Posts Tagged ‘Trains’

Heartless commuters

datePosted on 13:33, March 5th, 2010 by Lew


Image used without permission (but with thanks!), by David Fawcett.

Earlier in the week, while having lunch with Pablo and his partner (and a good time it was, too), I mentioned that I’d been meaning to blog about the shambolic state of Wellington’s rail network.

Without straying too far into Poneke’s territory, I catch the train frequently, and rarely does a week go by without some sort of unexplained service failure, mysteriously absent or egregiously late train — sometimes but not always replaced by a bus, or a random stop in the middle of nowhere for half an hour or so. I’ve spent a lot of time — weeks at a stretch — on trains, mostly in Asia where they’re cheap and reasonably comfortable, range in speed from 50 to 350 kilometres per hour and are often simply the most efficient means of getting around.

Let’s just say that almost none of these things hold true in New Zealand. And out of respect for the look of incredulity those two Aucklanders gave me when I mentioned the Wellington network, I won’t complain too much about it, but instead draw your attention to this incredible blog about the travails of taking twins on the Auckland trains. Now, I don’t care much for mummy-blogging, but this is serious in a country which considers itself to civilised and populated by friendly and open people:

So on Thursday night it was with resignation that I saw that most of the seats in the wheelchair section were taken. True to form, most of the passengers carefully ignored us, though if they had just squeezed up a bit there would have been room to lift a seat up and park the twins. Instead I put the pushchair in the doorway (carefully working out which door on the express train would not be used until my stop in Papakura) and sat on the floor. I’d been on the go for 11 hours already, and Finn was awake and fussy. I sat him on my knee and talked to him to keep him happy and quiet. I’m well aware that other people don’t want to listen to grumpy babies on their way home, so I work damn hard to keep them entertained.
The passenger operator for our carriage, an older Indian man, had been up and down the aisle without comment several times. Shortly before Manurewa, three-quarters of the way home, Finn got hungry. I started breastfeeding him, this being what you do with hungry babies. Suddenly the passenger operator freaked out. He finally asked the passengers to move, since we could not sit there! We had to move! It was for security reasons! We had to move now!
I asked him to wait two seconds, as I knew Finn was nearly finished. The PO pulled the pushchair with Vieve asleep in it away from me and the door, then left it in the middle of the aisle without the brake on, leaving me to try to detach Finn hurriedly and discreetly, stand up on a moving train with a baby on my hip, stop the pushchair rolling away with my foot, lift up a seat and secure it, and park the pushchair.
I was angry, but at least I had a seat, and the bubs were out of the way. And then the PO CLICKED HIS FINGERS IN MY FACE, stormed past and slammed the carriage door.
Apparently he went to get the train manager, as next thing I had another large angry man in my face. Who told me I wasn’t entitled to be on the train with my children.
When I challenged him on that, he backtracked to say that I was endangering my children by taking them on the train when there wasn’t room, and he would never take HIS kids on the train like that. (Presumably, if I’m allowed out of the kitchen, I should hang around in town until 8pm when the trains are emptier?)

One thing about trains everywhere I’ve used them — even in China, which is among the rudest countries in the world — is that people tend to look after the frail and elderly, and women with babies,as a matter of some sort of civic responsibility. This is true to an extent on the Wellington buses and trains, so Auckland public transport users, what the hell is your problem? Is this the neoliberal atomisation about which people have been ruminating of late, or what?

L

Why public transport?

datePosted on 06:00, January 28th, 2009 by Anita

In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing many signs of improvements of public transport infrastructure: in Wellington the new trolley wires on my way into town, on the train to Palmerston North all the maintenance work being done along the track, apparently the Auckland train infrastructure has been having a spruce up, and of course the Johnsonville Tunnels. Even some of the most backward regions of no public transport and thinking about it. I reckon it’s wonderful to see, and (for a change :) it makes me miss that last government, and particularly the Greens influence.

Late last year the Greater Wellington Regional Council kicked off a consultation exercise about the basis on which fares are set. On bus trips while looking at the posters advertising the consultation meetings I wondered about why we actually have public transport, and why it’s so important. For me the point has always been twofold; firstly it gets me places, secondly it is so much more environmentally friendly than private cars. For others it’s keeping congestion down, or being able to go out for a drink after work.

Winston Peters, however, has reminded me of the most important role of public transport. Since the arrival of the Super Gold card off peak buses are full of the over 65s; visiting friends, going to the Bot Gardens, picking up a grand daughter from school, going shopping, visiting a neighbour currently in hospital, chatting to strangers on buses. A couple have said they’re getting out more, seeing their friends and family more. One told me she’s eating much better now that she goes to the greengrocer at the Mall a couple of times a week rather than buying frozen veg from the dairy.

The point of public transport is inclusion – anyone can catch a bus, anyone can visit the doctor, anyone can see their friends and family.

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?