Earlier this year I did a comparison between catching a train from my local station and driving to work at peak time. This is a similar look at the journey off peak. I had arranged with some friends to meet them for lunch today in town and the experience highlights perfectly just how far we have yet to go to truly have an alternative to getting around by car.
I was meeting my friends at 12:00 near the bottom of Albert St which is just a short walk away from Britomart. As I have mentioned before I live near a train station and only have a 5-10 minute walk to get there which is great. The first thing I did was to have a quick look at the timetable shows that I was in luck as despite having a pretty crappy off peak frequency of only one train every half hour, one was due to arrive at Britomart at 12:00. Being only a couple of minutes late by the time I walked to my destination would have been ok but the real problem is at the other end where I catch the train, Sturges Rd. You see that train leaves my station at 11:13 so combined with the walk to the station, I’m looking at close to an hour all up to get into town. On top of that I also have the train fares to consider which with an AT HOP card come in at around $6 each way. I also knew I would be there for about an hour or so had a look at the first train to leave after 1pm, it was due to depart Britomart at 1:23. Add on another hour and a further $6 to get home and I’m looking at almost 2½ hours travelling and $12 all up.
By comparison my other option was to drive. The presence of the North Western motorway means an off peak trips only takes 20-25 minutes to get to Auckland Transports downtown carpark. The new parking system introduced late last month for the city centre means that the AT controlled car parks only cost $3 per hour off peak and so knowing I would be just a little bit over I budgeted for $6 in parking costs. There would also be roughly $7 in petrol and other associated costs.
At a most simple level the decision came down to the difference between spending 2½ hours travelling and paying $12 to do so or hoping in my car spending an hour (or less) travelling and paying ~$13 in parking and fuel costs. So the costs are similar but there is a huge amount of difference in the amount of time needed for each mode. Even as someone who is very enthusiastic about public transport its very hard to justify using it in this situation (at the peak is a different story).
I like to maintain that most people are pretty rational and will make generally logical decisions so taking taking 1½ times longer to make a journey via PT is never going to be attractive. This is why it is so important that Auckland Transport works to find ways to improve PT infrastructure as a key way to make PT a more attractive option, both on and off peak. By my estimation, with the CRL my trip would have been around 35-40 minutes including the walking, combining that with the higher frequencies proposed in the RPTP and it would have made a huge difference in my decision because there is always that risk of random congestion or an accident that holds things up.
On the issue of parking though, it would have been so much easier and more useful if I could have paid for my parking with my AT HOP card. Lets hope AT can get on to that once they have got the system rolled out to buses next year and it would also be a good way to get the card into the hands of drivers making it easier for them to convert to using PT in the future.