Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Simply Effective Sydenham Park

During the disruption to normal routes and services immediately  after the earthquake, I happened to end up at Sydenham Park at twilight, waiting to catch a bus northwards. I thought here is a good model of a potential bus transfer node point and had my camera so I took this photo.

The first thing that strikes most readers looking at this will probably be nothing strikes them!  It is an extremely mundane view. Possibly the most boring sight in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ok not quite that bad.

This simple photo contains some KEY ELEMENTS of infrastructure for a successful integrated bus system.  In my thinking apart from about 6-9 major transfer stations such as The Palms and Westfield, Christchurch could one day have about 15-20 such "transfer nodes" type stops vaguely resembling the picture above. This stop, an instop, on the major multi-route corridor heading south from the Bus Exchange along Colombo Street Bus Exchange to Milton Street - at which point one route (15) veers off to the left/east ; two routes (10,12) continue straight ahead/south ; three routes (8,11,14) veer off the right/west. It is about 6 minutes south of the city Bus Exchange.

The elements it contains are (a) a bus shelter (b) real time signage, albeit the often unreliable push button sort (c) a pedestrian crossing with traffic signals to cross to the road (d) and to cross to the rear of a bus stop for the same multiple bus services travelling in the opposite direction (e) an exclusive bus lane for quick exit from the bus stop regardless of the size of the main lane traffic queue (f) a public toilet of the sort that has separate cubicles opening straight outside and which avoids nefarious characters hanging about (g) a public park in which enthusiastic (or bored) children might play or adults might rest in on a sunny day if real time shows the wanted bus service is still 15 minutes away (h) it has a range of shops within a minute or so walk, including the immediately adjacent Funky Pumpkin vege mart [veges often the heaviest lug weights for noncar users], the Mobil Service Station convenience store for smokers and ice creamers;  Pizza and Liquour Stores amongst various others.

This seemingly simple stop has eight useful components.

If it was an official transfer node, such as I suggest in the NICERide concept it might also have  a larger roofed area associated with the bus shelter, a plasma type real time sign on a pole (showing all services due...including those at stop across the road), a floodlight for evenings and a CCTV on a pole, and space to ensure cars stopping to use the toilet do not intrude upon bus access. If need be the bus shelter might be set back into the park slightly to ensure easy through access for non-bus patrons. If a bit further out from the city it might also have a roofed bike rack, included in the CCTV camera range!

Although a high proportion of passengers using this current stop may be able to choose from more than one passing route to access their distant destination,  I imagine very few patrons use this as a transfer point at this point in time. The current way our local Metro services are scheduled and marketed the value of this sort of stop at the moment for making transfers is about five points above zilch! But if readers take a peek at the NICERide concept (in the sidebar "Back at the Depot - Permanent Pages") they will see a very user friendly sample timetable. Sydenham Park is nowhere near the eastern suburbs used to illustrate this concept but the same integrated patterns concepts would apply - services from the stop photographed above might be shown a bit like the New Brighton box, grouped in general areas routes serve. 

I'd imagine the current official attitude would be "Why do we need a transfer point here? - it is only 3 kms from the central Bus Exchange!!". 

The two main points I'd raise in response are;

(A) We already have a transfer point here! Wherever more than one bus services passes the same point we have a potential transfer point - why are we throwing these assets away with such a poorly co-ordinated and poorly marketed early 20th century style system??

(B) To travel from this point to the bus exchange and back will take a minimum of 13 minutes (6 minutes each way and at least one minute to cross the road) on earth does Metro/ECan?Christchurch City Council believe for one minute people can be wooed away from car use if to travel for instance from Tennyson Street to Hoon Hay Road) every passenger has to waste 13 minutes travelling into the city and back out again to achieve transfers.

On the other hand how many additional options would exist with a NICERide map (or dialling up info about a well co-ordinated NICERide system)? Plug into the Orbiter at any one of five points? Go by route z to a point then transfer to another route to travel back inwards, rather than work only in a from the centre outward direction. All options visible with a 30 second scan!

We have a great bus system as far as it goes but as in most other cities, it doesn't go far. Our transit authority still trying to hock off linear route systems with a minimal number of cross town services, in an uncoordinated fashion as an alternative to car use. No one seems to pay much attention to the fact that cars can go anywhichway and cars are what buses are competing against. The reality is not many people will forsake cars in a hurry in the best of circumstances but as we are all paying for a bus service why not make one that is at least in the journey time/cost ratio highly competitive with car use? One that not only has well planned routes (stay on the one bus) and cross town routes (not every crosstown needs to be a major service) but is brilliantly easy to switch routes (at any one of 25 instantly viewable node points and transfer stations), minimises waiting time between alternating routes and allows every passenger to choose from simple to compare options to achieve the fastest or most useful service in any direction.  

Amazing what a simple bus stop can tell us if we have the ears to listen!!

NOTE; For a completely different angle on Sydenham see a newly added Page "ChiCha - a little history"

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