dalekboy (dalekboy) wrote,

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Perception Shift - Car VS Plane from Canberra to Melbourne

I meant to put this post up a few weeks back, but now is more topical, I think.

I'm heading down to Melbourne in a few days to go to the Discworld convention.

Now I had wondered about flying down. It's quicker, easier and is less likely to knock me about. And if over time I get to a point where driving is too difficult then I'll have to look at my options. Looking at my options will include looking at the financial side and the greenhouse impact. As I just said in someone else's LJ, you want the governments to change their ways, you have to change first, and make a bit of noise about it. It's only when they see that it's a political issue that they'll act definitively.

After my recent trip to Parkes, I had a good idea of travel time, the fuel consumption of my car, what that worked out to in a dollar amount, etc. So before I look at the cost to the planet for a single trip to Melbourne, let's just look at the time and money going one way.


This will cost about $55 in petrol and LPG, with me doing approximately 3/4 to 4/5 on LPG. Let's assume I'm having a good day and say it'll take me about 9.5 hours with breaks to get to Melbourne. I'll probably grab something to eat or drink on the way, so let's say that costs me another $20.

So $75 and 9.5 hours travel

For the aeronautical trip there are a few variations, but let's assume that instead of the $110 I paid last time, I've kept my eyes open for cheap flights and gotten one of the rare $75 ones.

Using that as a starting point, it's only a 1 hour flight to Melbourne, it's cost me the same, bargain!

But wait.

I have to be at the airport at least 30 minutes before the flight. Chances are I'll be there 45 min before departure time, maybe more. At the other end there will probably be another half-hour to collect luggage. There's another 1.25 hours.

So, $75 and 2.25 hours, if I live right next to the airport and don't have to travel far from Tullamarine.

Variation One

I still need to get to and from the airport. That's probably a total travel time of 1 hour. We'll assume that I didn't eat or drink anything at the airport or on the plane, since I know it'll be overpriced and I won't have to hold out long. Oh, and there will likely be airport carpark fees at both ends, say $10 total. I haven't paid whoever drove me for petrol because I'm a cheap bastard.

V1 gives us $85 and 3.25 hours travel. Still not bad.

Variation Two

I get a taxi at both ends, because my friends are all busy or nobody likes me. Assuming I don't have a wait for the taxis, the time spent doesn't go up. Let's be conservative and say that the taxis in total have only cost $60.

V2 is $135 and 3.25 hours travel. Okay, that's blown the cheapness out of the water, but it's still only taking me a third of the time. So long as my taxis are prompt or waiting, there aren't any flight delays, etc.

Variation Three

This is what I did last time I did a trip to Melbourne. The flight was at noon.

Bus into the city, then bus to airport. With walking to and between buses, and waiting times it took me a total of 2.5 hours to get there an hour before my flight. I could have gotten there half an hour before, but if I had been delayed or missed one connection, I would either have had to get a taxi or missed my flight.

At the other end, bus from airport into city, then train, then another bus to get to Tiki's. With waiting times we were looking at another 1.5 hours.

Then there's the extra cost involved. I'm a concession, so public transport at either end, plus Airbus ($7 Can) and Skybus ($15 Melb) ends up costing a total of around $25. Plus I got hungry and thirsty, so there was another $15.

V3 = $115 and 6 hours travel time. I think I actually had longer waits, and I possibly spent more, but these are conservative estimates based on a $75 economy fare, rather than the more common $99-$150.

In terms of my actual original airfare and travel time for value, we're talking double the cost of driving for a saving of only one-third the travel time. So for me, the saving of $75 for an extra three or so hours of travel makes it very much more worthwhile to drive.

Plus, on a personal level, I get the joys (or hassles) of really travelling. Seeing different places and people, experiencing the country, getting a feel for what it's actually like outside the small part of Australia that I inhabit.

Then there's an economic argument for car travel - the money I spend on petrol, food, accommodation if I stay somewhere, mostly goes into a local economy.

Small towns in Australia need our cash way more than huge airline companies.

Greenhouse Cost

Now these are pretty approximate, based on figures only from the calculator from Carbon Neutral. If people want to point me towards other or better calculators for cars/planes over a set distance, then please do.

Just looking at the pure impact of the petrol/airfuel consumed, it's actually a pretty close race.

1970's Holden with single passenger running on 20% petrol/80% LPG = 0.17 tonnes of Greenhouse waste.

Average Plane running at 80% passenger capacity = 0.16 tonnes per person of Greenhouse waste products.

Of course, the plane gets to fly direct so only goes about two-thirds the actual distance. And if there are two people in the car, or less people in the plane, the car wins out.


There are plenty of good reasons to fly or drive between cities, but before you do, you may want to take in all the factors. Sometimes when the bargain seems too good, it pays to have another look.
Tags: article, australia, belwood, greenhouse, serious thoughts, travel

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