Monday, July 25, 2011

Before we go to the dogs should we not check out the wolves?

NZ in Tranzit goes dancing with the wolves

While Christchurch's once highly admired bus system slips ever further into the mire, human disasters compounding geological disaster, the United Kingdom city Wolverhampton (about 260,000 metropop) has just opened its new 19 loading-bay bus station. 

Costing pounds sterling 22.5 million ($NZ42.6 million at current exchange rates) the bus station includes three enclosed glass concourses feeding onto a system of saw tooth bus docks. In this system, now being widely adopted in many places, arriving buses nose into each small dock, then veer or reverse out once loaded. More effective than it sounds,  I believe saw tooth docks were also planned for the new $119 million underground bus exchange in Christchurch).

In the Wolverhampton model the doors of the concourse appropriate to each loading platform only open when the buses arrive. An artists view of the design is here; more info about the bus station for the wulfrunians and their wandering ilk (local news) here and (BBC) there.

I don't know what bus patronage is like in Wolverhampton but 19 bays sounds a generous amount, even if critics do say a significant number of bus services won't even stop at the new station. For comparison,, in Christchurch a fairly complex bus system was operated from the current Bus Exchange (closed since Feb earthquake) with what amounts to 15 separate loading areas and that includes the adjacent stops for "The Shuttle" on Colombo Street.

A loading area this big in Christchurch could probably sensibly include a long distance and regional coach departure zone, as is done in Hamilton, NZ. Even as a local it is always something of a hassle to find and lug cases to the dispersed departure points of various services departing Christchurch, not quality tourist support, that's for sure.

Without having done any measurements (!) it would seem to me Christchurch could get started with something about the same size, or come in even lower, building in stages, not to over commit until it is seen which way the city is going to go.  By stages I mean not including all extra areas for cafes,shops or a food market, but perhaps a small (but expandable) central atrium, ticket office etc area, and perhaps having some part of loading areas platformed and simply roofed but not fully enclosed (perhaps only used at peak hours Mon-Fri) until the future of the city and patronage demand is better determined.

The Key Government has previously refused to give the Mayor Bob Parker led administration  the extra $21 million to put the proposed new bus exchange building underground - a definite advantage with hundreds of exiting buses a day, but a problem not insurmountable with adjacent road and footpath management strategies. Creating attractively wide, open bright and planted pedestrian underpasses in an area of limited pedestrian traffic anyway, would probably save about $18 million for a starter!

The New Zealand Transport Agency did however already agree to contribute its share, $45m, for the above-ground version of the facility.

Hello, that's funny,  $NZ45 million sounds just about right to emulate Wolverhampton's arrangement,  at no cost to the city! A nice goodwill gesture from the Government given the money being poured into public transport in Auckland and Wellington - the latest another $88 million for trains carrying less than 60% of Christchurch bus patronage. Christchurch could even buy the plans from the UK architects as a starting point for a NZ adapted design (double the thickness and strength of the concrete pillars will you Fred?).
If the project is being built in stages or includes built in lessees for shop space or food concessions etc there may even leave some funding to start adding suburban transfer stations, a real key to cross city mobility.

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