds on another amazing deal of a car (thanks to my tutor). The South Island trip never eventuated (for my bf and I anyway) but I still own the car, which passed its last WOF no troubles.
I’ve lived in three suburbs this year, and I’ve found that the further out I live, the less I use my car. When I lived closest to town, I used the bus more. And when I lived a moderate distance from town, I used my bike more.
I’m not too concerned about car ownership reflecting badly on my eco-credentials right now because I only use it about once a fortnight and sometimes a car is a very useful thing to have (like when you’re moving cats across the country). Without wanting to sound boastful, I think I'm a good example of a good car owner, using public transport as my primary mode of transport and the car as an occasional supplement.
Of course it would be better if I didn’t own a car at all but then it might get sold to someone who would use it more than me, and that would be a worse situation for the earth. Readers, what are your feelings on public/private transport? How do you get around? Have you got any tips or frustrations regarding either? Share in the comments section!