Driving your car to work is way more fun than taking public transport.
I've been flirting with different ways of getting around Auckland and nothing beats the door-to-door comfort, convenience and in-house entertainment of your own vehicle.
Admittedly solo driving a huge hunk of metal isn't great for the environment. Especially the gas-guzzlingly smashed-up beast I drive. She's a stinky, smoky old 2001 Mazda Tribute called The FAJ but I love her.
In a way, the day's over and you're home as soon as you climb into your car. It feels good to be surrounded by your stuff, your own heating, your own radio station presets and your own bluetooth. I look forward to the heart-warming welcome I get from my hands-free device: "Connected to Matt Heath iPhone".
I spent the first eight months of this year riding my bike to work. There were many positives. Blasts of fresh air in the face every morning. No parking worries. No boring trips to the gas station. You arrive at work awake and ready to go.
I also enjoyed telling people how much driving sucks. I enjoyed the slight moral high ground.
But after two near-misses in a week it became clear biking around central Auckland is bloody dangerous. All the fitness, fresh air and morality is no good if you end up dead. Hard to enjoy the environment you have saved if you're squashed under a bus.
I'd be keen if every road had a bike lane. But they don't and it would be selfish of me to expect them to. So now I am safely back in my car. Moving slow but nice and safe behind my airbags and engine. I spend my commute listening to This American Life podcasts and enjoying refreshments from my drinks holder. Chatting on the phone with friends and not getting rained on.
I took the bus for a few months this year too. It wasn't fun. One evening I got completely drenched as six full 274 buses whipped on by. It's not much better when you finally get on. In Auckland they're so packed you're forced to press yourself against strangers. It can get pretty intimate. Which is fine unless they stink or you stink. After a full day at the office I can get pretty smelly. That's great in my car but awkward when shoved right up in someone's business. Nothing worse than 40 minutes of stinking up someone else's life.
The bus doesn't even drop you home. For me it's another 10-minute walk in the pissing rain. Same with the trains. They don't go where I need to be. It's pretty hard for public transport to compete with happily sitting in your own car with your own stereo casually driving right up your own driveway to your own front door.
This is why we have such a problem getting cars off Auckland roads. Whatever anyone says, driving to work is easier and way more fun.
As for the pollution there's a simple equation. If most people stopped driving there could be a significant difference. But if only I stop driving it won't make any difference. I can't save the world on my own. If everyone stops, it's logical for me to continue driving because the roads would be clear and the air fresh anyway. If everyone is driving, I'd drive too because one person isn't going to be the difference that saves the world. Selfish but logical.
In the end, cars win because we working stiffs have too much to deal with in our lives. Just getting by day-to-day, feeding our families and paying our bills is more than enough concern. We don't have the time or energy to risk our lives on bikes or to flagellate ourselves all the way home on public transport.
Time for science to stand up. I look forward to a future of robotic non-fossil fuel pod cars that deliver us from where we are to where we want to be. Not trains, not buses, not monorails. Small, stress-free entertainment-wired travelling comfort lounges that safely and quickly get us from door to door.
So if Google, Apple, Tesla and the Auckland City Council could get together and sort that out pronto, that would be great. Until then I am going to have to selfishly stick to my happy, stinky, shitty old car.
It's so warm and nice in here.