Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You can take your zone and shove it!

19km to go. Comfortable?

"Living in the twilight zone"

"Zoned out"

These are two headlines from one article in The Age today. I guess they were so happy with their puns that they just had to use them both. Fair enough. But why stop there? Why not "Out of my comfort zone" or "Zoning out, man"?

And why restrict themselves to "zone"? We're talking trains here after all. The subject "train" has to be to punsters what Schoolies is to someone wanting to get laid. Unfortunately I'm not a punster but that won't stop me having a go; "Unres-train-ed ticket prices" or "Off the rails" or "What's the loco-motive?" or "Losing track". Shit man, it's a meat-market of puns.

Anyway, if you haven't managed to get on board yet, the article in The Age, by Gabrielle Costa, reports on the announcement that train tickets in Melbourne are going up 8.6 percent. A Zone 2 daily will set you back $11.90. While I agree that $11.90 is too much I don't agree with the premise of the article which is that it's no longer worth catching the train and therefore, the car is the only way to go.

I also disagree with a lot of Costa's reasoning. For example, she's found all day parking on the city's edge for under $10. Where is this parking? Unless by "edge" she means Pakenham. She goes on to argue that the price to park at this mythical car park plus two or three litres of petrol per day comes out under $11.90. "Even loosely, the maths just don't add up" she says.

Let's just check that maths shall we. I'm going to be really generous and say this car park is so fantastical and magic that it only charges $9 per day. Then I'll be really generous again and say you only use two litres per day (which is unlikely since cars use more than 10 litres/100 kilometres during city driving, so you'd get less than 20 km per day out of 2 litres, which means you live less than 10km from work which means you wouldn't be in Zone 2 anyway). So using today's average petrol price ($1.454), you'll pay a mythical price of:

             $9 + 2($1.454) = $11.908

So, even loosely, the maths just do add up...just.

I realise that this is pretty close to the price of the daily Zone 2 but remember we're using mythical figures here. Go and find a real parking lot, use a realistic amount of petrol and you'll soon see this figure double.

And then there's this;
For all the focus on traffic congestion and reducing carbon emissions, for all the billions poured into public transport systems and rolling stock, it's getting quicker, cheaper and easier to hop in the car and pay for petrol and parking than catching train from middle suburbia, particularly once comfort and time are factored into the equation.
OK, I appreciate that this is a comparison. I could easily have misquoted Costa here by chopping off half the paragraph and saying, "Look! Look at this fool! It's getting slower, expensiver and harder!" But I didn't do that. This is rigorous investigative journalism after all. Nonetheless, it's a load of crap. Petrol prices are increasing much more rapidly than inflation. So are registration fees (probably). And while trains are sometimes late and slow, they've always been late and slow. Cars on the other hand are getting later and slower. And this brings me to comfort and time. Sure a car is comfortable but not if you have to sit in it for 2 hours. And time? Don't get me started on time. OK, I'll start...just a little. Traffic in Melbourne makes me so angry. And it clearly makes everyone else angry. It takes fucking ages to get anywhere. It has to be the most frustrating way to spend time in the known universe (aside from working in customer service).

At least on a train you can read a book or do something else worthwhile. Or you can doing something that isn't worthwhile, like playing Angry Bids. But at least you've got the choice.

Or you could ride a bike. Sure you can't read or play Angry Birds but at least you're doing something healthy and fun.

As a summary:

  • There are too many cars in Melbourne (and most other cities).
  • Public transport is too expensive.
  • Bikes are good.

I appreciate that riding isn't a solve-all solution for everyone. But it's certainly part of the solution. For those that live far away from work, bikes are a great component of multi-mode transport. You can ride some of the way and jump on a train. Or put your bike in a car and then ride from somewhere that actually does have parking at mythical rates.

More people driving their car to work is not good for anyone. It's pretty obvious why. I'm not even going to get into it.

The End.


  1. Just thought id Mention that I really do look forward to your weekly gems of posts, this is one of your best :)

  2. Thanks anonymous. Always good to get nice feedback.

  3. Just wondered how far you travelled to work and how you get there?

  4. In Australia, I live 14km from work and I ride my bike.
    At the moment, I'm living in Phnom Penh. Here, I live about 3km from work and I drive a Vespa (living the Mod dream...sort of!).