Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is this the weakest LINK?

"This three hour journey illustrates the huge difficulty of moving around the city with some routes missing or deviated and where it is necessary not only to make a transfer but often TWO transfers.   The need for quite a few passengers to make two transfers is implicit in the current pattern of two city terminii linked by a shuttle service". 

Bus in livery of The Orbiter service in drag as the Link Service, not long after services resumed

One of the new Selwyn Star buses at Hagley Avenue temporary "Exchange" point - but
how  many passengers coming from Northern suburbs may be missing connections to
 services like this for lack of more frequent connector services? Repeated for all routes?

Top marks to Metro for getting a bus service up and running, despite loss of access to central city areas, so soon after Q2-22.

That's the gratitude bit done (genuine). Now that life is coming backing to normal for more and more people, including for myself, and we are using buses most days, what seemed great in emergency is looking a little less impressive on a day to day usage basis. The grumbles start (also genuine!) 

A couple of weeks back I finished work at New Brighton 3pm on a Sunday and set out to make a previously arranged visit to a friend in Diamond Harbour. The service across the harbour is a great service, the ferries are modern and efficient, with the huge engines and very stable twin hull inspiring confidence and making for a very (very!) fast trip of only 10 minutes. On Sundays these boats only run every hour and Lyttelton No 28 buses only run half hourly. Unfortunately I missed both direct buses 5 and 40 from New Brighton to the - temporary -  Bus Exchange.

As usual,  same old same Metro style, even an quake has not shaken this up  - these two services with almost identical catchments were both timed to depart New Brighton at virtually identical times Route 5 at 50 minutes past the hour from Southshore and [no time was supplied at that stage] presumably at 3.00 pm or 3.02 pm at New Brighton; Route 40 at 3.05 pm from New Brighton. Missing both buses, so tight 'after the hour' for workers who can't always get away spot on time, meant I missed the connecting bus, Route 28 Lytteton from the temporary "bus exchange" on Hagley Avenue departing at 4pm. This in turn meant instead of connecting to the Diamond Harbour Ferry departing Lyttelton at 4.40pm my whole schedule was pushed back and I had to catch a later 28 bus and the 5.40pm ferry. In short a journey of less than 10 kilometres - but vitally depending on a harbour crossing took 3 hours!!

Under normal service conditions additional services ex New Brighton (51, 84,83 )  to the Bus Exchange (or Colombo St North of the Square) or Route 35 to Lyttelton via Eastgate (not operative yet) would probably have offered alternatives. But with the only other service out of New Brighton Route 60 running to Bealey Avenue departing at 15 past but taking 40 minutes, and then a Link service needed to the 28 stop, the minute I saw the back of the 40 bus driving away spot on time at New Brighton I knew I was stymied! I knew instantly I was in for a long journey, long waits with few facilities open anywhere, and an hour later arrival than planned.

I don't want to moan or overstate this too much - Sunday travel dependent on a harbour crossing which can not be replicated by a bus route is always difficult (for instance catching a different route and walking an extra ten minutes cross the burbs is not possible in this situation). But for me this incredible chunk of time to travel a relatively short distance emphasizes terrific downgrade of services caused in part by the earthquake. On a lesser scale it happens just about everytime it is necessary to use three buses.  This three hour journey illustrates the huge difficulty of moving around the city with some routes missing or deviated and where it is necessary not only to make transfers, but often two transfers. Indeed the need for quite a few passengers to make TWO transfers is implicit in the current pattern of two city terminii linked by a shuttle service.

Many people arriving at one or other of the temporary transfer points Bealey Avenue and the Public Hospital at Hagley Avenue anyway will have to wait upto 15 minutes for a shuttle Link service to arrive; when they arrive at the opposite transfer point they may have missed the bus on the route they wish to swap onto; with almost no services back to a 15 minute headway pattern this means a further wait of up to 30 minutes or in some cases or on Sundays up to an hour!  As with my story above, when multiple transfers are involved a few minutes lost time can quickly becomes hours wasted if connections don't line up. 

Clearly this sort of thing can not be entirely avoided but upgrading the Link service to a service every seven and half minutes minutes would seem to me to make a huge difference for many people, either connecting more readily to their preferred route or increasing the options to take an alternative route from which they can also walk (a bit further) to arrive at their destination. Quite apart from long term needs for a more adequate temporary set-up for winter,  I can see many many people trying to avoid bus use if this huge potential for very long waits remains.

I would imagine doubling the regularity would only require an increase in 2 or 3 buses used - what a pity Metro sells its emergency service, its temporary service, so short on potential quality all for the sake of a missing Link or two, all to save money on a tiny percentile of bus trips being made. It is costing I suspect the loss of  thousands of patrons a week and costing thousands of hours a week in lost travelling time for those who chose to (or have to) stick with buses.

Every transfer is a chance to miss a bus and have a long wait. Minimizing the potential for missed connection  and maximizing options would seem to me to be the crucial strategy in a bus network currently operating with a metaphorical faultline down the middle!

1 comment:

  1. Can't "follow" you, but added RSS...

    Great blog - been reading with interest. You are right though - the last EQ has changed the ball park dramatically and will change our city structure, needs, roads, and create new problems. Good to hear perspective from a local bus user..