Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Time to widen the Metro-city vision at "The Palms" intersection in Shirley, Christchurch

Approaching Marshlands Road heading westwards [The Palms out of sight on right hand side of road]  - a rare opportunity may exist to widen New Brighton Road by four or five metres and create a bus transfer station (mostly on sunny side of road) in a location that EVERY northeastern bus route can use. Also a "queue jumper lane" taking most buses straight through intersection shown ahead, no queueing no stopping, most trips. ("Somewhere , under the rainbow ....") Photo NZ in Tranzit

Among the more bizarre facets of Council/Ecan policy has been only to build bus lanes where they do not to make too much significant difference! Some of this - the "no-no" politics of dragging bus lanes through built up suburban retail areas, such as Victoria Street, Merivale, Papanui, is understandable. But why did the bus lanes coming in along from New Brighton Road, stop back at Ajax Street corner, leaving buses to queue amongst cars to get across the Marshland Road/North Parade Corner ?

Surely both sides of this intersection [east and west] could have been designed to include an extra bus only lane (straight ahead) with traffic light priority. This is important because about 18 plus buses, per weekday hour on 5 different routes (including The Orbiter and Metrostar) cross this intersection.

If this amount of bus traffic is not candidate for bus priority it is hard to know what would be?

It seems to me viewed across a couple of years PQ* there was always room to negotiate a road widening to give buses a queue jumper lane. About half dozen properties, south side of New Brighton Road, preceding this intersection are either car parks for church properties (in an area with many car parks, especially after hours), completely empty land or older and obvious rental houses. This potential to purchase the frontal boundary areas and to widen the road has now been consolidated by the loss of the rather squat ugly church tower that used to stand on the New Brighton Road/North Parade corner. This collapsed in the Feb earthquake and has since been demolished. My guess is that it is very unlikely this "un-inspired" tower will be rebuilt, opening up possibility of widening this section of road/cycle lane/potential bus lane by up to 5 metres.
The advantages of developing this area for transit, is that by looping buses currently running up and down Marshlands Road, eastwards south of Shirley Lodge onto Golf Links Road, travelling down behind The Palms  and then onto New Brighton Road facing west EVERY bus route serving this area - and indeed all of northeast Christchurch - can run through the same Hop off-Hop on stops, a true transfer station with all set down points sharing (a) an outbound platform or (b) an  inbound platform. This multi-route hub could include in one immediate area the following routes (if they all survive the chopper in August) The Orbiter, Metrostar, 70 Queenspark, 60 Parklands, 480 Kainga, 45 Northshore and 46 something or other.

To me, there is little point in the city and Metro continuing to pretend - as they seem to year after year - that they intend to built suburban transfer stations if different bus routes stop hundreds of yards away from each as is current at "The Palms" corner! Not to mentioned separated by very broad, very busy roads, a pain to negotiate even if able bodied and the weather is not inclement.

A bus exchange where all services arrive and depart from the same location, which offers real time, enclosed seating, outside landscaped seating areas, toilets, possibly coffee and other services is so much more attractive and reliable.

In the past I have put forward rather "Acklandish"**  concepts for transfer stations in this blog - of huge blocks of concrete and steel, with over bridges or underpasses  but I am moving away from this alien stuff!

Seeing a two storey art deco or 1930s "moderne" style house amidst these older rental properties makes me think why not buy and restore this building this to create a stylish character transfer station,  with  giant tiled- piazza loading zone platforms area across part of New Brighton Road between the the two sets of lights (Marshlands Rd/Golf links Rd on New Brighton Road). And narrowed and reduced speed lanes for cars passing through this bus zone.

Yes Christchurch motorists, we are could have some go slower transit zones - (with restricted "slow" lanes, bedstead fenced off from jay walking, security for private through vehicles and speed spotter cameras a norm) -get over it.

It is far cheaper, and with landscaping, cafe and attractive waiting areas, far more "kiwi lifestyle" friendly that big Auckland style lumps of concrete.

Every transfer station could have a distinctive character building (building already on site or moved on) represented by a style of  domestic architecture of the last 150 years; a mixture of pleasant inside/outside areas to wait and artistic works in concrete or vandal proof material to match the house in imagery and style. For instance the moderne style at Shirley could be complemented by a relief sculpture based on a New Zealand version of the 1930s stylised streamlined bus logos and (of course) the vaguely deco Florida quality of Palm trees implicit The Palms logo style. I also see art nouveau in a 1912 (?) house at New Brighton - a purpose built property at the back of Eastgate ....

* PQ = pre major earthquakes

** Aucklandish = the belief that size does count ! Especially when seeking funding for projects.

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