Hello and welcome once again to the meanderings of my brainwork.
Myself and my lovely wife live in a fairly leafy upper-middle-class suburb of central Auckland – the biggest city of New Zealand. Being city livers (not the internal organ, but rather residers within the boundary limits of a city), we could enjoy the benefits of an integrated public transport system. It is unfortunate that a city the size of Auckland – 1.2ish million busy souls – has no such system. The one it does have is eerily similar to that of Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. I know this because I thought while I was writing, ‘I wonder if our public transport system is any good compared to the rest of the world’ and I typed a city into Google that I believed to have little or no public transport. This was to see if I could make some kind of joke or or put-down at the expense of those who run Auckland transport. It seems there are some bus operations in Phnom Penh, but no real coordination between different bus companies and no other forms of public transport. This sums up the Auckland situation beautifully.
For example, to try and get across town, from the KFC in the east Auckland suburb of Botany Downs to Henderson out in west Auckland – a trip of some 30kms (20 miles) – your bus would take nearly 2 hours, and you would have to swap buses halfway as there is not one actual bus that goes between the two suburbs. It would cost you somewhere in the vicinity of $NZ12. There is little to no chance to get a train either. There are two train lines in Auckland: one goes south, the other goes north. It sounds like we are a small town really. For just $US2 ($2.20) you can travel from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. Admittedly this option is 3rd class, but what and adventure!! And you may even get to sit next to a free chicken.
It is little wonder then, thanks to years of noninvestment in the transport infrastructure by successive Auckland mayors, many of whom seems more interested in building big stone things with their names on the sides, we now have disturbingly poor offerings to try and entice the modern worker out of their cars for their daily work-bound trip. Billions are currently being spent on more motorways, underground motorways and motorway sidings. The thinking being that said sidings must be made beautiful with flowers and trees and statues because often people are parked next to them for minutes at a time.
I’m still trying to work out, however, why people insist on traveling around a city this size in a vehicle that isn’t much smaller. Quite often you’ll be waiting at an intersection when the eclipsing form of a planetary SUV halts its orbit alongside your own less grandiose ONV (Ordinary Nonutility Vehicle). In order to keep moving you either have to wait for this machine to recommence manoeuvres or edge yourself slowly out into a bus lane and/or oncoming traffic.
You sit there in the summer traffic breathing lungfulls of diesel smoke as this vehicular beast pulls away giving you a good glimpse of a spare tire cover featuring an animated depiction of a Tasmanian devil, you may think to yourself, “you know, for a vehicle that, by its very nature is supposed to be used for any variety of sporting and outdoor activities, the profound lack of dirt and grime contained thereon is so concerning to me at this present moment in time that I must converse with the driver immediately.”
It is a 4-wheel drive vehicle meant to be used in cross country driving, beach driving, farm driving and mud driving to name but a few of the many activities the hundreds or thousands of NZ-based SUVs aren’t currently engaged in. There is no mud or dirt or sand or filth on any of the city SUVs I have seen recently. There should be. They are utility vehicles. They have many different uses. Not just driving the kids to and from school, or picking up the grandparents for their weekly visit, or parking in the handicapped zone because of the slight limp obtained after a miscalculation involving the driver’s foot and the distance between the SUV’s doorstep and the ground.
It won’t be long before any vehicle that burns a certain amount of fuel per mile/kilometre will have an extra tax burden placed on it by governments. Thanks to crazy old Dubya (who is probably raking in the billions at the moment thanks to oil rising from $US30 to $US100 as a direct result of his fingers being stuffed into a Middle Eastern pie that, rather than cooling down on the windowsill of international diplomacy, seems to be heating up the longer he remains in control of the kitchen), it is unlikely that petrol prices are going to fall any time soon. People are not going to want to drive around in something that only gets 3 miles to the gallon. They are going to want to change. This is the time when the conspiracy theorists will say, “I told you so!!” and the water powered car will eventually take its place at the top of the vehicular heap. Thanks to the warming earth, and the melting ice caps, there will undoubtedly be an abundance of fuel for these vehicles. Of course, the sad irony will be if crazy old Dubya and his oil loving cronies somehow get control of the worlds water supplies and start charging us for it (insert conspiracy theory here).
I walk to work. I have a bicycle that I sometimes use also. I use public transport whenever I can. Since I bought my first car in June last year, I’ve only done about 3000kms (2000 miles). I can’t bring myself to use it unless traveling on those nonexistent cross-town bus routes mentioned above.
I am not that fit, so I would consider myself to be the average adult. Anyone of my fitness here is your challenge. It takes me about 10 minutes of slow walking to cover 1km (0.6 miles). At a fair clip I could probably do a mile in 12 minutes. That’s 3 and a bit miles in half an hour. If you add in a couple of good slopes in that time then you will find your arse tightening, your thighs firming, your abs reappearing and your manboobs disintegrating. Walking is good for these bodily areas.
Until next time, have fun not using your car.