"BUS EXCHANGE" at Parkside; A welcome emergency response in the weeks after the devastating Feb 22nd earthquake - three months later Metro's strategy of service cuts, complicated transfers and funny exposed "Bus Exchanges" is looking distinctly shabby and proving too clumsy in use for many patrons.
Utilising the broad area of roading in Deans Avenue (south end- back of Hagley Park) in front of the old stock saleyards would appear to provide a far more effective bus exchange than the present two bit system.
It would allow all through routes to be linked back together again, with stops facing in a natural direction. There would no longer need to be the current time-wasting temporary loops around South Hagley Park. As far as I can figure out all city-suburb routes could be adapted to "seamlessly" run through this common point, with minimum route change. Using Deans Avenue would eliminate the need for two exchange points (and patrons to having to make three or even four transfer journeys - a lottery with few winners!).
With more loading space (and bus parking) space it would be possible to resume 15 minute services on routes such Lyttelton, Halswell, Queenspark. Restoring the 40 Wainoni route to a 15 minute service would be a welcomed act as no other routes currently serve this general area (one of the worst quake effected) and it is one of the few routes with an open and bus accessible supermarkets.
At Deans Avenue there could dedicated passenger loading bays with routes grouped logically - WEST, EAST, NORTH, SOUTH , and signage with each set of routes listed underneath and a dedicated real time sign. Sufficient space might also exist to allow a departure bay for long distance coaches and shuttles, also displaced from the city. And of course there would be space for coffee wagons, a mobile food outlet or a convenience shop type portacom. might be possible.
This large area would allow sufficient space, with appropriate portable traffic and pedestrian management devices to channel through traffic (cars etc) down to two lanes at 20 kmh. Walls of containers or the walls of the old Saleyard building would provide added general area shelter using large scaffolding with roofs above waiting areas or commercial large tents [as per Fire Station shown in the last NZ in Tranzit posting] might also be used.
A key aspect would be having big floodlights and other lighting - in a gloomy and stressful, winter darkness, post-quake situation bright lights would offer a lift to spirits as well as a necessary security device. Lighting the park-land immediately adjacent may also avoid behaviour problems amongst some youth.
With a well lit securely fenced and controlled area, it would be possible to resume late night services. Three months down the track people who depend upon buses (including students, younger people, people with disabilities etc) are being held to a curfew by early finish Metro policies that make a fuller evening social life difficult.
The area described is well away from housing, or immediate retail space, some office space is too peripheral to be seriously effected. No potentially dangerous higher buildings are in the area, nor any major demolition works The amount of buses on Deans Avenue at this section even with return to greater frequencies on some routes would be little more than present, with many routes in the current truncated system having to loop twice around this road.
On the surface it seems counter-intuitive to move the Bus Exchange so far out from the centre, but as city streets become safe to use, routes using those streets can travel tofro Deans Avenue Bus Exchange via these same central city streets and load and drop off at the normal city bus stops that are accessible, - nothing is really lost. The current loop around the park offers a convenient terminus for suburb-city routes whilst maintaining a steady flow from Hospital corner.
The free Shuttle could be restablished around safe perimeter CBD streets, for the local residents, in inner city areas, and many businesses and retail outklets immediately outside the corden that have resumed. This Shuttle could include a loop via the Deans Avenue Exchange.
Perhaps this idea is unworkable for some reason. But it certainly seems a lot more attractive than the current shambles, with significant service-frequencies reductions; with complex and often hugely time consuming journeys involving multiple transfers at different locations required; with services terminating too early to enjoy a reasonable night-out.
This centralised-in-one-safe-location Bus Exchange has potential to offer better shelter and be a bright well maintained area, with toilets, food, info and even long distance bus connections, a boost to morale rather than the depressing dead dog on the side of the road sort of situation!
The Press back on 1st April 2011 reported Ecan Commissioner Rex Williams as saying that " it would be at least another month before there was sufficient "stability" in demand for buses for route planning to be done. He said traffic patterns had been unpredictable, especially straight after the February 22 quake, when schools and universities were closed and many businesses were seeking alternative premises. "It has been quite difficult," he said. "It's important to keep people in the habit of using the buses."
It's two months later Rex and the service is certainly not winning any awards! The Deans Avenue site appears to have many advantages as a 12 month (or whatever) Bus Exchange site - not least in outer areas across the whole city that will benefit from resumption of normal frequency made possible.
But if Deans Avenue is not a goer I think it is well overdue for Metro and the Council to come up with a game plan that IS workable.