Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wabbit runs amuck in a fruit shop of metaphors!!

Red Bus About to head east from Hornby Mall, to city, New Brighton and Southshore - a meaningless photo not related to the article below!
My thinking is a fruit shop sells a range of fruit and veges - its nice to have a good clean shop, friendly service, good prices etc. But in the end what is being sold in the specific bit of fruit or specific vegetable. If that item is rotten, old, stale, gone sour, it's crap - the shop is selling crap. It doesn't matter how friendly the service; how modern the shop, the product is still crap.
A transit authority exists to provide trips by public transport - it may be "mass" transit but the actual product at bottom line is selling/providing each trip a passenger makes to give him or her the best possible total journey. The bus, tram or train trip itself - each one for each passenger - is the ultimate product. It should be designed with great care and thought (if part of a patterned, same minutes past the hour service, this too should have the same care). How these services interact with every other route is important too - do they serve similar similar functions (run to same point such as city centre), are they pulsed to create an even and consistent frequency; is the ratio of services per hour to the frequency on the shared corridor logical and reasonable; how does this pattern effect transfers at each major junction; what options exist on adjacent routes; how does this effect things if a through route; are these services readable and predictable; are their uncomfortable or danger zones for passengers. 
To get the choicest fruit, great care and commitment to consumer welfare is the bottom line. Needless to say this takes a huge amount of work, particular to schedule driver hours, changeovers, bus movements, within a cost effective framework.  But what is the point of a fruit shop, however flash or fancy, that sells unripe or rotten fruit? 
To the extent these factors are not met, and especially if it appears they could be, a bitter taste is left in the mouth. To rudely discover, for example, under the new Metro schedules that there are nine bus services going up the Papanui Road corridor during the hour 6pm-7pm week nights but despite this, a  seemingly very generous level of service, people coming from work, working late or after work drinks or functions at 6.39pm still have a twenty minute wait to the next service at 6.59pm, is indeed a sour lemon to suck upon. By my calculation, despite the fact that Environment Canterbury is employing, conservatively, $3 million dollars in capital equipment during that hour, bizarrely it is still unable to achieve a reasonable and even spread of services, so that workers can trust there will be a bus as needed, logically every 8 minutes or less.  How can people respect public transport when they get dished up a bowl of apples with rotten fruit in the middle?
Millions of dollars are poured into everything except the product itself - getting schedules organised to a more sophisticated and intelligent level!  The difference between waiting 3 minutes for a bus and 12 minutes is significant; between 10 minutes and 20 minutes very big indeed [suggestion; policy makers, bus operators or planners can test  this easily - wait the times described beside your car door next before you drive off!]. D-Day was the greatest invasion in history but it was a battle won by millions of minutae of getting organisation right, of fighting metre by metre across beach, field and hedgerow. The battle of public transport is fought not  just in grand visions, big projects, flasher buses etc  but in precise minutes, frequency, consistency and reliability. Every little bit is a step forward. Every minute shaved of waiting or journey time is an exponential step towards making public transport a major attractive player in city life; in protecting our prosperity come fuel rises; in trying to modify the effects of global warming, already far beyond anything originally predicted.  The battle for good public transport includes the industry setting bench marks and quality control mechanisms and evaluative filters in place to ensure that stupid anomalies like the disjointed break above do not occur. Nor could the running of bus services to South Christchurch (Beckenham shops, Thorrington, Cashmere Hills, Takahe/Victoria Park areas) on Saturday night and Sundays at virtually simultaneous departure times occur.
When the consumer comes first in transport planner thinking - and every trip is precious, maximised for benefits  - when the fruiterer takes care of every bit of fruit on sale -  running two different routes simultaneously. and in what is de facto an hourly pattern, would and should rightly be booed of the stage, with the rotten fruit coming thick and fast!

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