Saturday, March 23, 2013

Becoming a two car family

This afternoon we are going to pick up our new-to-us Kia Carnival from the car dealer. It's a 2 year old vehicle - we never have bought a new car - but in excellent condition. The Carnival, which is silver, has been christened Thowra by my Silver Brumby obsessed big girls, and is an 8-seater.

To say that we are excited about it would be an epic understatement. We've been talking about getting a people mover for a long time; as a family of 5 involved in lots of activities, and with my MIL getting older, the ability to transport more people than our immediate family at once is getting more acute. I won't lie - another massive drawcard has been the fractiousness of the three girls when crammed up next to each other in the backseat of our Commodore. Part of this is a matter of sheer physical discomfort - my 9yo is a tall girl and doesn't have enough space in the middle seat. Part of it is my 4yo's boundary pushing and seeing how much she can rile her sisters up. Long trips have become agonising and dangerous as sudden shrieks and screams from the backseat shatter driver concentration at critical moments.

So  getting the people mover is not a spur of the moment decision. But what's a bigger departure for us is that we've decided to keep our Commodore as well instead of trading it.

We have been a one-car family since 2000. Over that 13 years, we've had brief stretches of car-sitting for overseas friends, but we've mostly managed by sharing the car, walking a lot and relying on public transport. We deliberately chose a kindergarten and school for the kids that was 1km away, so it is a comfortable walking / bike riding distance. We made our lifestyle fit with sharing a vehicle because we thought it was the right thing to do environmentally, and because it made financial sense too.

However, in the past three years in particular, the bus service that provides my husband's only PT option to work has become less and less reliable. Buses frequently don't turn up at all, or run horrendously late. He misses connections, gets into work late or home after the kids are in bed, and at least twice a week, we end up having to come and get him because he's stranded. Even when everything works, it takes him between 1.5 and 2.5 times as long on the bus as in a car, meaning he misses out on both work and family time.

I realise that we are economically privileged to be able to make this choice. And I still have a little guilt about the environmental consequences. But when public transport is made so unwieldy, unreliable and unpleasant that people who want to use it have to take massive time, convenience and indeed economic hits to do so (husband's lost work time + his Myki fares more than equal the running costs of the fairly fuel efficient Commodore), then, the reality is that people who CAN choose not to use it, will do so.

My message to state transport policy makers is simple - Make it work, or reap the whirlwind in terms of traffic congestion and pollution impact. Put the transport where people actually live and work, not just where it's convenient for you. Hold providers to stricter performance standards, and listen to complaints. Don't make people who can't afford to live in the inner city or the well-served eastern burbs have to be martyrs to use your services, or they won't do it.

We anticipate holding on to two cars now for the foreseeable future. If hubs got a different, city-based job, where train travel was an option, we'd revisit the issue. Otherwise, I have to say, we'll be living the 2-car suburban stereotype for years to come.


  1. I think you're amazing to have survived the early years of parenting with only one car (and 3 kids!)Well done.

    I also wish we were *not* a 2-car family, but we've been in our famously non-train line far-outer suburb for 12 years. PT simply sucks. I am catching the bus to work at the moment, but leaving at dawn (or earlier, now the days are getting shorter) is pretty unappealing.

  2. "My message to state transport policy makers is simple"

    +eleventy billion.

  3. We've been contemplating going down to be a one car family for a couple years now, but too scared to make the change. I PT every day, but the Lancer is good for the run-around; taking kids to weekend play dates and other activities, doing the grocery shopping, etc etc. So keeping that AND the people mover just makes more sense than getting rid of it. It's a good amount of money over the 12 months, but worth it. For now anyway.