Lani Writes: Taking the train to work is a revelation

I was 25 before I learned to drive. That’s a long time to be at the mercy of Auckland’s unreliable buses, especially when living in Mangere Bridge. That’s many years of sprinting for buses that arrive five minutes too early, or impatiently waiting for a bus running 15 minutes late — only for it to drive right past
my stop.

It was years of hoping for a seat by the window, so I could lean my head on the glass, hoodie pulled low, and sleep through the bumpy stop-and-start hour-long ride to work. Would I catch the bus that would get me into the city an hour too early? Or would I get the next one, which, though just a few minutes later, would threaten to make me late for work? So, when I finally learned to drive, public transport was quickly shunned.

I later moved to Papatoetoe, where I’d assumed there was no convenient bus route, though I never bothered to look. I’d travel overseas and marvel at the public train systems and wish for our own. I knew we had trains here, I’d just never used them. They were too far away. I needed them to be a few steps from my door.
It is satisfying to look out the window as we zoom past the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Like in New York. I needed the trains to stop somewhere other than Britomart. Oh yeah, I’d totally use the train, I’d tell people, if it were more convenient.

The freedom of being able to get into my car at the end of the day and leave straight away always outweighed whatever do-gooder public transport notions I vaguely entertained. But then, some guy crashed into the back of my car. And then, my nan was admitted to hospital for a couple of nights. I walked from work to Britomart, not the marathon I’d imagined, and caught the train to Middlemore. On the Eastern Line, the first leg of the trip was so picturesque — with views over Okahu and Hobson Bays — my phone was immediately out. Excitedly taking pictures and Snapchats, I was like a giddy tourist. No one else was very excited.

They’d already sussed the trains out long ago.

At first, I caught the train almost as a novelty, and to give the husband a break from double trips into the city and back. I’ve continued catching it because it makes sense, and I actually enjoy it. It’s a six-minute drive to my train station, versus anywhere between 18 and 50-plus minutes’ drive into the city. If I leave even a few minutes after 6am, I’ll be in heavy traffic. One day I might get to work half an hour early, and leave at the same time the next day and get to work half an hour late, and just the tiniest sprinkling of rain will guarantee an hour’s delay getting into the city.

It’s a $10 daily trip on the train, while on-street parking has steadily risen to $42 a day. I’d leave work sometimes still energised, only to have all the life sapped out of me during the long, slow drive home. Now, the walk from Britomart that I once considered too inconvenient wakes me up on the way to work and clears my head on the way back. Plus, it’s the only exercise I’m getting right now. It’s definitely not the quickest way to travel, but it is satisfying to look out the window at 5pm as we zoom past the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Southern Motorway.

This article was first published in the July 2016 issue of Metro. Illustration by Anna Crichton for Metro.