Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Youth Exodus" - lack of provincial bus services seen as factor in drain of youth from small towns

Tranzwatching in Tranaki (province), Te Ika-a-Maui, New Zealand

A lack of reliable public transport could be responsible for Stratford's youth exodus, two district councillors believe. Councillor Alan Jamieson said to reverse the trend of young people leaving the area they needed to install a daily bus service to and from New Plymouth, according to a report in the Taranaki Daily News. District Councillor Jamieson, said those seeking tertiary education needed their own car if they wanted to stay in Stratford. He said students either choose not to further their education or move out of town.

Comment; Yet another underlying reason for the Government via NZ  Transport Agency to establish and part-fund minimum benchmark service levels and frequencies of bus and coach services between all provincial centres and major city centres; and between surrounding towns and larger settlements and provincial hubs [New Plymouth in the case reported above] - a national "Regional Public Transport" platform - instead of just pumping huge sums into Auckland and Wellington rail! 

Part of the low priority given to this gap in transport policy is devaluing the needs of tens of thousands of independent youth, their need for mobility "spreading their wings" before driving age; or before or instead of car ownership when older. Transporty poverty considerably effects  many youth with need to maximise access to tertiary studies, training courses and employment (including part-time jobs) in all areas, but smaller settlements obviously more so.

In  some cases analysis might show these services can be integrated with provincial high schools, in a manner where a larger commuter bus/coach accessible to all persons heading towards a provincial hub would travel past, or continue to, the district high school/s replacing the need for a specific school bus route.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bus Rapid Transit from Belfast, Highfield, Prestons seen as a key element in central city recovery

NZ in Tranzit - Opinion - David Welch

Auckland's Northern Busway, Albany station after morning rush hour 2010. 
BRT an appropriate technology for Prestons, Highfield,  Grimseys and Styx (Photo-Welch) 

The building of two new large housing areas north of the city seems likely to go ahead. These are at Highfield, immediately east of the Grimseys Road area (2400 house sites) and at Prestons, between Mairehau Road and Lower Styx Road, immediately west and north west of Burwood Hospital (2600 house sites). Other new subdivsions in this northern area, such as East Belfast, north of Radcliffe Road are also planned.

If the land can be proven solid, as it appears following earthquakes and multiple ground ruptures in many other eastern areas,  or made solid many thousands of people displaced from the earthquaked "red zone" and elsewhere, looking for new places to live will offer developers an immediate large customer base .

What a brilliant opportunity this presents to "build in" a bus rapid transit system before the street pattern itself is built. This might retain bus routes as already planned for Prestons and East Belfast but factor in a small in a couple of enclosed station hubs for direct busway services to the city, ditto along the pre-built busway routes. Services would travel under QEII drive and be ramped over Cranford Street, curve around the floodplain and join  onto Rutland Street at a new elongated Rutland Reserve. Buses would then pass straight through a greatly redesigned area between Rutland Street and the top of Caledonia Road (in pat using land presently in Council Housing and the old Edgeware Pool site), running down Caledonia Road to curve round into Durham St North and straight down into the city, on all time bus lanes and traffic light signal priority.  All in all, with prepaid loading a journey of as little as 12 minutes by BRT, currently taking 20-35 minutes or more in peak hour congestion. [a link to a Google map version is available here]

          A guided busway - a low key technology punching way above its weight, less intrusive and more at natural ease with the environment than many rail options. Photo WikiMedia Commons

I see possibility for three, in parts grade-separated (segregated roading) bus rapid corridors, from the Grimseys Road corridor [as advocated by this blogster for many years] ; the Highfield Corridor; and the Prestons area

All could intersect with and be linked to a east-west Prestons Road axis,  re-developed as a six lane boulevard  running from Northshore and Parklands-Burwood to the Airport - almost a straight line (coming straight across Main North Road at Redwood after purchase and removal of some properties in the Barnes Street area),  running through proposed new housing areas in West Styx and industrial areas close to the airport -  and then down into the Hornby area via Basham and Islington and onto Rolleston.

A key aspect would be the centre two lanes could be curbed off (mostly) for a bus rapid transit system running along the median strip, and getting a green light every time, irrespective of congestion delays on the adjoing road corridor - Rolleston to Burwood, "the Great Western".

The direct links into the central city - less than 12 minutes from Grimseys, Highfield, and Prestons?  (and no time wasted finding and paying for a car park) - I believe will be a major factor in commercial and social survival of the city centre.

It seems to me that there is no way Hills Road, Cranford Street, Papanui Road etc could handle what probably amounts to a potential doubling or tripling of cars heading into the city from the north, especially at peak hours  - even if CBD car parking space will be two a penny after the massive demolition of hundreds of buildings is finished.

   The greater pulling power of modern diesel, CNG, hybrid or electric engines  - such as this bi-artic
BRT bus in Bogota - makes rails larger irrelevant, clear run corridors can also offer access for multiple routes to feed quickly across cities or into the very centre of cities

Without a bus rapid transport option (as per video, linked below) faced with congestion and tedious traffic queues new northern residents are far more likely to refocus all work and play activities in new areas to the north further cutting off blood supply to the city centre.

If the city centre is to fight for its survival DIRECT FAST links from outer suburbs - by-passing congested mall areas already well served by conventional bus systems - could be a big feature of the strategy.

This You Tube video, via Tree Hugger, focuses on the essence of Bus Rapid Transit

In the last local body election we had Jim Anderton, Jo Kane and others talking about bus rapid transit - admittedly a first for this out of touch with trends city - as if it was just some sort of vaguely better version of the current bus lanes. These are a rather limited in scope bus lane system, on street painted lanes - except at the most congested points - and without traffic light priority or queue jumper lanes at most intersections, including intersections used by multiple buses per hour!

BRT station in Jakarta with platform level loading. Blending rail and bus advantages in one technology

In contrast a proper Bus Rapid Transit system offering very fast access  could transform the northern suburbs with minimal need for park and ride lots and associated local area traffic traffic intensity that is usually required with rail solutions. In a busway system, as well as a branded 20/7 all stops-style frequent services, in peak hours various other routes could pick up in quieter suburban streets before feeding onto the busway corridors for a virtually non-stop blat into town.

The simplicity of a segregated corridor, in this case guided busway in Kesgrave UK (Wikimedia Commons)

Three busways into the city and one across town (build across several years of course) could offer over 45 kilometres of free run bus corridor, including cross town and downtown, for probably less than the infrastructure cost it would take to build a single 10km light rail line (based on overseas per kilometre light rail costs). Judging by the previous Mayor's comments about light rail on Papanui Road, or to the University, it would be a line doubt replicating the busiest bus routes in town to no significant advantage, instead of tying outer areas to the city centre as Bus Rapid Transit could do

Short and blunt drivers do nothing to win patronage in Invercargill

Tranzwatching in Invercargill, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

According to The Southland Times a survey of passengers on Invercargill's urban bus services has revealed up to 55% of passengers off-peak and 49% of passengers peak-time rate feelings of safety and security "very poor", with the driver attitudes identified as a prime factor.

Comment Apart from being a pain in the butt for passengers drivers with unpleasant attitudes and driving styles under-mine potential patronage growth, and consequently extra work, overtime and security of employment for themselves and other drivers.

Passenger transport is a service industry - if a driver does not enjoy helping and supporting residents and visitors to get the best possible quality bus service he or she is in the wrong industry.

Tasmania Government pro-active strategy to boost regional bus services proving successful

Tranzwatching in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Last year in October it was announced the State Government in Tasmania had negotiated an increase of regional services running tofro Hobart and Launceston, with several existing private bus companies.

Nine months down the track, the State's Minister of  Sustainable Transport (wow!!) speaking at a Budget Estimates Committee, described the strategy saying that the Service Development Plans (SDPs) were set up to help develop passenger transport as a genuine first choice of transport for Tasmanians through identifying new, expanded or extended non-metropolitan bus services. In a recent press release the Minister has described the expanded service as proving a success

“There is no better example of this than O’Driscoll Coaches’ Derwent Valley to Hobart run,” Mr McKim said.  “Last year, O’Driscoll Coaches agreed to trial an extended timetable including additional evening, Saturday and Sunday services for 12 months. The trial has been well supported by the community, and while the new services attracted good patronage from the earliest days of the trial, passenger numbers have increased even further over successive months”

The Derwent Valley run, previously operated by State Transit authority was sold to O'Driscolls Coachlines in 2008, raising protest from the Greens. Metro Tasmania defended the decision on commercial grounds, saying O'Driscoll operated all the school runs in the area and it was more effective for them to operate services tofro Hobart from their country base, albeit under the auspices of Metro criteria.

Other regional operations and country passengers to benefit from State support include those operated by TassieLink, Manion's Coaches, Callow's Coaches, and R D and F H Sainty

Mr McKim said $1 million was provided to fund proposals for services in 2010-11 and a further $1million will be made available in 2011-12.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calgary Transit in catch up mode; tech rich Christchurch Metro system facing tough future

NZ in Tranzit viewpoint - comparing systems doing transit well in different ways

Calgary's famous C-Train, in latest livery, at the opening of Crowfoot Station 2009
 Photo:Wikimedia Commons.  Click on image to enlarge.

Opponents or those cynical about light rail often claim it is a "poster boy" system, stealing a lot of energy and funding from the broader bus network, or diverting a natural flow of bus systems into becoming feeders bringing passengers tofro the light rail stations. Whether this allegation would hold water in Canadian city Calgary is not clear - few medium size cities in North America have done public transport so well, the transit system of Calgary, which has a population of just over a million, carrying 90 million passenger trips year, or 88 trips per capita per year (for local readers, twice the per capita trip rate of Christchurch PQ*) using both an extremely popular light rail system and/or an extensive bus network.

So it comes as something of a surprise that Calgary is only this week launching a public bus service tofro the Calgary Airport, at 30 minute frequency; and Calgary Transit announce in the same week they are also planning to introduce Real Time information; and planning to introduce Smart Card type payment systems, over the next few years.

Christchurch has had public transit to the airport since the Christchurch Transport Board took over the service from private operator Midland Coachlines back in 1976. Through astute organisation by Redbus of the two commercial (non-subsidised) routes they operate to the airport with one other subsidised route they also operate, there is now (PQ) a bus every ten minutes to the city centre from the airport, every third one direct, with the other two routes slightly longer but each serving the city's two major motel (and some hotels) accommodation corridors, Papanui Road and Riccarton Road  respectively.

Real-Time signage was first trialled in 2000 and full implementation began in late 2002. By 2004 the system was claimed to be the most advanced in the world, with installation at 25% of stops (550) and access via cell phone  and website. The local real time system has its glitches and the push button versions at lesser used stops often misfire, on first push, or all pushes. In general, though,  it will fail to supply info rather than give false info (though there was a few years ago a ghost 18 St Albans bus from outside Ballantynes every week night, that never appeared, but showed on the plasma multi-route signs, apparently technicians at the time were not unable to eradicate it). Created and installed by Christchurch based firm Connexionz, it has performed well, and Christchurch seems to have none of the more major problems reported with Real Time systems in many other cities, including Auckland and now Wellington in NZ. What is probably little appreciated by non-bus, tram or train catching politicians and city administrators, and others who have not used public transport for years, is the immense difference real time information makes to the quality of waiting. When there is no way of knowing how long the next service will be, the tension involved, natural impatience and a degree of anxiety can greatly exaggerate the felt waiting time, ten minutes can seem forever. In contrast, when real-time signage is available, when one sees that the bus is eight minutes away it allows relaxation, disengage the mind, daydream for a few minutes, read a book or maybe chat to a fellow passenger etc and it is only when the bus is now shown as 2 minutes away that active waiting and preparation to flag the bus needs to re-engage the mind. When working well and service frequency is good, Real Time makes for a relaxed wait. Real Time is now (PQ) linked to a number of other computerised devices, such an inter-active map and texting and twitter links.

Christchurch has had a plastic computer chip-card  fare paying system since 2003. This a huge success in per capita uptake and (in combination with low-floor buses) significantly reduces speed of loading - according to Metro average dwell time has been cut 70% .  This gives a totally different flowing qualities to most bus journeys, trips that used to be so "stop-start" tedious. Metrocard is also a brilliantly conceived, user friendly, system with unlimited travel within a two hour period of travel; after that period has expired a second use of the card gives unlimited travel for the rest of the day. Once this pattern is applied ten times (five days) all subsequent travel is free - for students and adults who commute tofro each day this usually means all evening and weekend travel is free! Loyalty is rewarded. An added management device - often hugely appreciated - even just 1 cent value on a card will allow use, it just debits passenger the outstanding balance of the fare owing and deducts amount owing when card next loaded, spitting out a little "bill" as a reminder to top up before or on the next trip. On top of all this the discount is a very generous 25% of cash fares, amongst the best in the transit world, though this may not be sustainable in the post disaster crisis facing Christchurch.

A comparison below shows how rapidly Calgary has grown, on the back of an extended oil boom, but now facing its own financial and hugely expensive water and sewage infrastructure costs. Calgary is two and half times bigger than metropolitan Christchurch, with a different terrain, and many other factors.

A inner city street in Calgary restricted entirely to public transport vehicles,
note the attactive overhead walkways to station platforms
 Photo:Wikimedia Commons.  Click on image to enlarge

The exponential growth of public transport usage as city size increases suggests it would be very hard for a city as small (and "drive into city and park" accessible) as Christchurch to achieve 88 trips per capita per year.

But looking at the many cities, big and small, on adaption of new technologies to support and enhancing bus travel Christchurch scores very high and scored early. The challenge will be to sustain that and carry it across into a better, tighter (less wastage) and more sophisticated and multi-directional options bus network in the practical and cash flow stresses of post-quake Christchurch [if it is indeed post-quake yet!!]

Christchurch (city pop only)
First three population totals elicited from references in Geoffrey Rice's "Christchurch Changing" (2008)
100,000 in 1919
200,000 in 1959
300,000 around 1993
340,000 about 2009

100,000 in 1946
250,000 in 1961
400,000 in 1971
600,000 in c1989
1,000,000 about 2007

** PQ - it had to be done, the world we used to know encapsulated, abbreviated in some way! Wabbit wordsmith strikes again.  PQ = pre-earthquake (4 September 2011 and 7000 thereafter!), might also be read as short-hand colloquial expression for " in normal circumstances". Perhaps AQ for after/ since quake too?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunshine Coast Uni awarded for promoting bus use and other sustainable transport

Part of the Uni bus station just after completion in 2009

Tranzwatching in Queensland, Australia

The University of the Sunshine Coast has won the Sunshine Coast Council** Sustainable Transport Award for its innovative Travel2USC program at the council's seventh annual Living Smart Awards on Friday, June 17th 2011.

The University - a world leader in applying environmental technologies - created a raft of ways to influence greater use of green transport technologies.

According to a report in the Sunshine Coast Daily [June 25 2011 - no current link] the activities of the programme have almost doubled bus amongst students and staff, up from 4.8% of all trips  in March 2010 to 8.7% of all trips in March 2011

The programme included providing land for the construction of a $6 million bus transit centre on campus - opened two years ago this weekend - and building $55,000 bike hub featuring lockers, showers and change rooms, having specific parking areas for car-poolers and staging a large Ride to Work Day event last

It is two years ago, this weekend since the bus transit centre opened. I love the confidence of Queensland State Transport Minister, Rachel Nolan, in the news report  preceding the bus transit centre opening back in 2009 “In time, buses will become the preferred way of getting around the Coast.”

** Note; Surprisingly for such a big country Australia has relative few small to medium size cities around the same size  as Christchurch with which to compare  transit systems and trends - Hobart, Wollongong, Canberra and Newcastle come closest. Three years ago amalgamation of several local bodies in several rapidly growing areas north of Brisbane reformed into a single administrative unit, added Sunshine Coast Region, with a resident population of about 340,000, as a "sister sister in transit". 

Anderton on controversy over advertising of City Manager position

NZ in Tranzit -opinion, comment

I like this quote below, it appears in a very thoughtful and well written article in by senior Member of Parliament and, last year, unsuccessful Mayoral candidate,  Jim Anderton.

"Something is amiss here, and I cannot help but draw the conclusion that this recruitment and appointment process should not continue. The fact that the Council is almost evenly split on such an important appointment is in itself cause for concern. This appointment is not something that has to be rushed, and it is imperative that Christchurch has a chief executive who can unite the city and inspire confidence in tackling the very important tasks which lie ahead," Jim Anderton said.

The article appears in Voxy online news titled
Anderton: Christchurch CEO Appointment Process Contaminated

Note I have no particular stance on this, nor about the current city manager, other than a general disquiet about areas I do follow with interest, public transport. I believe the city has long lacked coherent visionary leadership in implementing appropriate (in scale and cost) technologies and strategies to give Christchurch the vastly better public transport system it could have. 

The biggest problem with public transport world wide is probably generic - those paid huge salaries to administrate or plan are not 24/7 public transport users, have little comprehension or competence in a field of engineering for which they have no genuine empathy and minimal ongoing depth experience. It is like people who never listen to music and who don't play an instrument believing they can write music that will speak to the hearts of listeners. A gross arrogance, a bumptiously patronising attitude, whose exposed incompetence continuously invites listener contempt. Where there are competent administrators, it seems to me, they tend to get over-ridden by politicians either out to blow their own trumpet with grand projects or are indifferent or atagonistic to public transport and keen to cut costs.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not buying the Bob Parker viewpoint?

NZ in Tranzit opinion - Christchurch land use for transport

Land acquisition vital to new city - so says entrepreneur, kitchenware manufacturer and major office park developer Ernest Henshaw in an opinion piece in Christchurch's The Press on June 7th 2011

But, according to Henshaw in the same article;

.."this will not happen. If Mayor Bob Parker and his chief executive officer have their way, it is impossible for this to happen because they have ruled out, in advance, any alteration to the city's grid of streets, any interference with property titles, and any interference with surviving buildings."

I have been unable to hunt down the sources references to Parker-Marryat statement of these aims.  [if anyone knows please drop me a line]. They seem absurd, unlikely, but I can't imagine Mr Henshaw would be lying.

And if the Parker viewpoint is as stated by Ernest Henshaw, God help Christchurch!!

Quite apart from the very attractive medium high housing density proposals put forward by Henshaw and shown in the same article, it ignores the fact that roading and public transport routes as currently constructed are in many cases becoming obsolete technology.

All over the world public authorities are wakening to the fact buses and light rail systems can not start to be competitive with cars and alleviate congestion, if they have to stop and load passengers AND fight on-street congestion.

On the other hand give buses and trams the same advantages traditionally enjoyed by railways -  their own lanes, priority traffic signals, pre-pay fare stations and segregated corridors, underpasses or overpasses, and superbly fast systems can be created that attract big patronage and save cities millions in rail and roading management and expansion costs.

Following the earthquakes Christchurch residents are told 900 city buildings and up to 10,000 houses have been, or will need to be, demolished. The biggest oppositional factor to creating new mobility infrastructure - the dislocation of existing use, tenants or owners - has been swept aside by the huge horrific forces of giant earthquakes. The nature of whole neighbourhoods may change, everything's open to re-evaluation.

What administrator in his or her right mind would not seize the opportunity to try place Christchurch's mobility on a more effective and secure base for future generations? Buildings can go anywhere in a tight area but linear routes - roading, bus routes, rails -  are very site specific...options are far, far more restricted. Yet here is an unique opportunity rarely offered any city.

Who, leading the city into the future, would not seek to replace a number of buildings, badly damaged or now demolished, or even some that have survived, by a range of intersection widening, or lane adding strategies to manage traffic into the immediate and long term future.

Who would not choose to laying the foundation for multiple bus advantage (and bike, skate and pedestrian friendly) systems and even (if oil is discovered under Christchurch) light rail, now, while the chance is offered.

The number of people, businesses effected by such purchases - mostly I imagine to their advantage - would be a few score at most, versus the needs of hundreds of thousands of residents, motorists, public transport users - benefitting millions of vehicle trips - spanning the decades to come.

What sort of politicians would go flacid on this issue? Tell me it is not true!

Chinese city transport goes electric for Uni games

Tranzwatching new bus tech being showcased in China

The new (basically 30 year old) Chinese city of Shenzhen will have 2,011 green vehicles on the road to transport participants, visitors and locals when they host the summer 2011 Universiade in August.

The new-energy vehicles would include hybrid buses, hybrid double-deckers, electric buses and minibuses, electric taxies and fuel cell buses, China Daily reports.  The number of environment-friendly vehicles exceeds that during the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo.

Universiade is the world university games, with 13,000 students athletes from 180 countries and regions competing at Shenzhen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Charming video view of pre-quake Christchurch

Tranzwatching in Christchurch, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

Battered and bombed by over 7,000 earthquakes since the original 7.1 richter scale earthquake at 4.35 am September 4th 2010 (including 181 lives lost during a particular ferocious aftershock February 22nd 2011) Christchurch residents have almost forgotten the relaxed city centre and beachside suburbs they once took for granted.

A film made by a German student staying here in early 2010, is capturing the heart of earthquake weary Christchurch residents. Using 10,000 time lapse camera shots and  various stylistic devices, including a slightly rose tinted vision,  the You Tube captures, pre-earthquakes, the city's centre - Cathedral Square - and beach suburb Sumner, the old stone university buildings (now a much damaged Arts Centre) and other scenes. It is all done in a way that is so warmly tinted and so folksy it almost looks like toytown.

But damn it all, we'll buy this mystic vision!

All the happy feelings it gives.

....on behalf of Christchurch thank you Luka Skaupen Johann (and all your mates) for all the work you put into filming this and post-production editing etc. Its such a buzz.

I am sure that you  little realised that you were creating a unique and lasting memorial to a city about to be devastated.

Oh yeah this is a public transit blog  - for bus and tram buffs, these vehicles feature prominently - cute as!

Bus lane use excuses not legal pathway, High Court.

Tranzwatching legal history being made in Auckland, Te Ika a Maui, NZ

He tried the bus lane, the low road and the High Court, but Auckland lawyer Nigel Cooke didn't get too much mileage from Justice Brewer in his personal attempt to avoid paying a  fine for driving in a bus lane in Auckland according to a report in Auckland Stuff

Cooke's argument was that he didn't see signage and therefore there could be no crime as crime required intent. Along with other arguments,  Cooke took his case to the District Court,  defeated in round one he took his personal test case to the highest court in the land.

Cooke's case was rubbished by High Court Justice Brewer who said that this offense was not considered a crime, but a "public welfare infringement offence". Commented Justice Brewer "To require the prosecution to prove knowledge or intention on such a minor matter would be against all common sense.''

Stuff your excuses evil bus lane parkers!!

Metro to cut and burn quieter routes ?

NZ in Tranzit - suspicious of what is going in Christchurch!

Destined to be a very rare image for busspotters. The 740 service at the Ohinetahi Terminus,
on the short-lived Governors Bay-Cashmere Road run, about to depart early February 2011

Last year the National Government instituted a fairly tough fare-box  recovery requirement for public transport authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

This requires 50% of operating costs to be met by fares paid by passengers.

How this 50% is defined  - whether per route or across the network averaged out is not set out - indeed in the NZ Transport Agency statement of May 28th last year it implies that it is up to each regional council to determine this

NZTA Regional Partnerships and Planning Group Manager Dave Brash says the policy agreed by the NZTA’s Board in April requires all regional councils to set their own farebox recovery policies and ratios by 1 January 2012 as part of their Regional Public Transport Plans. A farebox recovery ratio measures the proportion of the operating costs of public transport services covered by fares, and is typically expressed as a percentage. 

However what ECan is telling patrons, via the Metro Facebook, has a different emphasis; -

"Hi Mark, the 740 Govenors Bay service will no longer operate due to financial constraints and a lack of cost recovery by the service before the quakes. Central government expect a cost recovery on all services of 50%, the 740 only reached 9%, as the earthquakes have cost us a lot financially we had to cut this service. The residents of Govenors Bay were notified of this in a public meeting last week."

Which produced a subsequent enquiry

"However, Metro does plan to reinstate this service in due course?, once the rest of the Christchurch is sorted (however long that takes), if/when they restart the 740, it should run the extra 1km or so to Barrington shopping centre."
Metro replied

"Hi Joshua, the 740 won't be returning. Over the next few months we're going to work with the Governors Bay community to look at other public transport options"

What can Metro patrons read into this - a few porkies being told?   Or is this the first hint of an Environment Canterbury policy of cut and burn that will undermine frequency and service spread, equitable access tofro all parts of the city?
Recently Metro cut out a poorly planned and briefly trialled service to Governors Bay, route 740 - which had anyway been curtailed by earthquake factors. This is a steep alpine style road with continuing minor [but in severe earthquake who knows?] rock falls. It would hardly be surprising if operators could not get public liability insurance on this road.. Adding earthquakes to this volatile eroding terrain will also close down dozens of walking tracks - a much needed added source of patronage that might have been possible.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Social technology boosting carpooling

Tranzwatching trends in social transport, NZ and USA

The possibility offered by various social media to link up those seeking a ride, or seeking to share driving between days with other car owners, is leading to a major growth in carpooling groups in New Zealand and elsewhere.

It is an exciting use of technology towards sustainable goals for all parties and in some circumstances could have significant impacts upon congestion, roading costs, traffic management strategies and - for better or worse - public transport usage.

Organised carpooling has potential to become a major form of socialised  transport, particularly from dispersed rural fringes of cities and towns, where organised carpool systems will usually be more effective than bus services.

Carpooling may be competitive with bus services (if they exist) undermining a fragile patronage base. Carpooling may also foster public transport by getting potential passengers to hub points or offering a one way alternative, when the departure time needs of rider/driver match only traveling one direction.

Using media to match riders with drivers, the potential also exists to widen the scope by organised drop-off/pick-up points at public transport hubs, in cases where not all passengers travel tofro the same points in the city.  There is also potential for public transport authorities to ensure all carpoolers in any given area are also offered current public transport info pertaining to the area.

Every transport system that increases options makes leaving the private car at home (or doing so most days in a turns about ride sharing situation) more viable. On a larger conceptual plane it breaks the idea that the private car journey (alone) is always the best option for every function - to create sustainable transport for the future means to offer a raft of different ways of getting moving people and things, many of these barely developed or integrated as yet.

Transport planners in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and the Bay of Plenty are amongst those already recognising the useful role carpooling can play.

Recently US transit site The Transport Politic discussed some of the issues carpooling raises for public transport in general, with reference to the US situation (though interestingly a Kiwi carpool advocate appears in the course of this article).

Of particular interest, I find, is the casual car pool system operating in San Francisco referred to in The Transport politic.  Creating the same HOV "three persons or more"per vehicle ruling for lanes and even segregated sections of specifically built roading, could also be used to win political approval and funding for a substantial increase in bus lanes, and queue jumper lanes and traffic light priority signals.

Canberra - Late night bus proves expensive per passenger

Canberra's Nightrider late-night bus service trial for three months last summer failed to quell alcohol fuelled violence in downtown Canberra and proved an expensive service per passenger carried according to a report from Territorial and Municipal Services.

Noted; The Canberra Times assumes all passengers to be "drunks"! Also the news report does not make it clear why a late night bus service in itself would have any effect on the level of violence, a rather large ask of any transport system!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

World's longest guided busway now expected to open soon. Yeah right

NZ in Tranzit commentary on UK busway to be

This could be a buspotter's Tui bill-board, that's for sure!

Interested in new bus tech this tranzistable blogster has kept one tiny corner of his eye on the Cambridgeshire Busway in the UK, for I guess, um, um,  maybe 4 or 5 years.

The strength of the guided busway planned, is unlike trains on the railway line that used to run down most of the busway corridor,  buses can leave the corridor and travel deep into the heart of towns along the way. Also much frequent services are possible.

At 25km of concrete guide rails and running surface,  it will supersede the Adelaide OBahn  in Adelaide as the world's longest guided busway.

One day...

Never underestimate the ability of big ticket projects - any sort of engineering including busways as well as bridges, tunnels, dams, rail projects etc (a) to escalate costs beyond that budgeted at an seemingly absurd rate (b) to get incredibly bogged down in some "obscure to the public litigious", legal hoo-haa or labour dispute that has lawyers circling like vultures, and where no two days in row are worked consecutively by the contractor or the union!

Few projects have done better than achieving an Oscar in "What Went Wrong" than the Cambridgeshire guided busway which was originally expected to begin running in 2008.

I can't even be bothered trying to figure it out and offer a synopsis of what has happened, it is too tedious and obscure,  though I did refer to it a while back, a much visited posting, illustrated with an appropriately gloomy photo

According to UK's  however, it is finally time to break out the champagne.

Many of the world's greatest achievements, inventions and evolutionary steps started with multiple hiccups, various disasters, repeat failure. Guided busways may or may not take off. I'll wait and see.

The potential of guided busways (or for that matter guided truckways), especially if joined to the inexhaustible thrust of electrical power - driven by rechargeable batteries or supercharged off short stretches of overhead line, for instance on steep hills - may sound odd to our ears. But the potential to move people and goods at very high speed in a grade separated segregated corridor AND ALSO be able deliver passenger or goods  doorstep to the doorstep, has never been fully explored. Too often the awesome shadow cast by the Victorian-era steam and the sentiment attached to trains in general still holds sway, even in situations where it represents a clumsy solution.

Are we designing a fancy fairground ride or effective best option system? I'll wait and see.

MyCiti - it could be Your City too!

A recent You Tube about Capetown's new Bus Rapid Transit system captures something of the feeling of these higher speed, high capacity, bus many ways the impression is more akin to rail (with enclosed stations) than the way that most New Zealanders probably think of buses.

All new commuter trains pulled out of service for further work, Wellington area commuters upset

Tranzwatching in Wellington region, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

For many years Wellington rail has suffered small and large rail breakdowns, with all their capacity to effect thousands of commuters. The problem of run down systems was usually identified.

Disappointingly the new Korean built  "Matangi" trains are also having teething problems that leave commuters unsure and irate. 

Regional bus service in Otago to be disconnexed, fifteen jobs lost

Tranzwatching in Central Otago, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

Passenger Transport Ltd, the deep south NZ bus company established by brothers Kayne and Tony Baas, back in 1991 has steadily grown, now operating about 50 school runs in Southland and contracted urban bus services in Invercargill, and several contracted routes in Dunedin. A few weeks ago the Dunedin arm of PTL purchased CitiBus Dunedin, a Dunedin City Council operated Local Authority Trading Enterprise, picking up many more Dunedin Citibus bus routes in the process. DCC had recently recorded losses of over $8 million on operating CitiBus.

The Citibus site, originally contained this link to Connexions, which conveys the unusual extent of services owned and operated by a company whose prime shareholder was Dunedin City Council

An unusual aspect of CitiBus was that the city owned and based company also ran a range of regional services deep into the Otago hinterland, between Dunedin and four major tourist areas under the branding Connexions. These ran from Dunedin to Invercargill, Dunedin to Middlemarch (and the famous Central Otago Rail Trail), Dunedin to Queenstown, Dunedin to Wanaka, and - not least - connected Wanaka conveniently to Queenstown airport and Queenstown. In direction schedule and presentation it seems an attractive service. As a long distance-bus gadabout myself, this blogster has had it earmarked to use for a sunny blue "central"  holiday at some time. Alas no longer.

The 15 employees of Connexions have been told the company will be discontinued.

A copy of the letter sent to employees who have been told the company will cease to operate after June 30th, in nine days, was emailed to the Otago Daily Times. It said since Invercargill Passenger Transport had taken over Citibus it had been "urgently reviewing aspects of the business".  The letter noted it was well known Citibus was "incurring significant losses" which required "significant changes", the letter said.  "We have looked closely at the Connexions operations and, unfortunately, have concluded that we cannot hope to reshape them into a sustainable operation."

NZ in Tranzit - opinion on these sad disconneXions

As attractive this regional bus service Connexions appeared, without the international profile generated by larger bus and shuttle networks, such as InterCity Coachlines, Naked Bus or even Atomic to really pull the non-local punters, losses occurred in this sector probably seemed, all along, to most observers as one very likely source of the DCC CitBus hemorrhage.
Also as Passenger Transport run the Naked Bus franchise (or whatever it is) south from Christchurch, and also operate the Dunedin-Invercargill Atomic franchise (or whatever it is) there could be an element of competing against themself. Bus users can only hope something else may be on the drawing books!

It is inevitable a private company must follow sound business practice but it is also hugely sad, more links are falling from our regional and long distance bus and coach network.

I wrote to the NZ Bus and Coach Association of NZ some years ago, suggesting a national network framework, by the association acting to forge a working agreement between independent operators. This would offer composite timetables [service quality identified] for all services in each area in booklet and website formats, with phone, web links to each supplier company, linked to a distinctive profile standardised national bus network bus stop signage and stops and other facilities. My aim was to float the idea, but it sunk without trace. I received no response at all (not uncommon when you campaign from the consumer sidelines!).

Understood,  the big companies aren't very likely to want to share the roost, but this said we are a small country whose remarkably high standards of living and, I believe, hundred year lucky run no longer appears to be fully sustainable. Lifting the profile, status and facilities of regional and distance long travel. shifting coach travel up a gear across the whole nation, stands to make New Zealand hugely tourist friendly for the whole middle to lower end of the market, from town to town, from terminal to accommodation, all taxi numbers and bus services link on the same page, literally and metaphorically. Half of good transport is good information.

Likewise, just as Britain, or Germany etc with their large populations and densities can offer train travel at frequent intervals just about everywhere, a national network would work to establish criteria and support providers, to create a consistent daily platform of services nationwide. This might, for example in effect guarantee at least three bus services a day (at spaced intervals) between any of the adjacent twenty largest centres (and of course, many smaller centres en route). Locals and tourists a like would know, could depend upon knowing "Yes, there is sure to be a bus from here,  to X or Y, there are always morning,  noon and late afternoon services  in any larger place in NZ". A framework of expectation is first step towards a sale.
I believe we as a nation need to lift the spread and frequency of all services, and to promote what already exists far far better, including TV advertised links to a key site offering  a one-stop shop, to every bus service, city and country sites.

I say and I say and I say [a major motivator of this blog!] .....we are under-estimating buses, the high quality of service they are now capable of delivering, the technology now available, particularly land use and lane segregation, upcoming wire less electrification of buses. and potential towards greater bucket seat and belted comfort as the norm.

We are throwing away the incredible flexible but significant capacity of bus and coach services to play a major role in cushioning oil rise impacts, reducing congestion, absorbing increased costs of living, and supporting the huge social costs of an aging population. Throw out all this sentimental crap about passenger rail - it is a huge drain on the countries resources,  Auckland and Wellington probably swallow 75% of every transit dollar. Light rail as promoted by the Christchurch Mayor is pure snake oil that doesn't sell for anything less than $40 million dollars a kilometre, anywhere I can find!

The relevance of rail to a country that rarely ever sees a thousand commuters pass through one spot in an hour is minimal.

Why is so much money being poured into a small portion of urban routes and areas? The GDP per capita is not significantly different from the hinterland and prosperity generated in regional key industries such as tourism, dairy, forestry, coal, and agriculture.  It is incomprehensible that billions of taxpayers money is being sought (long term) to take rail to Auckland airport but that the town and vital tourist industry of Wanaka  gets nothing, not a bloody razoo, to support a Wanaka-Queenstown - airport bus link.

A framework of expecting buses to be big players is first step towards vastly improved land based public transport service levels and quality across NZ, urban, regional and long distance.

Plenty of interest, many potential buyers for NZ bus factory

Tranzwatching in Christchurch, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

The receiver of failed large bus-maker DesignLine, Kieran Horne of of the accounting firm HFK,  is hoping to complete a sale of the New Zealand operation in just over a month. According to a news report in the Business Day section of there has been strong interest, including from a number of companies, national and international, with some already in the industry capable of taking the company forward.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Christchurch Metro - the full run down

NZ in Tranzit opinion -  on Christchurch Metro exposing itself in public

I just checked out Metro's facebook page.

Unbelievable!! I find Metro giving the advice below to a person who wanted to get from Northlands to Moorhouse Avenue, a journey, about 7-8 km, that pre-quake that took less than 30 minutes;

Metro Info Hi Krystal, the 18 from Northlands currently only runs as far as Bealey Ave. At Bealey Ave you need to transfer to the Link service to get over to the other central city terminus at Parkside, and from there you can catch a number of buses to Moorhouse Ave. If you catch the bus from Northlands at 12:10pm or 12:40pm you should get to Moorhouse Ave by 2pm.

Or put another way, you can expect your journey will take between 1 hr 20 minutes and 1 hour 50 minutes.
Obviously to every sane person this grossly unacceptable; that's not a "transport" system!
It is a joke, but a joke that I have found myself to have a rather bitter taste in the mouth, in extreme case bus and ferry journeys that have taken over three hours (admittedly on Sundays). 
If the return journey for Krystal above takes as long then that means between 3 and 4 hours of a day is consumed getting to work, study, shops or some other location. No wonder so many patrons have walked - maybe literally walked - although 85% of the city is back at work and study, somewhere, so presumably a high portion of the 20-30,000 daily pre-quake  bus users still need/want/prefer buses. 
Is there some huge hole between Northlands and Moorhouse Avenue or something that buses fall down and have to be cranked out of again with a block and tackle?
Has Metro started using rickshaws? No, that can't be it they would be faster!
Why is exactly that passengers can not get across the city faster?
Why? It is certainly not because any of the roads needed to make this journey requested above directly are ruptured. Papanui Road, Bealey Avenue, Harper Avenue, Deans Avenue, Moorhouse Avenue ....about 35-50  minutes, ok maybe that's 20 longer than normal, because of congestion. But possibly over twice that amount of time?? Why?
Why? It is certainly not because we do not appear to have the surplus buses and drivers given that 10 routes are not operating or not operating over part of the route ...circa 60 under-employed drivers on those routes/operating bus companies alone.
Why? It is certainly not because Civil Defence or now Christchurch Earthquake Recoverity Authority do not have the power to go beyond present legislation or legal contracts to deal with situations.
Why ? It is certainly not because funding is not available - in October last year Environment Canterbury was proudly saying they had saved Regional rate-payers $3.8 million in shifting to gross contracts....did this money saved go back into our bus system? the earthquakes should the Council have considered ...hey this is a disaster, it is costing everyone ...we aint gonna make the savings we intended?
Has Ecan decided on a minimal rate rise, even at a time of unusual costs and huge loss of rating value, partly to try to smooth over the puppet government resistance factor? No comment. Most of the ECan ratepayers after all live in Christchurch.
Why? Is emergency funding - if it was needed  - to run extra services and emergency shuttles not available?  It should be - helping transport recover from the Christchurch earthquakes is one of the five priorities of the Ministry of Transport.
    Ok recognised Stephen Joyce is not partuicularly in there batting for public transport but look what he has allowed to be  spent in Auckland. And a mere $88 million extra for Wellington rail in the recent budget.
....New Zealanders tend to be very fair-minded - politically Joyce [if he was involved at all in a NZTA decision]  couldn't to deny Canterbury a million or two emergency aid for public transport without costing National thousands of key votes in urban electorates where thousands rely upon public transport. And know shit when they smell it.
There are no excuses, though the comfortable well paid bureacrats will no doubt say "dear oh dear, it's earthquake this and earthquake that". Months down the track (months of added waiting) it lacks credibility. The issue is mostly a matter of political willpower, commitment or strategic competence by the people elected - oops- imposed, to lead, and their Metro officers.
But anyone who gave a tinker's cuss about the people they are paid to serve would in a couple of hours identify where the system isn't working, where's it taking absurdly long to make the simplest journey, where there are areas not getting adding frequency, where there are areas people can't get to a supermarket easy etc etc. [actually a competent authority will have most of this social mapping already on computer, on tap]
In Christchurch it is made a bit simpler because there is ring of Malls about 4-5 km out from the city centre, it has been one of the really good things Metro has done [stage one] to route almost every route via a mall/shopping and services hub. Consequently every mall is a mini-hub of 4-6 routes, including orbital services and, in the north east-west cross town services.

Connect these malls directly and thousands of journeys are shortened.
Public service to circumnavigate the hopeless no through-route/double transfer/three waiting period system or the "miss two buses in a row" system is needed.  Temporary shuttles - direct services from Northlands around the back of the park and Moorhouse Avenue to Sydenham  and then Barrington; direct service from Bealey Avenue (multiple routes ex North and north east)  to Eastgate. Joining up dozens of dots, by-passing a hundred woes. 
Hours of wasted time for consumers chopped out of the current system and possibly the cost already met because presumably if ECan is paying gross contracts then it will have to pay per month regardless of whether 35,51, 83 east, 84 east etc are running or not.
And if that is not the case and they do have to borrow the money or see the minister
...well between you and me, that's is what they are paid to do. Keep buses running effectively as possible.
Paid to run a competent bus service for a quake battered people needing maximum support. Not paid to run a once great bus service into the ground!!

Tauranga - the Bay Hopper appears likely to inherit several thousand new commuters

Tranzwatching in Tauranga, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

The success of the Bay Hopper bus service in Tauranga has led to the Ministry of Education saying it will no longer subsidise school buses for children living with in the urban area beyond the end of 2014.

The Bay Hopper was established in 2001 and is as part of an attractive regional bus network established by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The urban service has now achieved its goal to bring most city residents within 500 metres of a bus stop in this rapidly growing city of 120,000 residents. 

According to the senior transport planner with BoPRC, Emlyn Hatch, “The development of the public transport network has enabled the ministry to review its position with respect to providing transport assistance to Tauranga students, particularly given Tauranga is the only remaining large urban area in New Zealand where the ministry is doing so".

According to a new report on local news site it is estimated the Bay Hopper service, with 35 buses in operation,  will carry 1.6 million passengers for the 2010/11 year, compared with 2.08 million in the ministry’s 85 school buses in the same period. If all children are taken to school by car the report indicates a significant increase in traffic.

Over the next two and half years BoPRC planners will be investigating ways to integrate significantly increasing the current patronage (plus other growth). In many ways an excellent opportunity for the city, a chance to lever up frequency and route directions on the basis of  a more or less guaranteed patronage increase, and/or running parallel systems of fare paying school bus routes, such as operated by RedBus in Christchurch.

Should all school pupils in New Zealand pay a standard school bus fare?

NZ in Tranzit believes spreading costs and subsidies fairly is important in itself and also has potential to fund quality bus services for all residents in smaller towns areas throughout NZ.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Designline demise in NZ places Abu Dhabi venture in doubt - Construction magazine

Tranzwatching the spread of electric bus technology - or not - in Abu Dhabi

The future of a joint venture between manufacturer DesignLine and Abu Dhabi’s Liberty Automobiles is in doubt after the bus maker's New Zealand operation was put into liquidation according ConstructionWeek Online magazine.  The $30 million joint venture was planning to make the Unite Arab Emirate's the home of the world’s first 100% electric bus, with production due to begin in January 2012.

Tourist town seeks bus priority priority in regional strategy, Government funded

Tranzwatching in Queenstown, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

Queenstown - Bus Priority measures sought for busy main northern entrance road which runs along steep hillsides above Frankton Arm - to left in this edited Wikimedia Commons photo.
Click image to increase size

Ostensibly the urban population of Queenstown is only about 10,000 residents. But as major summer and winter tourist centre, Queenstown's actual heads-on-beds population and in surrounding areas in any given moment is significantly greater. This population is largely squeezed into an incredibly scenic but tightly constricted by hills corner of Lake Wakatipu, with access mostly reliant on the ever busy Frankton Road, skirting the steep side of one arm of the lake.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council - covering Queenstown and Wanaka and areas between - is making a submission to the Otago Regional Transport strategy that includes the request for bus priority measures to be created on Frankton Road - a technology to date rarely seen outside the major centres.

With a huge traffic in tour buses, as well as scheduled long distance and regional services, and one of the only 15 minute local bus services to be found in any provincial town, the District Council is concerned that the Regional Council advises the Government to give sufficient funding to secure this vulnerable road - a State Highway maintained by the nation - against potential slips, and to protect buses against delays.

Auckland Hop card glitches lead to refunds

Tranzwatching in Auckland, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Auckland's new smart card, the Hop Card, is having teething problems, with a small number of commuters effected reports the NZ Herald this morning. With its more complex multi-zonal structure, Hop Cards don't charge the fare until passengers sign out - as they exit.

Bill Bayfield rolls up his sleeves while Metro minimal response leaves patrons bewildered.

NZ in Tranzit  - opinion (hackels up, nostrils flared from too many crap bus transfer journeys!!)

Four months of this farce? Not good enough Metro ! Not good enough Council!

"Big chief rolls up sleeves to help with quake" was the headline posted in today's NZ Herald on-line. The description is of newly appointed Environment Canterbury [Regional Council] Chief Executive Bill Bayfield, who arrived on the day of the rather nasty 5.5 and 6.3 after-shocks, and today Sunday was out in the eastern suburbs helping shovel silt with 1200 other volunteers.

Hopefully he will prove a roll model (terrible pun) for his Government appointed masters, "Commissioners" Dame Margaret Bazley, David Caygill, Rex Williams and co; and for the staff of the Environment Canterbury [Regional Council] public transport arm, Metro - neither group appears to have done too much "rolling up their sleeves" to help city bus users in the last month or three!

What was a rough and ready emergency response still remains at that primitive level and now appears to be being considered acceptable;  indeed a recent restoration of minimal service levels on some route was spin-doctored on the Metro web site at one stage as "improvements".

Many people already under great emotional and practical stresses (house damage, work changes, family loss, nervous tension, quake-brain) associated with the repeated earthquakes/s/s/s ... are now having to waste hours extras each week getting tofro work or study; or to make complex journeys to pick up family members who can no longer bus; or not able to have a restorative fuller social life (enjoyed from about day three in some suburbs) - curtailed purely because of the bizarre organisation of bus services.

Thousands of people depend upon buses but Metro seems oblivious to how they are cutting life-lines by not addressing the specific needs of each area. There is no apparent targeted strategy to serve the customer base as best as possible.

In a recent Mainland Press [June 15th pg 15] article, the acting director of operations certainly doesn't give the impression that Metro has rushed out to help those reliant on buses to keep moving.  Speaking almost four months after the February quake, about responses still six weeks away, the executive says [my emphasis added]  "The initial response has been focussed on reacting as each area becomes accessible again."

Excuse me? How long does "initial" last? ....isn't Metro funded by ratepayer,  taxpayer and passengers to run a bus service??  To find a solution? To offer a subsitute?

Bus services are operating way below par and Ecan/Metro response fails to impress. Although almost everybody is back at work or study, albeit in a new location, not surprisingly thousands of patrons have deserted the service.

Among areas I identify;

- ECan/Metro does not appear to have negotiated with the Ministry of Transport for added emergency funding,  in sharp contrast  to most other major city services (although "contributing to the government’s focus on recovery of Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes" is one of the Transport Ministry's five stated priorities and public transport support one of its legislated roles)

- using both sides of a street (with central lane traffic speed reduction controls etc) for a Bus Exchange, the obvious and sensible course appears to have been blocked by some department of Council or perhaps central Government lawmakers, completely crippling operations and effectively disadvantaging directly and indirectly (city wide) a significant portion of the 25-30,000 plus people using buses each day** in order it seems to save a few hundred motorists a slow-zone bottleneck. So much for city commitment to public transport.
- the lack of adequate area set aside for an exchange has created the absurdly clumsy two exchange system, requiring three transfers,  tedious congested loops, unpredictable times. delays and missed connections inevitable, and a grossly truncated system.

- The absurdity with a one-sided exchange of upto 15 buses in a row and patrons having to scamper along, sometimes in the gloom or rain trying to find their right match before it pulls out!! Implications are that service levels can not be restored to normal as capacity at exchanges is already exceeded by the existing number of buses, Simple sense would suggest sufficient room for south, west, east and north loading areas, but of course impossible with only one side of the road used.

- the incomprehensible failure to erect wind-shelter fences or extended verandha roofed areas using scaffolding, relying instead upon the minimal seating of two dreary old buses inaccessible to wheelchairs, prams, walking frames, etc.
-  timetable information for most routes is grossly inadequate making journey planning extremely difficult, departure times only given for routes that can take up to 45 minutes and normally list three or four timing points.

- Despite the listing of timing points in The Orbiter and Metrostar and the few through-route timetables no attempt has been made calculate new patterns and upgrade other timetables to give indicative (earliest possible) intermediate times, leaving many bus users guessing, or waiting unnececesarily long times, or missing suburban connections.

- Even offering patrons a simple A4 sheet helpfully detailing all departure times for each route (same each hour) from each exchange seems beyond the capability of the marketing department. Much information is tied to computer use and ownership, inaccessible to probably about 30% of patrons, with no computers, or no power, or cellphones and computers damaged or trapped in the city centre.

-  ALL 15 minute frequency routes have been cut back to 30 minute services which any quality check would instantly show barely effects the west and northern suburbs (these mostly missed severe damage) apart from industrial Blenheim Road (peak hour services any way bolstered) and small pockets of Wigram and Avonhead. By contrast cutting frequency in half on the two remaining eastside south of Avon routes, previously supported by five adjoining or overlapping routes no longer operative severely impacts upon thousands of eastern residents. In the east they talk of "two cities" .....

- Because overlapping services of two or more routes give frequency to many areas, in effect Metro (or Ecan if it is the commisioner's who are setting the policy) has chosen to cut services 75% to large areas and roading corridors where residents have been worse quake effected. This includes much of Avonside, Avondale, Aranui and higher density areas in Linwood near the Harrow Street eastern exit corridor. In other areas with no easy service services have been reduced 50%. Balancing frequency against reduced route access to minimise total journey time would seem to be the very minimum emergency response !!

- Who wants a long walk, maybe 2-3km or more, through gritty windblown dust, or if raining grey slush, at the end of every working day, made longer by extra early starts, relocated workplaces, lack of emergency-added bus services, ridiculous double transfers, and service waits of up to half an hour, virtually impossible to avoid with current non-informative timetables. If people have to walk longer distances to a stop, the least they can expect is a maximum 15 minute wait.

- the reason for closing off  evening services early, too early for most people to get out and back in an evening, (to make a safe transfer usually means leaving events or social occasions before 8.30pm!) and/or for not running 15 minute frequency services is that the ruptured road services noise and vibrations impacts on local, according to a Metro executive response to a letter in The Press recently. Luckily Leopard and Redbus have some initiative, and have not taken that attitude with The Metrostar and The Orbiter!!

- Apart from conveniently ignoring the fact that both The Metrostar and The Orbiter negotiate slowly some terribly damaged sections of road (including New Brighton Road and Gamblins Road respectively) the question remains - four months down the track why Metro has not moved to get emergency substitute services, such as arranging the lease or purchase from around NZ of some smaller step-in Daimler Sprinter type passenger vans or smaller buses to create shuttle loops for passengers in the more severely damaged areas - such as between Eastgate and Avondale. God knows there are enough cars negotiating dusty passage on many of those roads!!

- Or why Metro haven't moved in urgency to redesign temporary shortened routes to at least create a salient access point, to reduce walking distance, or to help connect the area to one of the still open supermarkets. Or created a contracted taxi link?

Ideas like this are not rocket science, they arise easily if Metro is working to ensure best possible service to its patrons! Ironically Rex Williams, the Commisioner responsible for public transport wrote an article for The Press in May  called "Buses doing their Best."  That is indeed a depressing thought.  He also hints the present situation may be used to bring in long terms cuts in services, "Not surprisingly, takings and patronage for April show a 50 per cent drop on a year ago. With less income, some less popular routes may be reviewed or scaled back".

In the Mainland Press article (pg14) a revamp of services, with new crosslinks hinted and increased Orbiters promised, is to be launched by August 1st subject to agreement with  the City Council on an exchange site. It will be interesting to see - it is hard to imagine that a few months would be adequate to put together a really effective new network. But equally hard to understand, why Metro has (literally) left bus passengers trudging along, way out in the cold,  for four months of extra hassles and shoddy systems, is a huge ask, the longest wait! Thousands haven't bothered waiting and voted with their feet to desert Metro, once arguably the finest bus system in New Zealand, now a shambles, a farce, an insult to its customers.

While the water works and sewage and power companies, the library and many other commercial systems have done everything possible, either to restore services or to create substitute services (such as hot shower stations and fresh water tanks in areas with-out running water or emergency library services in shops and warehouses) the Commisioners of Ecan and Metro have failed miserably to offer effective committed response to passenger needs. Far from adding extra services to meet new needs, or far from sustaining services they have actually cut service levels, not least, carelessly and offensively, to areas already most effected by the loss of other routes and damage to houses and services.

There's lot more work ahead for Bill Bayfield in the hot seat, but no time to sit down.

** presuming the  majority of the 330,000 trips per week on Metro, 60,000 per working day pre-earthquake, were mostly double trips (there and back) or involved a transfer by a single rider, and only about 10% of these one way trips (typically, a tourist, or getting a car ride the other way).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Blenheim-Picton Commuter Bus service in operation

Tranzwatching in Marlborough region, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand (added comment)

A private operator, Tasty Tours Marlborough of Blenheim has started a daily (week day) commuter bus service between Blenheim and Picton, and Picton and Blenheim.

The service is basing departure times on students who travel from one town to schools in the other town, whose needs are not met by current school runs. This said it can also be used by other persons and adult commuters to get to work in either location.

Comment; The service was suggested by a district councillor but there is no suggestion or indication in the report that it has received support from the Regional Council for the area, by legislation the body responsible for co-ordinating public transport in each area of New Zealand.

As noted in a previous NZ in Tranzit posting, which called for a national upgrade of small town internal bus services, there would be a strong case for where a larger town has a large settlement close, to have funding for morning, afternoon (including schools) and early evening (5.15pm or similar) commuter services between the two.

With the strategy proposed in that posting,  in some cases existing general commuter services may be able incorporate runs currently done by school bus services, offering wider access for all and reduced subsidy costs. 

Blenheim (28,000) and Picton (just under 3000, but a busy inter-islander ferry terminal and attractive stay-over for tourists) form a natural pairing with tourism and vineyard work, as well as schools, office and retail workers etc all benefiting from having commuter services, as well as long distance coach services,  rarely at "local friendly" departure times.

Just as funding city commuters in their trains, buses and expensive motorways supports economic vitality and mobility in larger cities, so it can in smaller rural-urban areas.

Dunedin - Ritchies using high-tech bus driver training system

Tranzwatching new bus tech in Dunedin, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

One of the major differences between light rail and buses is the degree of freedom which the driver/operator has to drive badly. The smoothness of trams and their capacity to be operated at excessive speed or in an erratic and uncomfortable manner exists, but in general factors such as lurching are prevented by the rails themself.

Among the many gaps closing between buses and trams/light rail is journey quality. Some of the biggest firms such as Stagecoach in the UK are now using monitors that show a red indicator light (normally green) if a bus is accelerated or decelerated too fast, or lurches too wildly, on a corner.

These monitors in the first instance help drivers learn to drive within the parameters comfortable to passengers - in the second instance, they record the drivers actions so if complaints arise management can correlate these or in general identify and remove those who insist on driving buses in a rough and unpleasant manner. It is a huge step towards getting consistent professional standards,  bad drivers do enormous damage to public perception and discourage patronage, not least at the cost of job security and potential job status and value in negotiations for wages. They also use a lot more fuel, which of course is another major employer incentive to upgrade standards of driving.

New Zealand's biggest bus company Ritchies has imported a $90,000 system to train drivers to understand how to delivery to quality journeys for passengers.

According to a report on the Otago Daily Times,  Ritchies national training manager John Harvey, of Auckland, is in Dunedin this week to train a group of nine new drivers using the computer video system - the "only one of its kind in New Zealand".  

The $90,000 technology is a portable system, which uses video cameras and sensors to observe drivers, as a GPS unit records the route driven and the acceleration, braking, and side-to-side movement of the bus.

NZ in Tranzit Comment - The next step in this process of up-grading bus journeys, in my mind,  is that Councils operate testing equipment in a bus, evaluating each street for roading surface, to identify and modify or remove bumps and rupures that significantly effect bus passengers. Buses often react quite different from cars, even with good suspension, particularly the sideways wobble factor, and on my own travels I have noted consistent rough points on routes** that are not addressed.

[i.e before September 4th 2010 and the first of many earthquakes in our city; of course bump hunting equipment would be rather ironic/absurd in Christchurch at the present time, where 10km an hour is often the only comfortable speed for buses traveling over countless sections of earthquake ruptured roading]

AKT blog raises issue of larger passengers

Tranzwatching in Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland Trains Blog (AKT), has raised the issue of discomfort caused other passengers sharing a co-joined seat in a bus with a large or obese passenger.

The problem of people in general getting larger, for both healthy reasons (better diet) and unhealthy reasons is one that is starting to be addressed in North America but this is possibly the first time it has been raised in New Zealand.

The blog posting has produced a huge number of responses, some irate, but it is a genuine problem where buses are already built to maximum width where seat size can only be increasing at the cost reducing over all seating capacity.

There can be obvious discomfort for passengers sitting beside another passenger whose bulk intrudes into their allocated space.

Commenting on the high response level the blogger responsible, Jon Colt, commented  "It's obviously tapped into a secret frustration that is not politically correct to talk about."

Palmerston North - Bus Stop Mayhem Forseen

Tranzwatching in Palmerston North, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Palmerston North City Council is planning a $10 million new bus terminal, ideally incorporating both city and inter-city buses.  The current proposals - a saw-tooth type terminal where buses back in and out of bays (similar to Hamilton's Transport Centre) in the location selected however is seen as likely to create mayhem and potential for passengers to be run over by reversing buses, according to a city promotions officer.

Currently inter city coaches and shuttles and urban bus services depart from separate terminals, the urban bus station being located just off the main square.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wellington - real time not real yet

As with several other CANZ transport agencies tracked by NZ in Tranzit, Wellington has had trouble installing real time systems, first on buses and now on trains, with the system not expected to be operating now until late next year, according to this report in Stuff, Business Day

Transport poverty likely to effect many baby boomers as they age according to new US report

Tranzwatching trends in public transport needs USA & NZ

Investigation of access to public transport in the USA has lead to a report "Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options," which shows that by 2015, more than 15. 5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or nonexistent.

American public transport, particularly outside the bigger cities and more so in the South-east is generally far below the standards of most other developed countries.  Comparable low density, relatively affluent, high car ownership countries, similar to the USA, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand typically carry two or three times more passengers per capita in equivalent size cities - a reflection of greater investment, greater route spread, more frequent services and longer operating hours normally applying in these countries

Even so, the CANZ countries also have their share of existent "transport poverty" likely to increase as the large "baby boomer" generation ages. Transport poverty involves, for commuters, long, tedious, journeys to work, long waits between services, long walks tofro public transport and for all people (including the aging) lack of freedom to move around, shop, visit friends, or undue reliance on other people needed to move around etc

Transport poverty can become is a major problem for many elderly - even those of relative affluence -  if they are not comfortable driving, or dependent upon a partner who passes away, or physically unable to drive.

According to an excerpt of the report, quoted here,  in the USA -

Without access to affordable travel options, seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family than drivers of the same age, research shows.