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Commuting

Our new house really came two years too soon.

The plan was that we would buy a section, then build the house we wanted to live in while I carried on working. We'd make sure that living expenses were at a minimum by making sure the house was well insulated, and had 'off-grid' features such as rainwater tanks, sewerage systems (no water rates) and solar electricity (reduced electricity costs). Then, with no mortgage, I'd be able to give up work (at least part time), and we'd be able to live on the money from Arts pensions and a couple of rental properties we have.

But of course our plan went awry as soon as we bought a section to build on, then soon afterwards bought the house down the road. This meant that we needed a mortgage to cover the money we (a) no longer had because we'd bought the section, and (b) had not saved to pay towards the house build.

So - I have to carry on working. And for my line of work (IT Business Analyst) that really means commuting into Auckland.

One of the reasons we chose Miranda is that it is only an hours drive into Auckland - but that is out of Rush Hour. So I had to find the least painful way of getting to my job in Auckland CBD for 'normal' working hours. Fortunately my working times are reasonably flexible, and I do have the option of working occasionally from home.

The Train

My first attempt was to drive the half hours journey to Papakura station, then take the train into work.

The big advantage to the train is that you can sit back and relax, pick up a good book, listen to music. In fact I listened to the 'think yourself thin' hypnotherapy tape from Paul McKenna.

The cost is very reasonable - a 'ten clip' of tickets is just $65 NZD, or $6.50 per journey. And the train actually stops immediately under my office building. Very useful when it's raining! And the journey time doesn't vary much. A 7:00 am train will take the same length of time as an 8:00 am train.

The down side is the time it takes. The timetable says it takes around 50 minutes - but in rush hour it's actually an hour to slightly over. Add to that the time to drive off the motorway, park up, walk to the platform then wait for the train - and you can add about 15 minutes. So the total journey from home to the office takes on average 1 hour 45 minutes. That's too long.

My recommendation to Auckland Transport would be to put on a couple of express trains, that stop at just a couple of the more popular stops such as Newmarket before arriving in Britomart. I'd much prefer to use the train.

Driving

The trouble with driving is that the time it takes is so variable, depending on (a) the time, (b) the weather and road conditions, © accidents and (d) school holidays. On a run with little traffic on the road, my journey into work would take an hour. Take factors (a), (b), © and (d) into account - add (x) and multiply by (y).

Plus add in the cost of fuel for the extra kilometers, and of parking, and it is definitely more of your hard-earned cash. Hence why I would rather go by train if it were practical.

But with time at a premium, I decided to experiment.

The quickest route is around 85 km:

  • 10 km from home to Maramarua down country roads
  • SH2 to Pokenoe
  • SH1 to Port
  • then turn left along Quay Street and into Britomart car park.

Britomart do an 'Earlybird special' for $10 - and it's the nearest car park to work.

At 7:00 am it took the same length of time as the train. The main bottleneck is on SH1 - the traffic starts at Highbrook, and crawls until Market Street. And this was during school holidays!

8:00 am works - by the time you get to Highbrook the traffic is beginning to ease. But you don't get into work until after 9:30, which means you have to leave late.

So here's my current working plan:

  • Up at 6:00 am
  • Quick shower and dress - no breakfast
  • Into car by 6:15
  • At work by 7:30
  • Breakfast

That makes a journey of 1 hour 15 minutes - I can cope with that! Even better, I can leave work at 4:00 pm and be home by 5:30.

Of course this doesn't work when there is an 'incident' on the motorway - but as anyone who commutes on the M25 in London can tell you, there's not a lot you can do about them…

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