Culture, General, Science, etc.

Of bikes and buses

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.


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


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)



$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?