Catching the train to work

datePosted on 06:53, January 9th, 2009 by Anita

Yesterday I caught the train to work; I live in Wellington, I’m working in Palmerston North a couple of days a week.

On the trip I had breakfast, did an hour’s work, read and wrote some email, wrote a post, and did some good stretches. It cost less than the petrol would have done, it got me to PN in a comparable time, and in heaps of time for my first meeting.

That service exists solely because of public intervention, it runs on publicly owned rolling stock on publicly owned track.

As I whizzed through the countryside in the sunshine I wondered two things

  1. Why were there so many cars on the road? So many cars with only a single person in them. Why weren’t they on my train (or the one in the other direction), or the bus, or even car pooling?
  2. Why does it take government intervention to create a way for me, a private sector worker, to commute to my private sector job in a cost-effective environmentally friendly way?
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14 Responses to “Catching the train to work”

  1. Jafapete on January 9th, 2009 at 08:25

    Anita, After seeing the proposals for the upgrading of U.S. railways as part of the coming infrastructure splurge designed to save capitalism from itself, the Clark Government’s buy-back of NZ’s rail; system starts to look very clever.

    I’m betting that you also used public transport to get to the train station, a relatively quick and convenient way of getting around Wellington and to the train station in particular. Wish that it were the same in Auckland.

    I’ll be in the same position as you from next month, but was thinking that I will be forced to drive because (1) the hassle just to get to the station (2) the need for a car at the other end (3) the timing of the few train and bus journeys south. But you’ve inspired me to try a few times.

  2. adamsmith1922 on January 9th, 2009 at 08:59

    I regularly use the train in the Wellington Region and buses in the CBD.

    Part of the NZ problem is geographic, part the use of narrow gauge and part the failure to double track.

    Then there is the issue of speed and frequency.

    I would support looking at road pricing or congestion charging in Auckland and Wellington as in Singapore. This would tend to encourage carpooling and use of public transport.

    In addition restricting on street parking in the CBD by keeping the first hour at say $4 in Wellington, but upping the charge for the second hour to say $12 might assist in driving cars off the road.

  3. Carol on January 9th, 2009 at 09:23

    I regularly use the train in Auckland to get into the city. Much less stressful than driving and I can do work stuff on the train.

    I do drive to the train station, after carefully looking at the bus options. It is cheaper to drive and take the train, and takes less time. The connections between buses or bus and train are unreliable in their timing, and often mean quite long waits. Also, the overall cost would be more than the cost in petrol of driving into the city.

    However, driving to the station means I also often incorporate my shopping in the journey – easier than it would be if I took the bus froom home.

    I am glad the Auckland Western line is up-grading to double tracks, and hope the improvements keep coming under the current government. More improvements are necessary so that using public transport is more of a better option than driving.

  4. StephenR on January 9th, 2009 at 10:01

    2. Why does it take government intervention to create a way for me, a private sector worker, to commute to my private sector job in a cost-effective environmentally friendly way?

    Well, for some reason you presume that the private sector wouldn’t provide the same service – in Wellington – if given the opportunity? I say ‘in Wellington’ because that particular route would probably be an attractive one for private providers of rail transport.

  5. Carol on January 9th, 2009 at 10:29

    I was looking at some of the links for a boycott of Israeli goods.

    the BIG campaign in the UK features Veolia as a company complicit with Israel’s settlement and occupation of Palestinian land.

    http://www.bigcampaign.org/index.php?page=veolia

    This is the name of the company that operates the rail system that I use in Auckland. So should I be going back to my car, or using the more expensive and slower bus system?

  6. adamsmith1922 on January 9th, 2009 at 10:46

    Carol

    A moral dilemma, especially if you believe in Climate Change

  7. Anita on January 9th, 2009 at 10:56

    Carol,

    I reckon you could start with writing a letter to ARTA. Ask them whether they take into account this kind of factor when awarding a tender, if not how to get that changed, if so why they made the decision they did and how to review it. You could also ask what factors they’ll take into account when deciding to roll over the contract, and how that could be changed.

    Veolia make their money not because of your ticket, but because of ARTA giving them the contract. Boycotting Veolia is something ARTA needs to do, and as a local government subsidiary you (and other Auckand region residents) get to have a say.

  8. Anita on January 9th, 2009 at 10:57

    StephenR,

    Well, for some reason you presume that the private sector wouldn’t provide the same service – in Wellington – if given the opportunity?

    The last private operator of this route tried pretty hard to shut it down.

    To clarify, I’m commuting from my home in Wellington to a client in Palmerston North.

  9. StephenR on January 9th, 2009 at 12:41

    The last private operator of this route tried pretty hard to shut it down.

    To clarify, I’m commuting from my home in Wellington to a client in Palmerston North.

    Ah, I assumed you meant the Hutt-City line. Not hard to imagine Welly-Palmy being unprofitable.

    Why does it take government intervention to create a way for me, a private sector worker, to commute to my private sector job in a cost-effective environmentally friendly way?

    I would say the answer is that because the government can take other people’s money to subsidise transport options, even if the person they’re taking money from doesn’t intend to go anywhere near a train for the rest of their life.

  10. erikter on January 9th, 2009 at 15:06

    “Why were there so many cars on the road? So many cars with only a single person in them. Why weren’t they on my train, or the bus, or even car pooling? ”

    Because they don’t find it convenient, or don’t want to do it. It’s their decision and like it or not, you ought to respect it.

    You’ll see people flocking to the buses and trains the day a decent, organised, public transport system exists. Until then, some individual are forced to used what’s available, while others drive their cars (and might even enjoy the experience).

  11. StephenR on January 9th, 2009 at 16:48

    You’ll see people flocking to the buses and trains the day a decent, organised, public transport system exists. Until then, some individual are forced to used what’s available, while others drive their cars (and might even enjoy the experience).

    Decent, organised public transport systems already exist in plenty of places. Indeed, most of the PT I use in Auckland is so. However you forgot to mention cost effective , which is also a factor, such as when people were all over PT when the price of oil was much higher in 2008. Before that – not so popular.

  12. adamsmith1922 on January 9th, 2009 at 17:03

    There is of course an argument that rather than jawboning petrol prices down the government should be keeping them up so as to move passengers to public transport.

    However, what we have now had in wellington is fares going up, but petrol coming down.

    Therefore my alternative of a congestion charge to promote car-pooling and use of public transport

  13. Jack Tanner on January 9th, 2009 at 20:54

    There are at least two economic reasons why government intevention may be necessary to get a proper role for passenget rail trasnpot.

    1. Railways involve very high fixed costs – the expenses which exist even if no train runs. Thus the marginal cost of going on a train is much less than the average cost. What contribution passenges should make to the fixed costs and what should be the contribution from the public purse is a complicated question.

    2. Road transport costs to the individual do not cover all the costs to road users. In particular road users may value people going on trains because it reduces the congestion on their roads. This means there is a case for road users paying a subsidy to others to go onto trains to free up the roads who need it.

    The above is a case for the public subsidising of passenger rail transport. but it does not explain why the transport has to be publicly owned and provided. The fact is that the private provision of rail services has often proved unsatisfactory; Tranzrail is only the most recent example from throughout the world. (On the other hand, pubic owned rail has not always been satisfactory either.)

    The above argument does not cover pollution and global warming issues. An economist would tend to recommend a comprehensive taxation regimne on pollution, rather than ad hoc measures. The additional revenue might be used to cover rail’s fixed costs.

  14. Anita on January 12th, 2009 at 09:56

    StephenR,

    Ah, I assumed you meant the Hutt-City line. Not hard to imagine Welly-Palmy being unprofitable.

    I would say the answer is that because the government can take other people’s money to subsidise transport options

    The train I take from Wellington to Palmerston North receives no subsidy. The private operator that tried to shut down the service did so for two reasons: firstly to try to strong-arm a subsidy (they failed and the service remained), secondly they come from a freight operation background and didn’t want to ship people around, it just wasn’t what they wanted to do.

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