Saturday, November 13, 2010

Canterbury Metro's quality City-New Brighton link - direct services every 8 minutes weekdays

I am critical of the failure of Metro to deliver faster (more direct) and more comprehensive services to North-East Christchurch linking various communities and facilities better. I am super critical of the absurdity of offering no bus service AT ALL from any suburb south of the Avon to or past QEII the eastside’s always busy premier pool complex and sports training facility.

However kudos are certainly due Metro for new scheduling patterns of direct access tofro New Brighton by the two most direct routes No 5 Southshore – Hornby and No 40 Parkside-Wainoni. As an integrated pattern avoiding duplication and maximising options it is, for the most part, excellent.

This situation is an example of bus routes having a considerable degree of overlap or adjacency (residents living between routes and within easy walking distance of either). Having departure times scheduled in an integrated pattern to avoid duplication of services and as far as possible consistently and evenly spread across any hour offers maximum spread of options and de facto, for many passengers, increased frequency. Both these routes, although only actually sharing a relatively short stretch of road, Buckleys Road past Eastgate, offer access to New Brighton, and also to Linwood between Tuam and Cashel, to Eastgate and Linwood Park and to the western areas of Wainoni-Aranui. There is a considerable overlap of function. The journey via Wainoni is slightly longer but as it seems to stop less often there is no noticeable difference for most people in travel time. Indeed one local character in New Brighton commented to me that although he uses whichever service comes along first, the brief scenic trip along the riverside with its restored wetland and foraging pukekos* which 40 offers makes it his preference.

Rather bizarrely back in 2006 route reviews/changes both 40 and 5 were re-scheduled onto mostly identical departure times, significantly increasing waiting** time between buses tofro city - New Brighton. It seemed an incredible waste of resources, as well as condemning locals and thousands of seaside visitors each year to unnecessarily lengthy waits, often as not in the freezing razor cut of the infamous easterly winds. I was so stunned I sent Metro an email starting “Are you guys crazy?!!” Obviously I haven't been the only one to mutter and moan because Metro has now restored a pulsed pattern of alternating departures. Indeed one that is even more effective than that which previously existed.

During weekdays after 9am (note; there are many, many inbound services before 9am!) a pattern operates - that simplified could be stated as follows (with 40 route in purple);

To city ex New Brighton 04 12 19 27 34 42 49 57
From city ex Bus Exchange 03 10 18 25 33 40 48 55

There are minor variations a minute later or earlier at certain times, and between two and four pm the No 5 route pattern is disrupted by increased services to cover high schools. This said departures are so frequent no timetable will be needed in many areas covered by these routes, and then only for inbound services for those living between routes west of Breezes Road.

In essence this is access tofro New Brighton every 8 minutes - a service link more frequent than the city's high frequency "Orbiter" and an impressive frequency for a distant location in a small city like Christchurch. Also a vote of confidence in New Brighton's revival. Athough not one of the bigger tourist zones, it still a significant service centre and attracts thousands of visitors a week in summer. Not done with smoke and mirrors, just good scheduling, good resource use. (The sort of resource use I believe could and should be applied to putting the whole city on an integrated pattern of core services - most services - and have called NICERide

Unfortunately evening weekday services, though not duplicating each other, do not achieve quite such a comparable even frequency, after 7pm

To city ex New Brighton 04 22 34 52 (wait-time pattern 18/12/18/12)

NOTE It is also possible to access the city via Route 51 Tower Junction via Bexley a, Aranui and Eastgate, a bit circuitous at 13 minutes past the hour (to 8.13pm). Or by the very circuitous Route 84 Russley via Avondale at 12 minutes the hour - both better perhaps than waiting another 10 minutes on a cold night. Route 83 Russley runs via QEII and Dallington but is nonetheless reasonably quick and straight running and offers access to the city at 46 minutes past the hour. Neither Route 83 or route 84 run via Eastgate.

From city ex Bus Exchange 02 27 32 57 (wait-time pattern 25/5/25/5!)

Note; alternative options available to some people - to Eastgate and Wainoni Route 51 Aranui at 16 past the hour (to 9.16 pm); to parts of Wainoni and New Brighton via Route 84 Avondale at 18 minutes past the hour; and to New Brighton via Burwood and QEII on Route 83 Burwood at 48 past the hour.

For those travelling tofro New Brighton itself the integrated effect of these patterns is to offer an incredible 6-7 buses spread across each hour in the evening!

Saturdays, combining 5 or 40 as options from 9am to 6pm approximately, longest waiting time 15 minutes, several periods shorter and Sunday too is reasonably integrated (a problem with integrating 20 minute service with those running half hourly or every 15 minutes is that inevitably one of those 20 minute departure times will more or less coincide with the 15/30 minute departure time.

Lately there have been a lot of flying bricks caused by the earthquake - not just the bricks (or concrete blocks?) that fell on new buses being built at Rolleston but also the metaphorical bricks the public have been throwing at Metro over the old bus debacle, a little unfairly. Beyond these temporary ruptures the real thing that effects bus users most is good scheduling and service frequency and the suffering of patrons when this is not achieved lasts three years (until the next route review for that area). As it has. But no more. It is a pity the evening weekday departures (40/5 routes combined) have that 25 minute gap but this aside I believe Metro have created a very effective flow pattern for many eastern residents, from Fitzgerald Avenue across to Breezes Road and at New Brighton itself.

Indeed nominated for a Gold-in-Carrots award by that smart assed, know it all rabbit!

[**waiting time is not necessarily time spent at a stop, which can be minimized by checking timetables – waiting time it is the longest gap between bus services on the basis the more frequent and consistent a bus service the more often people can go at the time they specifically want to go]

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