Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.

In Town Without a Car.
December 2, 2007, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Ask a Canuck | Tags: , , ,

Dave asks, “What’s it like living without a car in Auckland?

Fortunately, I work and live right Downtown, so it’s wonderfully easy.  I walk 200 metres uphill to work in the morning, and rumble 200 metres downhill in the afternoon, rolling through a park both ways.  With grocery stores, restaurants and fun all nearby for me, living in the “right” neighbourhood makes for lots of short walks to anywhere.

This isn’t exactly the most transit advanced city in the world.  I am told that Auckland has more freeway miles per capita than Los Angeles – there are a lot of “motorways” here.  Traffic jams are nothing like Toronto jams.  I should know; I’ve driven other people’s cars here FOUR TIMES already.  Like home, it’s far easier to drive here.

But even if it’s still a tonne of buses crawling through the streets here, the value added infrastructure that exists for transit is fantastic.  They have a feature on their regional mass transit website that allows you to enter in a street address (105 Queen Street) or a landmark (Britomart Train Station) or even a business name (KFC Ponsonby) and it spits out the next available transit trip you can take to get there.  It gives you a walking distance to the nearest transit stop, route numbers and distance, times and the fare (Auckland works on fare zones, so the cost of a trip is always variable).

There are a gajillion taxi cabs here.  You and I are probably used to there being two or three taxi companies, each charging the same fare and each serving the same locations.  As far as I can tell, there are three types of cabs here: super-cheap cabs that are somehow still roadworthy and are probably run by a really small company, typical cabs charging an average rate and what we are most used to in Canada, and luxury cabs that aren’t as nice as Pearson luxury cabs (not that I’ve ever seen one) and charge a small fortune to ride in.  It’s amazing how much a person can charge if their car is clean.  The taxi business here is almost entirely deregulated.  Anything goes!  This is why it’s important to pay attention when hailing a cab at night’s end.

There is no subway here, but instead a small (compared to GO Transit) commuter network using old freight tracks scattered through Auckland and in between the two ports.  The central hub is around the corner from my apartment (Britomart Train Station, completed only a few years ago) so when I am able to get somewhere on a train, I take it.  It’s also a fairly central bus transfer point as well, although there are two of those in the Downtown.  The train is never full.

Of course, if you really need a car you can join a car share organization.  With Cityhop, you pay a signup fee and an hourly rental fee and you have a car for your use around the city.  They have roughly a dozen cars scattered around Auckland Central.  A coworker has signed up with them.  Their cars are sporty little things.  I quite liked them.

The moral of this story is that if you’re prepared to live a car-free lifestyle and make decisions according to that (such as living near work, be it Barrie or Auckland) then it’s a wonderfully easy way to go about things.

(And three cheers to stores who buck the trend and have full service grocery stores in Downtowns.)


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

maybe you’ll skip buying a car when you get back here ????

Comment by Blacksheep

That car system sounds ideal! Do you see that as a possibility in Canada?

Comment by puppydog

Such a system already exists in some of the larger urban centres:



I knew a girl in Calgary who joined, and the programme worked for her while she lived there – but that was downtown and in a community with a decent transit system…that may be the key to its success…

Comment by b

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