I drive a car pretty much every day. It is, above all else, an economic decision. It's always cheaper to drive than it is to take public transport - at least it is where I am, with WorstBus offering two rubbish buses into town every hour which are always delayed, take forever and cost an arm and a leg, no trains and no trams.
Still, they're called 'Showcase Buses' - what a wonderfully wizard wheeze! Yes, by magically calling a bus a 'showcase bus', but doing nothing else whatsoever in any way to improve the service - you know, reducing the price, improving the service or any such trifle - that will somehow make everything all right, won't it? Ooh, thank you Mr WorstBus, it's a showcase bus! Wow, I can't wait! I've been completely sucked in by your benevolent brilliance and wonderful branding, and haven't noticed that nothing tangible has changed in the slightest, and will now happily use it all the time instead of my car! Er, except that you don't actually run buses when I need to use them. And at those times I do, they're never there on time, take an age and cost a fortune. It's cheaper to get a taxi, and then I don't have to put up with some bastard child playing music out of their phone's crackly speaker at full volume for the entire fucking journey and then cackling constantly at nothing at all.
It's not that way by accident. Governments are responsible for tax on fuel and the price of public transport. They have decided that motoring should cost less than taking a bus, tram or train. They have decided, also, that it should be cheaper to fly than take a train. They have decided that the best way to improve competitiveness in the free market is to offer companies a total and utter monopoly over the entire bus network in a city so that they can charge whatever the fuck they like and there's nothing the poor raped passengers can do about it - except drive instead, or complain meekly to some bus ombudsman somewhere who will say that everything's hunky dory and brilliant, wearily dictating the letter while reclining on a velvet chaise longue and being fed grapes by a young boy dressed as a gold cherub.
I've tried. Oh god, I've tried. A couple of years ago, I commuted by train. Guess who ran the trains? Yes, it was WorstGroup. Guess what the service was like? Yes, it was like having your nuts stamped on repeatedly by a huge man in spiked shoes. And guess whether it was cheaper to drive or take the train? Of course, it was cheaper to drive. And when you've been rammed into a tiny cattle carriage day after day, had services cancelled and suffered endless and miserable delays, you start to think: what's the fucking point? It would be easier to drive. And nicer. So what if it's not environmentally ethical? I'm going to have a nervous breakdown if I continue being treated so dreadfully all the time.
A delay almost every day. A rammed, sweaty, heaving, unpleasant carriage almost every day. Trains being timetabled earlier and earlier, and journeys taking longer, just so they can pretend they aren't late. And the prices - up by double figures every January, while petrol remained largely the same price. Oh you can complain. I tried. I got a dry-as-a-bone reply blaming the conditions of the franchise for the fact that the train company didn't have enough trains. I think it was in the same week that enormous profits were announced by the company. That didn't sit too easily.
So, now I drive to work. I would say I'm much like other people who have tried commuting, hated it, and made the decision to give up for financial as well as sanity reasons.
So petrol's going up in price - so what? It's still cheaper to drive than it is to take public transport - and let's not forget that, come January, there will be cripplingly enormous hikes in bus and train fares to compensate for increased fuel prices this year. Whatever happens to the price at the pumps, it will always, always, always hit you harder if you travel by bus or train.
It does make me chuckle when I see fuel protests and campaigns from newspapers about 'war on the middle classes' because petrol's gone up in price. Oh blub, blub, blub. I feel so sorry. Know what else has gone up in price? Food. Want to know who's suffering most? The poor in the South, so that unseasonal oranges and strawberries can turn up to feed the rich in the North, who, like babies, demand year-round treats and out-of-season foods and flowers. (That's part of the reason, and there are others of course, including food price speculation and hoarding to rack up prices - but it's much easier for the North to blame the two most populous countries in the world, India and China, for the excesses of the United States and the rich North. So do you hear about unseasonal foods and food speculation? No, you hear about how it's all the dirty Chinese's fault for eating too much meat. Not that we'd ever do the same thing). But no, let's forget about that misery, starvation and hunger. The most important thing is that it's a bit more expensive for the rich to drive from A to B, when commuters and rail and bus passengers have been suffering massive increases for years.
Yes, it's more expensive for the rich to drive than it used to be. It's also more expensive for the poor to eat than it used to be. One of them is a real crisis and a genuine cause for concern. The other is a minor discomfort in an otherwise blissful existence.