Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Governors Bay bus service proposal - Over the hill but not far enough?

Metro is currently hoping to establish a bus service to Governors Bay, a pocket of housing at the top of the Lyttelton Harbour, currently only serviced by a school bus, up and down the steep hill road to the nearest city high school. This will involve all residents paying a separate transport rate on the regional council rates, as do most urban areas in Christchurch and adjoining districts already. It is by no means certain it will go ahead, relying upon local agreement. I have driven over that spectacular steep, hairpin road about 900 times in my life, as a "two half day tours a day" city sightseeing bus driver and commentator so it does feel very familiar territory to me. Needless to say I couldn't resist sticking my twitchy rabbity nose into the issue!

The spectacular alpine style Dyers Pass Road  linking Governors Bay and the top of Lyttelton Harbour with the city

Below I share my submission with the world at large - unlikely to make any dent, but I'll circulate an invitation to read this posting to local worthies and elected officials, as I do, so they can decide for themselves, at least are aware of this option if it has not already been raised and rejected. Usually such submissions disappear without trace or comment and for all I know are given a 10 second glance by a junior planner with absolutely no knowledge of Christchurch, and then biffed aside. However Ecan has no systematic protocols or process for handling submissions in a diplomatic and thoughtful way to those who have bothered to contribute. Even a little pro forma letter with a tick box for reasions for rejection "Fell outside present budget" "Not technically possible" "Was not supported by majority of other submissions" etc might go along way in public relations. I should know. I have put forward about eighty submissions and suggestions on public transport issues since 1981 to about six different organisations. I have only seen one directly taken up [clumsily] and about three ideas I've put forward not in the original proposal adopted in some vaguely similar manner, which may have been a result of my submission, or may not. You certainly don't do busspotting for money, glory or sense of satisfaction in playing a role in improving public transport!! The good side of this equation is once you realise nothing moves the heart or head of city hall you can get incredibly case hardened and poke your nose in everywhere, even dress up as a rabbit !!
In the end like some old worlde prophet the only place left to stand is to "Bear witness" say what you believe is true because that's what you do. (Bloody hell so now I have to dress as a bear!!)
At least the public may have a wider view, perhaps get a more sophisticated view of transit, and demand more. Building a better saner, world bus stop by bus stop! Yay!

Enough of such nonsense, if you live in Governors Bay or on the Cashmere Hills (with the appalling,shameful Saturday night and Sunday bus services!) you might find this idea of interest. Or maybe it was put forward and rejected by locals or can't be done without huge added costs, or a myriad of other factors. There can be a lot of reasons suggestions might be rejected, one of them of course is that bureaucrats may have thin egos, or there just was not the local pressure from passengers and residents to make the extra effort of adjusting plans worthwhile!

[ Note; Original submission slightly altered to aid clarification for readers outside Christchurch]

Re Proposed Governors Bay Service

I think it is a great pity that the proposed service does not run to and from Barrington Mall which is a far more significant terminus and transfer point than the corner of Barrington Street and Cashmere Road [a roundabout and nothing else - Barrington Mall is in a straight line about 2km away from the proposed terminus]. Transfers as suggested [route bus 14 en route waits for the arrival of the service from Governors Bay etc] are terribly clumsy and in my experience as a former bus driver prone to delays, annoying for passengers on either service or both. Running to the Mall represents a more open and fluid transfer point, with more options for passengers to vary plans or places to wait (cafes, bars, library) wait if a longer gap occurs, or for friends to pick them up or drop them off. 

Running services to Barrington Mall would also allow a larger more frequent range of services that patrons travelling from the city could use to arrive at the transfer point (8,11, fairly direct services via Colombo St and Milton St, and 20 via Antigua St and Selwyn Shops, 22 via ChCh Public Hospital and Addington) and from more diverse locations e.g. also includes Christchurch Public Hospital via 22; Moorhouse Avenue area 20 etc. The best match arrival time for these services could be included in the Governors Bay Timetable (in the same way as 5 Hornby arrivals are listed and matched on the timetable for services departing Hornby to Rolleston [a shuttle service that does not run right into the city]. Running the Governors Bay service to Barrington Mall  would also offer more straight forward direct access to Addington, Riccarton and the University via The Orbiter route, voiding the extended dog leg of travelling via Princess Margaret Hospital and Hoon Hay before getting back to Barrington Mall.

A further factor is that running to Barrington Mall would allow residents from Governors Bay - and from the Cashmere Hill area as well -  direct access to a major suburban hub point with supermarket, doctors, dentists, library etc, many services in one place.  without having to go into the city centre. Or the same facilities at the very point where the journey is broken, and the transfer from one service to another carried out.  In contrast, as currently proposed,  those Governors Bay residents working in the city wishing to use a Supermarket on Colombo Street (Countdown for instance) on their way home from work will have to travel on bus A to that point; do their shopping making sure they are finished in time to catch bus B; travel on bus B to the to Barrington St/Cashmere Rd roundabout and transfer themselves and shopping bags onto bus C to Governors Bay…a very clumsy and unattractive alternative.

A third factor is running this service to Barrington Mall also opens up direct access options for city residents, to access Victoria Park, Sign of the Takahe, and/or bus to the Sign of the Kiwi and walk back down via walking tracks etc, as well as travel to Governors Bay itself for picnics, fishing and swimming. The departure point for this service proposed in this submission, Barrington Mall is directly accessible by routes coming from 7 different directions. 

This extension in my eyes would make the service hugely more useful (including picking up extra passengers to Barrington Mall off the hill suburbs) and feel more professional looking if it runs to and from a major transfer point. I realise this extra leg might require an extra 6-8 minutes (that is, to travel from proposed terminus on Cashmere Road to Barrington Mall and back) and might not be possible in a regular hourly pattern return circuit with only one vehicle. One option I suggest that could be considered might be to splay the departure times in a consistent and reasonably memorable way – not ideal but all things weighed together a fairly attractive marketable service.

E.g. 9.10 10.20 11.30 12.40 1.50 3.00 4.10 5.20 etc

[Note to blog readers; This system of splaying (a service every 70 minutes) is the next best thing after same minutes past hour for memorability. If you know the bus leaves at 9.10 and every one hour ten minutes there after, you know the timetable for the whole day, and indeed most times are directly remembered after only half a dozen uses just because there is an inherent logic - an example of the symetry referred to in a previous posting

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