Of bikes and buses

By Aimee Whitcroft 16/10/2012 11


Bill’s post today on Wellington buses, and why he chooses to drive his car instead, is a timely one.

While his post looks primarily at the time he saves by not using public transport, I thought I’d focus on something else: its cost*.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of public transport.  I think driving a car (especially one carrying only one person) to and from work every day isn’t exactly the most environmentally-conscious thing one can do. Especially when reams and reams of people are doing just that.

However, part of the payoff for people taking public transport is that it’s supposed to be a _better_ option, in more ways than just the environmental, for travel. Something which is, very sadly, not the case for Wellington buses. Just looking out of my window at a car park full of cars shows that…

I live in the CBD, about 5 kilometres from where I work. On the few days when Wellington isn’t being buffeted by mad winds, I can brave mad drivers who think bicycle lanes are some sort of optional gap for them to use, and cycle to work. Walking is another option, but takes, well, almost an hour.

Happily, I also have a car which I bring in occasionally.  What prompts me to do so? The buses.

There is only one bus an hour (each way) between 9:24 and 4:44.  Each way is offset such that any errand one takes during the day has to take either less than 15 minutes or an hour fifteen (at least), essentially. This means that it’s impossible to run any errands during the day and also that, should an appointment or some such thing require my presence in town in the morning or evening, I _have_ to use some other option than the bus. The bus is also, most of the time, either late (sometimes substantially) or early, meaning I then have to wait until the next one comes.  Sometimes, a scheduled bus service doesn’t rock up at ALL.

It’s also incredibly expensive. That 10 kilometre a day round trip ends up costing me on the order of $120 a month, if not more.  I think that’s extortionate.

So, I’ve bought a motorbike :) It gives me the ability to run errands, pop back into town if necessary (as well as get out to work!), and runs on something very close to fumes.

Let’s look at costs, then.

Bike:

Brand new motorbike: $2500

Insurance: $300

Motorbike learner’s license: variable, but around $350 (includes lesson time)

Gear: again variable, and my partner had a bunch of stuff I can use, so my costs have been $200 for boots, and $200 for a jacket.

Total: $3 550

Travel:

In 2012, there will have been 261 weekdays total. Minus 20 for holidays, and, say, 6 over Christmas. That’s 235 week days.

So, at 10 km a day, that’s 2 350 km (say).

My fuel tank is 10.3 l, and the bike can travel, comfortably, 300 kilometres on that.

So, a year’s worth of weekday trips to and from work uses 7.83 tanks of petrol, or 80.7 litres of fuel.

At current fuel prices (October 2012), a litre of 91 costs 217.9 c.

Total: $175.81

Total costs:

Let’s say I sell my bike in a year. I’m told that, should I fail to damage it badly (or at all, rather), it should still be worth a solid $1 800-2 000. Let’s say $1 900.

UPDATE: I forgot rego, at $407.17 a year.

This means that the cost of my commute, over a year, will be $175.81+$3 550-$1800

Total: $1 825.1 (UPDATE: $2 229.27)

Let’s take away the cost of gear, though, and the learner’s license (they’re sunk costs, basically, and don’t recur each year).

Total: $1 075.1 (UPDATE: $ 1 482.27)

 

Bus:

$2.66 (with snapper, or else it’s $3.50!) each way, each day.

Over the same 261 weekdays as above. Note that I’m not counting the cost of the snapper card itself, replacing it, the fees that they charge to top up, or the cost of the occasional cash trip.

Total: 1388.52

UPDATE: AND that big saving includes ownership of an actual object, in the form of a motorbike… If I don’t see it, and just keep using it, my yearly costs are just $900* or so, as opposed to the bus’s almost $1 400… It’s eyepopping

So.  There you have it. In return for giving me for a whole bunch of inconvenience, GO Wellington also expects me to pay several hundred dollars more each year.

Yeah right.

—–

As for Auckland busses? I can’t comment, although this piece on Stuff certainly did. For the record, I think calling a bus a ‘loser cruiser’, and the people who use them ‘the great unwashed’, was unbelievable rude and condescending. It’s also inaccurate.

—–

* And don’t even get me started on the costs of trying to travel through New Zealand without flying on an airplane.  It’s like they WANT people to use cars over anything else.

** I originally stated $475 – the new number includes rego***. I have not included maintenance costs as they’re difficult to know, and the bike is brand new, meaning it’s under warranty.

*** Does anyone know why rego for a bike is significantly more than for a car? Is it because they use less petrol?


11 Responses to “Of bikes and buses”

  • You’ve left out a few costs for the bike, like registration and maintenance. But you clearly have a crap bus service, so go for it.

  • I can’t say I’ve found the Welly busses to be that bad with regards running on time. I also like being able to read while on the bus and see that as somewhat of a offset against the inconvenience.

    I have just gotten rid of my car and bought an e-bike. I figure that in Wellington of all places it should be possible to go without a private motor vehicle. City hop, busses and the bike will be my transport for the next year. I’ll make a decision at the end of a year as to whether it’s lunacy or not…

  • I can’t say I’ve found the Welly busses to be that bad with regards running on time. I also like being able to read while on the bus and see that as somewhat of an offset against the inconvenience.

    I have just gotten rid of my car and bought an e-bike. I figure that in Wellington of all places it should be possible to go without a private motor vehicle. City hop, busses and the bike will be my transport for the next year. I’ll make a decision at the end of a year as to whether it’s lunacy or not…

  • rego is more expensive for a bike because they have significantly higher ACC costs – you haven’t added this in to your model. There is a better than 1:10 chance that you will have an accident in your first year, and a very high likelihood that accident will cause an injury that results in time off work.

    I’d say your model is simplistic at best and, realistically, it doesn’t represent the real costs of ownership and operation of the bike.

  • Of course it’s simplistic – it was meant to be indicative, that’s all. My point here is predominantly that the Wellington bus service is remarkably poor for what we pay :)

  • I did something very similar after moving to Wellington last year: I bought a scooter. Mainly because buses are expensive and take a long time (even though I live only 7km away from work). I chose a scooter because it’s even cheaper (cost was, and still is, a big consideration for me) and easier than a motorbike (no special permit required, no wof costs- but I cant go on the motorway with it). I reckon it costs me, all included, $15-20 a week to get to and from work and do some errands.

    Personally I would feel silly driving a car every day with just me in it. And I dont like getting stuck in traffic…

  • i spoke to someone last night about this – this guy is a major public transport user. He said the issue with the frequency of buses can easily be sorted out if you walk from NIWA to the intersection at Kilbirnie (around 400m) – there are heaps of buses heading to and from town there all the time, like every five minutes.

  • It’s 2km into Kilbirnie (1.5 to the Cobham/Evans Bay Parade intersection), and not exactly a quick walk. Another possibility is the walk up into Hataitai, where there’s a 14 bus one can take.

    Both offer more choice in buses, but once you’ve added in the 10-15 minute walk each way (particularly given Wellington’s weather), both options are still very time consuming and inconvenient…

  • On the bus, 5km @ say 30kph average is a 10 minute trip, both ways, 20 minutes. Or expressed more dramatically, 66 hours a working year

    On a bus, that’s reading time, thinking time, doing nothing zoning out time, mad panic text to friends and family time, whatever.

    On motorbike, add five minutes at each end for dressing / undressing, so now its a 130 hours of your year for the pleasure of being target practise in traffic.

    To be fair, you probably wait for the bus at least that long too, but that’s time you can still be reading, texting etc etc. You can CHOOSE to add value to it. You might even choose to walk one or both ways and so avoid the need to go to the gym that day AND saving on gym fees!

    So this really comes down to how you value your unoccupied time – its nothing to do with the cost of the transportation since the real cost to you of the private transport is already agreed as more than the cost to you of the bus.

  • The public transport side is something I struggle with a bit also. I’m reasonably fortunate as there’s a bus that goes direct to work from my suburb. But it takes me less time on a bike (which is my preferred option). The bus takes a more circuitous route (to connect with passengers). So the bike is more direct. (Also, when things like tornados hit the campus I’m still mobile as I don’t depend on roads).

    The main problems with the bike is it’s not as convenient in heavy rain, and that Auckland motorists regard you as their natural prey.

    The problem with the bus kicks in as soon as you need to do more than direct direct travel. If you need to pick up or drop off kids at various school or extra-curricular activities, then the bus schedule becomes cumbersome, slow and much more costly. So on those days, I’m back using the car.

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