Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Art of Bus Stops (New Brighton)

NOTE; This posting was in preparation before the devastating earthquake - while it seems a bit trivial in the present context, there is also the need to begin to move on, get back to normality as far as possible. Also to think of more pleasant things. I think it might be a long time before the reviews of the alterations to the play area (CCC); and to The Metrostar route (ECan) get back in process but when-ever do comments here might be relevant. Or as always, possibly have some greater "universal" relevance to non-Christchurch readers

"I have long  been moved by the artless and unsympathetic location of bus stops on Hawke Street for Metrostar buses"

I am not a particularly adept gardener but I do love landscaping. It is a real challenge to prune trees and shrubs to create a pleasing shape and integrity in themselves, and a harmonious relationship to each other. I like creating natural looking shapes (or at least curved and gracious shapes) and visual corridors that lead the eye down or around interesting foliage lined paths, or which present the best vista. When I am armed with secateurs and loppers I become an ultra fussy "barber" - "snip, snip, stand back, snip, standback,  etc.  Or the caricature of the "French" painter who spends five minutes pondering the effect for every one minute making a brush stroke.

Back in August I  exposed my ultimate X-rated busspotter nerd status by seriously discussing bus stops (for God's sake has this man no life??)   I described the dozens of components that I see as necessary to consider in creating successful bus stop. Despite the fact the August posting was possibly the most comprehensive publicly accessible media discussion ever held on this subject, a subject so mundane it invisible to most people,  I now realise I missed at least one further aspect to be considered - aethestics.

Is a bus stop naturally composed in the landscape, logical, predictable and harmonious in its surroundings?  Obviously the answer will have to be, alas too often, "no but what else can we do?" Bus stops usually must go where they go for practical reasons. But sometimes planners and post hole digger people DO have a degree of choice.

All this is brought home to me by the current review of Council plans to revamp the children's playground on the land immediately above the beach at New Brighton. In the past 11 years I calculate I have arrived at this point in my travels about in excess of 2000 times, catching the Metrostar, to employment in the area.  Where I get off the bus is not significantly effected by shifting or adding stops as suggested below (it would be a 3 minute walk from either direction) but  I have always been moved by the artless and unsympathetic location of bus stops on Hawke Street for Metrostar buses.

I believe Metrostar is now Christchurch's fourth busiest route. The bus travels all the way from Halswell to New Brighton picking up from heaps of locations, including tourist motels along the way. But when it finally gets to this economically struggling beach village what does it do?  It drops kids and others way  up near the school  (300 metres from the sea) - fair enough -  and then travels down Hawke Street and then along Marine Parade and then back into Beresford Street,  around a U-shaped dogleg to Oram Avenue (also about 300 metres from the sea).

The distance between stops, in a built up commercial area, is the better part of a kilometre without stopping. Ironically it is past the busiest areas; past the local Club where so many people retired go; past busy shops with immediately adjacent carparks; past the Countdown Supermarket, the only one for the whole coastal area; past  the best and most obvious beach access (and area most likely to have safe swimming area flags monitored by New Brighton SLSC, New Zealand's oldest); past the childrens's playground; past the iconic built on the beach library which I believe gets about 7000 vistors a week; past the even more iconic lengthy modern pier, tourist and local landmark, and fisherman's favourite spot*. 

It is not a huge exercise to walk the quarter to half kilometre back to these spots, but why should bus passengers have to do this?  No one visiting the beach, club, supermarket, library etc with a car would park almost half a kilometre away if they can find a closer carpark.  Why should a bus service that claims to be offering quality transport not stop at a convenient location?  A secondary factor is that the Oram Avenue whilst ok most of the time occasionally gets a bit of bluster, bullshit and aggro, mostly fallout from two pubs and one bottle store immediately adjacent. "Unwelcome attentions' (for male or female) might best describe mainly minor scattered incidents I've seen across the years.  Some of this also comes from the intimate (lean out the window)  proximity of hoons in cars slowing to turn out of Oram Avenue, right beside the shady and [in winter] very cold stop, overlooked by no other facilities. Not the world's worst bus stop but nor is it the best**.
[**Note; the former movie theatre beside and overshadowing this stop was completely demolished after its facade collapsed during the Feb22 earthquake - obvious potential now exists for a proper Metro terminus. As well as the Hawke Street stop advocated here!]

If an extra bus stop was to be created immediately the back of the club in Hawke Street (and a return flow stop alongside the supermarket carpark oposite) it would really help all sorts of passengers, but obviously most of all the elderly, the mother's with children, the grocery shoppers of North New Brighton, the stranger or tourist trying to locate where they are to catch a bus back. In terms of evening security close to the busy supermarket it would offer a far less exposed place to wait. This location, Hawke Street near Marine Parade, to me is an attractive and natural gateway to New Brighton. In one 10 second glance, all elements can be instinctively sumarised - the club, the beach, the playground, the pier, the libray, the return stop back the way they came (for later). The mall one block over is more likely to attract tourists post the pier, beach, library, when stomachs rumble or (let's be honest) a cold wind blows the visitors inland towards greater sheltered areas.

But beneath all the practical reasons for an extra stop close to the corner of Marine Parade and Hawke Street, there is my pseudo-landscape gardener's arty farty instinct. If you are delivering people to a beach, if you are trying to increase the popularity and image of a slightly depressed beach suburb, isn't it natural to stop right where the vista begins, right at the centre of the action. Look folks, here is the sea, the park area, the pier stretching out over the ocean, the magnificent library.

Look kids, mums, dads, teenagers, tourists, no unnecessary struggle back from stops far away, get out of the bus and onto the beach or into the grand new playground. It is natural, harmonious, it feels right for a happy day at the beach, it is adding art as well as sense to bus stop location.

If I read the plans for the upgrade right, one of the great folk art icons of Christchurch, beloved by generations of pre-school children* remains serenely centre piece. The squirting whale in the children's paddling pool will NOT be removed.

At least that bit is done to the highest artistic standards!

* I could have photographed this earlier in the day when it was absolutely covered with all the little kids in their togs clambering up the back of the whale. What a great photo but alas for lone males this sort of thing can be too easily misconstrued nowadays, it just feels too weird to even go there. So we get whale all alone later instead, having a rest from his daily summer labours instead


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. The Oram Ave stop is a desolate place. Freezing winds in winter and leering drunks who I used to worry would follow me home (as a kid). There could easily be a stop before this terminus close to the beachside playground, chartered club and supermarket. It’s the sunny side after all!

  2. Hi David, We have a nicely designed bus shelter in new zealand pine that we would be prepared to donate - I can send you photo to see if it meets your standards? Daniel Gudsell