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Yucky Mummy is the antithesis of the post-Supermum Yummy Mummy. Read about ‘real’ parenting where the only rule that applies is “whatever works”.

The joys of the two-car family

September 25th, 2007 by Terri

we're a two-car family again

After about a year of feeling virtuous about the fact that we were reducing our environmental impact on the planet by being a one-car family, we have succumbed. It seems our desire for convenience was greater than all our concerns about carbon emissions, greenhouse gases and global warming, put together. Well at least mine were. But I was the one who had to brave the train.

I caught the train to and from work – a trip that takes about 50 minutes – for about six months and if I never have to do that again it will still be too soon.

These are some of my favourite things about travelling on the “Sydney system”:

  • missing the train, which only comes every half an hour at our station, because you’re in a queue at the ticket machine! Our station is staffed in the morning but unfortunately they have chopped off the station master’s hands so he is no longer able to sell tickets
  • standing on a freezing platform in the middle of winter. It is always a surprise when you get inside the carriage: it will either be Antarctic conditions, or those resembling a tropical island, mid-summer. Freeze or boil. No in-between.
  • people already occupying a seat who will not – not ever – move over for you. You have to climb over them or they will get out and let you in, necessitating a ‘climb over’ when you have to get out (they even do this if they know your station is before their’s, just to annoy you).
  • big blokes who sprawl all over the seat, especially those who sit with their legs splayed so you have sit between – yes between – their legs. Eeeeewwwww!
  • two people sitting in a three-people seat, either covering up the extra spot with their bags, clothes or just plain body bulk. Do they think you like standing for 50 minutes on a Monday morning jerking half way down the aisle everytime the train starts?
  • sweaty blokes with their arms up, with a sweat spot the size of a small African country. Looks good and smells good with it.
  • people having loud conversations on their mobiles as though everyone else in the carriage is interested. On the way in it’s young corporates who want to let everyone know about their ‘important meetings’. On the way back you get to find out what half the carriage is having for dinner.
  • train delays on the way home. On the way in delays are inconvenient but at least it’s in work time!! One night recently a train got stuck on the harbour bridge and we had to walk to the next station and got home hours late. What joy after a day at the office.
  • the absolutely unintelligible announcements that are constantly made by City Rail staff: what do they do: put a sock over the microphone?
  • being given a ticket to the wrong station and then not being able to exchange it for the right one. So it’s my fault you misheard me!!!?????
  • the regular cancelling of trains to outer lying stations, of which mine was one. Perhaps this is a government plot to encourage more urban consolidation.
  • scary ticket machines that ‘capture’ your ticket like a hungry beast. If you don’t have a ticket they could well take your fingers instead!

So now I drive to and from work, travelling when it suits me, not when the bizarre train timetable allows. I am cocooned in my little petrol-guzzling bubble and I almost have to stop myself from winding down the window and teasing the people waiting at the bus stop as I drive by, especially on cold, windy days (evil, I know…)

So how do I justify this to myself? Is the fact that we bought a 16-year-old car instead of a new one a good thing (in terms of the energy savings in not producing a new car) or a bad thing (its emissions are probably higher due to technological advances since it was made)?
Perhaps we’re just being Australian: apparently we have the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person of all developed nations. I can’t believe we’re worse than the US but there you have it. And cars are the largest source of greenhouse gases from Australian households.

Although public transport of course consumes energy, it consumes much less energy per passenger than car transport. Nearly 95 per cent of Australia’s transport-related emissions come from cars, trucks and planes, and less five per cent comes from trains, trams and buses.

One greenie website reports that there are 600-1400 deaths each year that can be attributed at least partly to Sydney’s polluted air. Of course that is nothing compared with the millions of commuters who perished in the dead of winter while waiting for trains that never came, but it’s significant nonetheless.
But there is this:

  • the joys of listening to the radio: I hate ipods!!
  • not having to get a lift to or be picked up from the station (okay I could have walked but that would have taken 20 minutes of valuable sleeping time!!)
  • being deposited inside a building at journey’s end during winter, instead of having to battle the world’s windiest and most exposed train station (truly, look it up in the dictionary. Under ‘Milsons Point station’ you will see world’s windiest and most exposed train station)
  • being able to control the temperature of your environment…ah warm feet on a cold day.

The Australian Conservation Foundation suggests 10 things you can do to reduce your greenhouse pollution and one of these is getting rid of one car in your household because one car travelling the average kilometres produces seven tonnes of greenhouse pollution a year (and that’s not including the energy it takes to make it). So now I feel bad, until I look a little further down the list of ways to assuage your guilt for not being Chinese and … bingo! Point 5: Eat less meat!

Animal products make up the biggest part of our eco footprint – about a third of it apparently. We’re told that meat, particularly beef, has a high environmental impact, using a lot of land and water to produce it, and creating significant greenhouse pollution (naughty cows!) If you reduce your red meat intake by two 150 gram serves a week, you’ll save 20,000 litres of water and 600 kilograms of greenhouse pollution a year.

So there you have it. Vegetarians like me never need feel guilty about driving to work.

And we still have less than one car per person in our family. (A four-year-old is a person!)

Posted in Current issues |

3 Responses

  1. Richard Says:

    Actually, I was okay with the single car arrangement (yes, I had the car). However the five-minute drive to pick up Terri at the local station was proving a hassle - and I was invariably late. However all mums and stay-at-home dads would of course understand that, considering the demands of a toddler, you really can\’t aim for a 6.40pm pick-up even if you have the whole day to plan for it.
    And by the way - the car might be 16 years old but it only has 30k on the clock: this is a point I must make as a gesture to my commonsense mechanical masculinity. That and the fact that my secret plan is to work my way back (slowly but steadily) to a 42-year-old car: the 1965 Ford Mustang convertible. By the time I get there, however, I suspect that such gas-tronomic beasts will be outlawed for all the environmental reasons Terri has mentioned.
    Oh well, there\’s still the chance of a second (third?) mid-life crisis and a Harley instead… I fear, however, of following in my brother-in-law\’s footsteps. He named the family dog \”Harley\” because he worked out that the pet food over a lifetime would cost about the same as a set of two-wheels.
    This is the perfect time to note, however, that the fragile flora and fauna location of our home, on the fringe of a national park, makes dog ownership an environmental irresponsibility.
    Together with the water-saving shower head I put in, I reckon I qualify for something beyond the \”new\” Corolla…

  2. Melissa Says:

    I wish I was as lucky as you Terri and we would make the upgrade to a two-car family, but alas my environmentally sound (and tight-ass) husband won’t allow it. He says he’s happy to catch the train to work if I need the car. And a good thing it is too. Although I couldn’t justify my extra carbon emissions like you can by not eating meat, I do switch everything off at the powerpoint when not in use, elect to receive all possible bills and statements by email rather than the paper trail, have energy saving light bulbs, water saving shower heads and taps and recycled water. So I feel like I’m doing my bit. Now if I could just convince Pat… my old theory of winning money on the Rich List didn’t work out, so my new plan is to go on “Are you smarter than a 5th grader”. OMG, how easy is that show! If I won $100k like the lady the other night I could buy 2 hybrid cars (and lots of other things) and feel good about myself!

  3. Sandra Says:

    Congrats on the two car up-grade! I can agree with Terri that the train ride to Mount Kuringai (I know that’s spelt wrong!)isn’t the most pleasant. I have done it several times, though not nearly as many as Terri. Although, as us ‘Canadians’ are heading into our winter…I think we would probably have quite different views on what ‘winter’ is at the train stop! :) Enjoy the new wheels!

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