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]


  1. Absolutely. Barrington via Princess Margaret Hospital would make the route so much better.

    There's a Governor's Bay school bus that takes 20-30 students to Cashmere High (one stop before PMH) which could be replaced by the Metro service if it just went a couple of stops down the road. Then it could follow the Orbiter route round past Pioneer Leisure Centre, and on to Barrington Mall.

  2. exactly! I thought MetroMap must of chopped off the last length of the route, but sadly we aren't mistaken at all.

    I do, however, disagree with ChchTransport. Rather, have the route continue straight onto Barrington Mall bus station, as this would be quickest for city bound passengers or shoppers.

    From Barrington bus station the bus would loop around via Stourbride and Lyttleton St to Pioneer Centre, then Rose and Fairview to PMH for turning purposes ;).

    That way no over overlapping of services, a quick transfer to city services with the add on for a one bus trip to the Pool. The first service needs to arrive Barrington Mall station no later than 7.20am for city workers and last service from BMS no earlier than 6.10pm. Alas, never to happen.

  3. Yeah, that works just as well for the Cashmere students, just one stop on Barrington St before the mall, as a setdown/pickup once per day.

    I think it's pretty crazy to have a school bus doing a nearly identical (~1 or 2 stops) trip as a Metro route. Likely they'll even run at the same time.

  4. It seems even more sillier, when you look at the 480 for example, it doesnt stop at Homebase shirley and link up with the 60 there, but continues onwards to the Palms.

    Even more so since there seems to be a push to move away from shuttle services, why not run direct to city via Barrington Mall, not simlar to the 81,88,90,92 have it no pickup/setdown before the mall? or even that horrible barrington/cashmere roundabout. It would take an extra 12/15 minutes to the journey, does anyone know how long it would take the bus roughly to travel from Governers Bay to the roundabout