Monday, December 27, 2010

Shunting Performance Fails To Offer Quality Governors Bay Service

City bus routes don't get more spectacular than the alpine style road to Governors Bay (in distance) ....but does the new Metro bus route starting in January join up all the dots to best advantage - the wabbit thinks not. Photo NZ in Tranzit

In 2003 I wrote a social history of the CTB - appropriately called "CTB"

Called what??

Anyone outside Christchurch or indeed any local resident under 35 years of age probably has no idea to what these three letters refer. So the cover of "CTB" also carried a by-line "A brief social history of the Christchrch Transport Board 1903-1989 (until 1951 - Christchurch Tramway Board"). It was written as a social history of the people, politics and flavour of the times because the physical and technical history - of the trams and routes etc had already been written in great depth in a series of publications the CTB itself had commissioned in the 1980s using a Government employment scheme to help fund research costs.

It is fantastic. I don't think too many other places in the world have such a well researched and cohesive eight volume history of their region's transport from ox wagons and coastal schooners through to trams and buses in the 1980s! Along with the sizeable fleet of restored or reserved to be restored trams and buses at Ferrymead Historical Park and the tourist trams that run around central Christchurch, we seem to care for our public transport and transport heritage extremely well. Bloody hell, when I was Christmas shopping in Cashel Mall a couple of days ago I even got nudged aside by three gentle Clydesdale dobbins pulling a horse tram (Christchurch Transport Blog beat me to photo scoop here!).

The CTB book was also a social history because it was written to coincide with a Transport Board reununion, and the reunion itself was timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the (then) Tramways Board in 1903. The Board itself had gone out of existence in 1989, but had been a separately elected local body which essentially filled the same role in Christchurch that city council departments or similar filled in Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and other smaller NZ cities. It was considered by the reunion committee (of current and former bus drivers, mostly) on these grounds the City Council might like to contribute towards comemorating a bit of civic history that might otherwise be lost. And they did. Funding to cover about half the hours necessary to research and write this book, was given via the City Library. By this stage of the game it had to be researched and written in a very tight nine months framework, thank heavens for the friendly Tramway Historical Society and the old newspaper clipping books that the CTB maintained for decades. The book was tight in another way too - a history spanning 83 years of an large organisation, which typically employed 450-700 staff in any given year (thousands of employees) and their social clubs and trade unions etc, combined with a brief history of the elected board itself was always going to be a huge squash. A bare summary would be too dry so, as is often the way with these compacted histories, it became a fairly intense mixture of formal history, personal anecdote, main trends summarised, colourful details to illustrate a point, contemporary newspaper reports or pithy editorial comment and a few humorous bits to lighten the load. Phew! Can be read and I believe is even entertaining, a little bit at a time.

One of my favourite bits, that still makes me laugh, was a newspaper report of John Fardell (nicknamed Charley by the staff) who had arrived from England to take up the reins as General Manager of the CTB in 1948. Fardell had previously run the city of Reading (near London) public transport and done his war service in a high ranking position in military transport. Fardell was an autocrat well used to being in command, if somewhat pompous by New Zealand's easy going standards. One of the best stories to illustrate his character was told to me at a reunion itself, by another, later General Manager (retired) who had worked under Fardell in the 1960s - a story alas too late to put in the book. Not long after Fardell arrived an office clerk passing him on the stairs said politely "Good morning Sir" Fardell returned a bristling glare, stopped and pointed his finger at the clerk and said very emphatically, " I speak first. You wait to you are addressed by me". The good old kiwi way, Not. Nonetheless Fardell had his droll moments. By the stage Fardell was employed - with his level of experience quite a score for little old Christchurch - the Christchurch tramway system was very decrepit and run down. This was partly the result of the excessive demands placed on public transport during World War II and partly the inherent contradiction of heavy vehicles that last well, perhaps too well (becoming aged in style and the technology installed, and dimpled and stressed looking in the ineveitable accumulated scar tissue of years of wear and tear) and yet are too expensive per unit to easily replace in great numbers.

I can definitely quote myself, at length here (so very vast is my ego!)(but we know that)

Page 23 of "CTB" [A Brief blah blah blah] reads;

"John Fardell wasted no time in asserting his views. Only weeks after his arrival he addressed a Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting about "the historical development of transport, chiefly in England, since the coaching days". If that seemed a somewhat unlikely subject probably far more to the point was "The Press" comment that "several of his remarks applied to public transport in Christchurch". Fardell had spent six weeks touring UK transport operators before his departure for New Zealand and spoke from this knowledge as well as his own experience. "As far as passenger transport is concerned the tramway is dead" he told his listeners. He then described in fairly scathing terms taking a tram journey from the Cashmere Hills that took 42 minutes, including waiting at loops for the outbound tram and "a shunting performance" at Barrington Street."

I love that expression, it makes grin every time I recall it. A "shunting performance" - everything that is so very very crappy about "public" transport in the old sense!

Well the unspoken truth of "learning curves" (beloved phrase of middle ranking bureaucrats) is if you do enough of a learning curve you actually end up going round in circles; history is an endlessly repeated cycle. The Barrington Street of which Fardell refers is clearly the corner of Barrington Street and Cashmere Road. And what do we find? I have a suspicion we are going to find 42 minute journeys, waiting at loops and shunting performances - yes! - in 2011, at this same intersection, every bit as clumsy as those that existed in 1947, this time using buses rather than trams.

I refer to the recent notice in "The Bay News" Newsletter of the Governors Bay Community Association"

A new Metro bus service to Governors Bay will start on Monday 17 January 2011, operated by Red Bus. It will run from Governors Bay township over Dyers Pass to Cashmere Rd, where it will connect with the number 14 bus to the city centre, as well as the Orbiter. There will be 12 trips in each direction on weekdays and Saturdays (no service on Sundays). Bus stop locations in Governors Bay are currently being finalised. More information, including a timetable, will be delivered to all households in Governors Bay before the service begins. - Edward Wright Environment Canterbury

There seems to be a determination to give a less than a decent quality service to Cashmere Hills [see past consumer analysis here] and now Governors Bay in the new Route 740 service.

To me it fails to address several things
- the need to minimise transfers or where necesary to make them fluid and with multiple options rather than one bus waiting for another (a diabolic system)
- to minimise the journey time post transfer; any journey involving transfers loses time and therefore the most direct and fastest to major destinations post transfer is desirable
- the need to give an area of Christchurch that has (as far as I know) no chemist shop, doctor, library service, stationary shop, flower shop, supermarket, banks, TAB, etc easy access to a local services hub that does offer all these in one place
- the need to consolidate transfer points in Christchurch into several major transfer stations [4-6 routes including at least one cross town, one university, one airport service] and about 15 other transfers nodes [2-3 routes intersecting at a single platformed area].
- The need to make transfer stations and nodes superior waiting spaces including greater covered and wind protective waiting area, phone box, plasma real time signage, cctv camera security and (ideally) a public toilet.

- ease of tourist access (including Christchurch residents) to the port hills walking tracks at the Sign of the Kiwi and to Governors Bay picnic and swimming areas

Under the schemata being implemented Governors Bay residents who are trying to NOT use a car will need to make unnecessary, clumsy and unattractive multiple transfer journeys. For instance, if they work in the city most of their supermarket shopping can only be done by triple transfers to Moorhouse or Sydenham Countdown supermarket....supermarket to transfer point....transfer point to Govenors Bay. Route 14 doesn't even go past an easily accessible supermarket, a lack of convenient access also currently shared by Cashmere residents along this Dyers Pass route. For both bay and Dyers Pass hillside residents access to the local services in one immediate area - the whole value of suburban shopping areas - is not offered in the city or on Moorhouse. It seems absurd to me, to run a bus all this distance and yet to ignore this, to ignore the potential to plug Governors Bay area and a significant portion of the Cashmere hill suburbs into Barrington Mall as the local service hub.

So route 740 rated for access to local services - E

Under the schemata being implemented the only transfers to city are via two routes 14Harewood via City and 10 Airport via City departing the Takahe in an alternating pattern of intervals every 12 or 18 minutes apart across each hour during the main part of day (Mon-Fri). Expressed as minutes past the hour this reads (via route 10) 01 or 02 or 04 etc depending on hour of day (via route 14) 13 or 14 or 15 (via route 10) 31 or 32 or 34 (via route 14) 41 or 43 or 45.....sigh

SIDE NOTE I believe we will never have a good transfer friendly bus system in Christchurch as long as Metro wastes time on these inane minutae (literally minutae) in its timetables, presenting what is essentially the same service for many hours across a day as multiple different departure times ....For Goodness Sake, why is 21st century public tranport stuck in some sort anal obssession with the time precision of 19th century railways? Why not just say (in this example for instance) "bus services depart The Sign of the Takahe for city at 01 13 31 and 43 past the hour, buses MAY depart slightly later than listed times", Who gives a tinker's cuss about a minute or two here and there, if the time is consistent, the bus never leaves before the time and the service is reliable!! You can carry a timetable as simple as this on a business card or in memory!!

These two routes essentially given access to Sydenham and city, and 10 to the Airport.

Out bound, from the Bus Exchange in typical brilliant Metro co-ordination fashion offers no real choice for hilltop and transfer to bay access - (via 14) 08 etc (via 10) 09 (via 14) 38 (via 10) 39. And this basic pattern continues into evening rush hour. Great miss one and most times you've missed both services and youv'e got a half hour wait - more than likely an hour wait because you have missed the chance to connect with an hourly service to Governors Bay!!

So route 740 rated for transfer access tofro the city - rated C for inbound; F for outbound

In contrast if the service from Governors Bay continued to Barrington Mall consumers would have had the choice of six routes tofro the city - the two as above (transfer at Cashmere Road or Takahe) and 8, 11, 22, or 20 (transfer at Barrington Mall) . This includes the 8 and 11 combo, the most direct routes, which do pulse consistently and evenly every quarter hour - to city Bus Exchange 07 22 37 52; from city from Barrington Mall 13 28 43 58; and includes the 22 route which services the Addington office parks and public hospital, major destinations by one transfer. Running the new 740 up Barrington Street offers Governors Bay students at Cashmere High all weather "across the day" easy access to get home or to school later, for whatever reason, even if the contracted school bus continues to service main start/finish times. Carrying the Governors Bay service to Barrington Mall also chops off about 4 minutes needless deviation on The Orbiter (the loop through PMH and Hoon Hay Road) for those travelling from Governors Bay to Riccarton industrial areas, Westfield and the University via a Cashmere Road transfer.

So route 740 rated for frequency of access and range of direct directional (given options that are clearly possible) - D +

Faster more frequent services, maximum options for travel time and travel direction, maximum ease of transfer. That is what METRO should be offering the ratepayers. Fundamental to this is consolidating transfer points. Barrington Mall is three quarters there already. At the moment all buses except The Orbiter travel via a side street - Athelstan Street - which also offers access to the shopping mall carpark. A city fully committed to public transport (and indeed the free flow of traffic at the Barrington Street/Frankleigh St corner) might think "Hey lets put traffic lights on the Simeon Street/Milton Street corner so The Orbiter route can run via an Athelstan Street transfer station, and then make a right turn out of Simeon Street onto Milton when heading west towards Pioneer Stadium etc [an otherwise almost impossible turn, in the rush hours particularly]...just by chance it will also relieve some of the supermarket traffic that currently feeds out of Athelstan St onto Barrington Street, a very congested short stretch of road!

This in turn would allow the whole width of Athelstan Street to be remodelled into a piazza (tiled square) style bus transfer point - leaving a narrow central passage for cars accessing the supermarket (bedstead fenced off from the bus waiting areas), and for buses each side of this roading to have segregated corridors with door level platforms and quality bus shelters etc. What a fabulous asset for south Christchurch - a one stop bus stop which allows you to get tofro anywhere [ultimately also the airport via a busway?] and - of course - plugging Governors Bay residents into best quality waiting facilities rather than obscure Cashmere Road. The pleasures of country and harbourside living could be combined with Metro-politan mall, city, university and airport bus access.

So rated for fostering transfers and a lively go anywhere easily network the Cashmere Road transfer point rates - C

I have suggested in a previous posting in March that possibly the reason for strangely truncating the Governors Bay route at Cashmere Road was the need to stay within a budget, hourly return cycle. But are budget bus services that barely meet any decent criteria worth running? The extension to Barrington Mall takes nothing from the route as proposed but adds a heap of value to Governors Bay residents. Also very large areas of the city, notably south and west areas

, would be given recreational access to the Sign of the Kiwi and walking tracks and to swimming, picnic and restaurant dining facilities at Governors Bay. Such access is easy if mediated through the common and well known transfer point offered by Barrington Mall - far more obscure if transfers have to be made at Cashmere Road (from a far smaller range of services). Use by visitors, walkers and Cashmere hill residents to access Barrington Mall are likely to be major components in the sort of patronage growth that see more frequent services ultuimately established.

So rated for ease of connecting city and tourists, recreational walkers, picnic parties and swimming access to the scenic hinterland - rated C

In my previous posting on this subject I suggested if budget will only allow one bus and it can't make a return trip from Governors Bay to anywhere further than Cashmere Road in a one hour cycle, an alternative is to create a symmetrical splaying based on 70 minutes. This means buses depart at 9.10 am, 10.20 am, 11.30 am, 12.40 pm etc, which would still provide a consistent "readable" or easy to remember service. Once a couple of sample times are imbedded it only takes a second or two to figure out the rest. Timetables would show all connecting buses from the city tofro Barrington Mall, allowing much greater flexibility (for example to fit some shopping into a trip whilst at Barrington Mall transfer point). To be sure, less services a day, perhaps only 10 services a day rather than 12, but big difference USEFUL services, connecting to USEFUL places where USEFUL transfers are guaranteed.

Extending the route to Barrington Mall also fosters use of the 740 route by Cashmere residents around Dyers Road to get to Barrington (to shop or transfer to the uni etc).

Extending the route fosters reverse flow patronage by day trippers and tourists travelling upto the hills or over to the bay from a clearly identified and recognised start point/drop off point/transfer from another bus point.

Governors Bay does not have a huge population but fostering use of this route on the city side of the hill by a strategy of linking to Barrington Mall could as much as double patronage...and hasten the time when the service might be doubled to half hourly in the day or to run Sunday or early evenings.

Not to be it seems. Back to one bus waiting for one bus and a good old shunting style performance, of service that almost mirrors the 1940s in its clumsiness, likely journey times (also factoring in missed connections) and which doesn't even address multiple needs, needs that public transport must factor in to create a genuine alternative to the car.

[note to non-local readers, re Fardell's comment about a 42 minute journey - Cashmere city - typically less than 10 minutes by car, then and now]

Friday, December 24, 2010

Light Rail Live Issue in Hobart

Open topped tram (in Hobart!) circa 1940 Wikipedia Photo. Light rail of a little faster and more comfortable style is back on the agenda for some Tasmanian advocates

Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is struggling to emerge as the next Australasian city to develop light rail. A major stimulant has been greatly reduced freight traffic on a rail line heading through suburbs north of the city, freeing up the line for potential commuter use. Hobart, with a metropop of 215,000 is the smallest of 24 CANZ cities between 200,000-800,000 monitored by NZ in Tranzit as a "best match" sister city to Christchurch.

Hobart, Australia's second oldest city - a bit like Wellington NZ, has developed around a central port area. With modern slab wharves needed for bulk products and container yards, this port has become far to cramped, a largely obsolete technology. As a result much of the export/import rail freight currently channelled through Hobart is to be redirected through a major new transport hub being built at Brighton, upriver and well north of the city. With the remaining rail line tofro the city from the north to be used only for container traffic direct to the city itself, this leaves a lot of unused corridor space/time that could be used to implement passenger rail.

Also as with Wellington, NZ, in Hobart the greater metropolitan area spreads a considerable distance northwards, including a 19 kilometre corridor of mostly residential area up the western side of the Derwent River to a crossing point at Granton near Bridgewater. The elongated nature of this corridor suggests a rapid transit system, the idea most promoted being a light rail system.

Hobart and Greater Hobart from Wikimedia Commons

The general consensus amongst those promoting the idea would seem to be that this mostly use the existing rail line and land corridor, with a bit of added on-street deviation through appropriate residential areas. In addition some advocates believe the line should continue past the CBD to the University of Tasmania at Sandy Bay. As the the rail traffic freight traffic will be much smaller, it is proposed that freight and passenger traffic be time separated, presumably no freight during daylight hours. Another consideration is that Tasmania, like New Zealand is also a mountainous terrain, and consequently operates heavy rail on a narrow guage track. To ensure standard guage light-rail trams obtain a smooth passage, a combination system with a third rail system would need to be created , though all tracks apparently need to be replaced anyway.

One factor in favour of light rail is that Hobart is a State capital and typically capital cities everywhere in the world, with their greater administrative sector and many company head offices, engender greater public transport use. This said Tasmania's population is very small, the state parliament has only 25 sitting members; the island's entire population is only about 500,000 with half of that population living in the greater Hobart area.

In October 2008 the Sate's Labour Government announced an extensive and intensive study of Tasmania's urban public transport needs. The Government employed international engineering and infrastructure consultants Parsons-Brickerhoff to investigate and making a preliminary costing of a light rail system to Hobart and also to look at ways of improving the city's bus services. The state also employed Australia based consultants Sherry and Pitt to investigate and broadly cost conversion of the corridor to a bus rapid transit system in the event that rail was removed completely.

The light rail plan with all basic infrastructure needed detailed (estimated) came in at $665 million for a 26km route Granton to University ($410 million if only to CBD) with costing in different sections (according to whether on rail alignment or on city streets) ranging from $14 million per kilometre through to about $36 million per kilometre. While this was admitted to be a high-end solution with best catchment options, it also seems to be fairly consistent (if indeed not cheaper) than light rail projects being built in two other smaller CANZ cities - Gold Coast City (Stage one 13km = Aus$989 million) and in Kitchener-Waterloo in Canada (14km LRT plus a BRT to third area Cambridge = Can$790). In contrast Tasmanian advocates, including one advocating a battery powered railcar system, have claimed light rail could be built for as little as $40 million, a figure that would be hard to match for a rail upgrade anywhere in the world.

The consultant's studies
[you can read all reports here] compared public transport in Hobart with case studies of other cities seen as relevant - Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand; and in Canada, Saskatoon, Victoria and Halifax [how very odd - why not San Francisco, Portland and Vancouver ?!! YR] Interestingly - though the Parker-Brickerhoff study does not appear** to refer to this, both Halifax and Victoria have had similar scenarios to to Hobart - disused or under-used rail lines put forward as potential commuter rail lines - and each has researched these and ultimately found rail not viable for such small catchment populations (previously reported in NZ in Tranzit, Halifax here and Victoria here) The separate Pitt and Sherry BRT report, estimated a 15 km busway with a single lane with passing loops (and at stations) on machine-paved concrete base would cost about $115 km plus vehicles

Following the release of the consultant's study early this year the Tasmanian newspaper "The Mercury" reported

Buses not trains or ferries are the future in Hobart, according to the State Government's review of public transport options. Premier David Bartlett announced a $16 million funding boost for Metro yesterday as he released the Urban Passenger Transport Framework, which found Tasmania lacks the population to sustain light rail or ferries. "This is about getting people to swap their car for the bus, by making public transport a more appealing option," he said.

The city bus system in Hobart and other Tasmian urban centres is run by
Metro Tasmania, a State owned system and carries a patronage of around 10 million passengers per year, with farebox recovery of only 30%. The case studies from New Zealand and Canada provide many ways of improving bus services and attracting grearter patronage. Certainly Christchurch people will appreciate the simplicity of their own system when looking at some of the timetables used in Hobart - in some cases [sample] it seems there are many more route numbers and route variations than routes!! [This said I argue Metro Chrisrtchurch has gone too far the opposite way and is failing to operate much needed additional, business day only, hour industrial conections]

Needless to say proponents of the rail option are not satisfied with the rejection of the rail option and with the Green Party winning 21% of the vote and five of the 25 seats in the Tasmanian Parliament (Labour and the Liberals (Tory Party) have 10 each) it is not an issue that looks like it will go away in a hurry.

Perhaps it is the general popular desire to give Hobart a classy act commensurate with the other (much larger) state capitals if at all possible. Or perhaps it is an attempt to show once and for all that light rail would be too heavy for Hobart. Whatever the reason, despite Premier Bartlett's claim that Tasmania lack sufficient population to sustain light rail, the Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure and Energy Resources (DIER) is now calling for tenders from suppliers "to undertake a Business Case which evaluates, in detail, the introduction of a light rail service utilising the existing corridor which runs from Hobart to the northern suburbs".

What is not clear is where Tasmania would get the funding. Gold Coast and Kitchener-Waterloo are both cities in very wealthy, high density regions - South-East Queensland and Ontario - with large regional funding input as well as funds from national Government. The city of Kitchener-Waterloo indeed only has to find 10% of its light rail costs. While Federal Government mght contribute to light rail in Tasmania, the contradiction remains that the State of Tasmania and city of Hobart are 50% the same thing!
** These reports cover hundreds of pages- focussing more on the summaries I may have missed this

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Trip to Switzerland

Like 1,900 other people, I imagine*, I received a very nice publication in the mail yesterday. It is the "greater Christchurch Metro Strategy 2010-2016" presented in an attractive, accessible, format.

As I have said in some past postings, to me this strategy has more grunt than the last couple of updates. On the one hand this strategy opened up to wider possibilities, on the other it targeted some aspects far more specifically. It is hugely impressive that so many people make submissions and suggestions, really impressive. We certainly love our buses in Christchurch.

I say this even though I am very suspect about the accuracy of using "feed-back" surveys. For instance on Page 7 it says "84% of respondents told us more money should be invested in public transport". To paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies' famous comment [from the famous Profumo call girl scandal involving British and Russian government officials in the 1960s] "Well they would, wouldn't they". (Obviously a high proportion of people relative to the total population interested enough to make submissions on public transport will be people who use and support public transport). Nonetheless surveys across the whole population in Melbourne and Auckland a few years back, both showed very high support for more public transport rather than roading, voting in the 65% realm even though many of those must obviously be car users. So it will not be a totally distorted statistic. **

Anyway, this letter in the mail from Ecan also included two Metro vouchers with free use for one trip on any service, including the more expensive ones on country runs or the Diamond Harbour Ferry. They made a nice top up to add to a couple of wee presents for some friends with whom I go to a weekly pub quiz and know my prospensity for busspotting. They'll laugh I'm sure, but I know they will also use them, although not regular Metro patrons. However it was the "ticket" to Switzerland that attracted me most. The came in the form of the jarring note when I read in the strategy document ..(speaking of the year 2008/09) .."this means that on average every Christchurch resident made 46 public transport during that year." The page continues,"In Wellington residents make an average of 77 public transport trips each year, and in European cities this can be much higher. For example, in Zurich, Switzerland, which has a similar population to Christchurch [my emphasis] residents make an average of 417 public transport trips every year, which is more than one trip every day".

It is great Metro should encourage local residents to be inspired by overseas examples but this one smelt suspiciously of , to coin a phrase "bobbing along, floating across the facts, no feet on the ground". So I imediately got on my high horse and galloped off to Switzerland (to the sounds of the William Tell overture off course)...the first place the flying horse landed was Wikipedia. Indeed the first and last place, opening sentence of Wikipedia "Zurich"

Zurich (German: Zürich) is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland [2] at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich. While the municipality itself has approximately 380,500 inhabitants, the Zurich metropolitan area is an urbanised area of international importance constituted by a population of nearly 2 million inhabitants

I have never been to Europe but even ferreting around (as rabbits do!) on the internet for over a decade on a regular basis suggests central Europe, such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria and probably quite a few other countries have many, many small cities that are in reality just the largest of multiple settled areas in a relatively small region. It says a great deal that German public expenditure on public transport is met 60% by the national Government (as it used to be here under Labour) but then also 30% by the region, and only 10% by the city itself.

I can't imagine Canterbury as a whole would want to front up with 30% of Christchurch public transport costs!

On casual repeated observation, magpie research, most of these cantons, provinces, communes etc seem to be far smaller than Canterbury, much more likely to be similar to the size of the land area between the Waimakiriri and Rakaia Rivers in size, than the size of Canterbury itself, and typically seem to have anything from one million to ten million inhabitants. This seems to be the case with the Zurich canton - barely bigger than Christchurch in its full Banks Peninsula coat. This is an important factor because it means (a) their population and taxpayer and potential public transport user base is many times bigger than Christchurch (b) roading space may be limited (c)train services to the city will be excellent (d) where people get off trains they need to get around the central city and trams work well in that situation.

It is much less common to find intense tram networks in the middle to outer suburbs, or out lying areas anywhere (Melbourne's tramway network the third biggest in the world, has only 242 km of track. I'd guess this is less distance covered than the Christchurch bus network, though Melbourne population is over ten times larger).

A second factor is "unlinked trips" - if passenger trips per year are counted purely as boardings then in "cities with rail" scenarios it is often necesary for those travelling tofro the railway station (at either end of their journey or both ends) to catch a bus, so that each journey is counted as two trips, each way. I am presuming this is a factor in inflating Wellington patronage figures. At 77 trips a year per resident Wellington punches hugely above its weight -compared to most other CANZ cities under half a million. Indeed it is the only CANZUS city (of 120) under a million metropolitan population that actually operates it's own commuter rail network. Sucessful sure, but it may not be quite such an effective system as the stats suggests; with 4613 commuer car parking spaces "fully utilised" (according to a Greater Wellington Regional Council report) at stations this means car use, car ownership etc are necessary to subsidise - make accessible - rail systems, and therefore should be calculated in total journey times and costs. And of course, many of these feeder journeys are also by bus. These may be a perfectly valid systems for the individuals concerned given the terrain, total journey etc but they should be measured as costs and benefits, and the statistics, expressed accurately. In see no way that Zurich [which is also a capital city, a major generator of added transit use, worldwide] could be compared to Christchurch, even in service of inspiring greater bus use.

Statistics is a mine field (I have gone for a zig-zag through the mines by recently adding a new on-going page under the famous quotation, often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli [apparently falsely] 19th century British Prime Minister, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics" - see side box). It is so important to get the facts first and the facts right and so damned difficult because every field of stats will cut the cake a different way revealing different qualities. My trip to Zurich was amazingly fast - a matter of seconds - and no doubt misses other factors but simple research also made a fairly obvious statement. Wellington and Zurich each in their own way have admirable public transport systems but we always need to read stats carefully.

As the Zurich Swiss might say, in their own dialect "Aufmerksamkeit meine Freunde und Leser, ist alles, was glänzt Gold nicht!

* I made several written submissions on different subject, about ten pages; it is possible that full documents etc may have only be sent to formal submissions rather than those who made brief comments on feedback forms only.

** Then again just read this in The NZ Herald (Auckland) yesterday - last paragraph gives only a 51% thumbs up, albeit from a small survey base

Friday, December 17, 2010

Suggested Christchurch Northern Busway Map

Articulated bus in Bath UK - the sort of clean attractive vehicles a BRT would use

I have finally got round to making a Google "My Maps" map of the Northern Busway that I have been suggesting for over seven years to various Mayors and Councillors and Ecan planners and Councillors!!

It is a pretty crude map - "My Maps" is a hard art to master without going insane, especially off road bits, and I have a long way to go on this learning curve but NZ in Tranzit readers (especially locals) can hopefully get a broad idea, particularly the simplicity, directness and use of bare land combined with secondary feeder streets.

As creating bus or rail (or indeed new roading) alignments through existing built up areas go it seems to me about as minimally socially disruptive in building and operation as is possible whilst sill serving major existing and planned population areas and high traffic generating facilities. It includes some embankment and ramping, a bridge over the Styx, an overpass and an an underpass (all of which could be single lane - with speed modification indicator lights some distance out from each bottleneck allowing buses to interact without needing to stopping.) Apart from that the work would mainly be building stations, on street traffic islands and traffic lights and strengthening and resurfacing some streets to give maximum smoothness, minmum local vibration.
I wonder if it could be built for under $100 million, with added landscaping, particularly if tied to things like building the Northern Motorway or reshaping Rutland Reserve to become a far more attractive cycleway/park etc. As usual the real priority is to decide the alignment and protect it - everything else can wait.

If for instance, a developer buys the Edgeware Pool site from a voluntary swimming group that I suspect is already out beyond their depth, and builds a multistorey housing complex, access to the North on this alignment (and is there a better one?) could be lost forever.

NZ in Tranzit - Belfast BRT in a larger map">NZ in Tranzit -Belfast BRT

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On a bus bound for nowhere...when bus users have to gamble on which bus is the one they want

Sun glare (predictably) bouncing off contoured angled upwards plastic or glass mantle

No sun direct glare flashing but still unreadable destination sign in daylight

Normally I wouldn't use an out-of-focus photo but this photo [taken only 10 seconds after the one immediately above] accents this situation. Even if you have had one too many drinks, or have a partial sight disability, you will still usually still manage to read a Designline destination, bright sun or not.

Yesterday I flagged down a bus that wasn't going where I wanted to go.
I had no choice. It was a new CBS Zhongtong with its stylish curved front and mantle above the driving window. I had to flag it down (at Westfield) because I could not read its destination sign. Indeed I could not even SEE its destination sign. In the bright New Zealand daylight where the destination should be was just a black rectangle. I had to pull the bus into the curb, have it pull to a stop beside me, just so I could read the destination sign on the side.
Ooops! I apologised to the driver, said "I'm sorry I didn't want this route but I couldn't read the sign". He sighed and shrugged his head and said, kind of resigned, "I know". Obviously I wasn't the first. '

How bizarre that someone could design a bus worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and include unreadable destination blinds!! Maybe Shanghai smog makes any light stand out, but CBS will now have to either fit a totally new backlit system or a shading mantle shaped contrary to the stylistic flow of the bus facade, which has the mantle area tilted slightly upwards.
I mean it's an attractive sensuous front of bus design - but what is the point if it is non-functional? Surely when companies across the world are paying this sort of money per vehicle, every new design should be tested in a multitude of conditions, lights, weathers, times of day, special conditions (such as snow and hail) to make sure it works 100% ? I feel for CBS (now Go Bus). Who would even think to double-check something so obvious and basic when buying a bus? The most obvious start point of a sign is that it readable.

So, yes the wabbit awards goes international !! A whole bowl of limp lettuce leaves for such a ridiculous piece of technology is awarded to Zhongtong (or who ever) for "designing" this).
A destination screen where it is not possible to read the destination? Come on mate!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Auckland Plans Second Major Busway

The photo shows pile driving beside the existing motorway overbridge in Wrights Road (between Lincoln Road and Blenheim Road area) in Christchurch. As well as adding an overbridge at Barrington Street and extending the southern motorway southwards past Hornby current government and city plans are to double the width adding two more lanes and piles being driven here will be part of future pillars.

A major feature of the proposed new motorway - presumably a deliberate choice - is not to take the opportunity to give public transport added supportive infrastructure by adding a bus only underpass (beside the cycleway underpass). This leaves future bus services to fight traffic and queue with all the other cars using the relatively few underpasses planned for north-south traffic across the alignment of the southern motorway and/or trying to access the congested Birmingham Drive-Parkhouse industrial enclaves. Indeed Metro gave up running buses to the latter areas, I was told by a high placed Ecan officer some years ago, because congestion was so heavy buses could not keep to schedules and consequently failed to attract patronage, although it is part of the largest employment zone outside the central city!

The opportunity to create a bus only tunnel (or trenching and underpass) between Annex Road and Birmingham Drive and then ultimately another under the railway yards through to Middleton Road , the university and the airport has been rejected at huge future cost to the effectiveness and speed-of-access of north-south public transport on the rapidly growing western side of Christchurch, from west Belfast to Halswell.

Several City Council's lead by Mayors Garry Moore and then (and now) Bob Parker have been remarkably blind the the development of busways around the world - segregated from normal traffic in all or (more commonly) part of their journey. Done well this can give buses huge advantage in offering fast, direct access between different areas completely by-passing many congestion sticking points. Busways can be expensive into the tens of millions to build (depending on the infrastructure options chosen) but are far cheaper to build than adding conventional roading or light rail or heavy rail options. Christchurch with its radial spread is far better suited to multiple busways and added express bus lanes or segregated corridors (cutting between existing roads) than a one-off light rail corridor that would benefit only a small portion of residents. In particular busways that "cut through" the inner suburbs - 10 minutes to city centre from Breezes Road; from Northlands; from Hoon Hay Road etc could "tie" the city together, keeping alive the city centre as a venue and specialty shopping and recreational centre.
The idea of buses as "poor cousins" of the car is legacy of the late 19th century, fast being outdated by concepts such as bus rapid transit and the improved quality of buses. But once again a rather absurd pre-occupation with light rail by city hall (absurd because it is a technology that is far too expensive and irrelevant for small low density cities such as Christchurch) has cost the city opportunities to create a genuinely quick and frequent sophisticated link across suburbs.

Despite this Christchurch people keen to see public transport move out of the 20th century "good enough for the peasants" thinking and into a more sophisticated, direct fast mode, are being offered a chance to invest in a busway anyway, this one proposed in Auckland!! And it is not a ponzi scheme! (Not even a ponzi scheme scurrilously linked to the front page image of Alan Hubbard! - I am not particularly a Hubbard fan but what a disgusting piece of journalism!).
No the investment will be by painless removal at the time of taxpaying. This will occur in the same way Canterbury taxpayers contributed 13% of the almost $2 billion already spent on public transport infrastructure in Auckland. eg Britomart Centre - Canterbury taxpayers gift $26 million; double-tracking and upgrading Auckland suburban rail lines $78 million; electrification overhead wires etc $78 million; Northern Busway - Canterbury gift $26 million etc ...and lots more, smaller amounts.

Now Auckland wants more of the national cake, so c'mon Canterbury - let's get baking. YR.

Read the Auckland busway prospectus in today's New Zealand Herald.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

REAL BusSpotters

Here's a guilty secret, a confession.

Many years ago I was party to an act of deceit and betrayal of trust.

In 1973 I lived in Dunedin with a partner and about that time it was decided to do away with the city's trolley bus system. The trolley buses were mostly sold to China (at that stage still in the Maoist communist era). Or maybe that was a bit later when most of the buses went off to China but one was definitely removed from service in the mid 1970s.

One very rainy night my partner and I were bussing home to our flat in North East Valley on a trolley bus. George Street, Dunedin, with all its beautiful old gold-rush style Victorian turreted mansions sticking up through the trees on the hilly west side of the road, George Street with its distinctive orange sodium vapour street lights, its rain-drop diamond coated trolley wire catenary overhead and withi its shiny wet asphalt underfoot looked really attractive. But there were'nt too many people around to enjoy it. In fact apart from the fairly elderly bus driver and my partner beside me, the only other people on the bus were a couple of blokes - a large man with a beret and lots of badges on the lapel of his tweed style coat and a much smaller companion. Indeed the contrast in sizes was such that they could have played slightly comical villians in a Walt Disney family comedy movie. And villainy, it turned out, was indeed a foot (or abus).

We were sitting fairly near the front of the bus and the large man was conversing with the driver, and obviously had been talking for some time before we boarded. My partner and I were able to hear everything and apparently this large man and his companion had come down from the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland to arrange for the museum to get a Dunedin trolley bus for their heritage collection. The bus driver was telling these two men that this bus we were in was definitely the best in the trolley fleet, and how he almost always got allocated this bus on his shift, had been rostered this particular vehicle on late shift on a regular basis for years, presumably because he was one of the old hands, or a good mate of whoever allocated buses in the afternoon. He was telling the MOTAT men of all the other almost as good buses they could choose from.
"I only have a year to go to retirement, take any bus you like but leave me this one, it handles so well, leave me this one to see out my retirement".
"Of course Bill" [or whoever] said the large beret wearing man, "We won't take away "your" bus, you can be sure of this. We can respect that"

At that point a trolley bus appeared heading in the opposite direction. "Hang on a minute" says Bill [or whoever ] the driver, "I've just got to see this bloke about something" and he pulls the trolley bus into the curb. The bus heading in the other direction does likewise and Bill skitters across through the rain to have a few quick words with his workmate.

The large beret wearing man turns to his companion with a huge self satisfied and superior smug smile and gives his companion a thumbs up sign "This is the bus we are taking".

My partner and I remained mute party to this deception, perhaps got off the bus shaking our heads or grinning to each other, certainly we never said a word to Bill [or whoever]....but how this stays with me still, preys upon my mind. How I've lived with the long years of shame I don't know. Especially as amongst the shame it still makes me laugh!

Ah fickle humanity... And Fanatics! All morality is twisted to the supreme cause!! Where would we be without them!! These were REAL busspotters. Not like those flakey people that do blogs!

All this was triggered by seeing this YouTube of a Dunedin trolley bus, including a trolley going up through the parkland on Opoho Hill. You've heard the story now see the movie, it may even be the VERY SAME bus, what a spotter score! - at the 24 hour Yube Cinema [here or see side bar].

And like whatshisname in Dostoevesky's "Crime and Punishment" haunted by 1974 a year later living in Auckland, Grey Lynn, not too far from MOTAT what should I see coming down the road ? Oh no! A Dunedin trolley bus going past on a low loader truck.

Arrggghhh! True horror movie stuff. Riddled with guilt, party to the deceit, everywhere I look the world accuses me! Alas I forgot to run blindly onto the road and get killed beneath the wheels of an passing ARA bus (as I suspect would happen in a really, really, good story) but all other facts are horrifically true!

One last footnote - I just went to check the MOTAT website (and other bus and trolley bus museum sites and can find no trace of this bus, or any trolley bus withdrawn in 1974. Yet I did not dream this, or did I ? Arrhhh am I going mad!? Any readers know more?).

There is a really good, beautifully clear, photo of a Dunedin trolley, I imagine from the 1960s, in the livery I best remember, on a tribute blog here, to a man who amongst other good things fought to save the trolleys

Risk to pedestrians and added stress for bus drivers

Given the millions of kilometres driven each year by the thousands of New Zealand bus drivers without accidents it is staggering that three pedestrians have been hit by buses crossing the bus lane's installed through Wellington Manners Street mall in less than a week!

Some clue as to how such a crazy situation could arise is hinted at in this newspaper article from Monday's Dominion Post. I admire one of the bus drivers involved, going public, being open and honest. I also feel for him - after 17 years driving a bus what a shit house thing to happen! It sounds to me he is a victim too - of poor design.

The newspaper reports " He was travelling at about 15kmh, and stopped scanning the area for "a split second" to focus on another bus coming toward him down the narrow roadway".

It has always amazed me the same situation does not arise in here Christchurch. The redesign of Cathedral Square left these absurdly tight lanes where buses often have to stop just to let each other pass. The footpath (or is it a footpath it is so hard to read what it is meant to be!) running alongside the road lane on the north of the Cathedral means buses virtually rub shoulders with pedestrians. Many of these appear to be tourists, somtimes walking two abreast or blithely unaware of the bus coming up behind. Even a minor slip or friendly jostle could see them side-step straight into the bus's pathway. I have always thought (along with the ugly white-grey tiles in the Square) this was a piece of truly appalling design by the Council.

The irony is that any minor rebuilding in Christchurch usually carries a hefty price tag because those building are required to meet some health and safety and disability hard line requirement - such as installing a shower with wheelchair access if altering existing staff toilets (as happened at one place I worked) although the showers were not even used by able bodied staff. Yet the whole design of traffic lanes through Cathedral Square seems to me to be a health and safety issue, not least for similar reasons to that applying in Wellington - it is difficult to scan read the whole roading area effectively (and bus drivers need 360 degree awareness) if concentration is momentarily diverted towards such absurdly close encounters with passing vehicles.

Also perhaps a good case for bringing at least some buses entering the city from the east (such as routes 60, 70) straight along Gloucester Street and down Durham Street to enter the bus exchange from Lichfield Street, with an added useful stop near Worcester Street, the Arts Centre and new Council HQ. A step towards "claiming" the east side of Durham Street beside the Avon River embankment for bus laning (see last comments in Ripe for Bus Lane) and eventually a busway corridor.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Aussie Expert Doubts Value of Rail Extensions In Auckland

In Christchurch we have the farcial situation of a Mayor - with absolutely no background in the science and technology of public transport planning - advocating rail and light rail. It is perhaps ironic that someone who who studies what works and doesn't work in public transport, and can relate the cost to benefit ratio, Professor David Hensher, director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at Sydney University, should consider much denser Auckland (almost four times Christchurch's metropop) poorly suited to rail.

Professor Hensher told Friday's NZ Herald; "When you look at Auckland, which is fairly low density, I'm absolutely amazed that you'd even consider heavy rail."

"For every kilometre of heavy rail you build in Auckland you could do at least 27km to 50km of bus rapid transit on dedicated roads," he said at the airport, before being driven to Hamilton for the launch of Waikato University's new Institute for Business Research.

Anyone who reads around public transport issues in countries similar to New Zealand (big space, few taxpayers, wealthy, high car ownership) and cities similar in size to Christchurch (because in public transport (city) "size does count") about 120 cities in Canada, Australia, NZ and USA - will know Professor Hensher's words only echo dozens of other studies. As other smaller cities have found - light rail or rail typical needs (a) unique circumstances, including geographical footprint that attract added patronage (b) a population one million plus (c) a big taxpayer payer base to meet the added set up and operating subsidy costs.

Alternately we could follow China's example - a country where government (and city governments) virtually stopped funding light rail back a couple of years (with light rail operative in only four of its dozens of cities!). Did the Chinese whose avowed policy is to jump over the outdated western technologies realise that trams in modern make over just don't do it? Instead the national Government is pumping its public transport funding into conventional heavy rail (in built-up areas), high spped rail (between cities, and as in Shanghai airport-to-city) and dedicated and separated (from other traffic ) busways in "smaller" cities below 10 million.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ripe for a bus lane?

The Ecan-Christchurch City Council joint strategy on bus lanes seems to be very orientated to grand productions - route by route, bus laning all the relevant sections of a particular route (which also often benefits other routes using the same piece of road). Perhaps the grand production with full trumpet introduction was needed in the early stages, but if future if lanes are built from this approach seems rather ponderous. Some routes will not be bus laned until 2019 according to the strategy adjustments made after the National Government came to power and Transport Agency NZ cut the minimal funding allocated to Christchurch (ignoring tens of millions still in the process of being spent in Auckland and Wellington).
It is my belief significant gains can be achieved by "hot-spotting" - identifying sections of road where a significant number of bus services are delayed, and widening or adding a "queue jumper" lane for buses travel straight to the front of the queue at traffic lights, and get a 10 second advantage signal to get ahead of the traffic. These may or may not be part of some future planned full route length bus laned route - the important thing is they address a major choke-point now, when budgets might not extend to larger projects

In my recent campaign for the Mayoralty (BTW I was unsuccessful, I put this down entirely to not registering or advertising that I was standing) (of course) I identified Adwins Road between Harrow Street and Linwood Avenue as a classic example. This road will be on the long term strategy to bus lane The Orbiter route (where appropriate) but the sheer number of buses routes feeding out of Harrow Street onto Aldwins Road - and the degree to which most are stuck in a traffic queue, particularly 3.30pm-6pm - suggests this be a now rather than later priority. This might take some major engineering particular if long term provision is made to purchase properties on the Harrow/Aldwins corner to give an ALWAYS free turn for buses, into their own lane OR if the intersection at Linwood Avenue was widened by re-landscaping the small grass verge with birch tree and cell phone tower to create a fourth lane (a cheaper option might be sophisticated traffic light system able to "read" the number of buses for straight queue jump advantage and/or cars turning left in the same lane).

Probably far less expensive - and I would imagine very attractive in any cost-benefit ratio study- is a short but highly valuable stretch of Durham Street, running between the bus stop outside the Salvation Army building and Armargh Street. This section of road is part of in-route towards the city and bus exchange for all buses from the Casino stops (including 28 route and The Shuttle), all buses from Papanui Road (including 90 Express from Rangiora and routes 8,10,11,12, 18, 22 ). Ironically the car parking along this short stretch of road (about ten curb side car parks?) is rarely used during most the morning peak hour - but as in the photo above it only takes one or two cars to block a potential bus lane! In my experience the one-way street here often gets clogged up in morning peak hours and buses are amongst the vehicles queued to get to the lights. [The bus in the photo above has a more or less clear run to get into the left lane but many others in peak hours do not get the same freeflow opportunity]
For want of a bit of green paint and a couple of signs I can't see why any bus needs to be held up along this stretch before 9am! And possibly in the evening peak too.
And even more interesting possibility is that this laning (at least for mornings) could continue down past the Provincial Givernment building and continue alongside the river, along Cambridge Terrace/Durham Street as far the Bridge of Rememberance. This would allow buses to come into the new or existing Bus Exchange - indeed a subtle traffic signal for buses only along the corridor could control the the inward flow. When Sydney built its first bus rapid transit corridors buses apparently funnelled off the busway, straight back into congested city streets, much of the value of speedy access to the city was lost. The long term potential of extending the bus lane suggested here - from Peterborough Street to Lichfield Street is obvious, and in the case of a Northern busway would allow easy use of articulated buses.