COMMENT: They called my brain failure a transient attack that left no damage but should be treated as a stroke warning. So on medical advice I haven't driven a car for a couple of weeks and consequently I'm now better acquainted with Auckland's bus service.
It's good. Quite startlingly good.
The newly redesigned North Shore routes, for which Auckland Transport took some flack on their first day, have worked a treat for me. The trip from front door to office desk hasn't taken more than 45 minutes, often less, and that included 10-15 minutes of walking and waiting. The total time is not much more than it normally takes by car.
Of course it has been school holidays and the traffic was light. It could be a different story next week when the bus will be stuck in right-turning traffic that I can avoid with a rat-run in the car. But the real revelation to me has been the transfers to and from the Northern Busway.
The need to catch two buses on each trip is not the deterrent I'd always supposed. At the busway station I hardly had to break stride. As you walk onto the platform one bus is leaving and another is coming in. The total fleet contracted to AT must be huge now, assuming all routes in the region have as many buses as I've seen this week.
All of them have been bright, clean, roomy and fast and most of them have been full.
The drivers were cheerful and considerate and the passengers have a habit of thanking them as they leave. Bus commuters have a nice little culture going on, but not much conversation. The younger ones have plugs in their ears and their eyes on phones.
If they were following the news they were hearing petrol now costs around $2.40 a litre, for which Simon Bridges blames the Government's new and increased taxes and Jacinda Ardern blames retailers' increased profit margins.
They might have also have been reading yet another dire warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the effect that coral reefs will disappear and coastal human communities will be swamped unless we make some drastic lifestyle changes over the next decade.
So all things considered, will I get back in the car when I can? Of course I will.
Public transport promoters pretend not to understand the appeal of the private car but I think they do. Most of them probably use their car for plenty of journeys they could take by public transport. It's just so convenient to have a car nearby, your own car, to go where you want when you want, and go all the way there, door to door.
But I'm not going to listen ever again to Aucklanders claiming they use the car only because the city's public transport is so bad. It is not. It's fine.
Even for those who don't commute to the city centre, I suspect the routes and transfers are now probably as quick and easy as mine were this week. For those going to the CBD the buses have never been that bad, their supposed inadequacy has been an excuse for those made to feel guilty for using a car.
They needn't feel guilty. The automobile is a wonderful extension of human life and probably always will be. It may be electrically fuelled soon, it may be computer-enhanced to the point that cars can travel closer together at greater speed and even more of them can fit on the roads, but humans will always want the autonomy, privacy and convenience of personal transport.
It will, like most of the good things of life, adapt to climate change. Rising petrol prices will drive that adaptation and we probably will be driving electric cars sooner than we imagine.
In the meantime, I don't mind paying most of the taxes that now exceed a dollar a litre when you count GST.
The 63c that goes to the NZ Transport Agency for constructing and maintaining roads has given us good value. I'm less confident the Auckland Council's newly awarded 10c/litre will be well spent, and worried the present Government is ordering NZTA to waste too much on light rail, an expensive urban planning fad worldwide, and cycleways that already look like follies.
But then, public transport promoters will remind me, I doubted the worth of the busway once. I'm glad its working well.
Busways are not railways, one vehicle breakdown does not stop the system. Trains are good for a fast journey between busy places such as airports and CBDs, but a well designed bus network is a more complete commuter service.
Ours is now a fine alternative to the car when we need one and Auckland drivers should stop pretending it is not.