• The art of the one car household

    How we get by as a one car household

    I have written about the monumental pain in the ass that is Auckland public transport many times, and touched on what it’s like to get by without a car.

    I have to say, it certainly has been easier since late 2010, when we finally got an automatic car (all our previous vehicles were manual, at T’s discretion, and despite my intentions I never really learned to drive manual properly), and a little more so again last year when we added a motorbike to our arsenal.

    That said, a motorbike is not a second car. You’re at the mercy of the weather (which is temperamental in this city, to say the least, and has been ATROCIOUS this summer). You’re limited to what you can fit under the seat and in a backpack, and while parking is a breeze, you will be stuck carrying around a bulky helmet wherever you go.

    I have always been inclined to think that we will eventually be forced to become a two-car household – either upon buying a house (because we’ll be priced out further into the suburbs than we already are) or having kids.

    But I’ve been inspired by a one-car family I know that lives on the North Shore, with one parent working over this side of the bridge. Heck, if they can make it work…

    I’ve reached a few conclusions about setting up for success at this.

    Plan and communicate like a boss

    I’m a planner. T is the opposite. Good thing, then, that I’m the car-less one. Getting by with one car requires getting to know each other’s schedules and planning all manner of journeys, from trips to the supermarket, parental visits, social engagements, and work functions.

    Live close to one person’s place of employment

    It helps if one person can walk to their workplace, or take public transport. Otherwise, planning gets even more serious, because you’ll have to contend with one person dropping off and picking up the other at the office every day (unless you can wangle a carpool with somebody).

    Having never owned a car of my own, the number one thing on my list when choosing a place to live is proximity to bus routes. I was spoiled growing up; my parents’ house is literally 10 seconds from a bus stop. Since then, the furthest I’ve lived from public transport is a 15-20 minute walk.

    Make sure you have a reliable car

    Cars that don’t start or fail WOFs or break down regularly are stressful enough. When that car is your only mode of transportation, it’s infinitely worse. T and I have always worked in different areas of the city – and his is not one you can get to via public transport, especially at 6 or 7am.

    And on that note…

    Only patronise mechanics where courtesy cars are available

    Or you’ll be forking out a lot of money to rent a car while yours is in the workshop.

    Could you swing it as a one-car household?

  • Get around, get around, I get around

    For once, I’m pretty stoked with Auckland public transport: the new Outer Link bus every 15 minutes means I have a new alternative for commuting. The incongruity of the system means even though it’s a little more roundabout than the bus I’ve been catching, and thus takes longer, it’s half the fare – so I’m saving money and it’s a more reliable service. No more waiting half an hour in the pitch dark to get home is a win in my book.

    Of course, as winter ebbs away, it’s also getting feasible for me to walk or even run to work and back. Price-wise and health-wise, that’s obviously the best bet.

    All up, I have four options for commuting:

    Bus 1

    $3 one way, more direct route (5-10 minutes), comes every 20-30 minutes – but isn’t exactly reliable.

    Bus 2

    $1.50 one way, slightly longer route, comes every 15 minutes.

    On foot

    40-50 minutes walk. I really enjoy the walk, though it exposes me to our notoriously fickle weather which can swing from scorching to monsoon-like and back in that time.

    Drive

    Literally 5-10 minutes, which is convenient, especially on days I have meetings and interviews. (Parking is free at work.)

    At the moment, it’s all pretty ad-hoc; I go with the flow depending on the weather, what time I get up, whether T needs the car and whether I have appointments during the day. Having so many options is awesome, and it’s another reason not to move. T keeps arguing that we can live anywhere now that he has a bike and I can drive – but I know better than anyone else that cars are unreliable, and as a rider there are days he simply won’t be able to ride to work. (Also, driving can be kind of annoying.) As a lifelong PT user, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable living somewhere where I didn’t have the option of hopping a bus to the office.

    How do you commute? What would you choose out of these options?

  • I dislike driving.

    Reasons why although T having a motorbike once more makes my life easier (did I mention that? Oh, well, you’ll see it in our monthly roundup…), for example, being able to drive to meetings/interviews during the day, and not having to wait for the bus home in the cold and dark, it also adds a dimension of stress.

    1. I am a very, very nervy person. I jump at everything. So it’s no surprise I’m a nervous driver, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to sit my full licence.

    2. To that end, I have to devise all sorts of roundabout routes when I do take the car. Working normal hours also means braving peak hour. It’s near impossible to turn right out of the street I work on to go home, so often I wuss out and turn left. A bit of a detour ensues, obviously. The same goes for leaving the house in the mornings, complicated by the fact that I have to reverse out. DON’T LAUGH. Hmm. I think we should impose a backing-in rule, actually.

    3. Traffic. Is there anything more irritating than getting up to a traffic light just as it turns red? At every single intersection on your journey?

    To that end, I don’t drive in every single day. There are days it rains or it’s too cold for the bike to start up at 5am. Also, I like to walk to work occasionally.

    You look like a Power Ranger, I said:

    But seriously, I’m happy for him. Remember when he bought his Xbox? I was so ridiculously heartwarmed by the whole thing then. I’ve never had anything like this for myself, he said.

    And now we can go gazelle on travel/wedding/honeymoon saving – and after that, a down payment. A project car and dirt buggy are still on his wishlist, but financially still years away, not to mention they require a garage. So really, that’s going to come after home ownership.