I’m going to drive to work less

A statement I have made too many times is that I would go to work on the train (instead of driving), but my workplace is too far away from the nearest station, so it’s impractical and inconvenient.

What garbage.

A few weeks ago on Twitter, a friend briefly described his Public Health Utopia, and one of the points was that it involved more people walking more. And then it clicked. To walk to work from the station takes me fifteen minutes. Maybe twenty if I take it easy. But either way, it’s not a long walk.

So I’ve resolved to go to work on public transport more often.

The downside is that it takes longer overall for me to get to work, so I have to get up earlier in the morning, and if the weather is no good it’s not that nice, but otherwise it’s positive. I’ve found the walk from the station to work is a pleasant one: it’s relaxing and gives me some space to think. It’s suburban too, so the fresh (ish) air wakes me up, and I guess the walk itself loosens me up a little. I won’t pretend it’s a workout, but there must be some health benefits, even if minor.

Perhaps importantly, I like traveling by train. And I don’t like driving. Even though in the morning I drive away from the city, I still get stuck sitting in traffic, or otherwise have to deal with whatever dickhead drivers decide to assault the roads with their aggressive driving styles, and I arrive at work stressed. When I go on the train, this just doesn’t happen.

Although not a major motivation, it’s in my mind that tolls will be back on the M4 next year, and I would honestly much rather pay a train fare than a road toll.

I’m sure I’ll still drive to work sometimes; probably a lot at first, but hopefully less and less. Even then there’ll be days when I wake up and think “bugger it; I’ll drive”, or days when I just can’t work my personal schedule around the train timetable. But I hope that more and more this will become rarer and rarer.

In short, I’m working on becoming a proper train commuter, and I hope my life will be better because of it.

It might be interesting to say that I wrote this post on my phone on the train on my way home from work.

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Cheaper public transport please

I talk about public transport a fair bit, and I love public transport. There are plenty of annoyances, of course, but I love the concept of buses, trains and ferries, and mostly I love them in practice. I hate sitting in traffic in the car, I like to be able to sit back and relax when commuting, and (perhaps most significantly) I like drinking alcohol, so a public chauffeur is necessary!

What I am generally less thrilled about is paying fares. Not because I don’t want to pay for transport at all, but because, to me, it seems to go against the ethos of public transport. So I offer my preferred solutions.

[Note: I am enormously in favor of publicly-owned public transport, so my ideas really only work with government-owned and -operated networks.]

Public transport that is free at the point of use

Free. Free buses, free trains. You want to go into town? Get on the bus. It’s free. Going to work? Jump on the train: nothing to pay. Easy. Of course public transport would still need to be funded, but I prefer the idea of everyone paying through the tax system.

I hear grumbling from drivers already. “Why should I pay if I don’t use it?” Firstly, of course, because good public transport is good for society as a whole, even if it doesn’t benefit you as an individual. But also, just because you are not physically sitting on a train doesn’t mean you are not using it. Really good public transport systems that lots pf people use do benefit drivers, mainly in the way of fewer cars on the roads. They’re also really useful when your car breaks down. Or, yes, when you’re drunk.

My instinct would be to restrict free public transport to local and commuter trains and buses, with fares remaining on intercity services, but I can’t really explain why.

However I am aware that totally free public transport is a difficult idea to push, so if we are continuing to pay fares:

Cut-price peak-time travel

At first thought, it goes against all logic. Everyone wants to travel at rush hour, so peak-time travel is premium travel, and people should pay more. Of course!

Nope.

There are two main reasons for premium pricing: either you want to discourage people from using the service at a particular time or you realize you can make a tidy buck by charging more for a service when more people want to use it. I hope it’s clear that I don’t want to be discouraging people from using public transport – ever – and I think that cashing in on people using services at particular times is pretty shady behavior.

I’m, again, assuming a state-owned public transport network, but really we want to be encouraging more people to use public transport at peak times. Again, fewer cars on the roads etc. I’d rather see people going to work on the bus or the train rather than driving in. So to me it is nonsensical to put fares up at precisely the time we want more people to use the service. In my world, rush-hour would be the cheapest time to use public transport.

Given the world we live in, I don’t expect either of these things anytime soon, but it’s nice to dream.