Friday, September 25, 2009

QEII and the North Eastern Bus Review (debacle)

Unquestionably the most glaring gap in current eastern and north-eastern suburb bus services is lack of community access to QEII. This is the premier recreation and sporting facility on the eastern side of town, deliberately built in the east (amidst great controversy) in the early 1970s to give residents in this area facilities on par with other parts of Christchurch. Averaged across all attendance at facilities and all events during the year about 19,000 people a week use QEII. This includes an unusually high portion of bus dependent people among regular users (I was told in March 2006, in response to a phone enquiry that 8000 independent children had visited the pool complex the previous month). The complex is also used casually, or for training and courses, by many older people and young mothers with children. Presumably most these QEII users drive there or are dropped off by parents or friends.


This facility and events there are currently only directly served by two routes (83 New Brighton via Burwood and Metrostar), both well patronised at the QEII stop, which bizarrely follow identical route corridors for about 5 or 6km through a small sliver of the North-Eastern areas. Additional inadequate and inferior service (bus stops 800 metres and 1 kilometre away respectively) are offered by Route 70 Queenspark (15 minute day service) and (hourly) 49 North Shore.


The latter, 49 North Shore route,  is the ONLY direct connection between the east side south of the Avon, and Eastgate, and QEII. In the current (2nd round) of the North Eastern Bus Services review Metro is proposing to chop this connection completely!


I have campaigned for over six years, and in submissions to several reviews, to have 84 route (through Avonside and Avondale to New Brighton) hooked around past QEII which connect these areas to QEII with a 30 minute service. Also for 49 North Shore to be hooked around past QEII front entrance, and to continue down Wainoni Road - in my latest submission suggesting (apart from a few more direct peak hour services via Wanoni Rd only) that this route travel from Waninoni Road down Breezes Road to the Rowses Road enclave, south of Pages Rd, with no current bus service,  before travelling back up Shortland St and onto Pages Rd, to Eastgate and the city. In this current review I have also suggested 83 New Brighton Burwood, turn north at the Travis/Bower intersection and travel up past Parklands shopping centre, then back onto Mairehau Road and across to Burwood Hospital via Tumara Park (again with a peak hour variation running directly from Tumara Park via Mairehau Road and Frosts Road to rejoin the normal Burwood route at Anzac Avenue roundabout). Access to Burwood Hospital is currently very limited - 60 routes skirts the east - and this added connection through the central east, and the transfer point offered at QEII, opens up access for workers and visitors alike. Currently 83 duplicates much of both the route and functions of the Metrostar without significant added benefits. In this suggestion duplication enriches Parklands (extra services, plus access to the hospital westwards, QEII and Dallington, when heading townwards. Additional services/travel direction options for Parklands and a new service to Tumara Park seems a fairer service spread and distribution than having six routes terminate at NewBrighton and  only one in the substantial residential area around Parklands. [I also suggested 51 Aranui route run along Eureka Street to Soberton St and then back via Carisbrooke to the present exit onto Pages Road via Portsmouth St, to give a more comitted coverage and straighter running route to the Aranui enclave eastern area]


Over-all these are not big changes, will require only few more buses fed into the pattern of existing routes to cover slightly longer distances on what are already lengthy through routes. Nor will they effect few downstream patrons, closer to the city, in city access and travel time. On the other hand they will link thse routes in reverse direction, and almost the whole eastside,  to QEII. This pattern, minor changes to two routes (49,84), major change to the last section of one other (83), represents a modest level of growth (perhaps less than 4% in added mileage and vehicle requirements, measured across all eastern services) but delivers startlingly better services. As well as access to QEII itself, these patterns connect almost the whole eastside to a transfer point at QEII from which the whole "far east" side can be accessed - arrive from one direction and depart in any one of seven other different directions. New Brighton undoubtably needs an attractive multi-service terminus, but in the end QEII is a far more pivotal location for many transfers. In routes radiating out from QEII - if the pattern I put forward was adopted - it is literally the "star" of the east. CCC plans are to put traffic lights on the QEII exit on Travis Road and a through road past the main QEII building. If his is done it would offer an excellent opportunity to create a quality, high profile, enclosed waiting room and safe transfer point, with extend platforms to also load large numbers after major events.


Inherent in these ideas (which took several years of tossing around thousands of variables ) is a multitude of improved community connections in general - Tumara Park connection to shops, library and community facilities at Parklands, and Tumara Park and Parklands doorstop access to QEII; most of North New Brighton and Wainoni connected directly to Cowles Stadium, Nga Hau e Wha and the Supershed, as well as Aranui High, Pak'N'Save and Eastgate. Rowses Road enclave given direct 30 minute frequency access to Eastgate and the City, or north to QEII and the north beach areas in summer. Avonside Girls High, Linwood College, Aranui High and Chisnalwood all given direct (no transfer needed) access to QEII for smaller groups or after-school training and recreation.  Doorstop access from the sizeable Kate Shepherd retirement complex not just to The Palms, as now, but also to QEII, North Beach, New Brighton and Eastgate areas.


Not least the 49 in this variation offers a central eastern suburbs north -south axis route - from Rowses Road up Breezes Road, Wainoni Road and to QEII which allows people to visit friends, attend events on both sides of the Avon without the (absurdly clumsy) necessity of travelling out to New Brighton or back to the Bus Exchange to transfer, and travel back to where they want to go. It is a community connection uniting the central areas of the east, some compensation for the same cross radial route played by The Orbiter in other parts of the city.


I don't think it is egotism to say these are vastly more effective use of resources than the current (round 2) proposals of Metro to run 49 North Shore across to The Palms, etc - virtually duplicating routes that are accessible within almost every area of the North East at less than five minutes walk (routes with more attractive 15 minute frequencies). The whole pattern lacks sense, offering neither effective community connections nor good direct peak hour commuter routes.  Routes 49 and 46 offer inferior city access services that follow absurdly elongated or circuitous routes to get to the city via (bloody hell!) St Albans. Metro's current proposals will further concentrate services along New Brighton Road, Travis Road and Shirley Road, pointlessly over bussing well serviced areas. Cutting services by 50% on Burwood Road and Lake Terrace Road is hardly improving services! Minimal gains achieved at the expense of depriving other eastern areas of better service depth and options.


Metro response to the ideas I have put forward (above) across six years have usually been nil, no response at all (as well as lacking any carefully thought through or coherent strategy for enhancing bus services in the east,  Metro also lacks any standardised criteria for evaluating, or decent protocols for responding to, suggestions and submissions) I believe the main reason for keeping 84 and 83 both terminating at New Brighton, even though it means thousands of trips a year merely duplicate services between Windsor Shops (New Brighton Road ) and New Brighton, is for the administrative convenience and economy of tendering bus routes as sets (allowing drivers or buses to swap from one route to another at the terminus). My attitude is services must be planned around consumer needs, built to best possible options for community and commuter mobility, and then the way contracts are tendered is configured around that. The irony of Metros refusal to ever consider ideas raised here (some two or three times) is that a proper transfer station a QEII might vastly increase options for switching drivers outside peak hours (or even having staff lunchrooms there) allowing much more flexibility for bus companies in scheduling, vehicle and staff use.

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