Saturday, August 28, 2010

Food for thought in new Christchurch Transport Exchange design?

Christchurch's new bus exchange will doubtless be a little more modest
than Antwerp Centraal Station, the grand stack above, but making life
easier for bus users by including the full range of facilites needs to
be acommitted goal from the start. 

Recently I have made several references to having shops and in particular a small supermarket built into or adjoining the new Christchurch bus exchange.

My motivation for this began a few years ago after reading comments by Hobart geographer and urban transport researcher Bob Cotgrove.  

"The mistake people continually make is thinking people who drive cars can make the same journey by public transport," he said. "It's not true. Some people can, those who work in the city and stay all day, but fewer and fewer people do that. Working mothers are a big proportion of the workforce and they're very busy, they get children to school, drive to work. During the day they might visit a friend or a sick mother and pay bills."
(The Mercury Hobart of 30 August 2007)

Ask anybody why they don't catch public transport and the most likely three answers are likely to be (a) doesn't go to where I go (ie direct from my home location) (b) it doesn't go at the right time (b) it is too slow.  The fourth most probable answer would be is "I need the car to do things on the way home".

Continuing with this scientific approach [ie invented statistics!]  I would  say averaged out across all motorists commuting to or from work,  the most common additional activites before or after their own work journeys or entwined with this journey could be ranked as follows  
- grocery and supermarket shopping
- deviating to drop off workmates at a bus stop etc  or to transport them all the way home 
- other shopping or picking up items from service outlets eg dry cleaning, refuelling car etc
- picking up children from school, day care centres, after school visits to friends places
- picking up spouses from other workplaces and other locations
- visiting friends or relatives on the way home

If public transport wants to provide a user-friendly service to all residents; cut into car use and delay or reduce full or second car ownership (for example students, young couples, two car famillies,retired couples) it needs actively foster support mechanism to address some of the needs above.

Perhaps the easiest to address is (arguably) the most common - buying groceries. There are several obvious strategies - ensuring that every route has access to a supermarket or shopping complex, that stops are well located for trolleying groceries to within the immediate proximity of the bus, that all the very big shopping mall/supermarket complexes have high visibility real time signage of bus departure times due outside. 

A classic example in Christchurch of poor relatedness of bus stop location to the local supermarket is at New Brighton. For some reason when the Metrostar typically stops about every 400 metres on its cross-city journey but when it arrives in New Brighton's commercial area it stops only once up in Hawke Street, then not again for almost 800 metres, until it is right around in Oram Avenue. In doing so it drives right past the busiest places in New Brighton;  the beach front, the library, the New Brighton club and - perhaps most strangely the supermarket.  Needless to say anyone buying groceries has an unnecessary 300-400 metres to lug the bags, either back up Hawke Street or around to Oram Avenue, in neither direction is it possible to use a supermarket trolley. 

With a consciously planned passenger supportive transit-grocery shopping policy, this sort of thing would not be happening, every attempt would be to maximise access and minimise weather exposure and distance for those carrying groceries to the bus stop. Indeed it is possible that other routes serving areas primarily reliant on this shopping complex - North New Brighton and North Beach for instances could be brought into New Brighton via the same route, increasing service frequency to the area. As stated in a past posting I believe (good!) access tofro supermarkets, at least one on every route, should be one of the 12 standard route planning criteria

But nothing will be more effective for more people than having a modest supermarket in the new bus exchange. This would doubtless focus, more than most such supermarkets, on key ingredients and easy to prepare or precooked evening meal type food. For those passing through the Exchange, from the city or transferring en route, such a form of shopping could be an extremely attractive alternative to battling the suburban supermarket car parks and early evening queues... an incentive to use the bus rather than drive.

I am all for grand effect and a public building that has style and stature but I think it would be horrible it the new Bus Exchange is just some egotistical statement of pure architecture, a sterile chamber, all marble and glass without also having somewhere within its layout the many valuable shops, foot outlets and services many other transit stations around the world host.

In the UK it is big business as indicated by the web page for [what appears to] Britain's equivalent of Ontrack, Network Rail which owns, manages and leases  over 480,000 sq ft retail space at 18 of the largest stations across the Great Britain. Note all the amenties and shops at Birmingham Station as one example.

But I have only just discovered we have an example much closer to home - a supermarket in Wellington station established four years ago. You can even stick your nose in the door for a 360, here.

As in all matters pertaining to public transport I support the concept  "Think rail - build bus" ...give buses the same investment and infrastructure levels of rail.  

Here some recent remarks from Newsweek about railway stations.... the newly restored St Pancras Station in London seems to have two good  ideas we could copy!

"Among the many fine sights to be seen while traveling by train, few are as pleasantly surprising as the terminals one passes through. Madrid's Atocha Station, a large building with wrought-iron design built in 1892, boasts a large tropical garden complete with palm trees and terrapins. It also has a nightclub for those who feel like strutting their stuff while waiting for the train. Shopaholics will appreciate Berlin's Hauptbahnhof, which has 80 stores that sell everything from flowers and fruit to jewelry and eyeglasses. And London's recently refurbished St. Pancras International features the longest champagne bar in Europe and a new farmers' market set to open this year."

Above Bakery in concourse at East Croydon Station UK - Wikimedia Commons

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