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Car vs Train

This morning my wife and I needed to drive to work so I thought I would do a little experiment and time the trip. Those who regularly read the blog will probably know that I catch the train from the Sturges Rd station our west.

7:14 – We cross the Sturges Road bridge and we were actually driving across the over bridge at the same time as the train we catch passes under it so it turned out to be a pretty fair comparison. If we are driving to the motorway, even off peak, we will avoid Lincoln Rd for as long as possible due to the amount of traffic and lights along there, going via Rathgar Rd it usually takes about 5 minutes to get to the intersection of Universal Dr and Lincoln Rd and this is where the problem starts.

7:42 – Green Marker- After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic we finally get to the intersection of Triangle Rd, Central Park Dr and Lincoln Rd.  Moving on to the interchange it self, as we had two people in the car we are allowed to use the T2 lane which saves us a few minutes waiting at the onramp lights.

One extra thing I will point out is I noticed a cyclist who stood out from some others due to what he was wearing, his bike and they type of helmet he was wearing, he crossed the intersection and was heading down Central Park Dr towards the city just before we crossed the intersection but more on this later.

7:42 - If we had of been catching the train and it was on time then it would have been at about Kingsland so would have travelled much more in the same time frame.

Back on the motorway we had just travelled past the Te Atatu interchange when I noticed the rider mentioned earlier about to cross the bridge over the Whau River however he disappeared again as we had to slow down in traffic. This was pretty good considering he had to negotiate a few back roads and get across Te Atatu Rd.

7:55 – Light Blue Marker – We were travelling along the causeway just past the works going on, traffic is still heavy but is moving.

7:55 - If the train is still running on time it would probably be somewhere between Newmarket and Parnell, this is after already completely passing the CBD and allowing for a 3 minute stop at Newmarket for the driver to change ends.

8:00 – Yellow Marker – After the Waterview interchange the motorway started to speed up quite a bit and we were making up for lost time, we were just passing Western Springs. At the Waterview interchange was where we finally passed the cyclist mentioned earlier, quite some distance from when we first saw him.

8:00 - By now the train is due to be arriving at Britomart with a probably about 300 hundred people on board having already dropped of a similar number of people at Grafton and Newmarket (the train is usually 5 or 6 carriages long and gets often gets completely jam packed).

8:07 – Red Marker – We finally arrive in the city and park the car, my work is abut the same distance walk from either the train station or the car park so it didn’t even have that benefit.

All up the trip via the road trip comes in at 18.3km while the train is 23.2km. The other thing is that things are much more stressful when driving, you constantly have to be on alert to what vehicles around you are doing and there is nothing more frustrating that sitting in traffic not going anywhere. On the train use my phone to surf the web, play games or listen to music or podcasts, much more relaxing.

Of course the trains that we use today are pulled by 40 year old freight locomotives that were never designed for the type of use they currently have, once we get brand new purpose build EMUs we can expect the rail trip to be at least 5-10 minutes faster than it is today. A little bit further in the future the CRL would drop this time by a similar margin meaning a trip to the middle of the CBD from Sturges Rd would be only 30-35 minutes, just imagine how popular that would be.

15 comments to Car vs Train

  • James

    Couple of questions (I’m very anti driving having lived in cities with extensive subways and currently bike to work)

    How much did you pay in fuel + parking compared with the train ticket? How would this have compared with two people driving?
    If your wife had decided to stay at work till 7 or 8 would she still be able to catch a regular train home?
    If your wife had just missed the train how long would she have had to wait for the next one?
    When it rains are the trains often late?

    Till these questions are answered it isn’t a fair comparison for most people

    • Matt L

      Don’t know how much we would have used in fuel, perhaps $4 each way so $8 all up. We actually had free parking available today although that wasn’t the reason we drove, if we were paying for parking it would probably add $10-$15. We use monthly passes so averaged out over the month it would probably be somewhere between $4-$4.5 per trip each (depends on the number working days in the month etc) You could probably say that under normal circumstances combined costs would be about $17 for the train vs about $20 for driving the car.

      If one of us worked late we could catch a train home although after 7:30 frequency drops to hourly to our station but if I drove to Henderson to pick her up, which is the station before us, then it is half hourly. Certainly increased frequency is something I would like to see.
      We actually ended up staying in town and had dinner down at Wynyard so we could avoid the traffic heading home at rush hour.

      Train reliability doesn’t seem to have correlation to weather patterns as they can be late in perfectly fine weather or on time in rainy weather. Other factors seem to have a much bigger impact on reliability, things like long dwell times at stations, getting caught up at Newmarket etc.

  • Andrew J

    I am not convinced that travel times wil increase by as much as 5 to 10 minutes, as line speed is not increasing, and even with the locomotives that we have, we are already spending a lot of our time out west travelling at Line Speed anyway!

    • Matt L

      It’s not the maximum line speed that is the issue but how fast it can get up to that speed and how fast it can brake. I built a little model a while ago to work out how fast things would be with the EMU’s and even if line speed was limited to 50kph across the entire line, acceleration and braking was worse than what the EMU’s are quoted as having, you keep the 3 minuted end change at Newmarket and throw in an extra 5 minutes just for good measure. Based on all that trains would still be 2-3 minutes quicker than what they are now.

      Increase that maximum line speed to 60kph with all of the other factors and you already knock another 3-4 minutes off the time.

  • KLK

    Its been said before and its pretty obvious, but the new EMUs and the move to electrification is going to be a seachange for rail use. The rail network is going to be viewed, I believe, as a completely new offering to the people of Auckland (those not already convinced by regular rail commutes).

    Better looking, greater comfort, smoother and faster ride. Like they have when people go on holiday overseas and come home raving about it.

    Throw in integrated, zonal ticketing and it will explode. The city won’t ever be the same again and the case for the CRL will be irrefutable, even to the current govt.

    • Matt

      the case for the CRL will be irrefutable, even to the current govt

      Nope, I think the current government could be presented with a business case that pays entirely for itself within 10 years and they’d still refuse any funding. They just don’t want to put money into transport projects that aren’t roads.

  • Geoff

    Getting around the Lincoln Rd congestion is easy. Just don’t go that way, and go through Te Atatu South instead. The other option is to go up Lincoln Rd in the western most lane which is usually moving ok (motorway traffic is in the eastern most lane), and turn left into Triangle Rd. As soon as you are in Triangle Rd, do a U-turn, and bingi, straight onto the motorway out of Triangle Rd.

    Also, exit the motorway at Pt Chev, and go the rest of the way on Gt North Rd. Lastly, enter the city via Grafton Gully. Total trip Henderson to CBD by car at peak comes out to about 45 minutes if you do the above.

    • bbc

      Pt Chev really needs to be narrowed to prevent its use as a backup motorway, I find it silly that with a 6 lane motorway next door we still have a ‘town centre’ which acts more as additional lanes for the motorway than as a place for people.

    • David

      I don’t know much about the Triangle Rd U-y manoeuvre but it sounds like the sort of thing that people only do in a broken network.

      As for getting off at Pt Chev and going in via Gt North Rd, if the timings on the original post are right that part of the trip only took about 10 minutes. It’s hard to imagine making it from Pt Chev via GNR in less, so not sure that would pan out quicker. According to google that leg is 7.6km which is 10.5 mins at a steady 50, and there are at least 5 sets of lights anyway you go.

      Sometimes it just FEELS quicker taking a route that involves more driving and less drifting at speeds well below the limit for the road you are on – there’s nothing quite like moving at 40 on a motorway to make you feel like you’re going nowhere fast, even when you are.

      We used to drive into town from Mt Albert (2 adults, 2 v small kids) and would take GNR/Hopetoun over the motorway when the traffic looked bad on the motorway at the St Lukes overpass, just because we preferred moving to sitting in traffic – but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t any quicker.

    • St Nick

      Haha, just shows you how screwed the motorway is at peak hour. Can’t understand why people don’t use motorbikes more to get through that traffic. The way to improve it has to be making the alternatives forms of transport better, this will then unclog the motorway. Earth calling to nzta?

  • It takes me about 40 mins to get from Universal Dr to the CBD – at a comfortable amount of effort on my cycle, so why would anyone drive or take a train? (admittedly I have not done this as a commute, only 3-4 times for a bit of exercise with a friend)

    It takes about 56-62 (depending on how I feel) to get from Manurewa to the CBD on my cycle (27-30k) – it takes 35 minutes on my motorcycle (22k) and 60-90 minutes in my car (22k). This is my most common commute. I ride my motorbike to give myself a bit of a break from cycling (54k a day can wear you out..), but I can tell you it is far more enjoyable to cycle – even having to suck in fumes from buses on Gt Sth Rd. If I lived out west and could use that wonderful cycleway, I would be in heaven. It is the best thing ever. If you people are going to use buses trains and cars, can we have the cycle way moved to south auckland?

  • To give a South Aucklanders perspective on this:

    I travel to Newmarket on the 0703 (ex Pukekohe) limited stopper from Papakura, departing at 0719. The train, when on time, arrives at Newmarket at 0758hrs. That total journey time is 39 minutes. Now, if I drive, and leave Papakura at 0719, then:
    - Travel to the Takanini motorway onramp via Great South Road (by 0730, train should have arrived at Takanini by 0725)
    - Follow the Southern Motorway to Market Road (this takes 35 minutes at this time of day, so normally 0800hrs, train passes Remuera at 0754)
    - Drive from Market Road to Mt Eden Village (this takes 10 minutes due to the traffic at Broadway, Gillies and Owens. I would normally take the Outer LINK from Newmarket, which takes 15 minutes, departing Newmarket at 0805hrs)

    I arrive at work 10 minutes earlier by car, but only because I have to catch a bus in Newmarket which isn’t direct, and stops to let students at EGGS and Dio disembark. The combined rail and bus trip is 32km, made in an hour. The travel by car is 29.9km, made in 50 minutes, and only because I wait for a bus. I pay almost $10/return/day for the car – and that does not account for registration, warrant, maintenance. My monthly pass costs me $8/return/day + $1.80/day for the Outer LINK (I walk back to Newmarket), and the resulting train journeys are less stressful, allow me to complete additional work on my laptop, listen to music on my iPod without having to concentrate on driving, hazards, etc. If you were to also add in the cost to the environment by driving my private car, plus the benefits from walking to/from Papakura, Newmarket and Mt Eden every day – it gets harder to justify private vehicle use. Of course, the EMUs will make these journeys shorter, more reliable and comfortable, and cost less on the environment. The issue some people have with this justification for rail is that the coverage is poor, but as you can see – I used feeder bus services such as the LINK buses, which got me to Mt Eden Village (which is not served by Mt Eden Station, 1.8km away).

  • Ari

    This is an interesting comparison. I think trains are a great option for many who live near a station and strongly support rail expansion and improvement as it is essential to future growth. I don’t use PT because it doesnt make sense for me. I live out east and am 15min away from the nearest station so I still have to drive or take a bus to get to the train, plus I can’t get to work by train. I also require a car outside of just commuting so rego/WOF costs are irrevelant when comparing costs. I have to take two buses from two different to get to work which costs me at least $10 a day. Taking the car costs me $6 for petrol and $3 for parking. So basically cost wise bus vs car is the same for me. Time wise is highly in favour of the car. I understand the idea that driving uses up your time, whereas with PT you can do other things. That is a benefit, but for me personally I would rather have the extra time saved by taking a car. What would change my commute would be a drop in the cost of PT and a rise in the cost of petrol.

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