Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Right on New Brighton

"Pegasus Post" - a well known flying horse that is also part of the stable of suburban giveaway newspapers managed by The [Christchurch] Star - has an an article in the  4th July 2010 issue (p3) saying Christchurch City Council is looking at moving New Brighton up the priority ranking for a suburban bus stations. Certainly some improved shelter, and re-organisation of stops and bus movement patterns is needed, even if funding for stations seems a bit sparse in the present climate.  In a previous post I have suggested amlagamating design for a  local bus station with the recently purchased Community Board room.

Buses huddling in public carpark on the ramp at New Brighton ........or hunkering..

 down beside the Esplanade Hotel, random parking to access public toilets and take recovery time

Let's face it, New Brighton can be a bloody cold hole, more so I suspect for those that don't live there. Residents do seem to get many more calm mornings and calm evenings, or build their houses to create sheltered decks, patios or balconies against the wind. Most visitors typically don't arrive to after 9.30 am by which time the "fresh" on-shore wind is powering up.  Most visitors come only during the day when this very cool breeze cuts through the sinuses and bone marrow with equal enthusiasm. It is a wind every Christchurch resident knows and loves but is never more vicious in its cold bite than as it first hits the shoreline. The very busy library built on the sand aside there is precious few places to go to get out of the wind ubless purchasing food.  Nor have really adequate bus shelters have been put up to try to make life a bit more bearable to passengers of the seven bus routes servicing New Brighton. To be sure, to be sure, there are nice modern standard bus shelters at New Brighton but their location is not sympathetic  (of the two main in-stops one is in the "three season winter icy permashade" of a former movie theatre (and still often windy!); the other is way out in the open beside a carpark, miles away from any windblocking buildings or walls. After dark the Oram Avenue stop, opposite a bottle store and adjacent to the rear of two pubs, is far from an ideal location, particularly given the poor co-ordination of evening departures

Oram Avenue Stop - central but usually shaded, often cold and windy, vulnerable at night

Having spent many hours of my life (all minutes added together) waiting at these stops I'd be a mug to oppose any move to get a proper bus station. And good on the Community Board and a local MP who are pro-actively seeking to improve the quality of local bus services rather than just evaluating whatever the Council or Ecan have doled up.

However the more immediate priorities I see at New Brighton are to get the 5 and 40 routes to run in an alternating pattern (as they used to do) in effect so both routes offer between them a fast and frequent service to Eastgate and the city eight times an hour. And indeed this is what has happened in the recent route and timetable changes!!! The current middle of the day pattern = via route 5 (Pages Road) 02 17 32 and 47 past the hour,  and after recent changes = via 40 (Wainoni Road) 12 27 42 and 57  past the hour ....or combined, departing New Brighton for city direct 02 12 17 27 32 42 47 57.. passengers never need wait more than 10 minutes and 66% of the time wait less than 5 minutes! Yippee!! Route 40 takes about 3 or 4 minutes longer - so whose counting? It is fast and direct. Alas at night what could and should be a consistent 15 minute service reverts back to the "same old same old" overlapping and duplication of services  - a combination  02 04  32 34 pattern - de facto for many residents or travellers to the city or Linwood - four buses to deliver two services! Another outrageous waste of the taxes we pay Environment Canterbury!! (Why 40 routre which only runs to Parkside (i.e CBD, is not a linked through route) should have to run on the same unfortunate times as 5 route is obscure, particularly as outbound departures, 40 and 5,  from the city are also erratically spread).

Another priority, one so many people talk about and yet nothing ever gets done. I filled out an on-line suggestion form on the Council pages some years ago and it disappeared without trace. I never heard a squeak - is it still floating around a satellite in space??  This second priority of which I speak is to put a bus stop immediately opposite the supermarket in Hawke Street - a bus stop for dropping Metrostar passengers off  at the back of the New Brighton Club - the natural and logical "arrive at the beach" stop. This also offers easy simple and easy access to four of the  local facilities  with the greatest foot traffic viz the supermarket; the New Brighton Club; the beach and playground; and the landmark "ocean liner" style library) ; add and another bus stop opposite, heading back towards town on the other side of the road, an easy  trolley's push distance from the supermarket entrance - passengers can transfer shopping bags without even removing trolley from carpark. . These bus stops would primarily serve the Metrostar - although I also personally think 84 route should enter New Brighton this way as both routes serve a common North New Brighton catchment area between Bower Avenue and Keyes Road area.

How can a bus service be supportive and offer quality access to the elderly - and everybody else - if it drives right past the only local supermarket and then doesn't stop until over half a a kilometre away? "Doing bus well"  to me is all about big vision, clear strategy but also as former New York Mayor Giuliani recently told a Canadian small city Yes, do sweat the small stuff.  
It is precisely in the commitment to details one finds the the quality finish. While each single bus and its route timing and stop locations can't please everybody, it is falls short of public service to ignore high demand locations that are both regular user friendly and stranger friendly.  Imagine the Countdown supermarket itself saying "Patrons must park cars 250 metres away from the entrance, in Hawke Street up near the school,  or about 350 kms away, around in Oram Avenue."  Of course they don't - so why should a committed and caring public transport system?

It is stretching it to call New Brighton a priority in terms of passenger movements or transfers (compared to say Westfield or The Palms)  but it is a major terminal point for over 800 bus services a day, where drivers need safe park up place with immediate toilets [possibly a vestibule with hot drink making facilities] after long cross town runs; where adjacent residents need an organised bus movement pattern (spreading the stress load evenly ); and passengers need more and better shelter from the elements

A bus station at New Brighton is a good call and, the most the important thing -  it is a call being made!  

Contrary to huge silence on many other public transport issues.

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